Friday, June 21, 2013

Wanderlust Tag

I saw this randomly one day on Youtube from Catrific and thought it would be perfect for this blog.  The first time I traveled abroad was when I went to Japan in 2009.  It was also my first time traveling alone and living by myself.  The year I spent in Japan was truly an eye opening experience, and this is where my passion for travel first began.

1. Your most treasured passport stamp?

My first thought when I saw this question was the stamp we got at Kilometer 82 at the start of the Inca Trail.  It's one you can only get if you do the Inca Trail so it's a very special one to me.  On the other hand, there is also the one I got when I went to Japan for the first time studying abroad.  So it would be a tie between either of those. 

2. Can you recite your passport # from memory if asked?
Nope!  I don't think I know anyone who can...

3. Preferred method of travel; planes, trains or automobiles?
My first choice would be planes, then trains, then automobiles.  Flying is just more convenient and much faster than the other two.  I also like traveling by trains too.  When I traveled in Japan and Europe, I used the train a lot.  It was pretty affordable and a good way to take in some scenery and meet new people.  I hate traveling by car or bus!  When we were in Peru this was our main method of transportation, but we didn't really have a choice.  I get motion sickness very easily so I always dread long bus and car rides.

4. Top 3 travel items?
Packing cubes!  These are a life saver for backpacking and it helps keep everything organized.  Also a camera and a notebook (for tracking your budget).

5. Hostel or hotel?
Hands down, hostels!  I honestly can't remember the last time I stayed at a hotel.  Hostels are just so much cheaper and a good way to meet new people.  You just have to chose a good one. and are good sites to book hostels on.

6. Are you a repeat visitor or do you explore new places?
I definitely like to explore new places.  The only place I've visited twice is Japan and I would definitely want to go back.  But I like the excitement of going somewhere new and different.

7. Do you read up on your destination (culture,history,safety) or do you wing it?
I do a lot of research before traveling, but I don't plan out an itinerary or anything.  I just try to educate myself about the place before we go, but we plan our days once we get there.

8. Favorite travel website?
Tripadvisor -their forums are especially helpful. 
Also some good travel blogs: A Little AdriftExplore for a YearOne Giant StepNomadic MattSo Many Places

9. Where would you recommend a friend to visit? Name city & why.
Hiroshima, Japan!  It's not a big city so it's a little more laid back than Tokyo, but the city is full of history and the food is amazing!

10, You're leaving tomorrow, money is no option, where are you going?
I would love to go to South Africa, Egypt/Jordan, New Zealand or Australia.  

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Adventures in Peru: Inca Trail Day 1

Group picture!
We woke up at 3:30 in the morning to leave for our four-day trek to Machu Picchu.  I had been waiting for this day for over 6 months.  After reading countless blogs and daily visits to the TripAdvisor forums, I was so happy to be that much closer.  We had packed most of our things the night before after the Llama Path briefing.  We had gotten our duffel bags that we were to pack for the porters to carry.  One note about packing: I packed a lot lighter than I thought I would.  My day pack was very small and I only packed 2kg out of the 4 kilograms we were allowed for the porters bag.  We were thankful our hostel had a scale we could use, since the weight restrictions were so strict.  I might just do a completely separate blog about what I packed and what I found useful.
We were supposed to meet the bus at the square near the Llama Path office at 4:30am.  After storing our packs at the hostel, we met the others in our group at around 4:20am.  We had a large group with 12 total including ourselves.  We were actually supposed to have a total of 14, but one couple was sick so they couldn't make it.  They met up with us on day 4 at Machu Picchu.  Our lead guide was Marco and assistant guide was Ronnie, and they were both amazing throughout the entire trip!
We were expecting the bus to be waiting for us (at least that's what they had told us the night before), but no one was there.  We were supposed to depart Cuzco at 4:40am, but we actually ended up leaving around 5:00 because our bus was late. 
The bus ride was long.  We first had a two hour bus ride to Ollantaytambo, where we were stopping for breakfast.  Then another hour to Kilometer 82, where the trail started.   Thankfully I slept almost the entire bus ride to Ollantaytambo, so I didn't get sick.  The breakfast was a buffet, so I loaded up on food because I didn't know how long it would be until we had lunch.  We had a chance to use the bathroom (the last sight of a normal toilet until we got to Machu Picchu) and buy some coca leaves for day 2.
Porters packing at Kilometer 82
After the hour bus ride to Kilometer 82, we had to wait a while for the porters to pack up out stuff.  We applied some sunscreen and bug spray, and got a chance to get to know the others in our group. After the porters were packed, we headed to the passport checkpoint, and took a group picture under the Camino Inca sign. There was a long wait at the check point.  We waited about 20 minutes for the porters to weigh their bags before we could actually make it through.
Passport check point
Off we go!  Start of day 1

Inca Trail day 1

Inca Trail day 1
After reading so many blogs, I expected the first day of the hike to be the easiest.  But it was actually the toughest, not just physically but emotionally too.  The hike started off relatively flat with a few up and down portions.  The pace at the start of the hike was pretty quick and we fell behind pretty quickly.  I thought we were well adjusted to the altitude after spending three days in Cuzco, but I was completely wrong.  Hiking in high altitude was definitely not easy.  Our guide Marco stressed that we needed to move at our own pace, and take it slow.  We had pretty good weather on day 1.  It was overcast and it was drizzling on-and-off, which was nice.  We actually had decent weather throughout the trip.  I was very thankful it didn't rain too much.
Inca Ruins
We stopped at several spots on the trail for Marco to explain about different plants or ruins we passed.  We were definitely the slowest in our group the first day.  By the time we made it to the lunch spot, I would guess we were at least half an hour behind everyone else.  We were the last ones to arrive at around 2:00.  Lunch was amazing and it was our first taste of what food on the trail would be like.  We had pumpkin soup, fried fish, stuffed avocados, and broccoli pizza among other things.  By the time lunch was over, we still had another 1 1/2 hours of hiking until we reached the camp site.  We quickly realized at our slow pace that what Marco said would be 1 1/2 hours, was more like 2 1/2 hours for us. We left the lunch spot at about 3:00 and quickly fell behind our group again.  At this point I was really worried if we were going to make it to the camp site before dark.  Luckily even though we were behind everyone else, the assistant guide Ronnie was with us the whole time.  We made it to camp just as it was getting dark and it had started to rain.  We were greeted by a big applause from all the porters since we were the last ones to arrive.  We were completely exhausted as we climbed into our tents and unpacked our duffel bags.  The sleeping bags we rented were surprisingly comfortable and warm.  We had happy hour in the dining tent which consisted of tea/coffee, Milo, biscuits and popcorn.
Dinner on Day 1
We had dinner shortly after and were given our wake up time of 5AM.  I was very anxious for day two since I knew we were very slow.  I was just hoping for a good, long rest.  My legs were extremely sore after the first day.  I actually woke up in the middle of the night because of the pain.  I took an advil and somehow made it back to sleep.  I was really nervous, but day two had come whether we were ready or not!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Peru Trip 2013!

Lima, Peru

Huaca Pucllana


Start of the Inca Trail- Kilometer 82

Machu Picchu

Zip Lining in the Sacred Valley

Colca Canyon
We got back from our trip from Peru about a week ago.  It was such an amazing trip, and I really hope to go back someday.  The highlight of the trip was definitely the Inca Trail.  It was probably one of the hardest things I've ever done, but it was so rewarding and such a good experience.  I will definitely do more blog posts on the whole trip, but it's nice to be back home!
As for the wedding, I'll do a separate blog post on that.  We haven't gotten the pictures from the photographer yet, but I will definitely do an update then.