Find a place to do laundry or buy more underwear?
I meant to write this before I left but the last few weeks have been insane. So here we are.
I am in Spain working as a researcher/writer for Rick Steves’ Guidebook company. I will be visiting thirteen different cities to check all the information in the Spain guidebook: hotels, sites, restaurants, etc. I am also always on the lookout for new and exciting places to add to the book. And I’m getting paid. Basically it’s my dream job.
So far I have been to Granada, Nerja, Gibraltar, Tarifa, Tangier in Morocco, and I am currently in Ronda. Next I’ll visit Arcos, Jerez, Sevilla, Cordoba, Pamplona, San Sebastian, Bilbao, and Saint Jean de Luz in France. I spend about 1-3 days in a city depending on its size, so I am crazy busy but I love it. In total, I’m working for four weeks and then I’ll be on vacation in Barcelona, Madrid, and Paris for two weeks.
I miss Alex and my friends and family (but my parents are coming to San Sebastian, Barcelona, and Paris!!!), however I do not not not not not not not want to go back to Seattle where it’s still raining every day.
Everything is perfect here.
I am about to head to Spain to work for four weeks followed by two weeks of vacation. I’ll be working as a researcher for Rick Steves’ Europe Through the Back Door guidebook. Could not be more excited. Here is where I’ll be headed this summer:
San Sebastian, Spain
St. Jean-de-Luz, France
Stay tuned for updates along the way.
After a long day at Machu Picchu, we had lunch in Aguas Calientes, the town at the base of the site. From there we took the nearly two hour train and then a two hour bus back to Cuzco. I was seriously worried our hotel would run out of water with us all hopping into much-needed showers at the same time, but no. I took the most amazing shower of my life.
Fresh and clean we all headed out to dinner with our guide, Javier, at this delicious place above a shady market and tattoo parlor. Then about half of us decided it was high time for a night out. We went with Javier, who I thought would know the hot spot in town, but instead we headed to “club corner” where we got mobbed by 10 or so club promoters until Javier worked out some deal and we ducked into this crazy-themed discoteca (I forgot you aren’t supposed to call them “clubs” because club can also mean brothel). Everything is so surprisingly eccentric is Cuzco!
Several boozy drinks later we made our way back to the hotel.
I tried to iron out some issues with my hotel for that night. I had to change hotels but I wasn’t supposed to and blah blah blah confusion but basically they were supposed to come get me at 10, didn’t happen, so I headed out with the ladies after breakfast for shopping. We spent the morning gathering souvenirs and I finally found the perfect blankets I’d been searching for for my parents since I missed my chance at the Pisac market. Then we dropped into the Pre-Columbian Museum before buying chocolates and then having lunch at Jake’s Cafe, basically the English-mecca. After lunch we did a bit more shopping, stopped at Starbucks (don’t judge) and headed back to the hotel. I was bombarded with questions by a group of ill-prepared Australian girls who were heading out on the trek the next day. “Can I smoke on the trail?” “What kind of pants do I wear?” “Is the third day hard? The third day is my birthday.”
I said a quiet thanks to god for not putting me with those idiots.
That night we all met up for drinks and then dinner at Cicciolina. It was by far the best meal of the entire trip, and maybe one of the best meals I’ve ever had. I don’t remember what exactly we had for an appetizer, just that it was amazing. For my entree I had a squid-ink pasta with prawns and a creamy sauce and I about died. Dessert was caramelized bananas plus a sampling of the many chocolatey, fruity dishes that everyone else had ordered. It was perfect. I particularly loved someone’s balsamic strawberries with pisco ice cream.
And lots and lots of pisco sours.
On my last day in Cuzco I met everyone for breakfast at Jake’s Cafe. We then said our goodbyes as most of them headed off to tour the Amazon or hopped a flight back home. I spent the morning hanging out around the city and reading in the square until it was time for my flight to Lima. My layover in Lima was eight hours so I thought I might as well go into the city for a bit. I had lunch/dinner at the LarcoMar, basically a huge, modern shopping center built into the cliff-side overlooking the ocean. It was perfect. Ceviche and more pisco sour. I hung out in the shops for a bit until I heard from one of the members of my group saying that he was in the shopping center as well. So we had some more pisco sours and hung out until I had to catch a cab back to the airport.
14 hours and a layover in Houston later and I was back in Seattle.
I miss it there already. Alex and I are having pisco sour night tonight.
The day I came all the way to Peru for.
We woke up at 3:45. In the morning. AM. Yes. 3:45. I packed up my things and shoved a few pieces of bread in my half-awake face and lined up with everyone else around 5 at the checkpoint, which opened at 5:30. Once we were through, it was an easy peasy two hour hike to Machu Picchu.
Except that it was raining.
I had sort of expected it to rain the whole time so up until that point I was feeling very lucky. But when I woke up in my tent and heard the rain thudding against the canvas I was less than thrilled. At least it wasn’t the first day?
So we trudged through the rain, which eventually let up, wearing our plastic ponchos over the top of our gear. I think it would be better to call them sweat boxes because that is exactly what they were…steamy bags that kept the rain out while heating you up so much that you were drenched in sweat anyway. Yea…I was real attractive.
AND FINALLY! After what our guide called the oh-my-god-steps, which were actually not difficult, just frightening because they are straight up, like scaling a wall, we arrived at the Sun Gate. From the Sun Gate you should be able to have an amazing panoramic view of Machu Picchu, but all we had was clouds. We waited and waited and waited for them to clear while countless groups went past us, down the trail to the site. There were a handful of times were it seemed like it might burn off, but nothing.
So we headed down to the site. I was so full of excitement I could have cried!
We got there and had a victory beer (around 7:30 am) before starting the walking tour. It’s funny because there is this mix of dirty, tired people who just spent four days hiking to Machu Picchu, and clean people who just got of the two hour train now huffing and puffing their way up a flight of stairs. I was dirty and proud.
I’m just going to post some photos of Machu Picchu instead of trying to describe it. I will just say that it is the most beautiful place I have ever seen. Truly. I am floored just thinking about it and I am so lucky to have been able to go…I will never forget it in my life.
And that’s that.
I will say again that the hike was the hardest thing I’ve even done in my life. But it was also quite possibly the most fulfilling. I’m sure with time I’ll forget how bad it was because it’s so easy to just remember the photos above and the perfection of it all. I don’t know that I would do the hike again, but I will most definitely be back.
My deepest apologies. I spend 20+ hours at week sitting in front of a computer so it’s verrrry difficult for me to choose to do so lately. So here we go.
The second day of the hike was by far the hardest. We spent the first five hours going up. And up and up and up, climbing a total of 1,200 meters that mostly consisted of stairs. I stopped often. I thought my heart was going to explode at times (and not metaphorically). It was so incredibly difficult and I think everyone thinks I’m exaggerating but the truth is that I don’t really even know what to compare it to. The worst part is definitely the altitude, and at times I felt my body screaming at me for more oxygen but there just wasn’t any.
You reach the top. It’s sort of awful because for the last two hours you can basically see where you are going the whole time, and you see all these little ant people up there, and it looks like a world away because it sort of is. But after one last miserable, uneven staircase, you’re there. Dead Woman’s Pass is the highest point of the trek at 4,200 meters. Whew!
See the littttttle people in the pass? Oh no? Yea probably not because that’s how damn far it is.
And from there it is all down hill. The problem with this is that now your legs are so tired from the hike up that they shake non-stop the whole way down. So I went as fast as I could down each mismatched step to camp at the very bottom. And then it was nap time. Plus tea and dinner. I slept so well that night and I’m so glad because I didn’t sleep at all the night before.
Another early morning! This day was a combination of ups and downs and was all around difficult but we were over half way and just ready to get there. This was also the longest hiking day: 16 kilometers compared to 11 on the second day and 10 on the first. We went through two passes and stopped at several sites before arriving at camp around 4:00.
View from the terraces in the photo above.
And once we got to camp same story pretty much: tea, dinner, gross bathrooms. Plus I decided it was high time to try and wash my hair. Which was a mistake. They give you a bucket filled with about an inch of warm water, so I dunked my head in, massaged some shampoo into my gross oily scalp, and then attempted to wash it out. The issue was that now I just had soap water so I could never actually get all the soap out of my hair, which just resulted in gross hair that had soap in it. Plus the organic stuff I bought (everything has to be biodegradable) doesn’t even wash out under the hardest of water pressure. So I will forever look gross in my photos.
Anyway! We were nearly finished with the hike. I had about 5 mosquito bites and a wicked sun burn but that was fine…we did the hard part.
The last night we also had a ceremony where we thanked our porters. I cannot stress enough what an amazing and difficult job they do. It would have been completely impossible for me to make this happen without them. So again, thank you, porters of the Inca trail.
Final day coming up.
I swear I’ll finish my trip posts. As soon as I’m not exhausted from school/work.