Tag Archives: cusco

In Search of: The Lost Files (Videos from Cusco, Peru)

Back in April 2012, my awesome travel friend, Christy, and I went to Peru. We spent a week making our way from Cusco to Machu Picchu and back (and then I ran off to the Amazon while Christy headed home). It was amazing. Truly, I loved that trip!

The other day, while putting together my 2013 year-in-review, I stumbled across a set of video diaries we did while there. I was so mesmerized, I watched them all. Why? Because they were hilarious, and we were ridiculous, and I sort of love that.

Anyhow, I decided I’m going to share them…unedited. Which means you are truly going to see me acting a fool. (Just don’t tell anyone, okay?)

Without further ado, here’s the first in the line of videos.

Video Diary Numero Uno — Cusco, Peru

Video Diary Numero Uno — Cusco, Peru from Heather Rae on Vimeo.

Posted in Peru, South America

In Search of: Postcards from Cusco, Peru (and some rambling…)

As the school year approaches its end, I have come to find myself…completely and UTTERLY exhausted!  Wow.  The students are great.  Really, they are.  Except as the countdown ticks on, I find myself wanting to strangle them — on the regular.  I mean, seriously, the looks on my face when they smart off like typical teenagers — the looks are priceless.  I’ve noticed my patience growing thinner.  There is good reason for 9 month school years (or 10, as in my case).  Because, otherwise, more and more teachers would end up in jail.  (Hey.  Don’t knock me.  If you’re a teacher, you 100% understand.)  I love those kids.  And I NEED to get away from them.  Thank goodness for summer break and hikes to Mt. Whitney and trips to Central America!  Woot!  It keeps me going at this moment — it really does.  (8.5 work days to freedom!)

So anyway, in an effort to take my mind mentally as far away from students and tests and lectures and school rules as possible — let’s talk Peru!

Would you believe I’m STILL editing Peru pictures.  For a two week trip, I sure did get camera happy.  In all, I took about 2,000 photos.  Granted, I trashed several hundred after going through them all.  Many were duplicates and practice shots as I worked to get more comfortable with the fancy camera.  Taking the pictures was amazingly fun, and although I love the challenge of organizing and editing on occasion, this ridiculously large quantity has been a pain in the ass.

Regardless.  Cusco, Peru easily became one of my favorite travel cities.  Granted, I have A LOT of favorite travel cities.  I love anything that’s different from my own city (isn’t that half the purpose of traveling?).  But what I loved about Cusco was it’s small town feel even though it was relatively large (for a Peruvian city, anyhow).  Walking the city wasn’t an enormous undertaking.  It felt more like a stroll.  Because of this, we unknowingly put lots of miles on our walking shoes as we meandered.  Although this tired me out at the time, I promise, it was worth every last mile.  That city will stick with me for sure.

Without further rambling, allow me to introduce you to my latest idea:  postcards!  Yes, some photo faves are being turned into postcards.  These postcards are from the second day of the Peru trip — where else but Cusco!  They have a bit of a vintage/artsy look to them (well, most of them).  I’m just playing around and having fun, experimenting.  I hope you enjoy them as much as I’ve enjoyed creating them.  Expect more postcards of other favorite travel photos to come!

Posted in Peru, Postcards, South America Also tagged , , |

In Search of: A Refuge in Cusco, Peru

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When I arrived in Lima, Peru I had an agenda: find Christy.  The plan was to meet during layovers in Lima then fly to Cusco.  As luck would have it, Christy decided to stop and get coffee at the precise place I decided to turn a corner in the airport.  She was sipping a latte (or some such contraption), reading her Kindle, when I spotted her.  Woot!  Vacation had begun.  We talked and plotted, then boarded a plane for one last flight.

One might think two normally clean girls would want to shower and remove the grime of 24 hours of travel once arriving at their intended destination.  But.  We’re special.  We arrived in Cusco, headed to the hostel and dropped our bags (Hostal Mallqui: super cute, nice staff, highly recommended).  We knew if we took the time to settle in, we would likely get tired and not want to leave.  So.  Donning the clothes we had been wearing since leaving our homes the previous day, we wandered into the city.  (But, hey, the dirty clothes part — that’s just between you and I.  Okay?)

As soon as I walked into the city, my little heart was smitten.  I took pictures of wooden doors and old stone streets and archways and big blue skies.  My camera kept clicking.  There was character around every corner.

After a while of walking we realized we were famished and found a restaurant called Good Chicken.  We sat down and stared at the menu.  It was in Spanish.  Have I mentioned my Spanish is, well, appalling?  It is.  We proceeded to take out the travel Spanish book I ordered on Amazon prior to the trip and began to translate.  After watching us for a good ten minutes, the waitress took pity and handed us English menus.  Note to self: always request the English menu.

We ate.  We talked.  We laughed.  And then we headed out for more wandering.  Thousands of people gathered at Plaza de Armas — men in red cloaks, suits, hats.  People carried musical instruments.  Priests gathered.  Unaware of the festivities, we surmised this likely wasn’t your average Monday afternoon.  We later learned we had entered Cusco during their yearly festival, Senor de los Temblores (Lord of the Earthquakes), celebrated the Monday before Easter each year in commemoration of the devastating earthquake of 1650.

We soon looked up to see the sky going dark.  The blazing sun of the afternoon was being replaced by heavy clouds.  We took notice, yet kept going.  Christy’s from Seattle.  I think we can handle a little rain.  We wandered through a craft market, window shopping.  Thunder rumbled.  Emerging from the market, the deluge began.  Rain fell from the sky in sheets.  We watched from an overhang as people ran from the streets, seeking cover.  We repeated our mantra, we’re not afraid of a little rain, and walked to the street.  Okay.  Maybe the rain is a bit much.  We sought a new overhang.  Caught up in the flow of people seeking refuge, we found ourselves entering a cathedral.  The crowd shoved and pushed and we nearly thought we’d be trampled.  To be trampled in a church — something about that seems terribly wrong.  Anyhow, priests ushered us inside.  We scrambled through the crowd and found a seat amongst the thousands of others.  But our attention spans are short.  After a few minutes, we decided to try our luck.  Surely the rain had subsided a bit.  Or it would soon.  Against the warnings of a nearby priest, we pulled up our hoods and found ourselves, yet again, in the open, in the rain.

My feet wore flip-flop sandals, the sole worn to a smooth surface.  Every few feet, I slipped on the stone walkway.  I walked slowly and deliberately, which unfortunately added to the amount of water my clothes took in.  Water rushed down the streets, turning Cusco into a river of sorts.  We wandered the streets, soggy photocopied map in hand, searching for the hostel.  Some time later, we arrived and rang the buzzer for the staff to open the glass doors in front.  They rushed to the doors, looked at the two travelers dressed in water and cotton, laughed, and led us inside.

We promptly walked to our room, took the longest, hottest showers the hostel would afford and ordered a heater.

Welcome to Cusco.

Posted in Peru, South America Also tagged , |

In Search of: The Anticipation of Peru!

One of the best parts of travel is the anticipation that comes with an upcoming trip.  And right now, I’m full to the brim with anticipation.  On April first, I will be boarding a plane for Cusco, Peru!  Okay.  Not exactly accurate.  I will be boarding a plane for Mexico City, then Lima, Peru, then Cusco, Peru!  It’s going to be a damn long day.  But, seriously.  This will be the most awesome trip since the history of awesome.

Why, you ask?  Because I’ve wanted to take this trip for probably five years.  I even planned it.  Twice.  And finally.  Finally, finally, finally — I’m going!  My little self is doing kartwheels in my head right now.  That’s how excited I am.  (I would do actual kartwheels outside, but it’s a little late and kind of cold.)

I work at a private school, and we get two weeks off for spring break.  I had debated taking this trip over winter break, but I decided to move into my awesomesauce apartment instead.  It was a good move — I love the new place.  But the trip truly couldn’t be put off much longer.  My heart couldn’t take it.  Spring break it is!

My friend, Christy, and I fly out on the same day.  We’ll meet at the airport in Cusco and head off to start the adventure!  (I know.  Way too many exclamation points in this post.  But I can’t help it, peeps!!  Excited, I tell you.)  We’ll stay in Cusco a couple of days then be whisked away by train to Aguas Calientes.  Although Aguas Calientes has been described as the hole of all holes when it comes to tourist towns, we’re going to make it amazing.  We’ve got hikes planned up some pretty intimidating mountains (which include some pretty steep ladders).  We’ve got food plans.  Because you can’t visit Peru without tasting the guinea pig.  (Sorry Mr. Guinea.  You were a good pet.)  We’ve got early morning treks to Machu Picchu and photography and videos and dancing in the street planned.  At the end of our time together we’ll spend a couple of days in Ollantaytambo.  Who the hell knows what we’re gonna do there.  But I can promise, you’ll hear all about it when we do it.

After a week in the Cusco area, Christy goes home (sad face).  But I go to the Amazon rainforest (big ass happy face!).  Oh yes.  I’ll be sleeping in a room with 3.5 walls, staring through my mosquito net into the jungle at night.  Creepers.  But all kinds of amazing.  I’m going to climb trees!  I’m going to kayak!  I’m going to bird watch and hike and wander and get lost (but not too lost, ’cause I’ll have a guide).

I’m not sure the word anticipation quite explains what I’m feeling right now.  Freedom?  Exhilaration?  Child-like wonder?  But whatever it is — I’ll take some more of that, please.

Posted in Peru, South America, Trip Planning Also tagged , , , , |

Destination: Peru

Since watching the movie Medicine Man in the eighth grade, I’ve wanted to see the Amazon Rainforest. Something about this destination – rich with biodiversity, much of it untouched by man, humidity, rain, all of it – draws me in. So I’ve finally decided to make the trip.

Part of me is afraid that if I don’t go soon, we will have destroyed it (we being people: ranchers, loggers and the like). I hope that doesn’t end up being the case. Perhaps with carefully planned, sustainable ecotourism, business people in that part of the world will come to see the value of preserving the rainforest and sharing it with generations to come. But rather than delve into the political and economic implications of preserving or not preserving the land, let me tell you about my trip.

I plan to go next July. I thought about going sooner, but factoring in my schedule and the weather over there – July is the best match. I did a lot of research on the various countries which the rainforest encompasses and decided on Peru.

In my information gathering I found another amazing landmark in Peru that I absolutely can’t miss in this lifetime – Machu Picchu. Machu Picchu is The Lost City of the Incas. The Incas started building the city on a mountain ridge above the Urubamba Valley around 1430 AD. Less than a hundred years later, during the time of the Spanish conquest, most of the inhabitants were wiped out by what is now thought to have been small pox. The city was lost to the outside world. In 1911, an American historian stumbled upon this miraculous city, led by a native Quechua boy. The site was named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1983. The first four days of my trip will be spent in and around Machu Picchu.

Then, I’ll be off to the Amazon Rainforest!  I plan to go with a company called Rainforest Expeditions. They run three Amazon lodges near Puerto Maldonado, Peru. The company runs environmentally conscious, sustainable ecotourism with local guides. The lodges originally started with a research project to protect the local macaw parrots. The research continues to this day.

I’ll spend the first few days at the Refugio Amazonas lodge, a few hours boat ride from Puerto Maldonado. Once there, I’ll spend time searching for camen, hiking the Brazil nut trail, taking in the view from the canopy tower and visiting Oxbow lake.

Next, it’s off to the Tambopata Research Center (TRC), 4.5 hours downriver. TRC is in the heart of the rainforest, more than seven hours by boat from the nearest town. It is rife with flora and fauna and is near the largest macaw clay lick in the world. I’ll spend my days hiking, checking out the palm swamp, the floodplains, bird watching and looking out for the local animals (monkeys, camen and the like).

The trip is going to be fabulous, and I absolutely can’t wait! I’m planning on taking this one solo, but if anyone is interested in tagging along, I’m always up for a good travel partner! Drop me a line.

photo credit: magnusvk

Posted in Trip Planning Also tagged , , , |