Peru blew me away.
I was skeptical. I’ve been obsessed with Asia for the past 6 years: I’ve taught English to college students in China’s countryside; marveled at the Taj Mahal and Ladakh monasteries in India; been blessed by a Kumari in Nepal; and explored Laos, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Cambodia, Taiwan, and Hong Kong end to end. I even bust out Chinese here and there in my day to day, a fun side effect of taking weekly language classes!
But breaking my Asia addiction and taking a chance on South America paid off. Big time. Where else can you jam with a shaman in the countryside, climb ancient terraces of salt mountains, float through islands on a handmade (recycled) raft and connect with quinoa?
Peer into my Peru adventure and you’ll see why it was the perfect spot to test out my new camera and why I’m researching my next South America trip as we speak.
SALT MINES OF MARAS | Looking out over the salt mines of Maras, a practice that has been occurring for thousands of years, unchanged, inspired me. Not only was the contrast of the white salt, green mountains and blue sky beautiful, but learning the backstory of this land was what really got me. The local community fought against the Peruvian government to keep the land in their possession, and they used that money from traveler visits to buy a bus to transport local children to and from school. Knowing that made this gorgeous setting awe inspiring. The strength and sense of community in the area is something I admire and respect.
MOTHER EARTH CEREMONY | Learning about the Inca’s religious views about the Pachamama, or Mother Earth, is one thing. Sitting in a field with a shaman surrounded by mountains high in the Sacred Valley to partake in a Mother Earth ceremony is something else entirely. I felt this overwhelming connection to nature and the earth, and couldn’t help but feel blessed.
DO YOU KNOW WHERE YOUR QUINOA COMES FROM? | A morning spent with the Amaru community learning how to farm, sheer & dye wool, and weave incredible pieces left me with an overwhelming appreciation for these ancient practices. We tried it ourselves, and quickly realized how much skill is needed for each task (we were lacking!). I’m a lifeguard, I played college-level lacrosse, and I was still embarrassed by how much Josh (my travel buddy) and I struggled attempting to hoe and till the land. Whoa! It’s an art how efficiently this community works. I will never look at quinoa the same after seeing the hard work that it takes to farm and harvest this trendy grain.
LOCAL IMPACT | Machu Picchu makes an impact on you. You can’t imagine what you see, and what you feel, when walking these cobbled Incan pathways and glancing out amongst the terraces. I kept saying to myself “How is this here!?!? How did the Incas do this!!?” Our second day started out cloudy and rainy, which only added to the mysticism of the place. While walking up the stairs I turned and noticed these colorfully dressed women with their little ones in tow. Dressed in the typical bright clothing of Peru, they were striking against the grey fog backdrop.
AREQUIPA ARCHITECTURE | La Iglesia de la Compañía (The Company Church) is impossible not to notice. The intricate carvings amazed me. I was even more impressed when I went inside and saw the San Ignacio Chapel. Inside this small chapel detailed gorgeous paintings cover the dome and walls. Josh and I had to sit down to absorb the beautiful chaos painted above our heads.
MUST TRY | I live in New York City and I love food. Peru’s food scene did not make me miss home one bit. Buñuelos (fried dough doused in honey) was the perfect street snack (yuquitas, fried yuca with powered sugar) a close second. Our food tour led us to the most divine parmesan-crusted scallops I could ever imagine, and Lima’s revered restaurant scene lived up to its reputation. I was lucky enough to dine at #13 on the World’s Best Restaurant List, Maido, a Peruvian-Japanese restaurant. Make sure to order the Nikeei thick ribs and the Misoyaki fish. Cooked for 50 hours, these ribs are impressively tender, and the miso cod flavor is unbeatable.
CATHEDRALS, VOLCANOES & SUNSETS | You can’t beat this view. It felt like the perfect end to our time in Arequipa as we sat on the rooftop and soaked in the beauty. A building nearby was having a birthday party, and the sounds of laughter, cheering, and the mariachi-type band made me feel so fortunate to be there relaxing on the rooftop. The only thing that could have made it better was a pisco sour to go with it!
EL CONDOR PASA | I knew that condors were big birds, but did not fully grasp how big until seeing condors soar above the Colca Canyon with my own two eyes! With a 10-foot wingspan it really looks like they are floating on air.
FLOATING ISLANDS OF LAKE TITICACA | The floating islands of Lake Titicaca are unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. We boarded the boat pictured, made of reeds and empty plastic bottles, and disembarked on the floating island and met the family that lives there. As I walked across the island, my feet slightly sinking into the reeds with each step, I thought to myself: I will never have another moment like this.
NO CLOCKS, NO PROBLEM | Peruvian policia stand in front of the Cathedral in Lima’s central square, chatting the day away and ready for action. It was easy to lose time, waking up with the sun and getting sleepy with the moon. Speaking of time, Peru has very few clocks! It took me a few days to realize this, but once I did I was shocked at the lack of public clocks in restaurants, airports, and cafes. After my initial surprise, I began to LOVE this lack of clocks. I savored the relaxed way of life here and relishing in days not controlled by the hands of a clock.
HASTA LA VISTA | I’m already planning my return trip. I still have the Amazon and it’s legendary wildlife—pink dolphins!—as well as the Salkantay trek to Machu Picchu, surf-heavy beaches of the North, and all those other foods I need to try!
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