Day 4 – Get Your Bags Ready
My adventure traveling Peru is going amazing. The long-anticipated excursion was finally upon me! After packing three days’ worth of clothes into a tiny backpack and leaving the rest in the hostel’s storage room, I patiently waited outside on a cold, dark morning for my guide from Lorenzo’s Expeditions to pick me up. Lorenzo did offer a duffle bag (at a small fee) to put your belongings in so you didn’t have to carry your life on your back while you trek countless miles a day. I, unfortunately, was too stubborn and cheap to go with this option and consequently wound up looking like Quasimodo at the end of each day. What did I say in part one again? Oh, yeah, you live and learn. Don’t be like me.
After a short wait, my guide, Wilbert, scooped me up. Upon entering our van, I was met by the rest of my group. Although we were all a bit tired and quiet at first, once the sun rose and we could see the beautiful landscape, we all warmed up to each other. Accompanying me was a Belgian couple, a Portuguese couple, and two Argentinian women; all of whom were extremely amicable. Our van ascended and ascended as we climbed through the mountains. Soon, some of us (not me) began to feel the effects of the altitude even more (okay it was me). Thanks to Wilbert, this was where I learned the proper way to chew coca leaves (fifteen leaves, chew for five minutes, rest for ten to fifteen minutes). This came in handy throughout my adventure traveling Peru.
Abra Málaga: Ripping Down the Mountains
After two hours of driving, we finally stopped at Abra Málaga, roughly 4,000 meters (~13,000 feet) above sea level. For the first time while in Peru, I couldn’t see any tall mountains in the distance because, well, we were actually at the peak of those mountains. Not to mention the fact that we were placed delicately above the clouds. One of the coolest things to see was a little cotton ball of a cloud slowly drifting past us while we changed into our mountain biking gear.
We began our 34-mile descent with Wilbert leading the way and me following closely behind. It didn’t take long for Wilbert to notice that I was itching to go faster. We ended up ripping down the mountain Tour de Peru style, periodically stopping to enjoy the views and wait for the rest of the group to catch up. Along the way, we passed through clouds, small villages, and alongside thick jungle. After three hours, we finally ended our ride in a town called Huamanmarca. As I was getting off my bike, I noticed that I’d had a huge grin the entire time, which had made my cheeks so sore. Worth it.
We piled back in our van, passing village after village until we finally reached our bed and breakfast. We dropped our bags off and were served a nice lunch by the owner and his family before heading down to the Vilcanota River that the bed and breakfast overlooked. There, we met another group and some river guides and started preparing for our rafting activity. It turned out I was the only one with rafting experience. Unfortunately, everyone unwisely put their trust in me to keep them alive. I would normally say that our river guide helped us out, but he almost flipped us on some rocks and let us smash into a rock wall. Needless to say, we all got a little banged up. Once again, worth it.
The next morning we set off on our hike. I wore pants and a sweatshirt to start off the day because it was a bit chilly with the sun still hidden behind the mountains. I had my sunscreen and bug spray ready since I knew I’d be shedding layers as the sun came up and the bugs woke up. Wilbert explained that diseases such as malaria and yellow fever aren’t prevalent in this part of Peru, but to make sure to apply bug spray often. I did not get any vaccinations before coming, but I highly recommend you do. Better to be safe than sorry, especially so you can make the most of your adventure traveling Peru.
Coffee & Coca Leaves
Passing through the jungle, Wilbert occasionally stopped to show us coffee plant fields. He picked off the beans for us to see what they looked like unroasted. He also explained how the local economies rely on these plants, as well as coca leaves. The first half of the day was spent walking uphill. Nonstop. Eventually, the sun poked its head out and relentlessly made us question why we thought we were capable of handling this. Luckily, Wilbert continued to stop along the trail to let us take a break and get ourselves together.
After seven hours, countless jaw-dropping views, and a delicious lunch, we ended our hike at some hot springs in Cocalmayo. We all enjoyed a nice drink and rested our achy feet in the relaxing water. Once we felt rested enough, we piled back in our van for a short trip to the town of Santa Teresa. We would be staying there for the night in a gorgeous hotel. I hopped into the shower for fear of setting off any alarms with my sweaty scent. I later joined the group for dinner across the street before crashing into my bed for the night.
When I woke up the next day, I knew we were going zip lining. But I really didn’t know what that entailed, to be honest. We were shuttled up into the mountains outside of Santa Teresa where we put on our gear. The next thing I knew, I was flying over giant valleys! On one of the lines, they even made me go upside down! Just when I thought my adventure traveling Peru couldn’t get more exciting, we traversed a very wobbly bridge with a 500+ foot drop that turned my legs to Jell-O. The adrenaline rush was unreal. We ended the activity after climbing up a giant cliff and zipping close to a kilometer back to the starting point.
Hiking Towards Machu Picchu
Right after such an adrenaline rush, it was now time to start hiking again. This time we hiked on a giant dirt trail filled with many other explorers on their own adventure traveling Peru. At one point, Wilbert took a small detour and allowed us to see something he had discovered many years ago. Hidden in the jungle, we happened upon a stone structure which was believed to host sacrifices by the Inca. It gets crazier, though. Each point on this rectangular slab perfectly aligned with a cardinal direction!
But wait, it gets even more crazy! Amongst surrounding trees, there was one clearing which looked high into the mountains. Wilbert took my phone, zoomed into the mountains, and took a picture. What did we see? A building from Machu Picchu perfectly facing us. That’s right: we were at the base of Machu Picchu! Unfortunately, we had to walk all the way around it to Aguas Calientes.
Shower, Food, and Sleep
And so, after another whole day of hiking, we arrived at the cute little town of Aguas Calientes. It was packed with people from all around the world. Just like the night before, I ran for the hotel shower before grubbing with the group and heading to sleep. It was hard to fall asleep this time, though, because I couldn’t stop thinking about what awaited me tomorrow.
Stay tuned for the finale of the trek of adventure traveling Peru!