I’ve decided to take a break from recounting my travels around Europe last year to write about my trip to Peru while it’s still fairly fresh in my mind. So, without further ado…
Part 1: Preparation and Flight
After my trip of a lifetime to Europe last year, I was not planning to take another major vacation anytime soon, but then my frequent travel buddy, Uncle Kipp, called me with an offer I couldn’t refuse: the adventure of a lifetime. He was planning to hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu at the end of August and asked if wanted to join him. It took me a whole ten seconds to make that decision: there was no way I was going to pass up a chance to visit the famous Lost City of the Incas. And so, less than a year after seeing the Colosseum and Forum of Rome, the canals of Venice, the palace of Roman Emperor Diocletian in Split, Croatia, and the medieval walled city of Dubrovnik, Croatia (aka King’s Landing for Game of Thrones fans), I would be visiting Inca ruins all across Peru, culminating in the majesty of Machu Picchu.
Preparing for this trip was daunting on a number of levels. Not only did I have to pack for ten days abroad and all that entails (including getting through paranoid security at airports), but I also had to pack for four days of roughing it in the wilderness. On top of that, Uncle Kipp was heading down to Peru two months before my arrival, so I would be flying alone for the first time in my life—and to South America no less!
I purchased everything I thought I would need for the trip, including a sleeping bag liner, hiking boots, water purification tablets, a flashlight headlamp, hiking pants that could convert to shorts, wool socks for the cold nights, leg warmers (sounds silly, buy they came in handy under my light hiking pants), and various other items. I even broke down and bought my first tablet PC, mainly because I wanted to be able to back up my photos out on the trail without hauling along my heavy netbook. The web site of our tour company did a good job of listing items we would need for the hike but my extra research, which included reading the blogs of people who had completed the Inca Trail—helped even more.
When the morning of my flight finally arrived I hopped on a train to Newark airport. NJ Transit makes it easy to get to the airport via train—just one switch to get on the monorail that takes you directly to your desired gate. In spite of a 20-minute train delay, I arrived in plenty of time and breezed through security, a far cry from my experience getting to JFK airport and through their security for last year’s Eurotrip (and much cheaper as well). I’ll never fly out of JFK again if I can help it.
The plane from Newark landed in Miami around 6pm, where I had a five-hour layover before my flight to Lima, Peru. After getting through security and checking in, I passed the time by eating dinner (though I was disappointed at how early so many of the restaurants closed in such a major airport) and watching the Eagles Monday night game in one of the airport bars.
On the overnight flight to Lima I wasn’t able to sleep so I watched a couple of movies and a documentary on Machu Picchu (seemed appropriate). I had to go through security twice in Lima because I went the wrong way the first time and they wouldn’t let me pass through to the right gate without going through security again (ah, the joys of air travel).
The hotel where I would be staying had arranged for a driver to pick me up at the airport in Cusco, Peru, but my flight from Lima was delayed by about an hour. I was able to get a hold of the hotel on my cell phone before takeoff to let them know I would be late, but I think the driver ended up waiting the whole time anyway, so I gave him a tip of 20 Sols for his trouble, which I believe was much more than he was accustomed to receiving. The driver took me through the city of Cusco, pointing out several areas of interest before turning up a narrow street that led to the place I would be calling home for the next three days (and for two more days after the hike): the Hotel Rumi Punku.
The staff greeted me, took me to the lobby, and gave me a cup of coca tea while I was waiting to check in. The tea is supposed to help with altitude sickness—Cusco sits at over 11,000 feet, making it the perfect place to get acclimated to high altitudes before embarking on the hike (or so I thought, but more on that later). It was a good thing that I liked the tea because I practically lived on the stuff for the next ten days. I would have loved to have brought some home but, alas, the coca leaf is illegal in the United States (over the pesky technicality of its use in the manufacture of cocaine).
After finishing the tea and checking in, I went to my room and, exhausted from more than 24 hours on the road and in the air, promptly zonked out, eternally grateful that the hotel allowed me to check in so early in the morning. My first foray into the city would have to wait a few hours.
Stay tuned for Part 2, which will cover, among other things, my visit to the main plaza of Cusco and my first excursion outside of the city to some Inca ruins. In the meantime, you can check out this video montage of my entire trip.