Day 2 with Colca Trek. Up and at em early in the AM! We thought we were so early but when we came into the dining area everyone was already there. Breakfast was good. Juice, eggs, bread, oatmeal, fruit and cafe. Colca definitely knows how to feed its’ tour friends. :)
We packed up and were ready to see the condors. I didn’t really expect much. I mean I already saw them at the animal sanctuary. We stopped at one overview and there were people already there. We waited a couple minutes and Sabino quietly guided us back to the bus where Miguel drove us to another area where no other tourists were. I have to say... we saw the condors and they were beautiful. Really amazing watching them fly over our heads in and out of the canyon. We were lucky to see them Lucky we an awesome tour guide like Sabino.
After the condors we made our way to the bike zone. I don’t know why but I was scared of the downhill biking. It was fast. If one would hit a pothole or a rock one would definitely go flying! I just held my rear brake a little through the whole time making sure I was going at a pace that felt good to me. The hardest was the mile uphill. The combination of the altitude and energy exertion really made your lungs burn. I was proud of myself. I made it! Who cares if I was going at a biking pace of a fast walker. I still made it. lol Look at that victorious photo is me. That photo says it was a piece os cake. My lungs and legs said otherwise.
After the evil kanevil bone riding we took a little walk do see the deep part of the canyon. Sabino took a photo of our group and then we made our way back and onward to lunch.
Seriously, let me give a shoutout to the lunch places Colca provides us with. They were sooooo good! I mean, really for a buffet they were quite excellent. I also loved how Sabino would go over what each dish was so we knew before taking it. On the Machu Picchu tour I took what I thought was vegetables... let me just say... it was not vegetables... I was so stuffed at both of the buffets. They were very,very good. Kudos to you Colca Trek.
After lunch it was back to the hotel to change into our bathing suites and go to the hot springs. The hot springs is a bit weird to me. I’ll have to read more about it but it seemed much touristy. Anyway, if felf good fo dip in. The water was definitely hot! A nice end activity for an otherwise long trip. I liked how Colca took us to a hot spring where again no other tourists were.
On the way to the breaking point where some would go to Puno and others would go to Arequipa we listened to Sabino’s music mix. There was just something about that moment... to steal from John Hughes... just some kind of wonderful. I will remember that moment.
You can read my Colca Trek review here: Colca Trek Trip Advisor Review
I can’t even remember when we had Las Gringas in Arequipa but I love this place. Absolutely love this place. I think we stopped in after the Colca Trek stop for dinner. It’s located in a weird area. It’s off a road and into a square. The food is delicious! Who would have thought a blueberry pizza could be so good. Our only regret is that we didn’t get the focaccia. So, so sad. Food regrets all around. If we stayed longer I would have tried all of the pizzas. A definite place to stop while in Arequipa.
Ok y’all. Colca Canyon with Colca Trek was amazing. I wrote a long review on Trip Advisor already so I don’t need to go into detail but... I will say they made it such a real experience. Saving and Miguel. Two experts. They were super flexible and gave us the experience of a lifetime. I loved every moment of this tour. I would hands down book with them again. It was so amazing. I think it best out Machu Picchu! That says a lot. Thanks Sabino for being so awesome!
We arrived at Casa Arequipa and I instantly loved it. Well, my first thought was that I needed to lay down and we needed a room ASAP! I won’t write tons about Casa Arequipa. You can read it in my Trip Advisor review here > Casa Arequipa Trip Advisor
After I laid down for a bit we decided to get some food in our bellies. We found a place called El Turko. They sold kebabs... and if you know me you know I love kebabs!
It really was the perfect meal. Clean. Comfortable. Fresh. They had multiple sauces. I was definitely feeling a bit better.
After lunch we walked around trying to find Colca Trek to finalize our tour. They have a weird western union money system and it got all messed up. So we had to go in person and pay.
All i have to say is I LOVED it! Seriously sooooo good. We were worried it was going to be super duper active and I wasn’t sure that I could do another Machu after trying to come out of being sick. It was perfect. Mild/light.
We didn’t have tons of time this day to do much since we were up again for Colca in the early AM. Yeah, I know, what a surprise. So we walked around the plaza and got to know the place.
Below are photos from the street, Paza de Armas and the church.
Welp. It's a good start. Didn't keel over yet. Didn't step on poisonous snakes. So far, so good. We took a train to Aguas Calientes and then we were off to find our luggage and get a room. We DID get our bags back. See, I wasn't worried at all... :)
The above photos are from our walk to our hotel. There was also a market/flea market area where many people had stalls they were selling items. They mostly looked like the picture of the right. An interesting way of life, but I'm pretty sure Aguas Calientes is just a tourist town. I'm not sure much else happens here.
We settled in and washed the stink of the day off and got ready for dinner. Ok. This is the moment where I'm going to go on a tangent really quick. The hotel room we stayed in was bad. Seriously bad. The mold was seeping through the wall paint. It smelled like poop. The toilet leaked and there were bugs in the bed. Ok, just one bug, but it was damp in the room and I didn't want to lay under the covers. We ended up sleeping in our clothes on top of the bed. It was so gross. We did see that other rooms on other levels were quite nice. So, I'm not sure why they are putting people in this room. No one should book room 103 or really the neighboring room either. The weirdest part of the rooms is that you had window in the bathroom next to the toilet that opened up into the next persons bathroom... yes. You got that. So any time their light when on or you were going to the bathroom... you were doing it right next to someone else. It was very strange. The hotel was called the Wiracocha Inn. Seriously gross. I'm not picky. I just want a clean room with no bed bugs. Is that hard to ask? Oh, there were someone else's pile of nail clippings on the nightstand. So, there's that...
Anyway, off to dinner! We stopped at a restaurant that SAM has a partnership with. It was nice to be able to order a three course meal. Appetizer, entree, and dessert. The food wasn't amazing, but it was better than the lunch buffet from Sacred Valley. It was just fine. It really was nice to have a hot meal after the day's activities.
My favorite part of the evening was when Marcelino was trying to set a time when we would go into Machu Picchu and suggested 7am. No one wanted to commit to that early time. He said it was better to go early, but proposed 7am because he knew we may want to sleep in. 7am is the sleep in time eh? Oh, Marcelino. You're funny. :) We ended up going at 8am. Marcelino was right though... go early. The queue to get in got crazy in the afternoon. The bus lines can take over an hour to get back down the mountain. It was really congested in Machu Picchu at an early hour so I felt bad for anyone who went in the PM.
Waking up in Ollantatambo at pretty much 4:30am to pack up and get our butts on a train to go who knows where to hike for 8 hours or more sounded super excited and invigorating... :) This is what we came for. Well, not really. But I'm 34 now and I'm not getting any younger. These are the types of trips one has to take while they are young and able bodied. Keep in mind that I don't work out and I was not very prepared for all of this. I knew it would be hard. My friend Christy kept saying, "Maybe we should work out to prepare." Me, "Nahhhhhh!".
So off we were in the wee hours of the morning to hand off our bags to Henry, a SAM Travel guide, in hopes of seeing it in Agua Calientes when we were done. Side note, the hotel rooms were pretty nice. Barebones, but they didn't smell of mold or mildew and they didn't have anything growing on the walls. So far so good!
Here we are getting on the train. Here's a picture of Henry... you know... JIC I had to show someone that THIS was the person who stole our bags. lol In all seriousness, SAM Travel has been around for awhile and they want and need business. It would take one horrible review like they stole luggage to close them down. Who would want to book with a company who steals luggage? No one.
We has a box breakfast that our hotel gave us for the train. I recommend getting a box breakfast every time you have to leave early. You need nourishment. I knew that we needed to eat something before this long, long day. Also, the bathrooms on the train are nice. Use them. You will have little to no bathrooms on the 2 day Machu trek. Trust me. Bring toilet paper. Always bring toilet paper.
Ok. So ... look how beautiful it is. When we got to the end of the hike we made it to the overlook. It was breezy and nice. The perfect weather. It didn't rain. We were worried about that because we didn't have the footwear for the hike. Tennis shoes and trail shoes don't realllly cut it. Day 2 of Machu Picchu was going to be exploring the city.
We woke up and had another awesome breakfast and said goodbye to our home El Balcon. SAM Travel picked us up and we were off. Now, the Sacred Valleh Tour was a lot of car riding. I’m surprised I didn’t hurl on anyone. Actually, I’m surprised I didn’t throw up one time on any form of transportation. Go me! 😄
Look at that morning view! It’s a little slice of heaven tucked in the mountains. ❤️❤️❤️
The Sacred Valley Tour was a bunch of stops. We went to the animal sanctuary, salt mines, terraces, various viewpoints and we had a buffet lunch. Here’s some photos from the tour.
I didn’t indicate this on my feedback form because I just loved Marcelino... but I didn’t not like the buffet lunch. The food just wasn’t that good. There. I said it. Phew. I feel better.
Fhe Switzerland couple we were traveling with were telling us how they trained for Machu Picchu. What does that even mean? I was getting pretty worried. The most training I have done is run to the border and couple of times and also to Wendy’s via my car. What did I get myself Into?!?
The following day was Machu Picchu. I had to start mentally preparing. . .
After the tour we were dropped off in ollantatambo at our hotel. The hotel was nice.The city was small, safe and warm. I’m pretty sure this is just a tourist town but it was lovely. I noticed that every single restaurant was a pizzeria place too. Too bad I wasn’t craving pizza. I know. How ironic.
We dinner at the only little restaurant that didn’t have pizza. I ordered the fajitas. Don’t order that. It was ehhhhhh. Get the farmhouse chicken dish. I was between fajitas and that. I saw them bring the farmhouse out to someone and felt instant food regrets. Food regrets almost hurt your soul it’s so bad. Oh well. Live and Learn.
At this point my head is laying on the table I’m so tired. Tomorrow is a super early wake up of 4:30. One train ride and on route to Machu Picchu. The longest 8 hours of my life. Supe excited... 😏.
How do you like the sound of free? Yeah. Everyone does. There are free walking tours in all the cities. They make their money in tips. It’s another great way to see the city. Most tours start in the Plaza de Armas. I suspect it’s because it’s the easiest to find.
Im not going to lie. I can’t remember most of this tour. What I do remember is that it was cold. Hace frio! Here’s some photos of the city.
After the tour we were starving. It was cold and rainy and we just wanted some good food. We were kind of in a crunch for time because we need to go to SAM Travel for orientation and I desperately wanted a pizza at the Bodega. My nose smelled it as we walked by and I knew...I had to have it.
We stopped at Organika, a restaurant that as you could probably guess is all organic. Their farm is in Urubamba. We didn’t eat a lot because we planned on getting something later. We got the sweet potato ravioli and a pumpkin cream soup. Very tasty. Many of our neighboring tables had nice looking dishes.
We ate and scadaddled to SAM Travel before it got too dark. At ST we met our guide Marcelino and our Sacred Valley traveling mates from Switzerland. It was all good until Marcelino dropped a bomb on us and said we could only take a duffel bag of items. What about my other 15lbs of luggage? No way I was leaving it at the building. It’s one of those fears you have when taking a trip out of the country. The fear that all your stuff will get stolen or you’ll get stolen... lots of things getting stolen.
We trusted Marcelino and went with it. See SAM Travel review for more deets >
We wrapped up with Marce and had to make a decision about food. It was dark, dark at this point and the pizza place was far. My heart was crushed but we decided to go back to El Balcon to grab dinner in the restaurant. We needed to rest up for the big tour and also... no one wanted to get stolen.
I had the salami sandwich and my friend the veggie sandwich. All was well. Everyone was back safe. No pizza was had though. 😔
I can’t believe I forgot about La Lucha. A chain it seems in Peru but a very delicious one. It also seems clean. Bonus! 😬
La Lucha Lima was a meal before we left. It was across the street from Kennedy Park (cat park). Just a side. Daniel told us a Story about why this park was named Kennedy park. I couldn’t find the bust of JFK anywhere...
So yes. LL. It’s hard to order here but they will help you. They definitely push the Lucha Sammy. It’s good. I was talked into the chicharron but I should have stuck with my original. It was all delicious. Hot and fresh. Dem fries tho.
Can you say yum? Fresh juice too! Ok, NOW we were ready to fly to Cusco! Sorry. A bit out of order, but can't forget about La Lucha!
r↵It’s been less than 48 hours and it feels like weeks. We flew Avianca to Cusco. Let me tell you... there’s some serious hidden messages in terms of air fare. No one seems to give the same answer so let me give it to you in a nutshell.
Priceline is horrible. Ok. I’m done. But seriously... horrible and disrespectful. Ok. I’m really done this time. Anyway, we got a green taxi (safe) right at the airport and went to our hotel El Balcon. We got a taste of Peruvian driving. Man. It’s scary. 80-100mph down the road, weaving in and out. Stop signs are optional. So are turning signals. It was ... an experience.
El Balcon is a little bit away from Plaza de Armas - Cusco. However, it’s really beautiful. It felt like a little retreat. Everything is organic and they have a fabulous onsite kitchen/restaurant. The food is damn good and fairly priced. This is one hotel I would totally stay in again. The room was so cute. A white painted stone wall. No TV. Comfortable bed. A door that was from Times past with a vintage padlock. They even had these little windows you could open to see outside. It felt like a little hobbit home.
Seriously. How cute is this place? You’d stay here too. Errr you should stay here! 😄
The restaurant was great! They had a fixed menu but it was all fresh. I mean... everything was fresh. You could even see the pasta noodles draped over from them making them in the morning. I fell in love with this little hobbit town. The breakfast was free! Fresh fruit, oatmeal, eggs any way and some different jams and breads. Different kinds of tea and juices. Of course, there was coffee too. Often you’d find travelers just sitting by the wood stove for heat. It was cold in Cusco. We didn’t quite expect that but packed for blizzard and a heat wave.
The food was aesthetically pleasing and delicious! Pasta with sausage, one of their salads and chicken soup was for dinner. Our Peruvian friend Daniel said that people from Cusco eat a lot of soup. He also recommended to eat light since the altitude is higher. Muuuuuch higher and digestion is slow. Good advice. I ate light and it still bothered me. More about altitude sickness, etc. later. Check out breakfast. I miss having someone serve me eggs in the morning. 😕
El Balcon. A diamond in the rough. Onward to free walking tour!
I should probably be writing these while actually in Peru but I couldn’t. I literally had no energy to write. So hopefully my crap memory can remember it all.
My friend and I decided to grab dinner and drinks at Amaz with Daniel, our new Peruvian friend. Daniel is a young Peruvian hipster of 27. Just a kid. Lol 😄 We we’re lucky because the restaurant was literally down the street.
We grabbed some drinks. Bourbon for me. Pisco Sour for my friend. Daniel showed up and we were able to get a table. During that time we were fighting with Priceline to give us a refund. I finally was able to get a refund but then we had no flights. Tours booked for the next day but no transportation. So a little bit of a panic... We had to get flights fast. However, of course, we had no passports on us. I felt kind of rude because Daniel was in the company of two people stuck to their phones. My friend ended up running back to the hotel to get flights and passports.
For a brief moment I thought... “I hope I don’t die here.” Who knows who this kid is? He’s but a stranger in a foreign land. Lol He turned out to be pretty cool. A very live and let live kind of person.
The food at Amaz didn’t rock my socks off. Actually, I will say Amazonian food is not my thing. We had snails, empanada and ribs. I didn’t really love any of it. I’m picky. Not picky enough not to eat it though. 😬
We ended the evening eating some of Daniel’s ‘ex-girlfriend’ chocolate and went back to the hotel. The ex-girlfriend chocolate was a random story told by D. Basically, one of his serious long term used to be girlfriends came into town with her boyfriend and wanted to see him. She brought him chocolate. They must have ended on a good note. I don’t know anyone who wants to bring me chocolate. Actually for those that know me, you know I don’t like chocolate. However, it felt like I should have some of his particular chocolate on this particular night. I still don’t love chocolate. 😄
Daniel lives in Miraflores. He rides his bike everywhere. That seems silly maybe, but if you saw the Peruvian drivers you’d ride too. D walked us back to our hotel and then we parted ways. We actually booked our last tour with him on our last day in Barranco. So this was an hasta luego for now.