Peru ended up being the longest leg of my South American journey. This was the place I knew I would come for months, because this is where my college roommate Lexi had moved for the Peace Corps. It was hard to believe two year had passed since I had seen her, because it felt like we had never been apart once we were with her. 

I'll also preface this section with the thought that now no longer being in Brazil, the rest of the countries I visited were Spanish speaking, so I got a lot of great practice with Spanish that I haven't used in 4+ years. It was awkward at times, but for the most part, I really enjoyed being able to speak with people in another language. I felt a great sense of pride over my mediocre Spanish skills. 

Friday, September 2nd

We left from our hostel in Lima at 3am to head to the airport. We found Melinda in baggage claim fresh off her plane from LA. It was an easy morning just grabbing our bags and being driven to our AirBnB in the Mira Flores neighborhood of Lima. Julie, Melinda, and I decided to walk along Jose Larco, a main shopping street in Mira Flores. We had already done some research on the places we wanted to see in Lima and we happened to stumble upon my number one attraction while we were out on our walk. The place is called Kennedy Park, but a better name for it would be Cat Park. There were cats everywhere and I was in heaven. I think I would have actually spent all the days I had in Lima at this park if I was there alone. We wandered through the park admiring all the kitties mingled in with the people before I was dragged away by my sister. It was time for us to head back towards our AirBnB, but on the way back, we popped into the grocery store to grab some food for our little apartment and to see the interesting snacks that Peru had. 

Our AirBnB was in a high rise building and our apartment was quite high up, so we had a really nice view of the city and the ocean. We made our way up to the roof of the building, which had a 360ยบ view and a pool. After admiring our temporary home for a bit, we went out to grab dinner at a restaurant called Tanta that had been recommended to us. Lucky for us, it was just across the street. I never knew that Lima is famous for its ceviche, but once I heard that, I wanted to try as much of it as possible. That's what I got at Tanta, and it was the best ceviche of the whole trip. After our lovely little dinner, we headed back to the airport with our driver Jorge to pick up my dad. Now all we needed was Lexi and it would be a party. We didn't have a reliable way of getting ahold of her, so we got very nervous, but we arrived at our apartment and there she was just sitting in the little lobby. We also of course found the nearest Starbucks to our place and made that a home base for us. Apparently Amy and Julie are not common names there.

Saturday, September 3rd

The whole gang had arrived, and we were ready for some food. The second restaurant that Jorge had recommended to us was also right across the street from our place, so we popped over for breakfast at San Antonio. We went overboard since they are known for their pastries and asked the waitress (in Spanish, mind you) to bring us the 5 best pastries they had. I sure do love a surprise, and she sure did an amazing job.

From breakfast, we wanted to go over to the Museum of Contemporary Art which we had seen on the drive into Mira Flores. It was a short walk from our place, and we didn't spend too long there. There were a few rooms with some interesting pieces of art, and a little pond outside with a cafe. We split off to browse the art at our own pace before meeting back up at the entrance and sitting for a bit. We decided to continue our walking journey around town, since it's such a nice way to get to know a place. We walked down Jose Larco once again, back through Cat Park, through a very swanky mall on a cliff over the ocean, and ended up at Parque del Amor (Love Park). It was full of beautiful mosaics along the cliff overlooking the ocean as well as a giant statue of two people kissing. It was such a beautiful day to be out walking around.

We grabbed an Uber to a restaurant out on a pier called La Rosa Nautica where we had an amazing meal in a really nice atmosphere. We could hear the waves crashing against the pier as we ate. I felt so lucky to build such good memories with the people I love in a place as awesome as Peru. We did have a funny moment where Lexi couldn't bite through her steak and the waiter had no qualms about staring right at her for several minutes before bringing her a sharper knife. You had to be there....we couldn't stop laughing. We then continued around town till we found a tattoo shop. Some of us were considering getting tattoos, but ended up chickening out (you know who you are).

Sunday, September 4th

One thing we had put on our list once we had gotten to Lima was a neighborhood called Barranco that we could basically see from our balcony. Our Uber just dropped us off in the main plaza of the neighborhood and of course my dad pulled out his TripAdvisor app and found us a breakfast shop. He is all about the reviews and ratings. We ended up at a place called La Bodega Verde, which was a cafe basically situated in a little house with a garden. It was very cozy and we enjoyed sitting for a while and chatting over our artisanal bread and things. Barranco was quite a trendy neighborhood, which I always very much enjoy. We explored the town after breakfast and came upon some really wonderful street art, which is one of my favorite things.

After our leisurely morning in Barranco, we had to pop back over to the mall on the cliff to pick up our tickets we had bought to attend a gigantic food festival called Mistura. We spent the rest of the day at Mistura, which was along the coast. There were hundreds of food booths separated by category. We went around sampling things like Choclo con Queso, which was a corn dish with cheese. We also had loads of ceviche, waffles, fresh bread, drinks, and traditional Peruvian dishes. It was a really cool gathering and at the time I loved it, but boy did I regret it later.

I should have cooled it on the ceviche maybe, but I got overconfident with the food since I hadn't had a problem since I had been in South America. Oh boy, I had a rough night to say the least. It was a flashback to my last few days in Thailand. I spent the whole night on the bathroom floor with food poisoning or some sort of stomach bug. My sissy took good care of me and made me tea and gave me medicine, but it was still not a fun night and it stayed with me for the next few days. The thought of ceviche or corn with cheese still make my stomach turn.

Monday, September 5th

The worst part about having this stomach bug was that we had a full day of riding a bus ahead of us. We had a bus tour planned with several stops along the way, and I spent most of the ride and most of the stops laying down across the seats trying to not throw up. I did get off the bus to see an old ranch that had a very dark history of owning and mistreating slaves. We walked down underground into some tunnels used for slaves, but they were quite narrow and I started to panic, so I waited for everyone topside. Our bus tour left us for the day in a small town along the coast called Paracas. I was still feeling very ill, so we spent some time relaxing by the pool right next to the ocean. It was much needed R&R, and I really enjoyed it. I still wasn't feeling up for any activities, so the rest of the group went into town for dinner while I slept for the rest of the night.

Tuesday, September 6th

We had a boat ride to the 'mini mini mini mini Galapagos' scheduled for Tuesday morning, and you could not have paid me to go on a boat in the state I was in, so the gang went and I stayed at the hotel and headed to the breakfast buffet since I needed to eat something. I had a very calm breakfast alone looking over the ocean before my family returned and we packed up to get back on the bus. Our next stop was a nature preserve at Playa Roja which was nothing like I expected it to be. It was pretty much a barren desert along the coast. Apparently, it was filled with many interesting sea animals, none of which I saw. It was really beautiful, though, being in the middle of a desert like that along the ocean.

I made friends with a Brazilian guy I sat next to on the bus. He didn't speak English nor I Portuguese, so we got to know each other in broken Spanish which was quite entertaining. We were very patient with each other while talking about our hometowns and showing each other our Pokemon Go apps. I was feeling very self conscious about my Spanish because I had such a hard time understanding him, but it took me quite a while to realize that his Spanish was not the best either and when he didn't know a word in Spanish he would insert the Portuguese word in its place haha. No wonder I was struggling so hard. Our last stop for the day was a desert oasis town called Huacachina. It was a tiny town with a few hotels, restaurants, and a lagoon surrounded by the biggest sand dunes I have ever seen. They were basically sand mountains and my inner child told me I had to climb them. Lexi, Julie and I set off to climb one of these giant sand dunes, but I was exhausted halfway up and just sat to wait for them. After being so sick and uncomfortable for several days, it was really nice to just sit in the warm sand overlooking our little town and watch the people all around us. We had lunch at one of the only restaurants in town and had a really leisurely afternoon. We laid by the pool at our hotel, walked around town looking for Pokemon, and had dinner at a weird restaurant with a very loud host. Excuse my language, but the restaurant was called Huacafuckingchina. Still not entirely recovered from the stomach bug, it was a little rough.

Wednesday, September 7th

We had a quick breakfast on the rooftop of our hotel (the Curasi) before Julie, my dad, and I hopped in a little van to our first activity for the day. Near Huacachina, there are these huge ancient markings in the ground called the Nazca lines. The three of us had decided to take a flight over the Nazca lines because it is easiest to see them all from above. We were on the smallest plane I have ever been on, and we did so many twists and turns to see the Nazca lines that I thought I was going to lose my breakfast. Thankfully, everyone kept their cool and we got to fly over most of the Nazca lines in all their intricate shapes. We also had a beautiful view of our little oasis town as we flew back to the airport. It's not something I would do again, but I'm really glad I was able to do it once. At one point I was feeling so nauseous that I had to close my eyes, but all the while I was still blindly snapping photos out the window of the plane. I was really relieved to get to sit at the hotel for a bit by the pool and have lunch and play cards before our next activity.

I was probably most nervous the entire trip for what would come next. Our last activity for the day was dune buggying and sand boarding in the desert outside of town. We had made friends with a Canadian couple on our bus the few days before and hey had told us that Alfredo was the best dune buggy driver in the whole town. He was the fastest and the craziest, and his car had teeth painted on it. I was hoping and praying that we ended up with the slowest driver in town, but what are the chances we end up in Alfredo's car and oh my goodness they were not kidding. He was by far the fastest driver and we caught the most air out of all the dune buggies. I was absolutely terrified when buckling into the buggy, but man I don't think I've ever had so much fun in my life. To my surprise, I wasn't scared at all while flying over the edge of these sand mountains. It was thrilling and I'd go back and do it everyday if I could. The sand boarding on the other hand was a bit terrifying. We'd drive in the buggy for a bit until Alfredo would drop us off on a hill/mountain and casually tell us to go down. He just stood there with a cigarette in his mouth chuckling to himself as we panicked more and more as the mountains got higher and higher. He would drop us off, tell us to go down, and then drive off and hang out at the bottom of the hill to wait for us. I couldn't believe I got the guts to go down any of these mountains face first on a little board. We probably did 4 or 5 mountains before coming to the biggest of them all. He drove us to the top of the largest mountain of sand in the whole desert and we all hopped out of the car. The mountain was so high I knew he must be joking about going down it and I started laughing....until I realized he wasn't joking at all. He called it something along the lines of 'Dune of Death' or 'Death Mountain'. I really didnt think I was going to be brave enough to go down it, and even announced that I couldn't do it and started getting back into the buggy. But I decided that if I didn't do it, I knew I would regret it. Melinda decided to pass on this one, got in the buggy, and drove off with Alfredo and one other girl to wait for us at the bottom. My dad somehow ended up going first. He pushed off and started flying down the mountain. It was going smoothly until he started to falter and then all of a sudden he was in a full on roll. I've never seen a body flail the way his did rolling down that hill and I thought for sure he had broken some bones. I was shocked when he stood up at the end of it and yelled to us that he was okay. So we ended up going down one by one and thank goodness none oft he rest of us got hurt. My dad is a champ. For how hard he was rolling, he could have been way more hurt than he was. He did end up with a black and blue hand, a sore back, and he may have bruised his ego a bit but he survived. We jumped back into the buggy and flew over hills and cliffs while watching the sun set over the desert. It was magic if I'd ever seen it. It's gotta be one of the highlights of my life, and I'm so happy to have done it with the amazing people I was with.

Thursday, September 8th

We parted ways with Lexi and the rest of us hopped on a flight to Cusco, Peru so we could make our way to Machu Picchu. We had known that the city of Cusco was at a quite high elevation (over 11,000 ft.) and that it's possible to get altitude sickness if you're not used to that environment. We were a little nervous about how it would affect us, but it wasn't as bad as it could be. Melinda and I did feel quite dizzy and it was hard to breathe, so we stayed at our hotel and had dinner while Julie and my dad went into the city to eat. Melinda and I were the only people in the whole restaurant at the Hilton and we had the loveliest meal. Thankfully it was very relaxing, but we still didn't feel great so we went to bed pretty quickly. 

Friday, September 9th

We grabbed a taxi to a little town called Porroy so that we could catch our train to Machu Picchu. We were on a beautiful train called the Vistadome that had panoramic views the whole way through the mountains to Machu Picchu. The town below Machu Picchu is very small and filled with hotels and restaurants as well as a little market just outside the train station filled with handcrafted goods. 

We grabbed a quick lunch and dropped off our luggage after finally tracking down our hotel (the Rupa Wasi) before heading up to Machu Picchu on the bus. We spent several hours hiking up and down stairs around tourists and llamas, stopping for photos along the way of course. The photos can explain for themselves. After spending some time in this city above the clouds, we descended back to the little town we were staying in. There was a market filled with handcrafted goods that we decided to visit before heading back to our hotel and playing cards. We had dinner at our hotel's restaurant called the Treehouse before calling it a night. 

Saturday, September 10th

We woke up to the rain on Saturday morning, which I absolutely loved, but it did put a damper on Julie's plan to hike up to Machu Picchu first thing in the morning. We all grabbed breakfast at the hotel before catching the bus once again up to Machu Picchu. I loved being able to see it in the sunshine the day before and now in the rain and cloud cover. Julie was really committed to hiking up Machu Picchu, so she bussed back down the mountain and hiked back up. I split off from the group and went to find a nice place to sit for a bit and get some time to myself. It was the perfect setting to have a moment to yourself amidst a month of go, go, go travel. We regrouped and headed back down into the town for pizza and some apple pie at the Treehouse. That evening, we popped back on the Vistadome for a very eventful ride back to Cusco. The train workers put on a fashion show and a dance in the walkway of the train while we were en route. We grabbed dinner at the Hilton, made our plans for leaving Cusco the next morning, and went to sleep.

Sunday, September 11th

My phone buzzes at 4 in the morning and I am very confused. I look at the text that I received and see that our flight that morning has been cancelled, so I went into a frenzy to rebook flights and adjust schedules for all of us. After catching a couple hours of sleep, Melinda and I grabbed a cab out to a neighborhood called San Blas that we had read about. Since we had to move all of our plans up a few hours to adjust for our new flight, we were there first thing in the morning. We were there so early that nothing was actually open, so we wandered the streets and watched as they one by one opened their doors. There were so man cute little trinkets I could barely contain myself, but I managed to show quite a bit of restraint and only ended up buying a little angel wall hanging and two rings. My sister and dad came to pick us up in a cab and we were off to the airport. 

After having some trouble using my debit card at the airport, I called my bank to find that not only was I using my card, but someone at an Applebees in Brazil was also using it. Great. I'm in a foreign country and I now have no way of getting money. Thankfully, my bank let me withdraw one giant lump of cash before they closed my account. We flew back to Lima and said goodbye to Melinda, who went home from there. My dad, sister, and I headed back to the Hilton for our last few hours together in Peru. Julie and I desperately needed to do laundry, so we found the only laundromat still open and camped out there while eating our many packs of Cheetos Picantes that we had bought from a street vendor along the way. We wrapped up the Peru leg of our trip with a really lovely dinner on the patio at La 73. 


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