I’m going to Peru. Tomorrow.
A perfectly normal statement if I hadn’t only just decided to do so about 2 weeks ago. That didn’t leave a whole lot of time to plan, so it has been quite the whirlwind of decision making; a notoriously difficult thing for me.
To be fair, I’ve known I might go for months. My brother is currently on a 2.5-month motorcycle journey the entire length of South America; from Colombia to Ushuaia. Friends and family of those on the expedition are all planning to converge in Peru, for general visitation but also to tour Machu Picchu. How often are you offered the chance to just show up for an already planned tour of one of the planets most iconic sites? Certainly seems like a no-brainer, but for some reason, I was completely unable to commit to the prospect of going before he had already left town.
I finally came to my senses and realized that I will seriously kick myself if I don’t go (thanks mom), not to mention that I was way overdue for a vacation this year. So I finally decided to pull the trigger.
Thankfully the airfares were still good. At least I wasn’t going to be financially penalized for my hesitation. I did, however, have very little time to decide where I wanted to go, what I wanted to see and where I wanted to stay. Yes, I was meeting up with these guys, but only for 3 of the 8 days, I will be there. So I had to fast track planning everything else.
After exhausting a few hair-brained ideas of other places I might go, like the Galapagos Islands or Easter Island, I decided that maybe I needed to rein myself in a bit and just stick to Peru.
Even at this point, I really have no specific details on their plans. All I know is that I need to be in Cusco on Oct 1 when they pull into town. There’s an inkling that we might be going to Machu Picchu the following day on Oct 2, though none of that is concrete. Nor do I have any details on how the MP trip will even happen; by bus, train or a combo of both.
I considered staying closer to Machu Picchu and trying to meet them on their way past. However, having no concrete details made that seem risky, or potentially complicated. I’m happy enough to be allowed to join them at all. I certainly don’t want to impose any complications of my own making.
I will leave town immediately upon arriving in Cusco and stay a few days in Ollantaytambo in the Sacred Valley. This is about halfway to Machu Picchu and is where a lot of people get the train from. Its also where people doing the 4-day hike of the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu begin.
Ollantaytambo’s old town is an Inca-era grid of cobblestoned streets and adobe buildings. It has been continuously inhabited since the 13th century. It is also an important archaeological site and has many ruins I would like to explore.
The altitude is also lower than in Cusco, so it should help me acclimate easier. I will spend 3 nights there then head back to Cusco on Friday.
Deciding where to stay was tough, but I eventually picked a guest house named Picoflor Tambo. Its located a couple of narrow cobblestone blocks away from the main square. When I booked it, they emailed back to confirm my reservation, but also to offer to organize transportation by taxi from the Cusco airport to their property. That was a bonus as I really didn’t want to figure out how to get there on my own.
The trip should take about an hour and a half. A private taxi for a trip that long sounds like an insanely expensive proposition, but it’s only supposed to cost about $45 which seems fairly cheap given the time and distance. It is not the cheapest way to get there, but I like the sound of it a lot more than traveling by colectivo.
Now all I need to do is manage my nerves. That’s a bit odd to say as I LOVE to travel, but it has been a bit too long since my last big trip. This trip also has so many unknowns at the moment. I’m also traveling solo, and while I’ve traveled solo plenty of times, its normally to areas I’ve been before or know the language, etc.
I will admit that I have no idea what to expect from South America in general and Peru in specific. It is a “developing economy”, but I have no idea what that will actually mean. I am confident that once I get to the airport I will fully engage. And once I land and see how this taxi ride sorts out, I think it will all fall into place. I have no idea if the driver and I will be able to communicate very well. If not, 1.5 hours alone in a car could feel like an awkward eternity.
We shall see. I am very excited that this trip will check off three firsts; a new continent, a new country, and a new hemisphere. This will also be the furthest south I have ever been. And then, of course, there’s Machu Picchu, which is a bucket list item for sure. I like crossing those off. 🙂