Here are some pictures from our boat diving and snorkeling adventures:
Meeting up with the Aussie crew in Cancun was lots of fun. After saying goodbye, we packed up, walked from the resort to the highway early the next morning, and hailed a local collectivo headed south. At Playa del Carmen we boarded a ferry and zipped through blue, blue water to the small island of Cozumel.
Deep Blue Diving, our destination in Cozumel, was just a few blocks from the ferry dock. We quickly got our equipment together and joined two other girls in a taxi to the beach. John, Mckenzie and Amber were going to do their first dive ever and I was along for a refresher course since I haven’t dive in 5 years.
Sandro, the dive instructor, walked us through the equipment and explained the basics of SCUBA. Then, into the water! It was so cool to be breathing underwater again, immediately entranced by the gorgeous turquoise water and colorful tropical fish flitting back and forth. We did the basic skills: breathing with the regulator, taking it out of our mouth and replacing it, buddy breathing, clearing our masks, and controlling our bouyancy. After mastering those skills, we swam away from the beach to explore. A seahorse, stingray and more fish were among the sights.
John continued diving the next few days to become open water certified. Unfortunately I had serious ear trouble probably due to a few bad headcolds while in South America so diving wasn’t in the cards for me this trip. Luckily there are lots of shallow reefs around the island so I had a great time snorkeling.
While John was diving, I explored Cozumel on foot and by scooter, which was so fun! I also caught up on some work at our beachy hostel and scoped out some pretty ceramic dishes at the shops nearby. We are lots of yummy Mexican food and cooked up a few good meals at the hostel.
Ten years after my study abroad semester in Newcastle Australia, I continue to keep in touch with a tight-knit group of American friends, re-uniting at weddings and various trips over the years. It just so happened that our ten year study abroad anniversary landed on the weekend directly following Larissa and my return from South America. Due to price and time constraints, our group could not travel to Australia to relive a Newcastle Beach Aussie weekend, so we decided to all meetup in Cancun, Mexico. Altering flights back from Peru was quite expensive, but Larissa found a cheap round trip option from IAD to CAN. So we spent only 36 hours in the states before boarding a plane again for departure south. Thanks to Adam and Kim for accomodations and a fun dinner out in Reston, Virginia Thursday night.
The Aussie group reunion was at the Blue Bay Esmeralda in Cancun where we enjoyed an all inclusive weekend with volleyball, pool lounging, solid Mexican food, beach cocktails, and the finest of company. It truly seems like we never miss a beat with this group, no matter how long it’s been, or how many new partners and spouses join the mix. Thanks to Betsy for organizing the trip and to everyone who was able to make it. Hope to see you all again in the near future.
Unfortunately the Aussie crew had to head back on Monday to their respective jobs and responsibilities in the US of A. Larissa and I would continue down to Cozumel for four more days in Mexico full of SCUBA certification and beautiful reef diving.
The final days in Sudamerica consisted of more delicious Ceviche and surfing at the rocky beach in Lima. I went surfing both of the last two days and Larissa joined on the second day.
We took a city tour of Lima to learn much about the the city’s history and architecture. My favorite part was the catacombs under the ancient church with open pits filled with tens of thousands of human remains. The bones were arranged in geometric patterns in the mass graves.
The night sky on our flight home was beautiful, but it felt a bit surreal to be on route returning to the states. We will miss the culture of South America, but at least we get a bit more Espanol practice on our bonus trip to Cancun.
It’s hard to believe, but we’ve reached our last stop in South America: Lima. There’s lots to see and do here, but I’m most excited for the food. Ceviche in particular. Mmmmm.
We are staying at the Dragonfly Hostel in Miraflores, an upscale neighborhood near the beach. Sunday we enjoyed our first ceviche meal at Punto Azul, a popular lunch spot for locals.
Next we checked out the Choco Museo, which turned out to be more of a chocolate store with some informational signs here and there. Not complaining though. After a coffee and one of many gin rummy games on this trip, we watched a massive parade down the main street of Miraflores.
The parade featured a mix of floats promoting major brands like Colgate and Downy, as well as groups of traditional dancers and marching bands.
Thursday night 07/16/15 we returned to Hostal Suece II in Cusco after completing the -70km five day trek to Machupicchu. The journey was physically taxing, but well worth it. We had a great group to hike with and the weather and views were spectacular.
After some research we booked the trek with Salkantay Trail Peru starting Sunday morning. We hopped on a bus in Cusco and met our guide Edy and fellow hikers from USA, Brazil, France, Switzerland, and Ireland. The bus brought us into the mountains to the starting point of the Salkantay Trail. This route is a cheaper alternative to the Inca Trail, which books up 3-5 months in advance. The Salkantay Trail is longer than the original Inca Trail with less ruins and stairs along the way, but it takes hikers through many diverse landscapes to end at the breathtaking Incan city ruins of Machupicchu.
Our trek began with an uphill climb to the first camp site at Soraypampa four hours below the Salkantay Pass. While the crew setup camp and prepared for dinner, we took an afternoon hike up an adjacent mountain to a high altitude glacier lake. Despite the cold, some of the guys decided to take a dip in the glacier green water.
Sunday night was the coldest camping of the trip. Luckily our travel agency provided warm down sleeping bags rated for -20 C, and the tents were high quality. The trout dinner exceeded our expectations and all the cooking continued to be solid through our entire trip. We were well rested for our 4:30am wakeup call on Monday. This would be the most difficult day of the trek.
We hiked up the steep hill to the Salkantay Pass slow and steady with the help of some coca leaves and walking sticks. We were lucky to find clear skies and no wind at the highest point of 4,650 ms (15,250 ft).
After the pass we had six hours of hiking to descend 1,750 meters to camp in Chaullay. The scenery changed drastically from glacier mountains to a lush valley jungle, and the temperature was significantly warmer.
On Tuesday we walked hard through the hot Peruvian jungle to our lunch stop at Sahuayacu where we enjoyed fresh roasted & ground coffee, and I carved myself a fine fishing implement. Our destination camp Tuesday night was near the river in a small town called La Playa (beach).
When we reached La Playa it was early afternoon and we had three hours to enjoy the nearby hot springs next to the Lluskamayu River. The three pools were hot and clean, but I couldn’t resist testing out my new fishing line at the river with a juicy Helgramite I captured. Not surprising, I had no luck with my primitive rig.
At dinner we planned the next morning adventure to go zip lining, and played cards with the group. The zip lining adventure with the company Vertikal Zip Lines was included for me and Larissa, but almost all the members opted to join on Wednesday. The company was safe and professional and I would recommend them to anyone doing the trail. Views were incredible.
Here we had a good hostel booked where we had a shower and dinner with the group at a nearby restaurant. We were lucky to have all our train tickets and entry to Machupicchu printed and setup in advance through Salkantay Trail Peru. There was some scrambling on the part of Edy and the other group members who booked through different agencies. I will plug Salkantay Trail Peru again since we paid the same as most and received better service.
Thursday was the big day to hike up to Machupicchu. There was an option to opt out of the hike and take a bus to the top, but most of our group chose to leave town at 4:30am and hike the short but steep route straight up to the hidden ruins.
Edy provided a two hour walking tour for the group where we learned all about the ‘discovery’ of the ruins, the history of the Incan empire and why Machupicchu was abandoned, as well as the interesting details of the stone quarry process and mind boggling construction.
After parting ways with Edy and the tour group, some of us continued up the ruins to the Incan Bridge trail where we had a spectacular view of the entire ruins and a relaxing place for siesta and lunch.
This trek was one of the most memorable parts of our South American adventure and we plan to keep in touch with our group mates in Cusco and the future. I would highly recommend the Salkantay Trail trek to anyone visiting Peru.
Cusco! It’s so cool to return to this beautiful city. I spent 2 weeks learning Spanish and living with a Peruvian family here 11 years ago; I’m so glad to be back. That trip really opened my eyes to how people live with much less money than the standards I’d always seen in the US and Canada (cold showers, chilly nights with no indoor heating, rural poverty).
We stopped by my old host family’s house today after trekking to the outskirts of Saksywaman. It’s a hostel now! The family is long gone and I have no way of getting in touch with them. Oh well.
Cusco is bigger and a lot more touristy than I remember. The charming cobblestone streets and mind-boggling Incan architecture, however, hasn’t and won’t change.
And… we just booked out trek to Machu Picchu on Sunday with Salkantay Trail Peru – we are pumped! Tomorrow at 5am the journey begins.
After returning from the jungle we spent a relaxing day in the small port town of Rurrenebaque eating delicious river fish and hiking the local ‘Mirador’ (city viewpoint, usually has a holy cross or ten).
Our early flight to La Paz on Thursday was delayed three hours due to thick cloud cover in the jungle mountains. So we missed our 10am connection to fly from La Paz to Cusco (one flight per day) and thus ended up spending an extra night in La Paz. We found a cheap Hostal near Sagarnaga Street and cruised the shops, caught the movie Jurassic World (dubbed in Spanish) at a local cinema, and enjoyed a great vegetarian meal at Tierra Sana.
Our flight went smoothly Friday morning and we arrived in Cusco before noon. Now to plan our hike to Machupicchu on the Salkantay trail and explore the city of Cusco.