Peru

One of my top favorite countries in Latin America, Peru is landscape here is stunningly beautiful.

This gorgeous country took my breathe away with its vibrancy and gorgeous landscape comprising of the Andes Mountains and vast lands. So amazed at every sight I was snapping away hundreds of pictures each day, trying to capture all that this country presents to those who pass by.

Steeped richly in its Inca culture and history, Peruvians also hold their heads high when it comes to their heritage and there is just something so attractive about people being proud, real and true to their roots.

To have scaled and seen the famous ruins of Machu Picchu in person is definitely a once in a life time experience, dream come true.
Other cities of Valle Sagrado de los Incas are equal gems.
So sacred and magical, one can only close his eyes and try re-live those quiet, serene man-and-nature’s awesomeness moments again.

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Our Bus from Guayaquil in Ecuador to Lima, Peru.
Good things are worth roughing out for – Air conditioner in this bus broke down, and the only ventilation or wind we had was through that small little window on the top. On the bright side, it didn’t rain.

Oh did I mentioned, it was a 30 hours bus ride.. in what felt like an oven.
Madness.
It brings a smile to my face just thinking about how I did it back then.

It was quite unreal to me – I was actually going to be in Peru soon!

I recall being really excited to get there. See the Inca, breathe the air in.

I recall being a bit nostalgic/sad that we have come thus far in this journey, reliving the past few months, the places I’ve set foot on. It was a strange feeling, excited of what is to come, yet a little sad about the past few months that it’s over already. Why, why did I felt that way.

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Children started to undress – was getting too hot!

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Shrek was on though, a nice distraction. They even have English translation. How nice.

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Grown men lapping up the movie too.

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Sun was setting. And the sky was on fire.

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A random carnival took place while we passed by the border (Or somewhere north of Peru)

Ladies wearing those big feathery costumes happily waved for us, but capturing moving images in the dark was such a challenge.

All their colours, all their flamboyance ! – Only managed a blurry image of one dancer’s wings.

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Thanks to the bill motion sickness pill once again, slept soundly through and awoke the next day with this scenery.

It felt like we were in Space.

Closing in on Lima!

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Drove past the coast – Here, we have the Pacific Ocean.

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And a really narrow path.
Buses had to take turns to let oncoming vehicles pass, as the lane was so narrow only one vehicle could be on it at any point in time.
Long way down if you veer off

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Managed to take one picture from the bus

A little too far out and its hasta la vista baby!

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Finally, we reached Lima!
I recall being so thankful, I just wanted to get off the bus and stretch already.

I recall after getting off the bus, a family gave us a lift to our hostel. It was really nice of them 🙂 Peruvian hospitality.
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I met Meiko here. I wonder how I met her.
I think it was at the hostel, we checked in to this hostel in Lima, in a safer district.
Saw this Japanese girl alone and just felt connected to her. We chatted and became friends.
Love her!
Peru was definitely even more special because of her
company.

Here in Peru, I find a lot more solo travellers, and female ones at that. Love how brave they are!

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At Miraflores, the nicer (less messy) part of Lima.
In fact, its a pretty safe area and for the first time in months, I walked out at night alone and roamed the street stalls.
The feeling of liberation was overwhelming, indescribable.

So often, we take safety of a city, the freedom of being able to get on the streets without getting mugged or shot so lightly. For granted even.
Just the other day I was cycling around, soaking up the Saturday sun, and it hit me that I might not be able to do this so safely in some parts of US or some parts of the world – I might get shot.
May I remember and be grateful for this freedom / gift of safety here where I presently reside.

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Visited a flower garden in Miraflores.
I recall getting my student card here as well which gives you 50% discount off Machu Pichu’s entrance fee – getting ready!

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Inca Kola, Peru’s version of Coca cola.
Its definitely an acquired taste – I think I will stick to my decaf diet coke.

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Soy Sauce with Rice during this trip was my Ultimate Comfort food.

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Hung out with Meiko on my last day here. We visited a craft market and just laughed a lot that day.
Found a picture of Machu Pichu – Prelude to the real thing 🙂

Felt a bit sad to part ways with her – it was just refreshing and a lot more fun with female company for travel. Something I discovered on this trip as well.

After this trip, I decided I would only travel with females, family or alone. And I did – enjoyable two years in Asia. Always love a girls only trip! Can’t do without a group of good girlfriends and I’m really blessed to have that each time I move to a new country.

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Back on the bus, to Cusco, a city 24 hours away.

Booked with Cruz de sur, very comfortable.

Felt like business class on an airplane, probably even bigger seats and definitely more incline, this had like an 140 degrees incline!

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They even provided ear phones to watch movies (which had English subtitles! yayy!) and Bingo games for the whole bus to play! It was a lot of fun!
Winner could take home a free ticket.
I didn’t win, but still, how awesome was this service!

CUSCO

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Cusco! Loved this city.

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This is my Ilama.

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Decked out in their traditional costume, I loved it.

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Llamas or Alpacas?

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Alpacas have sharper noses while Llamas have shorter snouts.
I believe they are all Alpacas here.

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Went up steep steps from Cusco City to get here 599006_10150850076082470_1904760029_n
Spotted some students studying here. Better view than a library I say.

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City of Cusco.

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Cusco city’s main square.

Festival was going on!

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La Mercad

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Visited an ancient ruin up here

I recall trying to imagine how it was like living here.
Imagine these places filled with furniture, food, completed walls, animals, people, children ….

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Cobbled Stones
Cobbled walls
City standing tall
In its own time.

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Oldest street in Cusco city. Of course I had to snap a picture here.
I recall it smelt a little of pee. haha.

SACRED VALLEY TOWNS


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Took a Day trip to the rest of the sacred valley towns.

Cusco, Pisac, Ollantaytambo , Chinchero and Machu Picchu make up the Sacred Valley of the Inca Kingdom

During the war, Inca people had to travel for days from Pisac, Ollantaytambo , Chinchero and Machu Picchu, making their way to Cusco to try defend their land against the Spanish, abandoning and destroying the paths in the process so the Spanish could not find and destroy those sacred places.206081_10150850083957470_1993360206_n

Caught a dandelion in Berkeley.
Caught another dandelion here in Cusco.
Sent my dreams flying along with it.

You must think what’s the big deal of Dandelion – I guess as I have never seen one till Berkeley & I really like Nicole Richie’s Dandelion song. (Yes Nicole Richie, shockers)
They say you pick a flying dandelion, say your wishes to it. The Dandelion fairies would then bring it up to heaven and your wishes will come true.
What a nice tale isn’t it.
I guess to me, it was a sign of freedom. To be free, to roam, to find yourself.

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On the way to Pisac.

I recall snapping more than 50 pictures of the same setting.
It was simply truly breath taking, even more so in person. It was so majestic. So grand.
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PISAC

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They grow about 3000 kind of potatoes here, hence earning their title as the potato Kingdom.
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Incas were highly intelligent people.

Each terrace was meant for different agricultural purposes as each level had a different temperature.
All facing east for optimal sunlight, the Incas built them terraces to complement the “flow” of the Andes mountains.
Additionally, each terrace was built with 3 different kind of materials to allow water to seep through, yet at the same time, remain firm.
I’m left amazed at how they taught themselves all these.

Why were they so intelligent. Why do I just reply on google now.
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I recall being so happy.
The sights here were so different from the last few countries. This was just simply majestic.
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Joke of the day by a Brit in the group – “Oh my gosh, This must be the ultimate altitude sickness”

Because these areas (sacred valley towns) are a few thousand feet above sea level, even going to the toilet and back to your bed will leave your heart racing fast.
I recall getting up to pee one night in Cusco and I was left panting by the time I got back to my bed. I recall lying on my bed in darkness, falling asleep again while thinking I must be really unfit. No girl, it’s the altitude.

And here, you see locals marathon-ing up this crazy huge mountain (& with about 30-40% less oxygen in their lungs given the altitude)

Our tour bus took 40 minutes to climb up.

Marathon at this altitude, yes this is what altitude must do to one’s mind and willpower after a while.
I truly think this is another form of Ultimate Marathon.

OLLANTAYTAMBO

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Little market outside. The setting was just really breathtaking – I think I am out of vocabulary to describe this place.554594_10150850086407470_88970300_n

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Prayer Place for priests in the past.
They had to climb all those stairs to get to the top, where they prayed and calculated winter and summer solstice.

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That was a storage place for the Incas. I cannot imagine having to climb all the way up with heavy sacks of potatoes etc just to store them.

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The path up to the storehouses.

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Tour guide mentioned here on this rock, they used to sacrifice humans.
The chosen ones were actually from influential families who volunteered themselves or children, and this was seen as a honor for the family.
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Tombs were just holes in the mountains, facing east again. One hole could house a whole family.

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Inca device that they used to calculate light fall and the change in solstice.

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Light would hit on strategic points and they would calculate from there on.
Don’t know how they do it then, but they did.
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How to tell a single Inca lady from a married one?
Single ladies would be spotting flowers on their hats and having a lot of hair braids while married women did not have any decorations and with only one single hair braid.
Easy hey!
Makes every Inca guy’s life so much easier I suppose, no ambiguity, its either flower or no flower.
Now, all the single ladies, put your flowers up!

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Tried the local delicacy – Cuy / Guinea Pig .
I requested to just sample a tiny tiny bit, tasted like the roasted quail meat.
Its quite a process too- you choose your live guinea pigs running around in this nice little fenced off space. And then they do what they need to do to make them look like this, all on the spot, in like an hour or two.
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Owner, his roasting stone wall oven for the famous empanadas.
I wonder if he used this wall oven to roast them guinea pigs too.

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Place where locals come get this fermented drink made with alcohol.
To identify stores selling this drink, they have yellow plastic bags tied on a pole right outside their door.

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Tasted more fruity than alcohol-ish.

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Almost every inca house had this on the top.
If I remember what the guide explained correctly, before the Spanish invaded, they were figurines of their Inca gods instead of these cows but since the Spanish forced Catholicism, they compromised by using cows and it stuck ever since.
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Visited a local’s house.246531_10150850093862470_744252574_n

This lady won the competition for the most braids.
Check out her big smile.

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Using flower petals for dyes. These flowers produced a yellow tint.

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And different ingredients/plants combined produced different colours!

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Always intrigued, always captured by any night-scape.
La luna y la estrella.

MACHU PICHU

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We could not get our hands on the 4 days Inca Trail tour as it was booked out 6 months ago (yes its that popular and because there is a restriction on the number of people allowed on the trail per month, so book way in advance!)
And so, it was time for Machu Picchu DIY (Getting own train tickets, entrance ticket for Machu Pichu, Huanyapicchu entrance ticket, hostel in Agua Calientes town of Machu Pichu -we were so lucky to grab the LAST tickets for the date I wanted)

Hence, journey begins on the Perurail Train to Machu Picchu town!

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Pretty Good, snacks and coca tea were provided as we cruised nearer to our destination.

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Machu Pichu Town! Aka Aguas Caliente ( AKA Hot water in english, why, I dont know )
It was constantly raining I guess, since it was a water catchment area, frequent torrential rainfall is common. An hour after this, it poured non stop till the next day.

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Peru’s grapes are HUGE! Like size of a golf ball.
And 1 kg for $1 USD !?!.
Best deal ever for such fresh firm juicy grapes.
Second best grapes Ive ever tasted! Chile wins first place. OOMPM.

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Start of the amazon river in Peru

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Visitors of Machu Picchu returning after a day there, all smiles!

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4am start the next day to trek and hike up before sunrise! Super pumped!

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I recall using our torch lights, following fellow hikers down this dark path, starting climbing up and seeing some form of mountains through the mist and fog.
It was just exciting to think that behind all that, lies the mighty Andes Mountain.

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After an hour, Made it! It wasn’t that bad at all the hike up. Or maybe I was just supercharged with adrenaline.

And a line was already snaking at the entrance waiting for it to open.

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Met this granny at the train station, and met her again on this day!

This Japanese granny is 60+ years old, and despite her failing knees, she still did it simply because she had always wanted to see it ever since she was a young girl ! Now all her kids have grown up, it is now or never for her.
Not only that, she was traveling around South America alone, only help being her Japanese guide book!  Patagonia, Argentina, Brazil and so many others places, alone.
She told me she was attacked in Bueno Aires but she fought back and hit her attackers, shouting till they left her. 🙂
Epitome of “Age is just a number”.
Living life to the fullest, she is

I wonder where you are now granny, hope all is good and wishing you all the best wherever you are and whatever you are doing 🙂

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Entrance into the Inca kingdom

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Was really hoping to see Meiko here again. And I did 🙂

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Too excited!
We both couldn’t believe we standing there looking at something we have always wanted to see since we were young!

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My green umbrella!

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Sun peeking out through the fog!

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Another view of Machu Pichu, the one you normally get on postcards!

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How did them people build all these before?
Without machines etc? Respect.

 

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554813_10150851468447470_441728753_nMachu Pichu was built in the shape of a condor.
Actually the sacred valley towns each had a different animal.
Cusco was in the shape of a puma.
Ollataytambo’s an eagle, or was it a jaguar.

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Entrance to HuanyaPicchu.
10USD more for this climb, 2 more hours, but definitely worth it.

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Another mountain to scale after.
Doesn’t that just sound adorable, HuanyaPicchu.

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Our guide handed out coca leaves.
An ingredient used for cocaine but used alone, it alleviates altitude sickness.
Chew on it on one side of your face (which goes numb after) and feel the power!
Not sure if it helped but I welcomed anything to help another hour plus of scaling up Huanya Picchu after.

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Up high on Huanya Picchu, you see the condor shape of Machu Pichu!

I recall sitting here for quite a while, trying to digest the fact that I was sitting on the Andes Mountains, staring down at the Inca Ruins.
There was something just so serene and calm about the whole place.
I recall thinking I didn’t know which was more magnificent, the ruins or the mighty mountains.
Together, it was a winning combination.

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Extremely narrow steps to get up.
Going down was worse, given my fear of heights.
Still, was worth it!
And the sleep that night, a mix of fatigue and good dose of satisfaction, was pure bliss.

Machu Picchu, Definitely a must visit!

It’s not about the possibility of failure but the courage to go down the journey you so desire.

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Bye Peru, you were awesome!
And I’m so glad to have met you Meiko 🙂
You definitely made this part of my journey so much more fun, made me smile so much more!

~~~

Some people create a perception that the more number of countries you rake up, the better you are than others.
They think that person A has travelled to all those countries, automatically that person is much better, much cooler.

I like to think that it’s really not so much of having X number of countries visited under your belt.
Yes it’s nice to travel and visit as many places as possible, but I feel that what I really want to take away from all these, is having experienced all these places, people, their hospitality and culture, that I learn, really learn to be a kinder person.
That when I meet someone from that country, I would also be able to connect instantly ideally, in an easier and in a more genuine way.
That when I see another in need, I extend my hand unselfishly.

I’m still learning. I still fall along the way. I still have alarm bells go off during certain situations that require my hospitality.
I still wonder what is wrong with me and wishing I had been kinder, more generous, especially after experiencing all these random acts of kindness and hospitality.
It’s so easy to forget when it rubber hits the road.
Small steps. Small steps.

I don’t know if I’ve become a kinder person after this trip. In fact, I think I found the opposite.
I recall snapping a picture of a painting of a guy opening up his skin, looking into his heart, finding all that there is a black abyss – because I found it so apt.
I recall hating myself for treating someone in a certain way but then I couldn’t help myself and couldn’t change myself.
I realized that you realize so much more about yourself, your weaknesses exposed when you are in constant company of another human being.
Am I missing something here? Did I miss something here?
Is this why i love solidarity, solo travels so much.
‘Cos I’m not exposed. & ‘cos not being exposed doesn’t hurt as much as when you realize you are not that nice or kind as you would like to think you are.

I recall being really torn by how travellers/party goers acted while the poorer people / locals were left on the side.
I recall being sick of them, recall being really saddened by the injustice of it all.
I recall feeling why the ones who were better off spend it on partying, endless pleasure and whatnot when they should take this “advantage” more responsibly to help the others – afterall, we do not choose where we are born.

But who am I to judge?
I still have my weaknesses, I still try to embrace them, grow from it.
Heck, I am still trying to find my way.

 

 

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