Cusco, Sacred Valley, Paracas, Map

I am clearly getting lazy as this trip goes on, and I’ll prove it today by posting about Cusco, the Sacred Valley, Paracas, AND the map of Peru (thanks to map making Mama!). Forgive my laziness, and I’ll spare you any April Fool’s jokes like “I’m not coming home, EVER!” because really, I’m coming home in two days. How wonderful!

Here we go with a map of my Peru itinerary – I figured better late than never right? Currently we’re in Lima – my last stop for the ENTIRE TRIP! It is really starting to hit me. After doing the below itinerary, I can confidently suggest that you skip the South Coast altogether – it really isn’t worth anything. Go inland, or go North (I haven’t actually done this, but I wish I had and I imagine it is awesome).

Cusco: Really great town! I thought Cusco was very cute, had an abundance of sights to see, and many delicious restaurants (which we mostly avoided because of our obsession with finding the cheapest set meals!). I could spend a lot of time in Cusco – perhaps studying more Spanish!

We had three days initially, then did the trek, then had two full days after the trek to be in and around Cusco. Our first day we wandered around to the market – which had everything from dried/salted alpaca meet to hallucinogenic cactus juice (we tried the former but skipped the latter) to fruit and nuts and veggies! We bought fruit, tried soup, decided we were all exhausted and went back to take a nap.

The next day we did the Lonely Planet’s suggested “walking tour” of the town, which was a nice way to orient ourselves with a bit of purpose – I like to know WHAT I’m looking at and what it means, rather than just knowing there is a church/plaza/museum/old house on any given corner. After doing a bunch in town, a few of us decided to hike WAY up to the White Christ statue above Cusco by taking some never-ending stairs through a neighborhood. We figured this would be good conditioning for our trek. We hauled up the stairs and found ourselves at a magnificent (and touristy) alpaca shop – so we looked around at beautiful sweaters and decided to only buy candy bars. Then we headed over to the White Christ and down via a different route to town.

I think I might be getting my days in Cusco mixed up, but I’m going to keep going confidently because I figure most of you will never know the difference…

The next day I really can’t remember what we did – except that I almost got eaten by an alpaca. We went to some old ruins in the city, which happen to have an alpaca on property, and after posing so nicely with me – it started biting and chasing me! Comical, yes, a bit scary? Kind of! I had to keep pushing it away (luckily it was so soft!) and finally a guard came over to escort it to a different area.

That is about all I remember of Cusco – whoops! I spent the time after the trek relaxing, trying to catch up blogging, sleeping, etc. Overall, I really enjoyed Cusco! Hopefully my family did too, seeing as they were all in Cusco with me! One of the best parts might have been walking through the side streets near the main market – also full of vendors – which was clearly not a tourist destination. We saw all sorts of things (including what we think are dried llama fetus’s…), and one woman asked me to hold her baby – VERY cute. If you know anything about me, you probably know that I LOVE babies. She insisted I take him out of her back sling and hold him, which I very willingly did, until the rest of my family had totally disappeared and I had to run off to find them.

On the day after our trek we (the family and Roland) rented a van and went up into the Sacred Valley, doing a typical loop through a bunch of towns and markets in the valley. It is beautiful, green, and amazing! Not as steep of mountains as we saw on the trek, but still gorgeous and huge. We went to a variety of markets – all with plenty of things I COULD have bought but somehow didn’t (except slippers, I did buy slippers), ate an authentic lunch, and went to a salt mine! The salt mine was actually pretty cool, although didn’t look very salty because it had just rained a bunch. We also went to a weaving co-op and saw how they get the wool, make it into thread, dye it, weave it, etc. Pretty cool.

On Tuesday we flew to Lima, and then Aunt Margaret and I headed South by bus to Paracas. We really wanted to go North to the Huaraz and Cordillera Blanca area, but decided that 16+ total hours on a bus didn’t sound appealing for only 3 days to spend up there. Hence: Paracas. What a funny little town – it is clearly expecting lots of tourism, but there is basically nothing there. The draw is the Islas Ballestas, the poor man’s Galapagos, which have tons of birds and sea lions. We saw penguins in the wild, and hundreds of sea lions (and babies!)! We went on a boat tour to see them in the morning (Wednesday), then had planned to hike around the national park on the peninsula, but after seeing if from the boat decided that it really didn’t look appealing. It is dry, ugly, desert. Nothing to see, it would have been hot, and we just didn’t want to try. So we lounged around town (since there really is NOTHING else to do), and waited until Thursday when we knew we could get to Lima!

Now we’re in Lima and it is really hitting me that I go home the DAY AFTER TOMORROW. Holy cow. That is SO soon! I feel this need to come up with profound discoveries on the meaning of life – but at this point I think I’m still digesting. I have definitely learned that if I’m going to do another trip like this I need to go MUCH more slowly – otherwise I get burned out (like now) and just want to veg. I’m also realizing that life is expensive in the US and that I need to find a job in Boulder asap… hmm…

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