Photographer: Chue Zeng Yang

The Prep
I had heard that the trek to Machu Picchu would be difficult
so I started high intensity interval training (HIIT) classes,
twice a week, a semester before my trip.
Twice, sometimes once a week, I ran 2 miles and then walked 1 mile
on a treadmill with the incline set to max.
I walked 1.3 miles from my parking spot to campus (approx. 2.5 miles roundtrip),
and always took the stairs at work and at school.

A few days before we left, we sprayed every item of clothing with Permethrin.
I ran to Macy's twice to buy two pairs of Columbia hiking pants,
and Adidas running leggings.
I bought wool socks, a soft mesh breezer hat, and insect repellent from Amazon.
I stocked up on Uniqlo's AIRism seamless bras and base layers,
and I got an ultra light down parka that I ruined after the trip because I put it in the wash
(still feeling so salty about that).

The one thing I regret buying because I did not use it: an inflatable sleeping pad,
though I think it will come in handy for future camping trips.
The one thing I recommend girls buy because it was quite useful: a female urinary device.

Image source: Treehouse

The Jungle
We flew into the jungle first.
Iquitos was hot and humid.
We stayed in a treehouse (treehouse 6)!
The first evening in the jungle we took a long nap and missed our first excursion
-hunting for caiman on the Amazon-
it was sad, but I don't regret getting rested.

The second day we ventured out and caught 5 types of fish:
red-belly piranha, white-belly piranha, carp, sabalo and muharita?;
We hiked and found 6 different species of monkeys:
woolly, monk saki, dusky titi, common squirrel, capuchin and pygmy marmoset;
We spotted lots of birds:
kingfisher, ring kingfisher, slate collar hawk, black collar hawk,
coca heron, red macaw, black vulture, parrots, great black hawk;
We visited a local village called the Vista Alegre Comunidad
and I held a baby sloth for the first time;
and we ended the day watching the sunset with dolphins on the Amazon.

The third day we packed and flew to Cuzco.
It felt too short, I wanted to stay another night.

Photographer: Chue Zeng Yang

The Mountains
When we arrived in Cuzco we were given coca leaves
which we did not know how to chew (embarrassing),
and we stayed at Hotel Royal Inka I.

Day 1 of the Inca Trail
We woke up at 3:30am and met Edwin in our hotel lobby,
for 4 hours we sat on a bus to Ollantaytambo.
We stopped for an AYCE breakfast, drove for another 1/2 hour and started the trek.
We hiked 10 miles, which took approximately 8 hours.

The views were stunning, unlike anything I've ever seen before.
All around me were green mountains, even higher were snow covered mountains.
I finally understood what my parents might have experienced in their childhood,
which included: growing up in the country side, and walking 2-3 days
across jungles and mountains before reaching the next village.
It was familiar, but somehow I could never have imagined it without experiencing it.

Photographer: Chue Zeng Yang

At night we said our introductions and I met the most hardworking papis, ever.
They were our porters, and our cooks.
I still get emotional thinking about them because they worked so hard
to make sure that everyone was taken care of during the trek.
They boiled all of our dishware, daily, to kill off bacteria,
they cooked the most delicious Peruvian food,
carried 50+ lbs of supplies, food, etc,
and made sure that I had clean water for washing and drinking.
I am forever grateful to them.

Day 2 of the Inca Trail
We woke up at 6am and hiked for 4 hours, uphill, on something called
Dead Woman's Pass. It was easier than I thought it would be.
I had watched a lot of YouTube videos and read blogs that had warned
about the difficult journey of Dead Woman's Pass
but in the end, it was nothing.
Two more hours of downhill hiking, followed by 2 hours of uphill, followed by another 2 hours of downhill and I got to explore an ancient Inca ruin before heading to camp.

Photographer: Chue Zeng Yang

Day 3 of the Inca Trail
We woke up at 6am and hiked for 6 hours to camp.
Day 3 was a super relaxing day.
I got to take a cold shower.
I still don't understand why people complain about it
because when you haven't showered in two days, anything will do.
We explored two additional Inca sites and learned about the chakana.

Day 4 of the Inca Trail
On Day 4 the plan was to wake up at 3am
to walk less than 5 minutes to the gate of Machu Picchu and reserve a bench.
The gate to Machu Picchu doesn't open until 5:30am but
people line up as early as 3am. Long story short, we failed.
We arrived just a few minutes too late and other groups had already taken the benches.
So, we sat on the ground and waited 2 1/2 hours for the gate to open.
When the gate to Machu Picchu opened, we hiked 2 hours uphill to the Sun Gate.
It rained all morning. We didn't see the Sun. We couldn't see Machu Picchu.
- S A D    M O R N I N G -

Photographer: Chue Zeng Yang

We hiked another 45 minutes downhill (to Machu Picchu) and the fog lifted a bit
but the weather was still pretty bad.
I was wet, cold, and tired, and it just kept on raining.
We stuck with it and toured Machu Picchu
-which was amazing-
and by the end of our tour the rain stopped.
The site was incredible, and totally worth the journey.

Around noon, we rode the bus down to Aguas Calientes.
We shopped, we tried to haggle, we celebrated, we said our good-byes.

Photographer: Chue Zeng Yang

The Return
 We took Peru Rail and then bused back to Cuzco.
It was bittersweet.
Looking back, Peru was one of the best places I've ever visited.
The entire experience was humbling.
I learned so much about the history of the Incan.
It was such a pleasant experience, overall.

I hope you consider visiting Peru.
I highly recommend it, and if you do go, please book with Llama Path
and ask for Edwin (the funniest, most knowledgeable guide).
Llama Path is known for treating their porters the best: they take them on annual vacations,
pay them fair wages, and provide housing for the porters,
and education for their children too.
Read more about Llama Path here.
I am so grateful, and proud, to have booked with such a wonderful group of people.

Hasta luego, Peru.


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