Wednesday, April 27, 2011


WOW! What a trip! I can honestly say that Choquequirao was the most difficult trek I have ever done in my life. In 5 days we covered over 70 kilometers and ascended and descended thousands of meters of mountains through the Apurimac River Valley. It was extremely humbling and really hard both physically and mentally. I realized as I was climbing the last three kilometers of the first day with my legs in pain from Machu Picchu, that I was much more out of shape than I thought. I also realized that I am not the badass backpacker I thought I was. I never claimed to be the most badass backpacker but I have definitely had my fair share of bragging moments about my time on the Inca Trail carrying all my stuff. I was so thankful for our mules and that they carried all our stuff. I probably would've broken down for real from the exhaustion. I was on the verge of tears for the final leg of the first day but I pulled it together and collapsed into bed the first night. From the second day on, my attitude changed and I accepted the fact that I was the most out of shape and would be last most of the time. I soaked it in and took lots of pictures and enjoyed the walk instead of thinking about how much more I had to climb or how hot or hungry I was. It's amazing what an attitude adjustment will do for you in a physically strenuous situation. I am so glad that I did this trip and I am so happy that I was able to share it with my brother and my good friends. In total there were 7 of us. Chandler, Erica, Roger, Mar (from Spain), Elodie (from France) and Elias, our wonderful guide and friend. I am so thankful for the day I went climbing with Elias and Alex and Erica and Elias became friends because if that had never happened, this trip would never have happened.

Day 1: 24 kilometers: I wanted to die by the end but I made it! I thought we were going to be staying by the river but we still had another 3 kilometers to climb to our first campsite so I was not mentally prepared at all. It was rough. Roger was a good encourager though. He stayed with me the whole time partly because I had the headlamp but also because he was employing the buddy system, should anything happen to either of us. We also realized the following morning, that we left a bag of all our breakfast food somewhere far away from the trail so guac and bread for breakfast would have to suffice for the next few days and then tuna and crackers. No biggie.

Day 2: 8 kilometers: More uphill but at my pace and taking it all in. We got to the campsite and then checked out the ruins below where there was a house dedicated to worshipping the water and a ceremonial rock. It was very cool.

Day 3: 5 kilometers: Play day at the ruins! What an amazing place. I was blown away by everything and the best by far, were the llamas in the terraces on the other side of the mountain. What a trip to get everywhere, but it was so worth it! I think we walked about 5 kilometers around the ruins. We also had our own ceremony with coca leaves giving thanks to Pacchamama and the Apus or Incan gods. It was wonderful giving thanks for everything and for the great company I was in. I gave even more thanks on Sunday when the wind helped me walk up the mountain. It made up for the brutal heat of the sun.

Day 4: 16 kilometers: We started our trek back to Cachorra, the town where we started. We made it to the river around 12:30pm and played in the Apurimac River for about an hour before we took refuge under some shelter at the camp. The sun was really harsh and we all got a little bit of color this day. We ate our lunch of delicious choclo (corn) lunch and waited until 3pm before we started the hike up to our campsite. Thank goodness, because the sun was so hot that we all would’ve passed out from the heat. I made my way up slowly but surely. The cookie party Erica and I had on the way made it much better. The wonderful wind at my back made me happy too. We got to our campsite and enjoyed the wonderful view of the valley.

Day 5: 12 kilometers: 6am wake up call. This morning was the first morning I had a ton of energy and was ready to rock and roll. After about an hour and realizing how much more uphill I still had, I wasn’t quite as animated but I was motivated. Slowly and steadily I made it to the top and we got back to Cachorra around 12pm. We had a delicious almuerzo and a few beers before taking the most ridiculous car ride back to Cusco I have ever experienced. I wanted to sleep so badly but I was flung all over the car so sleep was not an option. I am impressed that Elodie and Erica were able to sleep. We got back to Cusco around 5pm and Roger and I headed to the hostel.
I wanted to go out on Monday night but I was so pooped. Roger, Marco, and I went to a restaurant called El Condorito for some Anticucho, which is roasted cow heart. It’s quite delicious actually. I had some recoto relleno that was also delicious. We headed back to the hostel and played hearts for a little while before going to sleep. Everyone in the bar was playing spin the bottle but we did not partake. Definitely for the better.

At 6am Marco picked Roger and myself up and we headed to the airport to see him off. Marco gave Roger a Peruvian military baseball cap which he wore home and apparently got some attention from it. I doubt there are many white guys in the Peruvian army if any. ☺

The trip was amazing and now I am in the process of finding an apartment. I got back to the hostel to find that I will be sleeping in the female dorm until Friday when most of the staff leaves. My stuff is in the staff dorm and I am sleeping upstairs and I came in this morning to find all my stuff in the middle of the room. I am done with living in a dorm. I am finding a place to live stat! I miss privacy!

I am still waiting on any word from the Experiment in International Living Abroad. They said they would contact candidates by early May and it’s killing me waiting for them to contact me. If I don’t hear by the end of this week I am going to send them an email and politely ask for an update on my status. I really want to be able to make some decisions about what I am going to be doing here in Peru if I don’t get the job. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Machu Picchu Round #2

What an amazing day!!!! Roger and I woke up at 4am to start the hike up the mountain that houses Machu Picchu. We set off by the light of the moon and took in the beautiful view of the mountains and fog in the morning that no camera could ever capture. It was not long before we were shedding layers and dripping sweat from the stairs. I quickly busted out the headlamp so we wouldn't bust ourselves. When we got to the entrance of Machu Pichu there was quite a line and fortunately we figured out where the line was to get the stamp to go up Huayna Picchu. We were one of the last ones to get the stamp. We wanted to go up at 10am but we were too late for the 10am group so we went up with the 7am group. It was all good though because it was worth it.

So everyone thinks Machu Picchu is amazing, of course, but if you ever get the chance to go up Huayna Picchu, I highly recommend it! It is absolutely amazing and the ruins are even more impressive up there. The climb up is absolutely insane! There are parts where there are cables that you can grab onto so you don't fall off the side of the mountain. We found an amazing spot where we felt like we were in a dream world. The clouds surrounded us and you could barely see a couple hundred feet in front of you. There was no way we could see Machu Picchu at that point but it didn't matter. We felt the energy and it was amazing. Roger had brought a picture of Leah, our cousin who died in a car accident in 1997, and he gave it a kiss and left it in a spot up there where no one would disturb it and where Leah would be more than happy to be, I am sure. It surprised me but touched me greatly. It was a good moment for the both of us. We hiked all the way to the top and we had a window of opportunity to get pictures of Machu Picchu for about 5 minutes before the clouds covered it up again. This is a picture of what I got. Not bad!

On our way down we headed toward the cave and the temple of the moon which extended our Huayna Picchu visit to 3 hours. It was totally worth it. Not that many people went down that way so we had a lot of hiking time completely by ourselves. There are so many people at Machu Picchu that having time alone to just take things in is something that is not taken for granted. The hike kicked our asses though. I was beat by the time we got back to Machu Picchu so I decided to take a nap. I got kicked off of where I was originally napping though because I was on a wall that wasn't to be disturbed. Oops! I quickly moved to a grassy area and propped myself on my bag while Roger went off exploring the ruins. It was great and while we didn't have a guided tour, we got all we wanted out it. Having a maps probably would've been a good idea, but even without it, we did just fine. This picture is from our way back down to Machu Picchu. We decided to take a break at one point where we had a beautiful view of Machu Picchu and the mountains surrounding us. Roger was taking it all in.

Around 2:30pm we made our way down the moutain back to Aguas Calientes or Machu Picchu Town. By the time we got back we were spent and hungry. We didn't plan very well with out money but we figured it out to the last sol we had and made it count. We had to make a stop at the hot springs. That was a must. It was a great way to relax our aching muscles and get to know some cool people like the family from Valencia Spain. The dad was Spanish, the mother was Indian and the children were gorgeous! "You are the future", Roger commented about the mixture of cultures and languages. Both of the kids (well, they were adults) spoke 5 languages. Crazy! Both of them work in Brazil and the entire family meets up every year in a different country. What a cool idea if you have the money for it!

After the hot springs we headed back to the plaza and waited for our train that was at 9:30pm. We got back safe and sound to Cusco around 1am and both of us passed out as soon as our heads hit the pillow. We had to have climbed at least a couple thousand feet throughout the day and it was 10 hours of walking around more or less. Good training for Choquequirao!

I have been having the best time with Roger. We laughed so hard together the night before Machu Picchu. We were just chillin in the hotel room and acting goofy. It's so great when you can just hang out with someone and throw cheeze-its in each other's mouths for fun! :) Seriously though, I couldn't be happier to have such an amazing and intelligent brother. I am super proud.

Tomorrow we head out to Choquequirao. We went shopping for food today and we are about to go over to Elias' place to make sure we have everything order for the trip! I am super excited to go backpacking again, however it won't be the typical backpacking since we will have mules to carry most of our stuff which is awesome. I can't wait. I am just glad we were able to work out exchanging money today. There were three 20 dollar bills that Roger had that no one would accept because they were ripped. Finally, one of the guys outside the casas de cambio accepted them but with a charge of about 20 soles extra because of the rips. Bullshit if you ask me. Ripped bills are used all the time in the states, but then again, they are the States' money and money in Peru is no joke. They won't take any bill the looks old or ripped at all. The banks won't take them apparently. Oh well, it's all good and we are good to go.

More Incan ruins to come! Pictures will be posted when I get back!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Amoeba Attack!

Most people get sick when they come to Cusco with some diarrhea or a little stomach pain but when an Amoeba attacks it will take one down for the count. My brother, unfortunately, was one of those persons. War with an amoeba is cannot be done without an IV. He was up all night losing water in every possible way imagineable. He couldn´t even keep water down. After calling the doctor in the morning and he making a home visit, we went to the clinic and got him hooked up to an IV asap. It was immediate relief, he said. It was good to see the color in face come back and give him the opportunity to make up for the lack of sleep he had the night before. Amoeba´s are nasty little things and super strong too. Dehydration is no joke and that would most likely kill someone before the amoeba itself ate up your stomach. Yuck.

The worst part of the day was that Roger couldn´t come with us to the Ciencianos game that he was so looking foward to. However, I am glad that the bug him him when it did because we are now in route to Machu Picchu and there is not way that he would have been able to do this yesterday. Perfect timing. Everything happens for a reason right?

I will give a little update of the weekend. Roger got in at 7am on Friday and we had breakfast at Jack´s before heading back to the hostel and getting some rest. Erica made recoto rellena (a typical dish from Arequipa with stuffed hot peppers and spaghetti) so we went to the old apartment for lunch and Roger met Erica and Elias who are both going on the Choquequirao trek with us. After lunch we headed to my English class at Viajes Pacifico and Roger explained to them (while I was in the bathroom) what the word asshole means. Hilarious! That night I played with The Guardians at the hostel to a wonderful turnout of friends and hostelmates. We sold a few CDs and then headed out to Frogs for an after party. It was super fun and I was extremely impressed with Roger´s adjustment to the altitude. It hasn´t been bothering him at all really. We´ll see what happens on the trek! :)

Saturday was a wonderfully sunny day and the perfect weather for a climb to the Temple of the Moon. We headed up there after Roger watched Machester City defeat Manchester United. (He was pumped because it was a big upset and he is a Manchester City fan.) I will post some pictures soon.

Oops, gotta go because the internet cafe man needs to go to lunch. I will add more later!!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Yay for Parents!

I went out to dinner with Corey's parents (Mark and Lynne) along with Chandler, Erica, and Kate on Sunday evening at Inka Grill in the plaza and it was wonderful. Corey has such an adorable set of parents. He is literally the spitting image of his dad and his mom is so cute and makes you feel right at home. I had a delicious musrhoom, artichoke, and asparagus risotto. If anyone wants to go to a not incredibly over-priced (but still on the more expensive in Cusco) restaurant I would highly recommend going to Inka Grill. I feel like they are becoming my pseudo parents as they have been here for only 3 days and I have seen them three times. They came to my concert last night and today we took the chocolate making workshop, which by the way, was AWESOME! The process of making chocolate is super interesting and we got to take home 24 pieces of chocolate that we made. I made ones with raisins and ones with coconut and cinnamon. Yum! I think the cutest thing that Lynne (which is also my mother's name without the e at the end) wanted to meet Marco so that she could relay to my mother what he is like. :) It's super fun hanging out with them and seeing how they interact with Corey. He is a very very loved kid which is always a pleasure to see and be around and they are hilarious when they all interact.

So of course, with other people's parents around I started thinking about my own parents and how much I love them and miss them. My mom has had her fair share of health issues lately like me so we have been in better contact lately. It should be like that all the time really. I plan on keeping the contact much more frequent. I have been pretty good with my dad too. His girlfriend sent me a letter and I have to reply to it. Maybe I will do that tonight since I have a bit of free time. Anyway, I appreciate my parents more than they even know. I am blessed to have such wonderful supportive ones that tell me "go for it" when I say that I want to move to another continent and live here for who knows how long. I really wish they could come visit but plane tickets aren't exactly cheap at this moment in time. No matter what, I know that they will always be there for me and I am forever indebted to them for having raised me to be an independent, responsible adult.

In other news, my brother is coming this Friday and we are going to go on a few adventures ourselves. I have to get into tourist/traveler mode because that is what we are going to be doing. I also need to figure out if I want to splurge on a train ticket to Machu Picchu or take the chance of having to walk a lot due to landslides if we take the bus. We shall see. I'm just pumped that he will be here to hear me sing with The Guardians here at the hostel on Friday!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Lomo Saltado

I am super proud of myself! I made lomo saltado for Marco last night. Well, technically it was molinado saltado since there wasn't any lomo left at the market when I got there. Fortunately, ground beef works just as well as lomo. I wanted to do something nice for him before he headed out to a village about 10 hours away to guard the presidential elections. Everyone is required to vote here. If you don't vote you have to pay a multa or a fee. It's actually a great idea but if anyone ever tried to force that law in the states people would could crazy about it. Imagine if everyone had to vote. It would sure change the dynamic of running for office. All the poor people would vote because the wouldn't want to pay a fee for not doing so. Interesting thought. Others would probably be up in a huff about taking their right away to vote or not to vote. Anyway, dinner was delicious and I think Marco was quite pleased with the outcome. It's kind of tough living up to Peruvian cooking standards. I will have to do it again some time soon but he said that it's his turn to cook for me next. I'm excited!

In other news, I am going to be teaching a private English class at Viajes Pacifico starting next week. It will only be for one week but I am looking forward to it anyway. It gets me out of the hostel and keeps me on my toes. It's also some extra cash which is always helpful.

I head to the dermatologist tomorrow morning for a check-up on my shingles. I am super happy because the nerve pain has gone away and I barely feel the itchy rash anymore. Yay for anti-virals!! I have to make copies of all the receipts because I filed a claim with World Nomads, my insurance company. There is a $100 deductable but

My dream of waitressing might not happen as soon as I thought it might. Pasta Mama may not be opening due to difficulties among the owners. We will see what happens.

I am taking some people from the hostel out to a Peruvian bar tonight and possibly going salsa dancing as well. I look forward to showing them a good time. I like that I have a good sense of what there is in Cusco for tourists to do. Of course, I still have lots more to see and try but I have a pretty good bag of tricks as they say.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Kickass weekend

I had a really good weekend. I found out I have shingles but once I got a diagnosis and drugs I felt much better and was ready to have a good weekend. That is exactly what I did. On Friday I went out to a Korean restaurant with Marco. I thought it was delicious but a little overpriced. Marco, with a bit more of a particular palette (he's picky) didn't like it too much. He's a trooper though because he tried everything which is what my parents taught me to do when I was a kid. I think that is why I eat everything now. There is very little that I refuse to eat. Anyway, after dinner we went to the Pirwa hostel and met up with Cecilia and Sadidt, my two Peruvian chicas. We played some pool and then headed to Mythology for a bit of salsa dancing. I am in love with salsa. On Saturday at Maximo I was the example for everyone. It was pretty cool being told to come to the front for everyone to follow. It was super fun! Anyway, after dancing at Mythology we went to Hibrido where we found pretty much all the Maximo staff celebrating Amy Phillip's birthday. I don't know why, but it was a lot more fun than usual hanging out with everyone. I especially enjoyed Corey pumping himself up with Schwitz power. Hilarious! :) One of my favorite pictures I have taken down here is this one.

I am surrounded by awesome people. I love it! Last night was a ton of fun because there was another dinner party at Marissa's. This time it was a potluck and a DVD exchange. We got to try three different types of cakes too. One had a maracuya sauce on it. Delicious! I noticed that for every gringo there, there was a Peruvian significant other. I shouldn't be surprised by it, but I certainly noticed it and thought it was kind of cool. I thought Marco would be sort of bored but he liked the English listening practice.

Today there was a desfile or parade in the plaza de armas. I don't know exactly what it was about but it had everyone in it from cycling clubs, to the workers at Molino shopping center. Everyone paid their respects to the local government and Marco was there standing at attention for it all. You can't see him but he is standing near the podium in his uniform under the white tent.

So overall this weekend rocked and I got to spend time with all my friends. I think I am going to go salsa dancing with Erica tonight. The more practice the better! I talked to my mom today too which was really nice. It's always good to catch up with my momma. She is one of my best friends and I tell her everything. Thank goodness for awesome parents.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Shingle Jingle

I got shingles, yes I do, I got shingles cuz I had chicken pox when I was two!

This month has not been a good month for me in terms of health. First I get salmonella, then my throat starts giving me problems and now I have shingles. I wonder what awaits me next! It is a new month today and I wish I could say that the shingles was an April Fool's Day joke but alas, it is not. So you may be thinking what the heck is shingles? It's chicken pox for adults and usually older adults get it. When you get chicken pox as a kid you always have the virus in you and when you are older and your immune system is down it might flare up on you. The good thing is that, like chicken pox, once you get shingles once, you won't get it again. The bad news is that it attacks the skin as well as the nerves. In my case the pox are on my lower back and the nerve sensitivity/pain is down my right leg. Awesomeness right? What's even better is that the name of it is called Herpes Zoster and I get to take Valtrex which is used for people who have herpes. It's not the name actually but the price of the medicine that sucks. 370 soles for a weeks worth of valtrex. I have spent about 800 soles or so on medical treatment this month which is roughly $260. Now, when it comes to medical care in the states, that amount of money is nothing but when you aren't making anything (well I made 400 soles from teaching this month) it's a big dent in the wallet. Thank goodness for my tax refund. I am also going to see what I can get out of my travelers insurance and if shingles falls under emergency. I think it does. It's sure painful enough! I am also glad that I got it figured out because for a second I thought I might have MRSA. I went to the clinic yesterday and the doctor did two blood tests for bacterial infections but they both came back normal. He said to come back on Sunday morning at 7:30am and that didn't sit well with me. I called Marco who came over and comforted me and then proceeded to find a dermatologist at a different clinic and set up an appointment for me for today. What a great boyfriend! I am happy to be diagnosed and with medicine. Hopefully, no more stupid diseases will come my way any time soon.

In other news, I sang four nights in a row this past week. Three of the nights were with Michael and one night was with Claudio, Carla's (my boss) brother. He is an awesome guitarist and just got back from Spain. We might be putting together a band with two of his friends who are a bassist and drummer. That'd be awesome! We could jam out at the really big venues in Cusco and play songs to dance to. Do I feel like I am ditching Michael and the Guardians? Nope. Carlos plays in three bands and I don't think that makes him any less a part of the band. If you can be successful then do it! Also with The Guardians, our new CD is out!! If anyone wants one just let me know what your address is and I will send you it. They cost 5 bucks. The songs are really Michael's. I just sing harmony on the first five tracks. Either way, it's still exciting! I am grateful for all the gigs too because I made almost 100 soles in the past four days which is great! Something funny happened on Tuesday night when we played at Kamikase (for the last time thankfully. They are cheapos over there). A guy came up to me after our show and told me that he was a producer in Lima and has worked with a lot of different bands. He threw out a whole bunch of names I never heard. Anyway, he raved about how I have a very interesting voice and a lot of talent and that I should go to Lima to work with him if I want to get big. He was a bit drunk but I appreciated his enthusiasm. It's funny how I had just talked to my mom that morning and she offered that I might not continue with teaching but with my music career. What a coincidence! I would have to go to Lima though and I really don't know how much I trust the guy. My life is in Cusco right now and I love it here. I am comfortable and super happy here.

I went out salsa dancing the other night with Erica, Chandler, Ricardo (the new roomy) and Marco. It was a ton of fun and I can't wait to do more. I have met quite a few salseros here in Cusco and I have to say it's quite a small world among the salsa dancers here. Lot's of drama too but I feel like that is to be expected in the dance world. I am working on conquering all the combinations for the circle. It's so much fun!

This weekend is dedicated to being healthy and taking care of myself. No drinking for the week and no singing until Monday with Claudo at Le Nomade. If you read this blog and are in Cusco you should come out. 9pm on Choquechaka across from Jack's cafe! :)