Old Mountain

I could not sleep all night long from being way to excited for what the next day held. I kept waking up and checking the time to make sure I didn’t miss my 7AM alarm.

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The plan was to leave at 8AM to start the hike up Machu Picchu. After many fits and many people trying to persuade me not to walk up, today is the day to do it.

The walk up was nothing but stairs and through a moist rain forest. We stopped many times to rest and drink water. Every step up, the view of the Andes mountains grew more and more breathtaking. To the point where at one outlook we were all speechless.

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We got to the top in two hours starting from our hotel. We thought we did pretty good considering that the estimated time up was an hour and a half. We were greeted by our classmates and teachers who decided not to walk. With us out of breath and tired, we popped a squat until our tour began at 10:30AM.

We walked past the front gate toward what looked like huts. Once we walked past the huts, my stomach dropped and eyes got wide. The moment I have been waiting for since we arrived in Peru. The ruins on top of Manchu Picchu. Our tour guide found us a great spot on a ledge for us to take photos and marvel at one of the Wonders of the World.

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Our tour lasted two hours long going over the history of the Incas, who lived where, what Machu Picchu was used for, ETC.

Then the rain came, right when we were given the time to explore and go where ever we wanted to on Machu Picchu. I really wanted to go to the Sun Gate, which was a hour and half round-trip hike. The Sun Gate is suppose to have amazing views of Mancu Picchu. As I start the hike and looked behind me, I can’t see Machu Picchu  because the clouds are so thick. The higher and higher I go on the hike, the more I get soaked. The higher and higher I went, the more narrow the path got and no hand rails.

I am not afraid of heights, but looking down through the clouds at the long drop made me nervous. Especially since it’s raining cats and dogs, one slip to the wrong side of the path and I am done. I should have stopped then, but me loving an adrenaline rush, I kept going.

I reach some ruins and I thought “This must be it! I can finally turn around!” Until I saw a sign that the Sun Gate was further.

For a second, in the pouring rain I said to myself “Fuck this, I am going back.” I hate quitting so I kept going.

Finally I get to the Sun Gate. I can’t see squat, but it was very impressive to look out into the vast clouds that completely cover valleys, mountains and ruins. It was almost like I truly went so high to find the heavens.

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On the walk down to Machu Picchu from the Sun Gate, I am completely miserably as I am soaked to the bone and cold, but it was worth it. I stopped to marvel one last time at this incredible city fit for a king (literally) on top of this old mountain before I headed back to the hotel.

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Cuy

All trip long I have been talking about eating cuy (Guinea Pig). When I first got accepted onto this trip I didn’t think I would want to because I use to have them as pets when I was a kid. When in Rome (or Peru), right?

I got over it when I think about all the times I look at a pig, cow or chicken and think that they are cute and then eat them for dinner. Guinea Pig is just the same.

I didn’t think I would find any one to eat it with until my last night to eat it in Agua Calientes. Lauren, Patty, Ellie and GC were all down. We find a restaurant that serves cuy, as we order the waitress and the couple next to us are all laughing and telling us what a great dish it is.

As we are anticipating our dish, we exchange excitement and anxious thoughts. I was very excited! I have been wanting for this moment all trip.

Finally, a crispy guinea pig, gutted, with the head and eyes still attached with a pepper in its mouth lands in front of us. All I could think about was “It’s smiling at me!”

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We all take our turns posing for photographs with it. All the other tables turns their eyes on us as we are laughing hysterically at our dish.

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Each of us got a leg and we gave the head to GC. I ate my leg like a chicken wing. It really wasn’t bad, it did taste like chicken . My boyfriend told me to not expect much meat and the amount I had was perfect.

If I ever come back to Peru, I will eat Guinea pig again. There are many different ways to cook it and I want to try them all. Now that I know what to expect and how much to have, I’ll share mine with a friend next time and not with four other people.

Sacred Valley

I have always been a bit embarrassed to be on a gigantic tour bus, going through villages filled with poverty, while I sit on a cushion with air condition trying to take pictures with my iPhone or Canon 50D.

Being on a bus through the Sacred Valley is not the same experience. You go up and down the Andes Mountains and see amazing views of valleys, villages and misty mountains whiling listening to Peruvian folk music. I kept staring at rock cliffs with an itch to rock climb them.

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The Sacred Valley is named for the fertile lands that the Incas used to grow crops. Incas were masters at farming and found out all the tricks for growing crops and watering them. They could usually get four crops out of one season!

First stop was an Incan market where I got some souvenirs and a delicious hawaiian empanada.

We had a delicious lunch buffet of Peruvian food. I made three trips to and from getting salads, stuffed potatoes, pork with rice and of coarse the delicious dessert table.

My favorite part of the day was when we went to some Incan ruins. We all hiked the what seemed like a million stairs and just kept reminding our selves that this is training for the hike to Machu Picchu. I kept trying to climb and boulder the ruins until I found quite a few rock that were unstable.

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Sacred Valley has been my favorite part of this trip so far.

First Impressions of Cuzco

I slept on the plane for most of the flight to Cuzco. I woke up just in time to look out my window and see the tops of the Andes barely touch the plane. A big grin spread across my face to see how green everything is and to see little villages below.

I was shocked as we flew over Cuzco to see how big it is. I had in mind a smaller town, but come to find out it is actually the 4th largest city in Peru.

We were warned about altitude sickness before we got there and as we landed we were greeted with cups of Coca tea that is suppose to help with the elevation.  Coca tea tastes like grass, but it’s really not so bad.

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When we got to the hotel, we had a few hours to rest and get use to the elevation. I napped for two hours then had to wake up for our tours.

The altitude didn’t hit me that hard. I just felt little lightheaded walking around, but it didn’t last long and didn’t stop me from exploring.

I am not a religious person, but I have always enjoyed going into churches. I find churches and temples to be very beautiful. To walk into a place of worship and feel others faith and see what they see is a very powerful feeling. Our first tour was of the largest cathedral in Peru and it was amazing.

Next stop was the remains of the Temple of the Sun. It was really fun to go in old Inca huts and learn about what gods were worshiped in which. I found it fascinating that the Incas didn’t use any kind of filler between the rocks of their walls. they had to cut the rocks just perfectly so that they would fit like a puzzle.

After Temple of the Sun we could do whatever. I really wanted food because I haven’t had a real meal all day. As I am trying to figure out who wants food, I remembered a sign on the walk to the Temple of the Sun that said “Alpaca Burger.”

“Who wants to try alpaca burger with me?” I shout.

I get a lot of “Ews” and “No” when my food buddy GC perks up “Where?” he asks. I lead the way to the alpaca burger.

Along with my alpaca burger I ordered a coca Pisco. Sounded very interested and since we are suppose to be drinking coca,I figured I would kill two birds with one stone and get it for my alcoholic drink. It was so good! It tastes better then a Pisco sour.

When they sat the alpaca burger in front of me, my mouth watered. It was a flat patty, bigger than the bun that it came on and looked like beef. With one bite my eyes are rolling in my head. I might be eat alpaca for the rest of this trip.

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Luci approves!

With my belly full and feeling exhausted from the day (and elevation) my roommate, Katie, and I find Emperor’s New Groove on Netflix and drift off to sleep.

Eating Problem

I have an eating problem. A few to be exact.

1. When I am hungry, I have to eat or you will feel my wrath.

2. I do not share food. Though, I will do tradesies with food at a restaurant. If I am making food, I will ask if you want any ahead of time and I have no problem making an extra portion. Whatever you do, do not tell me you don’t want any and then eat off my plate.

On Monday January 13 we got out of class early because we had a big day of eating lunch in China Town, touring a food market, and touring a local newspaper here in Peru called El Comercio. It’s like the New York Times of Peru.

Before leaving the hotel I am already really hungry and wondering if I need to take a snack with me to hold me over of if I should hold my appetite. I find out that we are going straight to the restaurant.

We get there and I can feel myself getting grumpier and grumpier by the moment as we stand around and try to figure out where we are sitting and how many tables we need. I am even more disappointed when I find that Elio and Teresa are ordering big portions of Chifa food to share for us. I go into shut down mode.

“If there is something about Joei I have learned on this trip, is if she is hungry, she needs to eat.” says Hannah.

Soon after that the wontons came. Each of us got a wonton and I ate mine greedily. There was one more left and I wanted it really bad, but wasn’t going to say anything. The awesome people my classmates are slid the plate with the last wonton on it towards me. They know me too well, or maybe they were just tired of me being grumpy.

Finally the food came! We all pass the food around and help ourselves. For how disappointed I was that I did not get to pick my own my food, Elio and Teresa did a great job! Sweet and sour pork, cashew chicken, fried rice, crispy noodles and peanut chicken. Everything tasted amazing!

I could start to feel the life come back into me with every bite I took. Soon I was back to my talkative and happy self. I think my classmates were happy about that as well.

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Luci approves!

Where can I find music in Lima?

I never thought that doing a story on the music scene in Lima would be so difficult. I wanted to interview music venues around Lima and ask about how the touring industry and music scene works. I sat down on Saturday and sent out around ten emails to venues asking for interviews. Never heard back. I was planning on going to visit music venues and see bands on Sunday, but I didn’t think about how everywhere in a dominate Catholic city, everything would be closed on Sunday.

I did find out that possibly the first punk band ever came from Lima! They are called Los Saico and I can’t stop listening to them.

So, my story is due tomorrow and I have nothing. I did find a cool music and comic shop. I wanted to interview the owner and I went back twice and they weren’t there. I am going to Barranco tonight to go check out some venues and listen to music. Wish me luck! Hopefully I’ll get something!

In the mean time, check out what Luci has been up too.

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Visiting the Archeological Museum.

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Enjoying an Inca Kola. Tastes like bubble gum!

Beach Day

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Today was our beach day and it turned out to be a little bit more stressful then I thought it would be. I woke up this morning hungover from the night before. I was looking very forward to sleeping in the sand and listening to the waves crash against the beach as I slept off my stupor.

The ride there was an hour long and a little bumpy which did not help the queasy, sloshy feeling of my stomach. We got to the beach and found a great spot where I immediately laid down my towel and played dead. Every now and then I would wake up to flip over, but then fall right back a sleep. We had to move up the shore because the tide was coming in.

Like the Native Americans that would put their ears to the ground to hear a stampede of animals, I heard the stampede of children. I awoke to find all around my classmates and I nothing but umbrellas, children and their parents. I sat up amazed that two hours before, we were the only people on the beach.

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The tide caught back up to us so we decided to move back a little farther, but at this point the beach is shrinking at a rapid pace. I never thought I would get claustrophobic.

Eventually, GC and I went on the look for food. All I could think about was a greasy hamburger to help with the hangover. Which I was in luck because they were selling them on the beach for S/.5 ($1.79). We went back to our beach spot to enjoy the hamburgers. At this point the rest of our classmates had left to find their own lunch and Crystal was the only one still on the beach.

I was feeling much better and about to sit back and relax when, again, the tide caught up to us. This time it splashed all over us getting all of our towels wet. We stand up to move back further when we realize that their isn’t any room to move back.

GC, Crystal, Hannah, Katie and I decided to move further on down the beach. We could see an area not too far down that wasn’t very populated due to that end of the beach being more rocky.

Finally, A little piece of heaven. It’s not busy, noisy or filled with annoying little kids.The best part about this end of the beach is the sound the rocks make when the waves crash against them, pulling them back into the ocean.

Now that I am all burnt, it’s time to go. We all passed out on the car ride home right away, too much fun in the sun.

The day started out rough for me, but ended in bliss. Now I get to come home to cold Chicago with an awesome tan, because I went to the beach in January.

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Luci doesn’t need sunblock.

Birthday Abroad

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Yesterday was my 23rd birthday and it could not have been greater. I joked all week long that my classmates were more excited about my birthday than I was as an excuse to go out. After class my new friends and I went out for a special birthday lunch. I was very excited that half the class joined me in my birthday lunch. I wanted meaty Peruvian food and a Pisco sour for my birthday. To find this perfect birthday lunch we walked along a side street with nothing but restaurants up and down to choose from. Many of the waiters and waitresses were standing outside of the restaurants yelling deals and throwing Pisco sours at as to get us to come in. We chose a place that gave us all a round of Pisco sours on the house.

I ordered a delicious dish that consisted of fish with a cheese and shrimp sauce. It was amazing. My new friends and I have a ritual of passing our plates around the table so that we can try each others food. Anyone who knows me knows that I do not share food, but since I want to try other people’s food too, I have to share.

One of the best parts was when a musician playing the guitar and pan flutes came up to our table to play for us. Everyone paid a few coins so that he would play me happy birthday.

After three Pisco sours, I was feeling pretty good as we left the restaurant. We decided to keep drinking as we made our way over to the Pariwana Hostel for cheap beers. Laying in the sun on a bean bag, more than tipsy, cold beer in hand and laughing with new friends is a perfect way to spend one’s birthday.

Eventually we made our way back to the hotel to get ready for the planned evening activities our teachers have arranged. It was a really cool evening filled with Peruvian folk music and food. Everyone even sung me happy birthday.

When we got back to the hotel I was too tired to go out to the clubs which was the plan for the evening we were talking about all day. Feeling like a party pooper, I stayed in and slept.

You know what, it’s my birthday and I can do what I want!

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Luci treated me to lunch!

Homework Day

Our first assignment is due today, which means I didn’t do a lot yesterday. I worked on my story for most of yesterday after class piecing together my story, interviews and pictures. Occasionally taking breaks to write postcards, talk to friends and my boyfriend through Skype, walk to Starbucks and go with a friend to one of her interviews. Luci was stuck inside and very bored. So here is what she did Yesterday!

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Visiting the Catacombs of Convento De San Fransico.

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Enjoying a refreshing Pilsen.

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Trying to play with the pigeons.

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Visiting the government palace.

 

Pirqa

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I immediately regret not bringing my climbing shoes. I didn’t think that I would need them because all the rock climbing around Lima is an hour outside of the city. With my studies and all the planned activities, I don’t have the time to go, not to mention the means of transportation to get out there. Until I found Pirqa.    IMG_6279

I discovered Pirqa from a tourists map that advertised if you brought the advertisement you would receive free shoe rental. Going in I thought that Pirqa would be more of an tourist activity, but after talking to many climbers and the owner I realized that many of the climbers there are locals who are training to climb the real rocks round Lima.

Pirqa’s facilities are great. They have a sports and camping equipment shop. A small gym with yoga mats, weights and hang boards on the walls. There is an outdoor cafe that looks over the climbing walls. A nice sized bouldering area. Last, but not least, Thirteen ropes on the three story high climbing walls that offer top rope and lead climbing.

For S/.50 ($18) will get you an hour climb with an instructor. I had a half an hour before my hour so I played on the boulder wall. I learned a game by one of the locals where we take turns, two moves at a time to create out own boulder path.

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When it was my turn to climb I started off on an easy wall. I fell off the wall few times, but made it the top pretty quick. The second wall I climbed was harder. I wasn’t able to make it to the top.

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Third wall was easy. I stopped once to shake out my sore hands. After that wall I was done for the day. I have a tendency to wear myself out really quick.

Pirqa is a great place for a climber to stop in and train before hitting the real rocks around Lima.

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Pirqa – José Gálvez 360, Miraflores Lima, Perú  Telf. 243 2470 / 973 840 723