Peru…Finally! (Videos + Pictures)

Well here we are again – months between posts because I’m probably the worst blogger on the internet. My South America trip to Peru and onward to Chile happened last year, in September and October, and I’m only just now writing about it. Now, in my own defense, I did produce a series of videos on youtube that chronicled the trip extensively and that took up a TON of my time. Of course there were other factors too – for instance not only did this trip spill over into October but I also took a new position with a new company in October and immediately upon returning to the United States I had to fly to Colorado to begin my onboarding training with them. In December I took a really big step and bought a house in North Idaho, and began a modest renovation effort on the interior. The home looks AMAZING now, but understandably between the new job, the new house and……..the new family 😀I was pretty tapped out for time!

What? Oh…that? Yeah, “new family”. You read it right.

Did I forget to mention that I also asked Abbi (she’s in all the Peru and Chile videos and pictures) to marry me? Well, that happened too and it’s the best thing ever! Asking Abbi to marry me didn’t mean just getting one more person in my life, it meant getting THREE more – her and her (our) two kids too! Then we got a dog! I really couldn’t be happier and the idea of sharing the world and travel with MY FAMILY is blowing my mind. I love the idea of showing them unique destinations, new cultures, and wonders of the world.

So, now that I’ve given you all that information to chew on, perhaps you better understand now why I haven’t written a single post since I shared the Delta lounge photos and justification post I made on my way down to Peru. With all of that said and behind us now, how about I actually tell you a bit about the trip?

Now, to be entirely honest I’m going to kind of “cheat” on this blog post – I’m going to post the videos and you can just watch those to get the best recap of our time there. I’ll write a bit, but seriously, watch the videos. 👌🏻

Peru!

DAY 1 – LIMA

Lima! Abbi actually arrived almost half a day ahead of me – I was flying down from work (in Louisiana) and she, having made her booking at the very last minute, was routing from our home airport in the Pacific Northwest through Mexico City. In order to get to Lima, she had to leave crazy early. After getting checked into our hotel she did a bit of wandering around the Miraflores area near where we were staying (for 1 night) and got the lay of the land – which included finding what became one of our favorite places to eat while we were in Peru, La Lucha! It’s a sandwich shop, but so much more than JUST a sandwich shop. They do their own bread, and their own meats. The flavors were amazing and we still, to this day, sometimes crave our favorites from there. (My personal preference being the namesake sandwich ‘The La Lucha’ – right side picture below).

Our time in Lima was very limited, the way I planned this trip only gave us the day there (this turn) so we made the most of it with a half day of wandering on our own in the morning, and then going on a private guided tour that afternoon. The tour was quick, but thorough – we saw huge parts of the city and made it back to our hostel in time to enjoy a drink at the very chic bar and then get to bed at a semi-decent hour – the very next morning we would be on a very early flight to Cusco! Enjoy the video below!

The Day 1 Video recap!

DAY 2 – CUSCO

Cusco! Our flight on Latam landed early in the morning (because we departed earlier in the morning) in Cusco, the idea being that we wanted to spend as much time acclimating to the 11,000 foot altitude of the Incan capital city before proceeding on to Machu Picchu. This turned out to be a real bonus because Cusco is a wonderful city! We loved the history, the culture, the general atmosphere, the people, and of course the food (Abbi might give you a different rating for the food though).

After negotiating a taxi ride from the airport to our hotel Abbi and I decided that we were going to ignore the advice we had received about “taking it easy” for a few hours to let our lungs get used to the thin air and we headed out into the city to explore right away. It seemed that everywhere we went offers of ‘Mate de Coca’ to help us with our acclimation abounded. You couldn’t turn a corner without leaves and hot water being presented to you.

Of course no trip to Peru would not be complete without having some of the traditional dish of Cuy! Cuy is, without apologies, Guinea Pig. I had done a bit of research on restaurants in Cusco and one came back as rated having the best Cuy in town (not that I am a Cuy connoisseur or anything and would know any better) so we made our way to the restaurant. Cuy, is like dark meat off of a turkey, but there is far less of it, and it takes for more work to get to. Abbi had not been remotely interested in trying Cuy when I told her, a month prior, that we would be trying local dishes (and explained to her what it was we were going to be eating). Eventually she capitulated with one condition – she would only eat Cuy if I could find a restaurant that served it wearing a tomato hat with a pepper in it’s mouth. Challenge accepted, and challenge met! (I’m sure she thought it would be harder for me to find than it was).

Over the remainder of the day we continued to explore churches, courtyards, markets and more. Cusco is full of friendly, stray, dogs and everywhere we went there were more dogs to enjoy (we’re dog people). We circled back to our hotel and took a few breaths of oxygen from the provided tanks to get over the altitude headaches, and then continued to wander the city. As the night wound down we made our way to the San Pedro night market near our hotel and enjoyed a bit of street food and some beverage we never really got the name of. People gathered around the stoves for food and for warmth, children ran up and down the marketplace, and overall everyone was in high spirits. It was a great end to a great day – tomorrow promised the adventure would continue as we would be on our way to the base of Machu Picchu. Enjoy the DAY 2 video below!

DAY 3 – OLLANTAYTAMBO AND AGUAS CALIENTE

I am going to be entirely honest with and tell you that this morning did not get off to a great start. The night prior a representative from the company I had booked our next few days with showed up to tell us “the plan”. In a nutshell the theory was that a van would pick us up in the morning and haul us down the road to the town of Ollantaytambo where we would meet our train. We would ride the train from Ollantaytambo to Aguas Caliente and then would stay at a hostel there for one night. The next day we would do Machu Picchu and in the evening make our way back all the way to Cusco. Muy Rapido! For those of you that don’t like anticipation and drama I’ll spoil the story and tell you that ultimately everything wound up working out – the van in the morning that was supposed to pick us up was more than an hour late (making me nervous about our train departure) . Nobody at the tour group was answering the phone or responding to WhatsApp messages. We eventually reached a point where I was absolutely certain we had been forgotten and the entire Machu Picchu part of the trip had been derailed. It turns out the driver was down the road, for nearly an hour and a half waiting for us at the wrong hotel.

The drive was gorgeous, the weather for our trip had been beautiful so far, and we are already planning our return! The driver, who had a van full of tourists was frantically driving as fast as he could safely(ish) to get us to Ollantaytambo. While doing this he was also on two different cell phones pleading (in Spanish) with whomever was on the other end. I was certain the late departure in the morning had made us miss our train and he was trying to re-accommodate us (it turns out that our train was fine, it was most likely the other half dozen passengers that were now an hour and a half late he was trying to help). We on the other hand made it to Ollantaytambo with plenty of time to spare!

Word to the wise – if you have a train ticket, and need to use the bathroom before your train departs DON’T pay to use one of the toilets in the market outside of the train station. They’re filthy, and there are perfectly nice, clean, free ones in the terminal.

The train ride was in a comfortable train car, filled with travellers and backpackers headed up to Aguas Caliente to see Machu Picchu. The attendants served us fresh juice and hot tea with some snacks (apples and cookies) for the ride. The rail line itself winds its way up through steep valleys along a river all the way up to the Aguas Caliente. The route is lined with Incan markers, and occasionally we would spot trail hikers and other tourists taking “the long way” to Machu Picchu exploring those ruins.

Aguas Caliente is a bustling tourist hub, full of restaurants and bars, and stores. The train itself lets you out directly into a market where you can fly hyper-inflated trinkets and knick-knacks to take home as souvenirs (do yourself a favor and bypass all of these stalls and buy your goods in Cusco instead). Our hostel was located right next to a large soccer field and across a small footbridge to where the main restaurants were at. The weather was so nice, and it was so uncharacteristically hot that we wound up shedding all of our layers and dressing down into shirts and jeans to try and beat the heat. The night ended with what we think was the “Miss Machu Picchu” contest just next to our hostel door. It was something else, but by now the anticipation for what tomorrow had in store was settling in and it was hard to really focus on much else other than getting to the lost city! Check out the day 3 video below!

DAY 4 – MACHU PICCHU

Another early morning (it would seem I planned this trip to be a whirlwind anyhow) came and we were off to meet the rest of our group in the main plaza of Aguas Caliente. The night prior a guide had shown up and told us everything we needed to know, including the fact that our English speaking guide and tour group would be rallying first thing in the morning. Of course how things went were a little bit differently than planned, when we arrived at the plaza neither our guide, or our group, were english speaking AND despite it being very early we found that there was already a large line formed for the busses to Machu Picchu. After weaving back and forth up a series of switchbacks to get to the parking lot and gated entrance to Machu Picchu our guide handed us off to another group – the one we were meant to be in after all.

I’m going to let the video do the talking for Machu Picchu day, it was breathtaking, it’s very much accessible for anyone to be able to go – and we loved every minute of it. Our plan was simple – guided tour of the ruins, and then we were climbing to the summit of Machu Picchu Montana. After getting back down to the ruins from our climb we would have a bit of free-time to explore more on our own before having to head back to the train station in Aguas Caliente to catch our ride back to Cusco.

Enjoy the Day 4 video from Machu Picchu!

DAY 6 – PARACAS & HUACACHINA

Listen I understand, I know I can’t pull the wool over the eyes of my amazing, wonderful, smart, and dare I say attractive (?) readers. I get it, right now you’re thinking that this blog post is missing a day, DAY 5! Where is it? Well, it doesn’t really exist. By the end of day 4 Abbi and I made our way back to Cusco and on day 5 we flew from Cusco to Lima. We checked into yet another hostel, and finally took a well needed breather after a marathon paced trip to and from Machu Picchu. We kept it simple, had La Lucha for lunch, and ate at a seafood restaurant just down the road from our hotel for dinner – which was perfectly situated next to a wonderful little wine bar where we ended our evening. This rest and relaxation was, of course, much needed – because the next day, DAY 6, we were headed to Paracas, the Ballestas Islands, and then dune busting and sandboarding in Huacachina! I had us booked for another full agenda!

This is one of the only photos from Day 5 (and there isn’t any video). This was at the seafood restaurant ‘Costazul Seafood’ on Calle Berlin and Alfredo Leon. We left our mark! “True Love and Seafood”

Paracas, the Ballestas Islands and Huacachina

So, with that little note about day 5 out of the way, let’s get back to the day 6 stuff. After our little best of R&R we lit the fires and kicked the tires once more. This time with a tour operator called PeruHop. The plan for the day was two fold – first we ride, by superlux motorcoach, several hours south of Lima to a town called Paracas. Paracas is a sleepy little fishing and boating community with a resort or two sprinkled in. We would board a speedboat in Paracas and head out to the Ballestas Islands for a sightseeing tour of what was being billed as the poor man’s Galapagos. Yayyy…anything with “poor man’s” in the description is bound to be most excellent! Right?

After wrapping up the islands it would be back onto the bus to continue yet even further south to the desert Oasis ofHuacachina. Here we would hop into a dune buggy and go bust some dunes while stopping for some sand boarding and a desert sunset. Sounds like an epic day to me! And it was!

After wrapping up the islands it would be back onto the bus to continue yet even further south to the desert Oasis of Huacachina. Here we would hop into a dune buggy and go bust some dunes while stopping for some sand boarding and a desert sunset. Sounds like an epic day to me! And it was!

The PeruHop people were very friendly, promptly on-time, and accommodating. The bus that we were on was a lavish, comfortable, tour bus with big comfy seats that reclined and built in TV for watching movies (which came in great on the drive down at the end of the day – The Goonies played in the background while we all nodded off for the long drive back to Lima).

Paracas itself was not much more than a sleepy coastal town with shops and resorts for the tourists and a harbor for the fishermen. When we arrived it didn’t take long until our guide took us to the pier to board the large, purpose-built, speedboat for the tour. Notable sights included the Candelabra, which supposedly points to the Nazca lines. Scientists have dated the Candelabra back to 200 BCE, which is amazing to think about, since it is located on the Pacific coastline, it has weathered thousands of years of storms and rain and still exists to this day.

Creative Commons image sourced from Flikr – none of my photos were really good at showing the candelabra.

After a brief stop to look at the Candelabra the boats pointed toward the “poor man’s galapagos’ and sped away (being a speed boat and what have you…). Massive flocks and formations of birds flew overhead, and skimmed the water surface, feeding and doing what birds do. The Islands are one of the main sources of guano for Peru – guano that is used in their fertilizer and many other commercial processes. This tour turned out to be a non-stop conversation about bird droppings, while we chugged around an island covered in bird droppings. And took pictures of it.

Part of Bird Poop Island

Because the day was so long I found that the best idea for editing would be to split it into two videos, here is the Paracas and Ballestas Islands video, watch this and then we will move on to Huacachina. I will add a note here now, this tour is not exactly “worth it” in my opinion.

After our boat made it back to Paracas we really did not have much time to explore town before we were loading ourselves back onto the bus for the drive to Huacachina. Huacachina is a desert oasis located in the Southwest Peru, surrounded by sand dunes and populated by resorts and bars. It looks like it has a great nightlife scene, which we weren’t able to take advantage of – but we are planning on coming back to stay for a few days, enjoy the beautiful pools, and sample the food and drink.

I’m going to apologize right now for no photos or videos of the sandboarding, my camera bracket broke while we were dune busting and I tucked it away to keep it safe, so take my word for it, we most definitely went sandboarding. Here are some pictures and at the bottom

DAY 7 – LIMA

We had been having such an amazing time in Peru since our arrival that the thought of it ending really was something we weren’t all too ready to face. On our last day in the country we decided to do some shopping and a bit of touring about the city, ultimately though the real focus of the day was a romantic date night in the city. No video, some photos, tonight was about being present with each other. I couldn’t imagine spending another day of my life without Abbi in it with me, and after having so much fun and adventure together in Peru I knew she was THE ONE for me. We went to a Magic Water Circuit, a park with some of the most beautiful choreographed water fountains I’ve ever seen. We stood in the middle of a fountain as it went off and stayed perfectly dry in our little square. When we left the fountains to go get into our Uber for dinner we luckily stumbled onto a row of florists shops with more flowers and displays of flowers in one small strip mall size space than I’d ever seen. Once our car arrived we sped along to one of the best steak restaurants either of us had ever been to, CARNAL Prime and had a long, slow, romantic dinner. The woman across the table from me, Abbi, had left no doubt in my mind or in my heart that she was going to be my partner for life.

Here’s a small sampling of photos we snapped during our date night. The next morning we would be off to Chile, look for that post soon!

Published by pilotnick208

Nick Henderson is an FAA rated commercial pilot, world traveler, blogger, podcaster, photographer, and all-around good guy. His love of travel, adventure, food, and fun has taken him around the world and back again. Now he's sharing that adventure with his wife Abigal. Follow their journey on Instagram @wander2gether08

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