From the Andes, we decided to take a bus and head back to the beach to check out a town by the name of Huanchaco. This time we had another partner in crime with us. We met Jessica in Huaraz and happened to be heading in the same direction, so the three of us boarded an overnight bus to the coast.
We all stayed at a funky beach hostel with a collection of the furriest rabbits we’d ever seen. This town had a very relaxed vibe and we wanted to take advantage of that after our tough couple of treks.
Our funky, fun beach hostel Casa Amelia
View from our window
Bunny rabbits at our hostel, Casa Amelia
During the day we took some strolls along the beach, checked out the locals and watched them fish off of the pier. Their style of fishing does not include a rod, but a square wooden paddle with fishing line attached to it. It works! You can actually purchase one of these contraptions for a mere 5 soles (about $1.50 US dollars) and cast your line out into the Pacific ocean, and hope for the best!
Checking out Huanchaco pier with Jessica
The wooden paddles the locals use for fishing
Sandcrabs are used for bait
Fishing off the pier in Huanchaco
The wooden paddle and fishing line actually work!
Watching the waves roll in and out from the end of the pier
Huanchaco is known for its excellent surfing, and also the “Caballitos de totora”, which are small boats made out of reeds and used by Peruvian fisherman for 3,000 years. They still actively use them today! You can see them lined up on the beach, waiting to get into the water.
The Huanchaco coast, notice all the totora reed boats
Caballitos de totora lined up on the shore
Caballitos de totora ready to take off
No night in a new town is complete without checking out a local band playing at a nearby bar. Good music, good friends and good pisco sours, check!
Sampling Huanchaco’s nightlife with our friend Jessica
Our Lima host Eugenia was kind enough to tell us about a place north of Lima called Huaraz. It’s known for its natural beauty and abundance of trails perfect for one day or multiple day treks. We decided it sounded like a peaceful place to get back in touch with nature after being in the big, crazy city of Lima.
We started with the one day trek to Laguna 69 to help us acclimatize to the high altitude of Huaraz (3,052 meters above sea level), also known as the “Switzerland of Peru.” We started the trek at an altitude of 3,800 meters and climbed 800 meters to Laguna 69, located at 4,600 meters above sea level. That’s higher than Dead Woman’s Pass along the Inka Trail! The altitude definitely took its toll, especially on Jen, but she pushed through and made it. The scenery along the trail was incredible and when we got our first glimpse of the crystal blue Laguna 69, it was almost unreal!
Start of the trail
The hike starts in a beautiful valley before ascending 800 meters to the lake
Its about 7 km to the lake
NO FILTERS on this picture of Laguna 69 – an unbelievable sight
We found the Laguna 69 trek to be both extremely challenging and rewarding
The following day we were to start our 4 day Santa Cruz trek. We were a bit nervous because Laguna 69 was supposed to be a warmup but we both found it incredibly challenging. The Santa Cruz trek cuts into the Cordillera Blanca, known as the highest tropical mountain range in the world. It contains the highest mountain in Peru, Huascarán, standing at an impressive 6,768 meters above sea level! We weren’t going to be climbing that high, but our highest pass was still an impressive 4,750 meters, our highest elevation climb to date!
Just as expected, the trek was extremely challenging for us, but we managed to keep a steady pace for the 4 days and finished successfully. We have to admit, the scenery competed with the beautiful places we saw in Patagonia!
The scary road on the way to our starting point looked like some sort of wicked race track perched on the edge of a vertical cliff!
Stopping at a vantage point. Llanganuco lake
Starting point of the trek, Vaqueria pueblo
Donkeys carried our things this time instead of porters!
Day 2 on our way up to the highest point
Reaching our highest point at 4,750 meters. Shortly after we started descending, it started hailing meteor sized pieces of ice. Fun!!! Shannon almost quit.
The MUD and ROCKS! They never ended. It made the trek even more challenging.
Stopping for a moment to take in this incredible sight
This is the mountain that Paramount Pictures designed their logo from!
We had a big group of fun people!
Celebrating our finish with an ice cold Cusqueña beer!
Instead of taking a long bus ride to our next destination, we opted for a short flight to Lima instead. This way we were able to fly with our parents and see them off to their connecting flight back home.
After a bit of research, we decided to stay in the Miraflores district of Lima. Here we could get a bit of ocean action as we hadn’t had any since Valparaíso, Chile. The other most important reason for going to Lima is the food! Peru is ranked among the top cuisines in the world. We had to find out for ourselves (our favorite sport is eating, we’re especially good at it).
Before hitting up the restaurants, a bike and free walking tour was needed just to familiarize ourselves with the area. The walking tour was centered around historical downtown Lima where you would find major points of interest like Plaza de Armas, the Palacio de Gobierno (where the president lives) and the Basílica de San Francisco, just to name a few. While we were walking around the plaza, loud trumpet playing was coming from the palace and we actually witnessed the changing of the guards!
During our bike tour we rode through the neighborhoods Miraflores and Barranco, where we rode alongside the cliff side for most of the tour. Here, you could see many parasailers floating right above the Larcomar shopping center. This huge shopping complex with a movie theatre and multiple restaurants is actually built into the cliff side and has stunning views of the Pacific Ocean.
While we were in Lima, we decided again to use Airbnb and rent a room. Our hosts, David (who’s a DJ) and Eugenia were awesome! They invited us to a house party with some of their friends and even took us to a non-touristic place in Chorrillos to have some delicious ceviche! Speaking of ceviche (best ever!), check out the food pics below as Peru did indeed deliver on it’s exquisite food.
Before we left, we planned for our parents, Bob (Shannon’s dad) and Betty (Jen’s mom) to visit us during the halfway point of our travels (3 months in). They were both very excited to visit us in Cusco and we all couldn’t wait to see each other!
When they first arrived, a driver brought them to meet us at the AirBnB home we had rented in the Sacred Valley. It was located in a small town in between Calca and Urubamba and had three bedrooms, enough to accommodate all of us. It was incredibly tranquil and authentic.
We drank coca tea and coffee every morning on the patio which had beautiful views of the mountains. We waved down the little colectivo vans that passed by on the road to catch rides to nearby bigger towns where we could shop for fresh fruits, meats and cheeses at the markets. We cooked yummy dinners and got caught up on each other’s lives. Jen and I even cooked a dish called Ají de Gallina which we had learned to make in a cooking class that we took right after our Inka Trail trek.
Because no visit to Cusco is complete without seeing Machu Picchu, we planned to hop on the train from nearby Ollantaytambo while we were still staying in the Sacred Valley. Our parents loved the peaceful train ride to the town of Aguas Calientes, and when we arrived at the site, it was a beautiful sunny day. We hired a guide for a few hours because there’s so much to see and learn about while walking around the huge ruins. Even though Jen and I had been to Machu Picchu once before, we learned even more about it and even saw new areas we hadn’t yet seen. That afternoon, we all took a hike to the Inka Bridge, which was both fun and scary since the trail had steep drop offs in a few spots, especially nearing the Inka Bridge.
After we checked out of our place in the Sacred Valley, we took the bus to Cusco to check into our little apartment that would be our home for the next week or so. It was in a great location, had an excellent view from the rooftop terrace and was new and modern, much different than our Sacred Valley home. From here, we were able to explore the city on foot and check out different restaurants and markets around Cusco. One day, we took a rainy day hike up to the Cristo Blanco, a giant statue of Christ that overlooks the city. Our parents did great with the hundreds of steps to the top. From there, we took a taxi to explore several other ruins in the area, including the jaw dropping ruins of Saqsayhuaman.
We explored Cusco up and down, ate delicious Peruvian food, visited many historical sites and museums, and shopped in dozens of colorful markets. It was a wonderful place to spend time with our parents.
Check out the rest of the pics from our trip below!
Although many of our trips and tours are done with little planning ahead, there was one adventure that required advance planning – the well known four day trek along some of the original Inka Trail to Machu Picchu. The trail starts at km 82 in Ollantaytambo which is located in the Sacred Valley. Over the course of 4 days, we trekked through valleys, multiple ruins and over mountains for 43 kms! We endured cold temperatures at night, reached the height of Dead Woman’s Pass (a staggering 4,750 meters!), and hiked up uneven stone steps that never ended. All of this to get to the final destination, Machu Picchu.
The experience was only enhanced by the awesome group of people we met at the briefing (11 total) that would partake in this journey with us. We were told that since we were a larger group, we would have two guides and 18 porters, totaling 20 people that made our trip possible.
We spent the next 4 days getting to know each other over this moderately difficult stone path trail. For most of the trail we trekked as one unit. Along the way we could see that other groups had been separated by time and distance due to their drastic difference in fitness levels. We were lucky that our group maintained a relatively steady pace and there was certainly no hurry. What was important was to enjoy the natural beauty of the trail.
As I said before, the trek was made possible by our 2 guides Roger and Rosalio (Rosita) and 18 porters. If Roger and Rosita were the brains of the operation, the porters could be considered the braun. These men showed incredible strength by not only doing the trail as well, but with an added pack twice their size. They physically carried everything until we reached our destination. These things included tents, sleeping bags, mattresses, food, cookware, most of our personal belongings and, not to mention, their personal items as well!
The porters literally ran ahead of us as if they were taking a casual jog and were able to get to lunch spots and campsites at least an hour ahead of us. When we would reach camp, there would be “happy hour” waiting for us. We were served coffee, coca tea, popcorn and my new love…Milo. It’s a chocolate and malt powder combo (originally from Australia) that you mix with hot water. Roger was kind enough to give us his recipe of Milo, powdered milk and sugar! Mmm!! Lunch and dinner were nothing short of gourmet meals. We have never eaten so well on a camping trip before!
Along the trail we got to explore a number of different ruins, but ultimately when we arrived at Machu Picchu on the 4th day, it was exhilarating and made the tough trek worthwhile.
Thanks again to our new friends Katya, Gavin, Geetha, Nelson, Ken, Charles, Daming, Davide and Lisa for making our trip absolutely fabulous!! Also thanks to our guides Roger and Rosita and our awesome porters that made it all possible!
Check out the galleries below for all the pics! Scroll all the way to the bottom of this post for the video.
Llama Path provides a school and education for its porters
Llama Path provides a school and education for its porters