Bucket List Destination: Peru

We’re in Peru!

We actually can’t believe it. Because we didn’t advance plan this trip like so many others in the past. We usually book almost a year in advance, and dream and plan for the months between the booking and the actual adventure. With this trip, the time between booking and travel was around two months, and those were busy summer months, so it felt like we decided, booked, and bam! We’re here.

It’s also remarkable because our travel bucket list seems to be ever shifting and changing. Eight years ago, Egypt wasn’t even on my radar, but when I decided I wanted to go, we went. Peru has been on my radar for around two years, and here we are! We recognize how incredible it is and how unbelievably fortunate we are to have a bucket list that shifts and evolves on almost an annual basis.

So, here we are. Day 1 in Peru. And what a day it was! Our flight got in around midnight, and when our tour operator met us at the airport, he told us our flight departure to Cusco had been changed, and we would be leaving at 4:30 am—leaving us barely enough time to get to the hotel, shower, and back for the flight, let alone sleep. After some talk with the airline, we were able to finagle an extra two hours for a later flight. From there, we rushed to the hotel to get our three whole hours of sleep.

Upon arrival in Cusco after that early morning flight, we were met by our driver, Freddy, and tour guide, Nick (who was informed twenty minutes before we landed that we were getting in early—his hair was still damp from the quick shower he took!). Then it was off to four distinct stops for the day.

Our first stop was the Ollantaytambo Fortress. There, we visited a traditional Incan home before venturing up to view the terraces. The architecture in the area is so distinct: the bottom of most buildings originate from the Inca period (between 1100 and 1532), and the top of the buildings were added during the Spanish colonial period that followed. The family living in the home we visited can trace back 800 years of family members living in the same dwelling. A shrine inside containing the skulls of the current owner’s mother, father, and little brother show what a place those who came before hold.

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The terraces took between 80 and 100 years to construct. Interestingly, Notre Dame in Paris is actually older than these terraces by a couple hundred years. It just goes to show how isolated the Inca were and how limited and primitive their tools were. However, our guide told us that the greatest tool the Incas had was time. It didn’t bother them that construction spanned generations.

One of my favorite tidbits were about the stones that didn’t make it to the final site. They call them “tired stones.” The stones—not the men—were too tired to make it the rest of the way up the hill, so they just left them where they were. Nick says that the Inca had three edicts: Don’t lie. Don’t steal. Don’t be lazy. It seems like those tired stones almost violate two of the three. 🙂

Next stop was the Salineras de Maras—the saltpans. We were immediately reminded of the tanneries in Fes because the salt pools looked so similar to the dye pools there. There are over 3,000 salt pools in Maras, though many have been added recently. Salty spring water from the mountain flows into the pools and farmers wait for the salt to age. The salt on the bottom, closest to the mud, is for animals. The salt in the middle is the famous pink salt (the pink color comes from the nutrients and the lack of bleaching from the sun). The salt on the top is the traditional white salt.

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The more brown the pool is, the further it is from harvest.

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We got a little taste of the salty water, and then purchased some interesting salts and some delicious salted dark chocolate (we all know Lauren is a sucker for chocolate).

The last site visit we made was to an agrilogical site (agricultural archeological site) in Moray. This site dates back to before the Incas, somewhere around 700 AD. The early scientists working here used the terraces to experiment with growing different types of food, especially potatoes (there are 3800 different types of potato in Peru!). While they no longer grow food here or allow tourists to venture down the floating steps along the inside, it’s still amazing to walk around the rim of the site and appreciate the simple art of symmetry. We decided this was our favorite stop of the day.

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Last stop before heading to our hotel was lunch at the Piuray Outdoor Center, a beautiful little stop by the lake. We enjoyed Peruvian staples, including chicken, potatoes of all sorts, and several other side dishes that we couldn’t name but would eat all over again. We finished that up with gooseberry (a first try for us!) and chocolate-covered peanuts.

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After the nap that constituted last night’s sleep, we weren’t disappointed to arrive to our hotel prior to dinner. But when we saw our hotel, we suddenly weren’t so tired anymore. Stay tuned for the next post to see why!

Bienvenido to Peru!

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