So we are caught up on all of Bolivia and its many wonders… time for Peru! I took a group open tour bus from La Paz to Cusco. The bus company is called Bolivia Hop. They take you from La Paz to Lake Titicaca for an overnight, stop at the Floating Islands and then an overnight bus on to Cusco. Its designed for backpackers as a good budget option with young tour guides and lots of chances to meet other travelers. It was a good experience, I would recommend it.
So our first day we spend in Copacabana which seems very small. We went for a boat ride of Lake Titicaca (the name still makes me laugh) and did a little hiking on Isla del Sol. The lake is the highest navigable lake in the world. Again, crazy elevation… 13,451 ft so lots of shallow breathing and shuffling of feet. I remember thinking that when I finally left Bolivia I was going to appreciate the luxury of a deep breath. All together now… deep breath, yup there’s something you can´t do in Bolivia! The island is very pretty though so it was nice to explore.
Incan creation story says that Lake Titicaca is the birthplace of the Incans and the world. One of the god raised the sun, the moon, the stars and the first the Adam and Eve of the Incans out of the center of the lake. It was interesting to hear the stories as we were cruising around the lake. The water is pretty clean but absolutely freezing so we did not get into the water at all.
On the second day we crossed the border in Puno, Peru which is also on the lake and did a tour our to the Floating Islands. I was really excited to see them. Basically they are islands that are made of sod and then many, many layers of reed. Every two weeks the reed has to completely replaced to keep the islands from sinking. They were originally created as a way of protection, keep floating around so no one could attack you!
In the end the tour was a bit of a let down. For sure the most “made for tourist” attraction I have seen. They claim that the community still lives in this way but it was super obvious that it was set up for our visit. I do believe that they originally lived like that but my guess is that they just take the boat out for the day and actually live in Puno or Copa for real. My group wasn´t too impressed and they were pissed we didn´t buy much! Sorry.
From there it was on to Cusco! In Cusco I was able to meet up with three friends from Sucre. It was so nice to see Ellen, Kevin and Jenaya! We had a few days to hangout and enjoy the city together. Cusco is very pretty and filled with churches and tourists. I saw more Americans in Cusco then I had during my entire trip through South America. It does also have a great central market full of produce, food stalls and just about every random thing you can imagine.
From Cusco I booked a two-day trip to Machu Picchu. Those would be two of the best days of my entire trip! The first day we went to Pisac which was an Incan agricultural site. The Incans were incredibly smart and did a lot with agriculture. The site was HUGE. We were way up high and the views were beautiful. You basically have free reign to just climb all around. I loved it!
Our next site was Ollantaytambo. This was a strong hold for the Incas during the Spanish invasion. They were able to hold them off for a long time by flooding the lower parts and staying in the terraces. It was few hundred stairs to the top. Up, up, up! Again, gorgeous views and interesting history to keep you moving.
I met a lovely family while I was there. They were both surprised and confused that I was traveling alone so they decided I would travel with them. So sweet. From there we left for the train to Agua Calientes, the town where we would spend the night and head out to Machu Picchu in the morning. I was planning to walk the half hour to the train station but my new Peruvian family were having none of it. They insisted that I get in a tuk tuk with them. The only problem was they had already completely filled up the tuk tuk. Sarita! Venga! Nina, tranquila, vas con nosotros. So I had no choice but to just climb in and half sit on-lay over the top of the brother and sister. Gotta love that Latin hospitality.
The train was beautiful. It has giant windows and the train ride itself is gorgeous. A lot of it is along a river and it cuts right through the mountains. Plus the complimentary drink service was delicious! The train is more than the bus but totally worth it for the experience. I spent that night in Aguas Calientes and the next morning I got up early to take the bus up to Machu Picchu. The bus ride up was again, gorgeous. If you ever go make sure to take the bus from AC to MP, the “hike” is just a walk up a never-ending paved road where you will be passed by lots of buses. So grateful I had gotten that advice so now I tell everyone!
Machu Picchu is wayyyy high up the mountains. It was never found by the Spanish which is why it’s as well-preserved today as it is. I was there on just the edge of the rainy season so it was really cloudy at times. Then all of sudden all the clouds would blow out and the whole Incan city was just shining in the sun. It was incredible and added to the mystical feel of it all.
I was supposed to go on around with a tour group but I was really excited and decided to just explore on my own. I climbed up to the watch tour which is where you get the classic Machu Picchu view. It was stunning. I was worried that it would never live up to my expectations but it totally did! MP is so much bigger then I realized. I spent about 6 hours exploring all over before the heavy rain started and to be honest there was probably even more to see.
Originally I had planned to do MP with Ellen and Jenaya but because of the big ATM card issue I was stuck in Bolivia when they did their trip. In the end I think it might have been for the best. I loved getting to explore on my own. I went at my own pace. I took a million pictures. It was great having some quiet time, just me and MP. It really was an actual dream come true. I can´t recommend it enough, it was the coolest single place I have ever been and a something I will remember forever.