November 23, 2013

Peru, Mostly in Pictures

I’m keeping this short since I want to get out there and explore the day, but I’ve been taking tons of photos so they’re pretty easy to share!

The backstory: I flew from DFW to ATL to LIM, and then had a 5 hour layover there before my connection to Cusco. The roundtrip DFW-LIM was only $330, and then I discovered that flights from LIM to CUZ on LAN can be had for only 6000 AA miles + $6 taxes. Incredible deal! The only downside was that icky 5 hour layover in Lima, since my flight from ATL landed at midnight and the earliest flight to Cusco wasn’t until 5am. Luckily, the airport is 24 hours; unluckily, security is closed until 1:30am so I had to sit outside for a while, breaking up my sleeping time until I could get inside and to the lounge. (I’m really happy that on the way back, I have a similar-length layover but won’t have the same problem with security!)

When I landed at CUZ and got off the plane, I immediately felt a little bit woozy/dizzy. The city of Cusco is at 12,000 feet of elevation, and just dropping into that from a plane (vs adapting to it by steadily climbing/driving) was tough! But I still managed to successfully negotiate a taxi from the airport to downtown (yes, even though I barely speak any Spanish), dropped off my bags at the hotel where I’d be spending Saturday night, and then headed out for a horseback tour of some of the major archaeological sites.

Saddled up and ready to go!
Saddled up and ready to go!
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Following my amazing guide, Ernesto, through the Peruvian countryside
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First stop: Temple of the Moon. (It’s under that apparent hill in the distance.)
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Standing atop the Temple of the Moon, looking down at the ruins below.
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Ernesto pointed out lots of Incan carvings. The snake (shown) represented the past, and was always at the lowest level. The puma represents the present, and the middle level. And the condor represents the future, since it’s in the sky, and is always at the highest level. Sadly, the Spanish tried to destroy most of these carvings when they invaded.
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Me inside the Temple of the Moon
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The outside of the Temple of the Moon, seen from the opposite side.
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As we journeyed to our next site, I started feeling the altitude more and more. Ernesto knew what to do though: he found some coca leaves, crushed them in his hands, and gave them to me to hold under my nose and breathe deeply. It definitely helped!
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We headed over to Q’enqo next (where Ernesto teased my poor pronunciation). From outside, I got this gorgeous selfie with the city of Cusco in the background!
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Inside Q’enqo, I saw the temple that was originally believed to be used for human sacrifice, but later found to be used just for mummification (of already dead people). So much less creepy!
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Final stop, the famous fortress at Sacsayhuaman. Hey, Theodora, note that this sign has Raymi on it!
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One of the coolest things about Sacsayhuaman is that all the rocks were cut to fit together perfectly, without mortar in between. I thought this doorway was pretty awesome!
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Ernesto told me that this particular rock (yes, it’s one GIANT rock) was the biggest one in the site, and that it actually extends further into the ground than you can see. Look how tiny I am compared to this thing! I am so amazed that the Inca people were able to move this to build the wall – it must have taken thousands.
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After the tour, Ernesto pointed out a great restaurant in the city of Cusco. I passed on the guinea pig for now, but instead tried this alpaca kabob with quinoa risotto. It was amazingly delicious!
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Finally, I took a taxi to the Sacred Valley / town of Urubamba, where I’d spend the night. The views along the way were just stunning!

Thank you, thank you, thank you to the amazing Ruben at South Adventure Peru Tours who arranged this for me! Getting a one-on-one tour by horseback was incredible, and the price was more than reasonable – especially considering that Ruben is an incredibly generous person who gives 10% of all his profits back to help the children in the city of Lares. Here’s what he told me after I booked my tour:

I was born in Lares and when I was a child I always thought about helping those people who live in chaotic conditions because my life also was not very good growing up. I studied without any electricity using only candles. However, me and my wife are saving the 10% of all the payments from our customers during the year so we can help underprivileged children in Lares. Our next departure is this 22nd of December until the 24th, we will bring food, clothes, toys, gifts and every first of April we bring them school supplies because it is the beginning of classes. Me and my wife are thinking of building a big students house in the next couple of years so that the kids do not have to walk 4 to 5 hours to get to their school and another 4 hours back to their house, we hope can do this with the blessing of god.

If you are planning a trip to Peru yourself (and you should, it is amazing here!), definitely check out the family-run operation at South Adventure Peru Tours. The level of service was incredible, and Ruben was incredibly easy to work with over email to book and have everything set before arrival. I’d highly recommend them and will definitely be booking again on my next trip to Peru (oh yes, I’m sure there will be another).


4 thoughts on “Peru, Mostly in Pictures”

  1. Looks like you got a healthy dose of history, nature, and adventure on your horseback jaunt. Beautiful photos of what looks to be an amazing place!

  2. FUN!! You are bringing back memories of my honeymoon trip to Peru. Speaking of which, I still need to finish those recap posts about the adventure! Safe travels!

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