It was a crazy week after arriving in Peru. I toured Lima, survived Cusco’s altitude, and braved the extraneous hike towards Machu Picchu. Will I finally get to see the much coveted site? Find out in the last part of my series!
Day 7 – Getting to Machu Picchu
It was three in the morning and I had two options: hike up to Machu Picchu or take the bus. Another hike? My mind was telling me yes, but my body… my body was telling me no. So, I walked over to the bus stop and met most of my group. We gave each other knowing grins. Whether you’re doing the hike or taking the bus, you want to be at the respective starting points extremely early. The lines get ridiculously long very quickly.
We zigzagged our way up the mountain and arrived at the main gate as the sun started to brighten the sky. Wilbert wanted us to get the best view before the crowds took over, so we took one of the various routes available at the site that went uphill. When we got to the lookout point and saw all of Machu Picchu in its glory, a flood of emotions rushed into me. The journey to get there was challenging and, at times, exhausting, but I learned so much about myself and what I’m capable of. I would do it a hundred times over again.
Finally at Machu Picchu
As the sun started to peak over the mountains and light up Machu Picchu, we began walking around the site, guided by Wilbert. He gave a wonderful explanation of the area and its many anomalies. The energy I felt there was intense, and I kept trying to imagine what things were like when this place was filled with the bustling Incas. We were shown perfectly laid-out buildings made of perfectly-sculpted stone blocks. These structures have puzzled historians for decades as to how a civilization like the Incas could create something so flawless. We even came across more structures that perfectly aligned with cardinal directions (like the platform from part three) along with the building that we had seen looking down on us.
Unfortunately, Wilbert had to head back to Cusco for the next tour, so I made my way through the rest of Machu Picchu solo. I chilled with some llamas that roamed the area, got my passport stamped, and took in as much as I could before finally heading back down the mountain five hours later. Since I had a couple hours to kill until my train for Cusco departed, I ran into the first massage parlor I could find and had my achy body rejuvenated.
Day 8 – Winding Down in Cusco
I was back in Cusco, now at Mamá Simona Hostel. This was the first time the whole trip that I didn’t have to be up early! I slept until around noon and took my time getting ready. Wanting to enjoy myself, I spent the day doing some souvenir shopping, enjoying the overall ambience of the town, and even watched a small parade in the main plaza full of locals wearing traditional clothing and dancing to traditional tunes. I also may or may not have snuck in another massage. After such an intense few days, it was nice to finally wind down.
Day 9 – Back to Lima
I was on my way back to Lima now. Thankfully, my flight out of Cusco was a lot better than my flight there. For the first time all trip, I was fully able to grasp how high in the air Cusco actually was. The entire flight, we were just skimming over the mountains. I didn’t feel like we were as high as we should have been. But then suddenly, the mountains started to get lower and lower before finally sinking into a sea of clouds that covered Lima.
I had no idea what to do in Lima for my last couple days and quite frankly, I was too exhausted to think of anything. I ended up walking to a Starbucks to try and get some energy. While there, I got to talking with a local Limeña named Lorena. I thought she was an American tourist like me, but it turned out her English was just that good. She offered to show me some parts of Lima that tourists don’t normally get to see. In hindsight, I should have been cautious, but my brain wasn’t firing on all cylinders that day. Luckily, nothing bad happened. In fact, the day turned out to be a blast!
Exploring Lima with Lorena
We drove around the neighborhoods of Miraflores and San Isidro for a little bit before stopping to get some lunch at one of Lorena’s favorite restaurants, Segundo Muelle. She couldn’t stop raving about the tiradito, a Peruvian dish influenced by the Japanese immigrants who arrived many, many decades ago. Similar to ceviche, tiradito is made of raw fish. However, while the fish in ceviche is cubed and marinated beforehand, the fish in tiradito is sliced and sauced right before being served. I also ordered some salmon tartare because why not risk gout more than 3,000 miles from home? Everything was more than delicious. Had I not trusted a local, I would not have gotten the chance to enjoy another staple dish of Peru.
After leaving the restaurant, I let slip that I hadn’t touched the Pacific Ocean since I was nine years old. So, Lorena took it upon herself to drive us down to the coast. We ended up walking to the end of a rocky pier that jutted out into the ocean. And by walking, I mean trying not to slip and fall on the slippery boulders. The views of the coast and the cliffs on which the city stood were undoubtedly breathtaking. Furthermore, I finally got to touch the Pacific again! Or rather, the Pacific got to touch me when a rogue wave crashed over the rocks and soaked me. I shouldn’t be allowed outside. In any case, I was really thankful for meeting Lorena because she definitely kept my trip from ending in a boring way.
Day 10 – My Last Day Traveling Peru
My last day was finally upon me. I grabbed a quick lunch with my new friend Lorena where I discovered my newfound love of huancaina sauce. After saying our goodbyes, I called an Uber and headed for the airport. On the way, I thought about how much I had learned about myself and all the challenges I overcame to see what I had seen.
I’ve done many unforgettable things while living in Europe. I once took a train across Bulgaria at midnight to Varna because I got bored in Sofia. I still have my train ticket as a reminder of how I managed to pull that off even though I couldn’t read or speak the language, nor was anybody able to give me a helping hand. Plus, I even keep a rock that I found in Morocco as a reminder of the time I traveled through the country by myself, sticking out like a sore thumb, and hopping into a van with seven strangers before taking off into the middle of the Sahara desert to spend the night under the stars.
But still, never have I had to exert so much physical and mental energy on a trip before this one. I had never been more proud of myself, even if I did have to get two massages. They were heavenly! I don’t care what anyone thinks!
Thank you for reading about my ten-day journey through Peru. If you love good cuisine, incredible culture, and breathtaking views, then you should absolutely make Peru your next destination. You’ll meet amazing people along the way and have the opportunity to see and do things that not many people have not. I hope my travels have inspired you to visit and push yourself past what you think you’re capable of!
by Tyler Black