In South America, Easter holiday aka Semana Santa is a BIG deal and everyone gets approximately 4 work/school days off. With my flexible school schedule and lack of commitments, I was able to book a 2 week adventure to Peru and Bolivia. Brace yourselves, this is a long one.
So lets start with country number 1: Peru
Arriving in Lima was not what I expected. The traffic was a nightmare, think Toronto rush hour traffic and multiply it by 5. Even if a road had only 3 designated lanes, there would be 5 lanes of cars. This meant that there were a lot more police officers on the streets trying to control this. The tap water in Peru is also unsafe to drink…not what I’m used to in Bogotá. I didn’t spend much time in Lima, only a day or so at the beginning and end of my adventure. The last few days were definitely preferred as I got to see my friend and fellow BIBer, Zack. He treated me with a shower and bed which was like giving me gold (you will learn why as you continue reading).
I travelled out to Cusco and I must say that I could have easily spent at least a month here. Cusco has so many things to do both within and outside the city. I managed to complete the 6hr hike throughout Rainbow Mountain which, surprisingly enough, was only discovered about 3 years ago. Despite tackling the Inca Trail later on in my travels, this was definitely the most challenging hike. Through mud, rain, sun, hail, fog and disgusting porta-potties, I literally felt like a new woman coming out of there. I completed this hike with a local girl on my tour who was also travelling alone. Although our conversations were simple (as she didn’t speak English and my Spanish vocabulary isn’t as big as the dictionary), we were able to keep each other motivated and encouraged each other all the way to the top.
My second adventure in Cusco was a city tour. This consisted of taking a bus throughout the outskirts of the city, visiting various ancient ruins. Not so thrilling, but a lot of history. I was the only international person on this tour so I became an attraction as well. A Peruvian family on the tour took a gazillion photos with me and I talked with their 8-year old daughter, Sol for most of the day. We even bought matching Andean friendship necklaces.
My final adventure was the Inca Trail and Machu Picchu. It was just my guide and I, so we were able to go at our own pace without having to wait for anyone or worry about slowing others down. We hiked uphill non-stop for hours in the hot sun but it was all worth it when we poked through the Sun Gate and saw the great lost city of Machu Picchu. Telling you right now, it looks nothing like the photos you see online. It’s SO MUCH BETTER IN PERSON!! I was able to venture all throughout the ruins, making llama friends and learning more about the history. To think that people actually built it is insane. The Inca people were tiny, about 3-4 ft tall and wore sandals. It absolutely blows my mind!
Country Number 2: Bolivia
I’m going to be honest with you. I hated Bolivia. La Paz is a disgusting city, very dirty and people pee (and you know what else) on the streets, EVERYWHERE! Like when and where doesn’t matter, it could be 1pm and you’re just waiting to cross the street and BAM, some lady is just poppin a squat beside you. Sooooo not my thing.
But the city surroundings were beautiful. I visited Uyuni, most famous for the largest salt flats on Earth which are visible from the moon. I really liked the town of Uyuni. It was small, with absolutely nothing to do. This town clearly runs on tourists coming to see the sites around it. But the streets were very wide, quiet and it appeared to be a simple life here just in the middle of nowhere.
My tour included several attractions, food (most important part) and accommodations in a Salt hostel. We scooted around to each spot in an SUV, like hundreds of other people. It was like an SUV tour. On day one, we saw the train graveyard, the salt flats, a spot where the water on the salt reflected the sky. It was beautiful. That night we stayed in the Salt hostel and got to the see the stars across the flats. Absolutely stunning and the hostel was surprisingly very warm. One day two, we hiked up a volcano to see snow peaks. I completed this with a German girl on my tour and although we both complained the entire way up, we laughed once we got to the top because it was nothing compared to Rainbow Mountain which she had experienced once before as well. After the hike we went into a cave to see mummies (this was gross) of a family and even a llama, before heading back to the town.
After everything though, travelling for two weeks alone was definitely a challenge. Yes I made friends along the way at various hostels and we’ll reconnect when they come to Colombia but it’s different from travelling with a close friend or family member. I did reach what felt like rockbottom at one point and honestly just wanted to go home, Bogotá, Toronto, Ottawa, it didn’t matter at the time but I’m proud of myself for getting through it.
I came home with a few souvenirs, about a dozen bed bug bites, a backpack of dirty laundry but memories that will last a lifetime.