Jeremy and I are less than a week away from the biggest challenge of our entire trip: hiking the 4-day Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. It’s not just the lack of Netflix and Instagram for four days that scares us (although … shudder) but the incredibly difficult high-altitude hike. This morning I walked down the street in Cusco and it felt like walking through sand… on the moon. Yikes. We’ve been searching high and low for tips about visiting Machu Picchu that will help us to feel less terrified and more excited. And one of my amazing friends went above and beyond! Angela is a brilliant lawyer who also happens to be Peruvian, and she’s been visiting Peru regularly for years. Who could be better to get Machu Picchu tips from??
There are fluffy Siamese cats. Old ginger cats. Feisty cats. Shy cats. Cats that love attention. Cats that just want to stretch out in the sun and nap. There is every variety of cat. We felt like Willa Wonka when he first walks into the chocolate factory: all around us were THE BEST THINGS and we wanted to touch them all, but we weren’t sure we were allowed to (this park is, after all, the property of the Kennedy Park cats). Plus, one time I went to a cat cafe in Oakland and the poor over-stimulated kitties lashed out at me. Literally – I got a claw through the hand just from walking too close to them. It’s the cat equivalent of turning into a giant blueberry and rolling away: the reward isn’t worth the risk.
If you’re going backpacking in Peru, chances are you’ll hear a lot about Macchu Picchu, something like “don’t spend any time in Lima” (we disagree), and some generic advice about acclimating in Cusco for a few days before doing anything athletic, like getting out of bed or walking up a flight of stairs (we agree). And that’s about it. We arrived in Peru with very little idea of what to expect. After a month of backpacking in Peru and figuring it out as we went, we’ve cobbled together some observations from our very gringo perspective, with varying levels of usefulness and in no particular order.
Laguna 69 sits at the base of a giant glacier in the Cordillera Blancas. Its elevation is at approximately 15,000 feet, which beats anywhere in the continental United States by a good 500 feet. Somehow, no one in Huaraz seemed to be impressed by this.To give you an idea of how incredibly high Laguna 69 is, once Lia and I jumped out of a plane to skydive from the highest altitude they were legally able to fly us, and it was STILL lower than Laguna 69. I knew this would would be no walk in the park, but I had no experience hiking at such a high altitude before. I was about to get a crash course.
Sometimes travel makes you miss things that you never knew you appreciated before. Like the immigration kiosk at the airport. You hop off a plane, hand them a slip of paper, answer a couple questions, then you’re off to enjoy a new country. Sure, you might wait in a long line, but at least you’re not scrunched in a van next to a rooster careening along a cliff at 80mph while the driver talks on his cell phone.
The Quilotoa Loop is a 3-day long hike in the Andes mountains in Ecuador, peaking at 12,500 feet. We thought we were taking the “easy” route. It turns out there is no easy route. Of course, we didn’t know that until after getting lost, unintentionally trespassing, crawling up a mountain on our hands and knees, injuring ourselves, and finally hitchhiking the rest of the way.
Think you need to book an expensive cruise to see the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador? Think again! We have a complete guide to the Galapagos Islands by land. Backpack your way through Santa Cruz, Isabela Island, and San Cristobal!
Isla Isabela is the largest island in The Galapagos. However, much like Hawaii, it is not the main island. There isn’t much civilization on this seahorse shaped piece of land, but there are plenty of critters, as well as awesome geological phenomena…if you’re into that. But what kind of freakin’ nerd would be? (Me…absolutely me.)
It took us a month of travelling by bus, van, jeep, and motorcycle through Colombia to figure out the various forms of transportation in Colombia! Read our guide to find out the types of available transportation in Colombia and the pros and cons for each type.
The Galapagos Islands are our favorite place by far on our South American adventure. From the relaxed island vibes and cozy coastal towns, to the plethora of sea lions, marine iguanas, and frigate birds at every turn, the Galapagos felt like the perfect place to take a break from our grungy backpacker lifestyle and have a real vacation.
Tucked away in the Eje Cafetero/coffee region of Colombia lies the little town of Salento. This town has become a major stop for travelers due to its proximity to the famous Valle de Cocora, myriad coffee farms, and stunning views of the area’s rolling green hills. Our experience in Salento was amazing, and one of the major reasons for that was our hostel, La Serrana Hostel and Eco-Farm.
With an extra week to kill in Cartagena, a day trip to take a mud bath in a dormant volcano sounded exciting and unique. Little did we know that our relaxing spa day would be foiled by an oil slick, vengeful abuelas, and Brazilian Dadbutt.
“How do I stop?? How do I make it stop going down?!?” I shriek frantically at my husband, who is calmly dangling in mid-air a few feet below me. I can’t make out his response through the roaring, cascading waterfall that we are both being drenched in as we rappel down a sheer rock face 250 feet in the air, but it’s probably something like ” Use the rope, idiot!” Oh, right.
I love coffee. Having lived in the Bay Area for the past seven years (minus the past year of backpacking), I can safely say I’m a coffee snob. I’m not so bad as to swirl a mug and say something like “There’s notes of pencil shavings in the nose,” but I can definitely taste things […]