1 After a redeye flight to Lima, followed by a quick flight to Cuzco, we arrived at 8am. The air is very thin 2 miles up, and we made the brilliant decision to stay at a hostel that was at the top of about a quarter mile of stairs....
2 Oh my that's a lot of stairs...
3 ...but we finally made it to Samay Wasai Hostel. It was a clay and stone structure, and not a little bit chilly....
4 It had a stunning view over Cuzco. See? The stairs were sort of worth it.
5 Cuzco's Plaza de Armas.
6 The Cathedral de Cuzco.
7 The Plaza has a famous statue of the Incan warrior Pachacutec in the center.
8 Pachacutec's fountain.
9 The lovely gardens surrounding Plaza de Armas.
10 And Cuzco doesn't have just 1 church on the Plaza...this is #2.
11 Plaza de Armas...
12 Despite the chill, it is summertime, and the flowers were lovely.
13 The other side of Plaza de Armas.
14 Cuzco's town arch.
15 Lovely Cuzco street....
16 Peru has amazing juices, all sold in market stalls. Pineapple-banana was one of our first stops.
17 Thos Incans knew masonry. This is one of the oldest, most perfect stone walls in Peru.
18 It's beautiful how the mountains surround the city.
19 A lovely waterfall near our hostel.
20 Waterfalls! Art!
21 The San Blas neighborhood of Cuzco.
22 Another lovely Cuzco square.
23 So Cuzco has this scam where you have to buy a $35/pp "Tourist Ticket" to get into 2 things you want to see, while paying for 7 you don't. We decided to hit EVERYTHING on the list, and monetize the scam.
24 #1: The Qorikancha, a cathedral built over Incan ruins. Note the cathedral itself isn't included in the Ticket- that's extra. So we didn't go inside. Ha!
25 This is as close as we got to the Qorikancha.
26 But the Qorikancha Museum, described in our guidebook as "sad and dusty," WAS included. We have no idea what this candy exhibit was all about.
27 Best part of the museum: It was underground, and the exit out us into an empty graveyard-like field.
28 The next museum on the Ticket had a lifelike guinea pig roasting exhibit. Awesome.
29 Also in that exhibit: The Last Supper, with guinea pig as the main entree.
30 A Cuzco street.
31 Once again, a "Breaking Bad" chicken reference in Latin America...we called this place Los Toldos Hermanos, yo.
32 We visited Cuzco's awesome market...
33 ...where I acquired me some awesome convertible mitten-gloves, immediately christened "Mia-tens" by Matt ('cuz the top comes down, get it?).
34 Mmmm....fresh goat head.
35 Cuzco at night.
36 A full moon over Cuzco's Cathedral.
37 A gorgeous summer night in Cuzco.
38 Pachacuti's fountain at night.
39 This is the first of many Pisco Sours, Peru's national drink. Pisco wine (much like grappa) and lime.
40 Breakfast in our rooftop hostel overlooking Cuzco.
41 The next day, we took a tour of all of Cuzco's Incan sites. Saqsaywaman is the most important, and the most fun to say (sounds like "sexy woman"!).
42 Saqsaywaman has those amazing Incan walls, but with ginormous stones.
43 A view over the site.
44 These are not actors. These are locals. How Peruvian!
45 Fun times at Saqsaywaman...
46 At the edge of the site is a huge Rio Christ the Redeemer rip-off statue. We didn't get any closer than this. :)
47 Those are some big rocks.
48 This is how huge these rocks are. No one really knows how they got up to the site, but one must never discount the value of good old-fashioned slave labor.
49 Saqsaywaman was a fortress city for the Incas. All that is left is the walls.
50 A really cool lookout spot.
51 I'm on a rock! And freezing!!
52 The view of Cuzco from the site.
53 The Joneses conquer Saqsaywaman!
54 Saqsaywaman, summer flowers, and winter frickin' weather.
55 Next stop: Tambomachay.
56 All that's left of Tambomachay is this amazing fountain, which has been continuously spouting mountain water since it was built back in the days of the Inca.
57 At Tambomachay. And still cold.
58 It's a really lovely, park-like setting.
59 A closeup of that amazing Incan stonemasonry.
60 The still-running fountain.
61 The Joneses conquer Tambomachay!
62 Next up: Pukapukara. That's also fun to say.
63 Pukapukara is a former fortress, sitting on a cliff.
64 Forts are good for peeking.
65 This Quechua woman provided a perfect Peruvian photograph for me.
66 Pukapukara from the road.
67 Peruvian women in native dress- they really wear those, it's not for the tourists- sell fruit outside the gates.
68 I'm at Pukapukara! And still cold!!
69 Matt jumps for Pukapukara-joy.
70 You, my dear, have earned yourself a very big Pisco Sour. And a new scarf, because it's freezing outside.
71 The next day, we flagged a combi (like a public minivan) to drive an hour east to Ollantaytambo. This was the base for our Machu Picchu visit.
72 Ollanta suffered from massive flooding several years ago when this river destroyed the bridges and rail lines in the town. The bridge is still badly damaged.
73 Our most awesome guest house: Casa de Wow! (exclamation point included, as you can see on the sign). It was situated in the town walls, right on the river.
74 Wow, the owner, handmade all the furniture, including the circular staircase and the doors.
75 He also made the bedframes. In all the countries we've been to, and all the places we've stayed at, Casa de Wow! is in our top 3. It's run by Wow and his American girlfriend. They're both amazing hosts.
76 A view from the rooftop of Casa de Wow!.
77 Ollanta has some of Peru's most famous ruins, located on either side of the walled town.
78 These ruins were the Incan palaces, and the townspeople lived in the walled city.
79 Ollanta is the longest continuously inhabited town in South America.
80 At the foot of the Ollanta ruins is a colorful craft market.
81 The market was pretty empty, like the rest of Ollanta. The Inca Trail is closed in February, so very few people visit Machu Picchu during this time.
82 The Andes provide a gorgeous backdrop.
83 Ollanta's teeny town square.
84 At Ollanta's one and only reggae bar, I made a friend. It's a good thing, because we and this cat were the ONLY ONES IN THE BAR all night. Did I mention it's the off-season?
85 Today is our 17th wedding anniversary. Behold the official Anniversary Portrait 2013.
86 The next morning, we walked 20 minutes down to the train station to catch the 5:15am PeruRail train to MACHU PICCHU (well, technically to Aguas Calientes, but close enough)!!
87 Matt's got his ticket, and we're off to Machu Picchu!
88 We watched the sun rise from the train, and fully appreciated PeruRail's snazzy map-cum-placemat.
89 I got a golden ticket!!! I'm going to Machu Picchu!!!!!!!!
90 At the base of the mountain leading up to Machu Picchu.
91 It's a hell of a walk- we flagged a $9/pp bus (TOTAL TOURIST PRICING, ugh).
92 One must consult maps before one conquers Machu Picchu.
93 ...and use the toilet. There aren't any toilets once you're inside. Literally, we didn't pee for 10 hours because we didn't want to leave once we arrived.
94 Cool historial plaques mark the entry pathway into the park. Hiram Bingham! He's the American explorer dude who rediscovered Machu Picchu for the modern age, you know.
95 ...more plaques.
96 Matt hikes up to the park entrance.
97 Our first glimpse of Machu Picchu from the Guardhouse, with morning mist obscuring the site.
98 Walking to the main entrance of Machu Picchu, with Hayna Picchu in the background...
99 Machu Picchu's entrance...
100 Machu Picchu.
101 Shrouded in mist...
102 The classic shot.
103 Me at Machu Picchu!!
104 The mist continued to roll in as the sun rose.
105 The lost city is perched on a very, VERY steep cliff.
106 Farming terraces form stairstep-like walls up the side.
107 A perfect shot...
108 Matt at Machu Picchu!
109 We took a walk out to the Inca Trail entrance to Machu Picchu. Here, back in the days of the Inca, visitors would have to cross this "bridge"- that slim strip over the cut-out box. Unwanted visitors didn't make it.
110 The hike up the Inca Trail is fabulous (not that I'd want to walk it for 3 days, mind you).
111 At the end of the Inca Trail.
112 The mist began to lift around 10am.
113 The city at the foot of Hayna Picchu.
114 More Machu Picchu goodness.
115 We descended the steep staircase to the city and explored the ruins.
116 Matt climbs the stairway down to the city floor.
117 Machu Picchu from the city view.
118 The steep farming terraces that once lined the homes...
119 The Joneses conquer Machu Picchu!
120 ...and llamas. There are always llamas in Peru. :)
121 Mmmm llamas. They're good eating.
122 One of my favorite shots of the trip!!
123 Happy at Machu Picchu.
124 We climbed back up the stairs to a fantastic, and completely private and empty, viewing spot.
125 Just sittin'.
126 Best post-breakfast view I've ever had.
127 The fun and magic of self-portraiture.
128 The happy photographer.
129 We sat for a long while and just enjoyed how deserted, mysterious, and beautiful this spot was.
130 And now, four shots of Machu Picchu. Number 1!
131 ...and #2
133 ...and the requisite awesome photo #4.
134 Behind Machu Picchu is Hayna Picchu, that large hulking mountain.
135 For $10 extra on your admission ticket, you can climb it.
136 There are 2 climbing sessions: early morning, and 10am. We took the 10am.
137 Only 200 people per session, per day can climb it. Joneses scored 2 tickets!
138 It looks huge, but there are steps cut into the rock. It's basically a mile or two of scary stairs.
140 It took us about 30 minutes to reach the top. Here is the amazing view out over Machu Picchu.
141 I climbed it!!
142 Matt, leaning on the last staircase. Oh yes, that nearly-vertical stone is a STAIRCASE. And no railing, of course.
143 At the top!
144 I have a deep-seated fear of climbing over pen gorges with no handles or safety straps. I barely made it out onto this rock outcropping, which was an Incan "seat of honor."
145 The Joneses conquer the Incan Seat!
146 Best. Picnic. Ever.
147 Machu Picchu down on the right side, and climbers coming up Hayna Picchu on the left.
148 There are some Incan ruins on top of Hayna Picchu.
149 And you can explore them!! This is an old house.
150 That is our staircase down- the rocks on the right side. I had to crawl backwards to get down.
151 Climbing down...
152 Possible the scariest stairs I've ever climbed down. No handrails, narrow steps, and a death-plummeting view.
153 One last shot from the top.
154 I climbed that!!!
155 Matt totally conquered that. :)
156 We spent the afternoon exploring the village of Machu Picchu. Again, the Incans had crazy amazing stonework.
157 Machu Picchu in the afternoon.
158 The terraces down the village hill.
159 We are standing on the cliff's edge, overlooking the river. This is the view of the ruined city.
160 Our guidebook said this might have been a sundial of some sort, or a prayer seat.
161 The stunning grassy terraces.
162 You can lean over pretty far on the cliff's edge. Like everything else at Machu Picchu, there are no handrails or guard ropes. And yes, LOTS of tourists have plummeted to their deaths here!
163 The interior of one of the houses.
164 A lovely shot from the grassy central plaza.
165 Around 4pm, we watched the sunlight change over the site.
166 And got a little silly.
167 But, this is without a doubt my favorite shot of the day. Matt totally captured the moment I was enjoying.
168 So you have to pay $9/per person to ride a bus up, and then another $9/per person down, Machu Picchu. We paid going up, but hiked our bad selves down.
169 Crossing the river into Aguas Calientes, after descending the stairs for an hour.
170 This is Aguas Calientes, a town at the foot of Machu Picchu. It is built purely for tourists, and is overpriced, and the only place in Peru where a shopkeeper tried to cheat me. Bleah.
171 We of course visited the town square, 'cuz they had statues!
172 Our PeruRail train, heading back at 6pm to Ollantaytambo.
173 This intrepid explorer has indeed earned himself a pisco sour.
174 The next day, we explored the ruins of Ollantaytambo.
175 A view of Ollanta's ruins from our guesthouse.
176 At the base of Ollanta's mountain.
177 Climbing up the hill, and viewing the Incan palace ruins built into the cliff.
178 Halfway up!
179 A view from the top!
180 The rock terraces look like just green grass from the top of the site.
181 A view into Ollanta town.
182 The ruined buildings are still roofed...and you can see the walls built into the cliff.
183 Those are called "flying steps." It's what the Incan considered to be stairs.
184 They're kind of scary with their drop-into-oblivion design...
185 Matt tempts fate. Fun!
186 And then we both get cocky and decide the Incan stairs are pretty fun, after all :)
187 Ollanta from the top.
188 At the top of the site is an abandoned quarry- the Incas never finished this palace.
189 Playing on old rocks ;)
190 The town has carved a walkway through the walls of the old palace.
191 ...so you can walk along the cliffs. It's stunning.
192 Walking the walled city.
193 Matt enjoys the view from the cliff walk.
194 ...and that's a pretty steep drop.
195 Going back down to town.
196 At the base of Ollanta are ruins of the town.
197 The fountain, like many other Incan fountains, has been continuously flowing for centuries.
198 This is a ritual bath. At the solstice, the sun shines through the opening in the wall.
199 Across from Ollanta's ruins, on the other mountain bordering Ollantaytambo, are MORE ruins. So we climbed up!
200 The view from the top of the OTHER ruins, across Ollantaytambo, to Ollanta's ruins.
201 This side of the mountain has much more basic ruins.
202 At the top!
203 Matt poses as I climb to the mountaintop.
204 Conquering Ollanta's OTHER ruins!!
205 And that night, to celebrate our adventures, we hit the weirdest bar in Ollantaytambo: the Gonzo Bar. I am drinking beer on a swing suspended from the ceiling.
206 Oh, and this is how you get downstairs from the swing room. Whee!
207 The next day, we bid goodbye to Ollantaytambo, took a combi back to Cuzco, and then flew on this tiny StarPeru jet to Puerto Maldonado, the entry point to the Amazon jungle.
208 What a "taxi from the airport" looks like in the jungle outpost town of Puerto Maldonado.
209 Tambopata Hostel, our hostel in Puerto Maldonado.
210 The "Jungle Hostel" theme extended to the natural jungly gardens in the hostel's courtyard.
211 Our little jungle hostel room. Those mosquito nets are not for decoration!!
212 Every good jungle adventure must begin with beer- Cusquena, to be specific.
213 Jungle kittens!
214 The next morning, a guide from the hostel took us out on our jungle adventure. This is the entry to the Rio Madre de Dios, which leads into the Amazon.
215 On our canoe, heading down the Madre de Dios river!!
216 Matt enjoys the ride.
217 We'd only been on the canoe for 10 minutes when we saw our first jungle animal...a crocodile. I hate those guys.
218 Jungle bliss!
219 After an hour canoe ride, we arrived at the entry point of the Tambopata region of the Amazon jungle.
220 We climbed up the riverbank, and this is view over the river...
221 Those were some rickety stairs.
222 This is the check-in point for the Tambopata region. You go in, sign your name, and write when you'll be back...and if you don't come back when you say, well, they don't really do anything.
223 These are all the cool animals to be found in the jungle.
224 From the check-in point, we had a hot, muddy hike several miles into the Lake Sandoval campsite.
225 That was some nasty mud- some parts up to our knees. Hiker in photo looks much happier than she truly was.
226 After a long hot hike, we and our guide Nilton arrived at Lake Sandoval.
227 ...and then had a 30 minute canoe ride into the campsite!
228 Ridin' through the jungle!
229 Happy to be out of the mud.
230 Once we exited the mangrove swamp, the water opened into gorgeous Lake Sandoval.
231 A gorgeous jungle lake.
232 Whee! I'm in the jungle!
233 Our little home for the next two nights. No electricity, plumbing, or glass windows. Lots of mosquito nets, dirt, and bugs.
234 We quickly found the coolest place on the site: The campsite hammocks. We spent an entire sweltering afternoon there.
235 Late in the afternoon, we regrouped and went for an evening viewing of the wildlife around the lake.
236 Hoatzin, or "stinky chickens." This is the only species in the Amazon that isn't going extinct, because they smell and taste like rancid garbage. Mmmm.
237 We came upon a family of otters!!
238 Yay! Otters! So cute!
239 Otters having dinner at their home stump.
240 Mmmm rotting fish.
241 The little guy on the left was not getting any dinner.
242 Monkeys in the trees!!
243 Matt and Nilton enjoying the afternoon.
244 ...and then, a spectacular sunset began.
245 Dusk on Lake Sandoval.
246 The best way to watch the sun set on a lake.
248 Matt and I watch the stars come out.
249 At full dark, we went caiman spotting- caiman are a small crocodile found in the Amazon. When bright lights hit their eyes, they glow. Our guide Nilton found it necessary to pull one into the boat.
250 I will say this clearly: I do not believe you should touch or interfere with wildlife. Especially wildlife with big sharp teeth.
251 My new favorite animal: SPIDER MONKEYS!!
252 These guys are SO CUTE!! Barely 2 feet tall, and crazy energetic.
253 This is what I look like at 5am in the jungle. It ain't pretty, though the sunrise is.
254 We got back in the canoe at sunrise to ride back to the mud trail, to see the wild parrots.
255 Morning jungle rainbow!!
256 Rainbow over Lake Sandoval.
257 We're going to see parrots! Matt affects his best pirate face.
258 Monkeys in the mangrove swamp.
259 Wild parrots and macaws feed on the trees at dawn.
260 Clusters of several hundred converge on one tree.
261 Green macaws!
262 Above our heads was a tree sloth. I had never seen one of those in the wild before. They're quite slothful.
263 I think the sloth is kinda cute...
264 So we passed this tree every time we canoed in or out of camp. Nilton said everyone calls it "The Mr. Burns Tree." It looks like Mr. Burns from the Simpsons in profile. After a few sightings, we saw the resemblance. Maybe it was jungle fever.
265 Fun with lunch.
266 Late in the afternoon, our guide showed Matt how jungle guides open coconuts.
267 Matt is loving his new chef's knife.
268 Machete time!
269 Happy camper with coconut milk.
270 We went on a jungle walk, and stopped to pick fresh oranges.
271 And we picked fresh cacao pods, which taste weirdly like citrus and look like female genitalia.
272 Nilton made me a jungle swing.
273 Nilton was explaining how Peruvians used natural dyes for their clothes, and decided to demonstrate on Matt's face.
274 Drawing pictures on Matt...
275 I think it's a gecko. :)
276 I got warrior stripes!
277 Jungle love.
278 Playing in a really big tree.
279 Having fun in the jungle :)
280 Matt does his best Tarzan impression.
281 Matt swings above the jungle floor.
282 Those are jungle branches hanging from Matt's do-rag. It's a very, very strange look for him.
283 More hoatzin-stinky-chicken!
284 We rode the canoe out to the sort-of-sad overlook spot.
285 The rickety jungle overlook.
286 More monkeys!
287 Not as cute as spider monkeys, but still kind of entertaining.
288 As dusk arrived, more animals came out for viewing.
289 More spider monkeys! I love these guys!
290 Hundreds of these guys run frenetically through the trees, leaping from branch to branch, and quite often missing, and falling into the river. It's very comical.
291 Watching another lovely Lake Sandoval sunset.
292 Sunset over the lake.
293 ....darkness falling...
294 The colors were spectacular.
295 Matt got this excellent night-vision shot of a spider monkey.
296 Spider monkeys rock.
297 They are extremely acrobatic.
298 ....and adorable.
299 Late that night, we went out for a night hike through the jungle. This is not really my thing. I do not like bugs, snakes, nighttime with wild things, or tripping over mud and rocks in the dark. So here's a tarantula. I got the hell away from it.
300 ...and a grasshopper.
301 The next morning, we arose at 5am again, and canoed back to the mangrove swamp to mud hike back to the checkpoint.
302 En route to the checkpoint, we had monkey escorts.
303 The mangrove swamp was really mystical in the early morning.
304 One last hoatzin shot :)
305 I am truly thrilled to be mud hiking for the LAST TIME.
306 This is what a jungle outpost "airport" looks like. From here, we fly all the way to Arequipa in the south.
307 We arrived in Arequipa in the evening, during a light rainfall. The temperature and climate difference was astounding- from jungle swelter to chilly city. We checked into our hostel, La Portales de Merced.
308 Breakfast in Arequipa.
309 Arequipa is known as "The White City," because most buildings are made from white volcanic rock. This is Arequipa's Plaza de Armas.
310 The Cathedral on Plaza de Armas.
311 Must have ice cream.
312 We were told that Arequipa's St. Catalina Monastery was a must-see. We were skeptical, because 1) it's a monastery, and 2) it was freaking expensive to get into.
313 But once inside, we were very glad we'd decided to visit.
314 This is the entry courtyard.
315 The Monastery used to be a nunnery for very wealthy women. It's basically a 16th century Club Med for women- only wealthy Spanish women were allowed in.
316 It's incredibly picturesque.
317 It has many winding breezeways and courtyards, each painted a distinctive color.
318 It is the size of a small town- it's called "The City Within Arequipa."
319 These cloisters are extremely luxurious, both for its time, and for nuns. They got their own rooms! With furniture!! And servants!!
320 More lovely staircases.
321 In the 19th century, the Pope sent a nun to end the fun times, and reform the monastery. All the servants and slaves were freed, and these luxury items were confiscated.
322 One of the many kitchens of the monastery.
323 The dowry, or "entrance fee," to join the monastery was today's equivalent of $150,000. At its height, it housed 450 women.
324 Another gorgeous courtyard.
325 Today, only 20 nuns live in the monastery, and their living quarters are off limits to visitors.
326 All of the monastery's walls are made of Arequipa's famous volcanic stone.
327 The flowers were in full bloom, and the entire site was lovingly landscaped.
328 A very, VERY fancy room. This was unheard of for nuns with a vow of poverty.
329 This is the room of the monastery's only canonized saint, Ana de los Angeles Monteagudo. Supposedly she could foretell the future.
330 More walkways. The monastery is known as a "photographer's dream."
331 Decorative courtyards.
332 A shot from inside the arched breezeway.
333 More of the lovely courtyards.
334 The long white walkway joins the differently colored sectors.
335 The blue breezeways had exquisite al frescos near the ceiling.
336 Pretty flowers!
337 These are the current nuns' quarters.
338 Each nun's private quarters has her name embossed above the doorway.
339 Another lovely walkway.
340 This is the original laundry- the "faucet" is fed by a spring, and pours into all these individual stone tubs.
341 One of the luandry tubs. Today, these are just ornamental fountains.
342 The gorgeous gardens behind the monastery.
343 Another one of the many large kitchens.
344 Like everywhere else in Peru, the main culinary protein is guinea pig. The monastery still has a pen to raise its guinea pigs!
345 This is the very end of the monastery, after all the windy passageways and courtyards.
346 At the end of all the passageways was an alcove with a fountain and a lookout viewpoint.
347 The courtyard...like the rest of the monastery, it was beautifully kept.
348 The courtyard fountain.
349 Walking up to the viewpoint!
350 Another shot of the fountain.
351 The view over the monastery "city," and Arequipa.
352 The monastery exits into a museum of religious art.
353 We're not sure what this huge shiny gold this was...
354 But wow was it shiny and golden. :)
355 You have definitely earned a plate of Peruvian deliciousness!
356 Lunch at Arequipa's Foray Fay, a very famous cevicheria...behold aji a gallina, rice, and octopus ceviche!!!
357 Arequipa's Plaza de Armas at night.
358 The Cathedral by night.
359 The Peruvians definitely know how to make a town square gorgeous at nighttime.
360 For dinner, Matt partook in the national dish of Peru: cuy, or guinea pig. Tastes like chicken!!
361 The next morning, we set off on an overnight trip Colca Canyon. En route, we saw alpacas!!
362 Adorable wild alpacas.
363 The canyon terrain couldn't have gotten more different than the lovely cityscape of Arequipa.
364 A Quechua woman herds sheep near the canyon.
365 Sheep! Lots of 'em!
366 To get to Colca Canyon country, you have to drive over a pass that is the highest point in Peru- Mirador de los Andes, 3 miles in the air!
367 It was about 60F when we left Arequipa that morning; at the top of Mirador de los Andes, it was 28F and SNOWING. My nose actually bled.
368 At the viewpoint of Mirador de los Andes, there are rocks signposting each mountain on the horizon. Volcan Misti is an active volcano.
369 In Quechua culture, a prayer is represented by a rock, and the rocks are stacked up in "cairns."
371 At noon, we reached the Colca Canyon town of Chivay.
372 The crappy hostel we stayed at...I say "crappy" because they were good at promising a 5am wakeup call and breakfast, but not so good at PROVIDING the wakeup and breakfast...and it was absolutely freezing.
373 Our hostel's crappily colorful room.
374 After lunch, we checked out the town of Chivay. This is it. One town square and a few random shops.
375 Chivay does have one great feature: Natural hot springs!
376 Set up against the canyon's mountains, the naturally hot mineral springs were a wonderful respite from the chill.
377 This is Chivay at night. Very little is open, not even restaurants.
378 But they do have one main street lined with very creepy life-size statues...
379 And, if nothing else, there's always beer.
380 The next morning, we set off to see Colca Canyon. Chivay's bellringer welcomed the day.
381 One of the many lovely churches in Colca Canyon country.
382 Our first glimpse of canyon country.
383 Again, the terrain changed from the previous day...
384 Colca Canyon is twice as deep as the Grand Canyon.
385 Colca's landscape.
386 Another church in a small canyon town.
387 The mountain mist makes everything extremely picturesque :)
388 A glimpse up the canyon walls as we drive the windy roads...
389 There is a paved walkway along the canyon ridge with astounding views.
390 A view from the canyon ridge walkway.
391 Even though we were far in the south of Peru, this landscape was weirdly similar to central Peru's Sacred Valley.
392 I made a cairn!
393 My teeny cairn.
394 Art. Very nice :)
395 We arrived at the Canyon before 8am to see the canyon condors making their morning flights.
396 The Andean Condors are huge, with wingspans of about 10 feet!!
397 The ancient Peruvians worshipped the condors. They're pretty impressive, I can see how they were seen as mystical.
399 I loved how the entire canyon walkway had no railing or warning signs. Feel free to fall into the deepest canyon on earth!!
400 The Joneses conquer canyon country!
401 Taking full advantage of that lack of railings and safety apparatus :)
402 Matt conquers Colca Canyon!
403 Us on the lookout ridge.
404 Whee! I'm on Colca Canyon!!
405 It's really one of the prettiest walks I've ever done.
406 Me at Colca Canyon!
407 The hike up to the Cruz del Condor lookout point.
408 Enjoying the view!
409 Almost to the lookout point!
410 The Cruz del Condor (Condor Cross) viewpoint.
411 Matt welcomes us to the lookout point.
412 The Cruz del Condor sign. Llike everything else in Colca Canyon, it's handpainted on a rock slab.
413 Matt poses with the sign...
414 The park built a very cool rock outcropping to climb over and sit on to watch the condors fly.
415 The "Cross" in the "Cross of the Condors."
416 We snagged a cool photo on top of the cross.
417 Despite the cold, it became a lovely day. Apparently this weather is not typical for the canyon- we got very lucky.
418 And of course, the landscape was dotted with cairns.
419 More Canyon cairns.
420 Posing on the walkway.
421 The grassy canyon gives way to snowy mountains in the distance.
422 A stunning view over the Colca River.
423 With the stepped terraces, the canyon is really a very unique landscape.
424 Welcome to Colca Canyon!
425 One last landscape shot over Colca Canyon.
426 Enjoying an extremely amazing morning in the canyon.
427 I conquer Colca Canyon!
428 The Joneses enjoy the view...
429 Enjoying the view as we prepare to head back to Arequipa.
430 Matt waits for the shuttle to take us back to Arequipa.
431 We got back to Arequipa in time for happy hour, and ordered a pitcher of our favorite Peruvian beverage: Housemade lemonade. We also snagged a rooftop balcony seat to watch the sun go down over the Plaza de Armas.
432 You know what we didn't order? Personal gas.
433 Arequipa is simply stunning at sunset.
434 As the sun set, the snowy mountains glowed, and the Plaza's lights illuminated the white stone buildings.
435 Volcan Misti looms in the background...
436 ...and the sun continued to set...
437 The Cathedral at sunset.
438 The entire Plaza absolutely glows at sunset.
439 With the mountains and the chill, the palm trees seemed weirdly out of place.
441 Full dark over Arequipa.
442 And now, we are off to dinner!
443 For dinner, we went to Paladar 1900. We were on our way to catch an overnight bus, and we'd been in the Canyon all day, so we weren't dressed for how nice this place was. Luckily, they seated us in our own wing. :)
444 Some of the uniquely named menu items..."aphrodisiac croaker" is a hell of a name for a rock band.
445 The restaurant simply installed chandeliers into the silar volcanic walls, and put furniture in (including those awesome chairs). It really highlighted the beauty of this very old building.
446 Matt ordered 3 types of ceviche.
447 And then, we boarded our 10pm bus from Arequipa to Ica on the west coast.
448 These buses were very posh- reclining seats, snacks, and WI-FI! Look! I'm blogging!
449 We arrived in Ica, and took a taxi to Huacachina, an oasis whose 1940 heydey is long gone. This is our semi-crappy hostel, Casa de Arena.
450 Our hostel room...these days, Huacachina is overrun with noisy college backpackers, but in the offseason, it was fairly quiet.
451 Our hostel had a pool, and butted right up against the sand dunes. That's right, SAND DUNES. Once again, the terrain of Peru is completely changed.
452 So this is Huacachina. In its day, it was an oasis resort for Peru's elite. The tiny resort circles a lagoon that was known for its "curative properties." Today, though, I can't recommend getting in that water. :)
453 The resort was very quiet in the offseason, and most of the shops weren't even open.
454 Mermaid statue!
455 The whole place had a rundown, forgotten feel about it.
456 But its downtrodden state didn't make its remarkable natural setting any less amazing. Sand dunes! In Peru!!
457 Beyond the oasis, the desert stretched out for miles.
458 The big draw of Huacachina these days is riding sand buggies over the dunes, and sandboarding down the dunes.
459 A sandboarder makes the very long trek to the top of the dunes.
460 ....and then sandboards down.
461 We climbed the lagoon's surrounding sand dunes.
462 That dune looked FAR easier to climb than it was. But! Cool shot!
463 The sand dunes would be far more attractive, except for the rampant litter left behind by the dune buggies and sandboarders. It was really depressing to see how Peru has just let this gorgeous site go to pot.
464 The Oasis of Huacachina.
465 The Ica and Huacachina region are famous for Pisco wineries (ironically, the nearby city of Pisco does NOT grow grapes). So we visited a few wineries, starting with El Catador.
466 Mmmm. Grape skins fermenting in the hot sun.
467 Our guidebook had said that this week was the yearly grape harvest festival, and the best time of year to go. Our guidebook did NOT mention that they had the week wrong- the festival ended the day before we arrived. See all those jugs? They're filled with fermenting wine. That we missed harvesting.
468 The grapes are stored in clay pits that bear a strong resemblance to both chili AND porta-potties.
469 Matt got a chance to actually stomp grapes!
470 Mmm...stinky feet in fruit...
471 What grape stomping looks like. Now you don't have to do it.
472 After our vineyard tour, we were invited to taste the Pisco.
473 Cheers! Pisco tasting!
474 Next stop: Bodego Lazo.
475 Where El Catador was a large corporate winery, Bodega Lazo was an artisan, small winery.
476 That bamboo pole was used as a tasting server- the owner would dunk it in the vat, then pour out a tasting from a hole in the center of the pole.
477 The very strange, attic-like tasting room of Bodega Lazo.
478 Next vineyard: Bodegas Vista Alegre, where the grapes are actually grown.
479 The weird sculptures outside the Vista Alegre tasting room.
480 Farm workers pour the grapes into a trough for de-stemming.
481 Waiting for my Pisco in the tasting room!
482 After all the Pisco tasting, we decided that the preferable Peruvian beverage was Inca Cola. It's actually bubble-gum flavored, and EVERYONE in Peru drinks it.
483 For the last portion of our trip, we arrived in Lunahuana, a small town overlooking a rushing, whitewater rafting river.
484 Lunahuana was all dressed up for the wine harvest festival that we had JUST MISSED.
485 To get to Lunahuana, we took a mototaxi that I ended up steering. Seriously. We had a memorably inattentive driver who liked to text, talk to friends, and drive really freaking fast.
486 So few hostels or hotels were open in the offseason, so we decided to stay at the most expensive-looking place in town: Los Portales de Lunahuana.
487 Imagine our surprise when the Portales was cheap...because there was only 1 room, which was a sample suite. Everything else- reception, the rooms, the grounds- were under construction! So we got a great deal. :)
488 What our hostel looked like, everywhere BUT our room.
489 Lunahuana is also a pisco producing area, so we spent the afternoon walking the dusty roads to find wineries. We found Santa Maria!
490 The very nice vintner gave us a pisco tasting. The pisco is OK, but I will honestly say that Peru's wine is vile beyond belief.
491 This is what "Urban Zone" means in Lunahuana. :)
492 After an hour of walking, we found the 2nd (and last) winery: Vina Los Reyes.
493 Cheers! Even awful wine is OK if it's free, right?
494 The next day was our last full day in Peru. Our flight left at 1am, so we had to stuff as much fun as possible into the day. First up: a morning rafting trip in Lunahuana!
495 This was the most amazing rafting scenery I've ever seen. Ancient Incan ruins actually lined the banks of the river. It was like rafting through a museum!!
496 Matt is geared up and ready!
497 They gave us a safety talk, but it was all in Spanish. They gave us helmets, and the boat seemed properly inflated, so what's the worst that could happen, right? :)
498 The guides towed us into the river.
499 We cleaned up, checked out of our Lunahuana floor model hostel, and took a bus up the coast to the Pacific Coast beach town of Cerro Azul.
500 Cerro Azul is famous for seafood, so for lunch, we found a beachside cafe and had pounds and POUNDS of ceviche!
501 The Peruvian Pacific coast.
502 We ran across the beach to dip our toes in the Pacific.
503 Enjoying an hour of beach time on a holiday that has had everything else- mountains, ruins, sand dunes, jungle, city, and now beaches.
504 Saying good-bye to coastal Peru.
505 After a way-too-freaking-long bus ride north to Lima (note to self: WAIT FOR THE EXPRESS BUS), we arrived in Lima in time for Pisco Cocktail Hour. We stopped at Lima's famous El Bolivarcito, a pisco house frequented by Clark Gable and other movie stars back in its 1940s heyday.
506 Lima is not an attractive city, but its central Plaza de Armas is undeniably gorgeous at night.
507 We spent a few hours in the square, people-watching and having dinner before our flight home.
508 The governmental seat of Peru, in Lima's Plaza de Armas.
509 Best of all: The Plaza de Armas is wired with free wi-fi!!
510 Lima's Cathedral.
511 One last blog before we fly home.
512 ...and the final Peruvian Soles purchase: Mentos (the freshmaker) and some chocolates. Peru is DONE!