Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Helicopter Tour of Cuzco, Peru and the Sacred Valley of the Incas

Yesterday before leaving Cuzco, we were able to arrange a helicopter tour of the city and surrounding ruins. It was marvelous. Amy had never been in a helicopter before and I had only been once as a child. The weather was perfect - clear and calm which produced a very smooth ride with amazing views.

Suprisingly, I wasn't afraid of the heights at all (not sure why floating in a spinning contraption feels safer than clinging to the side of a mountain) although Amy didn't like it when we flew too close to the mountain sides.

Here are some of our favorite pictures. You can see all of them by clicking here

Monday, January 29, 2007

Pictures from Lima, Cuzco and Machu Picchu

Each of these pictures links to a bunch more pictures...

Recovery Day

Monday was recovery day. Sunburned and sore, we slept late and took our time packing up to go back to Cuzco. Around lunch time we went down to Aguas Caliente (named after the Hot Water spring nearby) which is the town in the valley below Machu Picchu and where the train station is. It only has about 2,000 residents but probably as many tourists at any given time (an average of about 2,000 people visit Machu Picchu every day). Mostly it is a place to buy carved trinkets and Apaca wool clothing.

Then we caught the train back to Cuzco and back to the Hotel Monasterio. We thought we had the best room before, but apparently not because this time we got the Royal Suite and it was even better than before!

Hiking to the Sun Gate

Yesterday the weather cleared up by 9am and turned into a beautiful day. We didn't get to see the sun rise over Machu Picchu as we had hoped, but it still turned into a spectacular day.

In the morning, we went to climb Hauyna Picchu, the steepest tallest peak next to Machu Picchu. It was a bit wet out still, and as we started down the path the anticipation really got to me. I bailed out and my fearless companion asked if she could go on without me. Leaving your girlfriend to hike up an imposing mountain when you are too afraid may have scarred me for life and is probably worthy of its own blog posting, so we'll leave that one for later. Amy went on without me (and has pictures to prove it) but that's her story so I'll let her write it later.

After lunch, we went to do the other big hike to some ruins called the Sun Gate. This is almost as high as Hauyna Picchu but not nearly as steep. To get there you start at the top of Machu Picchu and follow the Inca Trail up another X thousand feet.

A few parts were pretty dicey still, with a three or four foot stone path that dropped off thousands of feet with no guide rail or anything to hold on to.

It was a tough climb, and my shirt was soaked with sweat by the time we made it to the top. I don't know how Amy did both hikes in the same day - she is seriously hard core.

Finally to the top!

But it was worth it! The view of Machu Picchu from above is breathtaking.

You really feel like you are on top of the world as you look out and see the tops of mountains and clounds below you.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

It's the people, stupid!

When I was leaving for this trip, I was full of excitement and anticipation about the wonders we would see and the things we would do. I should have known by now that it would be the people we meet along the way that would make the memories that will last with us forever.

Its raining this morning

We woke up at 5:30am with the hopes of seeing the sunrise at Machu Picchu (around 6:30am) but unfortunately its cloudy and raining this morning. Hopefully it will clear up in an hour or two and we can go try to climb Hauyna Picchu, the large mountain you see in the distance in most of the Machu Picchu pictures. I'm scared of heights and its pretty intense, but I think I can handle it.

Over the night I was able to upload 50 of our favorite pictures from the trip so far. You can view them by clicking the link below...

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Internet on Machu Picchu is slooooooow

Today was really great - the train to Machu Picchu was wonderful, we had an amazing tour guide whose great, great, great, great uncle was one of the original farmers that re-discovered Machu Picchu in the early 1900's.

Machu Picchu itself is hard to describe. The pictures look breathtaking but they still don't do it justice.

I'll write and upload more when I can figure out how to get the Internet working better!

Friday, January 26, 2007

Getting ready for bed

Today we got up and flew to Cuzco - the flight was magical in itself as we flew over the Andes mountains then into the lush Cuzco valley (a valley at 13,000 feet, but a valley none the less).

We arrived in Cuzco and were greeted at the airport by some local Peruvian music (its actually pretty cool, we bought the CD). We were expecting to arrive to rain, but it was sunny and warm and pretty much perfect weather!

From there it was a short ride to Hotel Monasterio where we are staying. It is an old Jesuit Monestary that was converted into an Orient Express hotel in the 80's (they actually lease it from the Catholic church). Here are my 2 favorite pictures from today that were taken on the ride to the hotel.

Here is Amy and I in the courtyard of the hotel, and then another shot from above showing the courtyard and scenery behind it.

That tree in the courtyard is the only Cedar tree in all of Cuzco. Apparently there used to be many more but the Eucalyptus tree (not native) has been taking over the area.

Tomorrow we get up at a reasonable time and take a switchback train from Cuzco up to Machu Picchu, arriving around lunchtime. We get 2 nights there before heading back to Cuzco.

Lack of sleep? Jetlag? Altitude sickness? Malaria?

With 4 different things all known to cause headaches, fatigue and nausia, its hard to point at finger at exactly what the cause is. Our first real day of vacation has been lots of fun but we've both felt pretty off the whole day. I'm not a good eater to begin with, so throw all this on top of it and I'm having trouble finding my appetite. That's not so bad since they say you shouldn't eat too much your first day of altitute anyway.

Last night we got into Lima around 11:30pm, checked into the (beautiful) Miraflores Park Hotel, got up at 6:15am and headd to the airport. The night before we both had about 3 hours of sleep because we were packing most of the night. That in itself is probably enough to give me a headache and make me tired and a little nautious.

Next there is the Maladrone prescription we started taking the day before we left. This is a Malaria preventative that is also known to make you feel kind of like you have a bit of the flu (the holy triumverant - headache, fatigue and nausia).

Finally - the altitude. Cuzco is at 13,000 ft above sea level and is known to make us lowlanders feel bad the first day or two. They recommend not eating heavy, drinking lots of water, and of course the locals all recommend coca tea. It's serious enough that our hotel room has supplemental oxygen pumped in. And I thought they only did that in Vegas...

In the end its not that big of a deal and has not disturbed our day... but it sure is annoying!

Blogger knows I'm in Peru

Suddenly the entire web interface for the blog is showing up in Spanish, so I guess Google Blogger figured out I'm in Peru. Kind of frustrating - I can't figure out how to change it back to English!

The first flight

We're sitting on the plane, about an hour and a half through a six and a half hour flight. From Houston, we flew south over the Gulf of Mexico. Technically we're over Central America but at 35,000 feet all we really see are clouds. We're just crossing the southeast tip of Mexico and then will continue down over Nicaragua and Costa Rica before we head back out to sea and approach Lima from the West.

Unfortunately, sunset is on the other side of the plane... but we still got some pretty cool effects.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Sunrise in Austin

Neither of us could sleep much last night... although Amy is the only person I know who would want to go run 3 miles after 3 hours of sleep and the rest of the night packing. I on the other hand decided to get another hour of sleep. :-)

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Forecast says rain for Peru

Well, the weather forecast is looking pretty rainy for Cuzco and Machu Picchu in Peru. We are prepared for the weather (we think) so we won't let that stop us, but I do hope that at least one morning in Machu Picchu we get to see a clear sunrise.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

It 'feels' real!

Josh and I went to the travel nurse on Monday and got no fewer than 6 shots a piece!! Josh lucked out and had to get a couple extra, poor guy. Our arms still hurt, but I guess we can say that the trip feels real in, it hurts!!!!

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

This will be the longest I've been apart from Jasmine in 11 years

I just realized that this will be the longest I've ever been apart from my dog Jasmine. 20 days! I hope she forgives me!

Monday, January 1, 2007

I haven't shaved in a week

We've started preparing for the trip for real. I realized that shaving could be a pain so I stopped shaving about a week ago to see how my hair grows out. I think I can easily get away with shaving only my neck every 3-4 days, although I hope to be able to shave my whole head at least once or twice.

This weekend we went to REI and picked up some travel clothes and other items, but we still will need a lot more before we're ready. I set aside a bin so we can throw things in it as we come across them.

Right now the itinerary looks like this:

January 25 - Fly from Austin to Lima, Peru, spend the night there
January 26 - Fly to Cuzco, spend the day and night in Cuzco
January 27 - Train to Machu Picchu, 2 nights there relaxing and hiking
January 29 - Train back to Cuzco, evening in Cuzco
January 30 - Fly to Santiago, Chile; evening there
January 31 - Fly to Easter Island, 5 nights there relaxing and hiking
February 5 - Fly to Santiago, Chile; evening there
February 6 - Fly to Iguassu Falls, Argentina / Brazil, spend 3 nights there relaxing and hiking
February 9 - Fly to Rio De Janeiro, Brazil; 5 nights there visiting friend
February 14 - Fly to Austin