Peru!

Ahhh traveling. My heart flutters every time I get to hit the road or hop on a plane to see new places and create experiences. Peru and Machu Picchu this past week were amazing. Bucket List item.

Machu Picchu! Huayna Picchu is the mountain behind us.

Machu Picchu! Huayna Picchu is the mountain behind us.

I knew the first leg of the trip would be rough on the running game. We were moving hotels every night and traveling through the Sacred Valley during the day to make our way to Aguas Calientes, the town right below Machu Picchu. The altitude in Cusco, the city you have to fly into to begin the journey to Machu Picchu, is alarming. I'd read about altitude sickness, but upon research, Cusco was the same height as Mammoth mountain here in CA. I decided to forgo the recommended medication since I was fine visiting Mammoth in years prior. By the third day, I had a pounding headache. Scratch that. The worst headache I've ever experienced.

Luckily, I woke up the morning of our trek to Machu Picchu after multiple doses of Advil and coca tea, and my headache had subsided enough to be bearable. We were able to make it on the first set of buses that left at 5:30 am. We were doing the hike up Huayna Picchu, a mountain just to the North of Machu Picchu, that offers stunning views down to Machu Picchu. They only allow 400 people up on this hike every day, so we were stoked to get this opportunity.

I didn't realize we were on Machu Picchu for a while. We walked into Machu Picchu and had to make our way to Huayna Picchu for the 7 am hike, and I asked, "Where is Machu Picchu?!" Ricky said, "J, we're standing on it." Duh. Trust me, the view from Huayna Picchu makes you realize the majesty of this place more effectively than just standing on it.

The pictures tell it all. Absolutely stunning.

Lima, the capital of Peru, was pretty lackluster after Machu Picchu. It was similar to LA. A huge city with a terrible public transportation system and nothing within walking distance. We stayed in the Miraflores district, which is right on the ocean. We were lucky to stay across the street from Larcomar, a mall that's built into the cliffs overlooking the ocean with beautiful restaurants, shops, a movie theater, and a bowling alley. It saved us when we had to check out of our hotel on the last day before our 4 am flight the following morning. If you do visit, I would forgo staying or spending much time in Lima. The real beauty of Peru lies in the Sacred Valley and the more remote parts. I wish we had taken time to go to Lake Titicaca or up north.

Lima, while not being everything we hoped, did provide me with the opportunity to run again. I got on the hotel gym's treadmill as soon as we arrived and got in a slow and steady 5 miles. It was difficult to get into it, but I felt so much better afterwards. The next day I was able to do a quick 7 miles along the ocean. Miraflores is known for their parks, and there is a stretch of about 15 of them to run along right up on the cliffs above the ocean. It was perfect.

Running in Miraflores, lima

Running in Miraflores, lima

Because we wanted to follow our own schedule and do things on our own, we planned the entire trip ourselves. It was not easy, so I thought I'd give you a few tips on what to pack and where to stay if you decide this adventure is for you. 

Packing the Essentials (aka make sure you have room for running clothes):
1. Jackets: Or one good jacket that is warm, but also thin enough to fold up. We bought these great Patagonia jackets that folded into themselves and we could hook onto our bags.

2. A Good Backpack: This Osprey bag was perfect. It's carry on size so no need to check your bag. When you pair it with these packing cubes, it made it easy to pack all of the things we needed.

3. Workout/Hiking Clothes: Because we had a limited amount of packing space and no way to do laundry, I doubled up. I wore clothes that could double as running clothes on days we traveled through the Sacred Valley, and then used these same, only slightly sweaty clothes, in Lima when I was able to run again. Worked beautifully.

4. Portable Peanut Butter Packs: Or protein bars. Snacks. Seriously. On our 8 hour tour of the Sacred Valley on the way to Ollantaytambo, we were supposed to stop in a town on the middle of our journey at noon to have lunch. A religious parade was taking place in one of the towns in between, blocking the only road that would allow us to go through. Literally tons of tour buses and cars backed up for almost 2 hours. Hangry J started to appear. The parade was amazing to see. BUT. I was very thankful for my peanut butter packs and Go Macro bars.

Where to Stay:
Cusco
Andean Wings Boutique Hotel: Luxury at a low cost. It was approximately $148 a night, with breakfast included. Centrally located with central heating.
Casa Andina Classic Cusco San Blas: there are several of this hotel line in Cusco and throughout Peru. For less than $100, this was a decent stay. Nothing extravagant, but breakfast was included which is always nice. This was little more than a 5 minute walk from the central square.

Ollantaytambo
Hotel Pakaritampu: The best hotel at a very affordable price in this small town on the Incan Trail. It was clean, with a nice restaurant, comfortable bed, and beautiful grounds. Just a short walk to the town square with a view of the Inca ruins on the cliff side.

Aguas Calientes
Sumaq Machu Picchu Hotel: If you can splurge on a hotel during your trip, do it here. This place was pricey, but worth it. The rooms were fabulous, with views of the river and mountainside. It was a 5 minute walk from the train and bus station. They offered us welcome drinks and appetizers, breakfast was included (which they packed for us to go since we were taking the first bus up to Machu Picchu at 5 am!), and dinner was included. The food was perfect here, and sometimes, that's the most important thing when traveling.

At the top of Huayna Picchu, looking down on Machu Picchu

At the top of Huayna Picchu, looking down on Machu Picchu

I hope you enjoyed hearing about my trip and the photos! If you ever have a chance to visit Peru, take it!

J