The Lost City of the Incas: Machu Picchu

On Sunday morning we woke up at 2am and piled into a convi bus (mini bus) and drove 1.5 hours into the sacred valley. When we arrived at the train station everything was still pitch black and freezing. We waited around until about 4:45am when they let us board the train. As we sped down the train tracks, the sun started to come up and we could see the river right next to us and the mountains towering above. I can’t even explain how ridiculously cool it was.

train to machu picchu

Cusco Peru

After about an hour and a half on the train, we arrived in Aguas Calientes, where we ran to buy bus tickets and then waited in line for our final ascent up to the ruins.

train to machu picchu

As we drove up the windy road up the mountain, the sun broke over the mountains and everything was beautiful. After 5 hours of buses and trains, we finally made it to Machu Picchu, the lost city of the Incas. That place is hard to get to, but it’s so worth it. Seriously. And it’s massive! We explored for 8 hours and there was still more to see. But, enough talking, here’s what we saw (although pictures don’t really do it justice):

Lost city of the Incas

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Machu Picchu

Peru

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Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu

Peru

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Machu Picchu

travel peru

Machu Picchu

I can’t even begin to explain how beautiful it is there. After 8 hours in the ruins, we took the bus back down into Aguas Calientes where we ate dinner by the river and explored the plethora of shops. We grabbed the 6pm train back to Ollantaytambo and another bus back to Cusco and our day at Machu Picchu was over, just like that. Good thing we have pictures so we can remember days like this forever, am I right?

Aguas Calientes

Cusco, Peru

Trujillo: Capital of the everlasting Spring

Huanchaca beach

I have a lot of catching up to do, but I’ll start here, with Trujillo. One of the guys we work with, Cesar, is a native of Trujillo and we jumped at the chance when he offered to show us around. A bunch of us loaded onto a bus (so many bus trips this summer) and headed south.

Cesar picked us up from the station and the girls piled into his car and the boys packed into a taxi and then we all headed to Huaca de la Luna (Pyramid of the Moon).

Huaca of the moon

Trujillo Peru

Next, we headed right over to Chan Chan, an ancient city in the middle of the desert. These people sure knew how to make something beautiful out of dirt.

ruins in Peru Trujillo

Chan Chan

We spent the night enjoying the city center and failing at going out clubbing because we passed out from exhaustion too early (lame-o’s). The next day was beaches and piers and sleeping on buses.

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Hey Peru friends, I like traveling with you.

ruins in Peru

Everything we didn’t expect to find in Zaña

Peru

One of my favorite parts about traveling and living in other countries happens with little intention or expectation. It’s when you get on a local bus to a small town most people have never heard of and you’re hurdled into a day of adventure. Where you meet amazing people and climb all over ancient ruins and dance with kids that grew up in a slave town.

It started like this: A few of us had researched a town about an hour from Chiclayo called Zaña. It was once a wealthy booming city full of Spanish cathedrals, African slaves, and lots of gold. Then, pirates invaded. And then, El Niño hit and destroyed everything. So now, it’s a small town with ruins of a once beautiful city. So, we grabbed one of the local mini buses to check it out.

Peru

Once on the bus we waited while several people got on board and begged for money. Once that was over we started to hear squealing from a giant pig. Then, we saw a rope get thrown down from the roof of the bus, and we realized what was happening. As the pig kept squealing, they tied it up and started to loft it onto the roof of our bus. This task meant that the pig was hitting the side of the bus and it’s little face was level with ours in the window, just begging us to save it. So then they threw it on the roof with a tarp to take the journey with us to Zaña. We were off to a good start.

Zana

The Afro Peruvian museum was first on our list. This town used to be full of wealthy spaniards who shipped over slaves from Africa, and the culture has remained. This tiny museum was full of goodness, all forms of it. Music, dance, decimas (an awesome form of poetry, think beat poetry), and amazing people.

Zana

Zana

Then we explored all of the Spanish ruins, which were beautiful. We were the only ones there which made it the best.

cathedral

zana

travel peru

zana

peru

Travel Peru

Spanish

Travel Peru

travel Peru

After exploring we headed back to the museum one more time. As luck would have it, we walked up the same time as another group of people. We got to talking, realized one of the guys looked suspiciously French and realized it was Vincent Moon, an independent filmmaker a lot of us admire. Trying to play it cool, we chatted with him about what he was up to and what he would be filming. He let us sit in while he filmed poetry and music and we were in heaven.

Vincent Moon

Peru

Check out that scowl. What a day. What a place.

On bravery and patience

Pomac Forest Chiclayo Peru

It’s not that I’ve never experienced the challenging situations that living in another country present, but this time it’s more apparent than others. This time around I’m learning more about bravery and adaptability and the clashing of cultures.

Everyday requires bravery to do uncomfortable and hard things and patience to get through, so in honor of this I thought I’d share the top moments thus far:

1. Killing of the roaches. Ok so this one was mainly Michael, but I helped. For the first few weeks we would find roaches in our kitchen. We would get home at night, flip on the lights and they would be there waiting. After debating the best attack route we would spend hours trying to corner them and squash them. They are so fast and fearless and giant. Our can of Raid sits on the counter ready for when they show up next time.

life in Peru

2. Freezing showers. I know I sound like a spoiled American…but I really don’t like cold showers and I have to prep myself before I can brave the cold temperatures. These aren’t just lukewarm showers, they are straight up cold. To dull the shock of these here are the two solutions we’ve come up with:

  • Exercise before you shower. If you are sweaty and hot then the water feels more refreshing and less terrible. 
  • Boil water and keep it in a pitcher by the shower before you get in. Mix the boiling water with the freezing water to reach a desired temperature and then rinse off with that.

3. Speaking Spanish. Turns out, working and having to speak a different language while working is hard. It’s hard to communicate ideas and projects when you don’t know terminology or the right vocab. I know I sound like an idiot every time I try to tell a story or communicate something, so this is also a lesson in humility and patience.

4. Teaching. Unexpectedly, I’ve been asked to help teach English at the elementary school just a few times a week. I was kind of terrified at first since I’ve never really taught anything to small children. Luckily, kids are the most forgiving and they are mostly just fascinated that I’m white and blonde. They shower me with hugs, cheek kisses, origami, stickers, and apples (the cliche gift of teachers!).

5. The noise. Chiclayo is a noisy place. Around 5am everyday we get woken up by roosters outside of our window (I still have yet to find them, but when I do…). I didn’t know cities even had roosters. There is also constant noise with honking, sirens, and construction EVERYWHERE including on top of our house. This doesn’t bother me except when I’m sleeping and they are hammering and dropping bricks right above my head.

Luckily, I’m with some pretty great people with pretty great senses of humor. People that will laugh with me when we are served potatoes and rice for the 20th day in a row. Today we had a potato appetizer, rice/potato entre, and then a rice dessert. So we laughed, because if we didn’t laugh we might cry because of breaking points and long days of work and frustrations. But Arrested Development starts tonight and that’s enough to heal any wound.

Chiclayo Peru

Getting lost in Lima

Lima, Peru

Peru is a trip. Seriously though, I feel like I was dunked under water, held there for a while, and now I’m flailing my limbs around and trying to breathe in as much air as possible. But more on that later.

We flew into Lima on Tuesday night and taxied over to our hostel in Miraflores. Sidenote, we found the hostel on Airbnb.com, which is the best. Go use it. Our host, Emma, was the kindest lady and stayed up so late just chatting with us and showing us around the apartment. The next morning we were greeted by the loud voices of the other travelers in the  hostel as we tried to sleep in. After pulling ourselves out of bed we chatted with the solo-traveler Mike who gave us a map and told us how to get to downtown Lima by bus. We took his advice and explored the city center, wandered down streets, and grabbed some ice cream. On our way home we got lost but then found by a pack of Peruvian grandmas. They told us they would tell us where to go, but then insisted we get in their car so they could just take us there. They seemed harmless, so we obliged and made it back safely and even found a churro truck on the way.

Lima, peru

That night, after cleaning up in the one bathroom that the travelers all share with the family, we grabbed dinner at a food court overlooking the ocean in Miraflores. We spent the next day hanging out with Emma and her husband who drove us to the Lima Temple and ate some good Chifa (a hilarious combination of chinese and peruvian food) with us. We then explored some pre-Inca ruins and met an Indian travel agent friend.

Miraflores, Lima, Peru

Miraflores Peru

We met up with the rest of the BYU clan the next day and ate breakfast and explored more of the city with them. Little did we know what we had gotten ourselves into for the rest of this summer. We hopped on an overnight bus that evening and spent the night driving up the coast to Chiclayo where we live now. Lima was definitely a vacation to what Chiclayo has brought upon us, but I’ll save that for the next post.

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Lima, Peru

Here’s lookin’ at you, Peru

Peru, Machu Pichu

Summertime is made for adventure, and what’s more adventurous than moving south of the equator? That’s what Michael and I told ourselves as we purchased tickets that would land us in Chiclayo, Peru for the summer. This all came about in a really nonchalant way with Michael toying with the idea of doing an internship there, meeting with some people, getting a grant, and then…what we are really going? Yep, we are going. In one week. (Cue panic attack for everything we have to get done before then)

Basically, we are still fuzzy on some of the details, but we are moving there for the summer to work at a local University in the city. We will be helping with marketing, SEO, eco-tourism, and English courses. Unfortunately for me, my Spanish skills are really rusting seeing as the last time I used Spanish was in Spain…3 years ago. But, the cool thing about this internship is that we are really going to be pushing this University and it’s resources to the next level. They are excited and we are really excited and I guess that’s the  most you can ask for.

So, here’s to adventure and unknowns. And to prove how adventurous we really are, we bought Chacos, because what says adventure more than a pair of Chacos? Watch out Peru, our strappy sandle feet are about to trapse all over you.

Surviving the worst winter of your life

San Diego

Folks, it’s March and that means there is a light at the end of this freezing tunnel. Winter 2013 was the worst winter I have ever experienced (cold-wise). After returning from the tropical paradise of Thailand where we spent Christmas, we were greeted with 0 degrees back in Salt Lake City. Literally zero. And it didn’t let up from there. The next few months were a lethal combination of inversion, below freezing temperatures, and gray skies. I was funneling down into a pit of cloudy, cold, depression. Once I had to scrape ice off from the INSIDE of my windshield. That was rock bottom.

So, without further ado, here are the only things that saved me from turning into a cold-hearted, cold-handed, mute this winter.

Weekend getaways

 bunk beds

What do you do when you can’t stand your 450 sq foot apartment anymore and you can’t go outside without getting hypothermia? You leave.

This has hands-down been the thing that has saved me from losing my mind this winter. It has given me something to look forward to, and it has bonded friendships with some of the best and most hilarious people I know. Thank you to everyone who has been generous enough to open up their homes, cabins, bunk beds, and hot tubs to me.

Wool socks

wool socks

I have never before owned a pair of wool socks. However, after I was positive I was starting to get frostbite, I decided to invest in a pair. LIFE CHANGING. Really though, I wear them every day. That might be gross, but my feet are so warm and cozy and I don’t care who knows it.

Head South

Arizona

 

beaches

I am a creature of the sun, and when the sun didn’t show it’s face here for weeks on end, I had to go find it. Luckily, I have friends and family in Arizona and California, leaving me no choice but to head south to the warmer weather that they offer. I had two glorious weekends soaking up enough sun to get me through the rest of this winter.

Beaches in San Diego

Gloves and an ice scraper

In my four previous years in Provo I rarely have ever worn my gloves or used the ice scraper in the back of my car. But, with no more underground parking, and sub-zero temperatures, my gloves and scraper have gotten a work-out. Without these trusty items I would no longer have hands and would probably no longer have a car due to an inevitable car accident.

Good people

Without the great people here in this place, I couldn’t have made it. You make living in this tundra worth it.

Traveling Thailand-Chiang Mai

Chang Mai, ThailandIn the past two weeks I have travelled by airplane, car, taxi, elephant, ox-car, bamboo raft, speed boat, kayak, and long boat. My family moved to Bangkok this summer and we were able to fly out and visit them for Christmas and New Years. They decided to take the opportunity and show us all sides of Thailand, and I am so grateful they did. I’ll be splitting the trip into three posts which consist of the three legs of our trip; Chiang Mai, Bangkok, and Phuket. Without further ado…Chiang Mai.

Flying into Bangkok took three flights: SLC-LA-Tokyo-Bangkok. It was a long and exhausting treck, but everything was worth it. Also, special shout out to the kind stranger who snuck me into the business lounge. My sister is able to go and use the lounge on International flights due to her Gold status, but I am still Silver and she can only bring one guest. Thus, Michael and I were heading out to leave when I saw a lady give me the look and head nod. So I pushed Michael back with Coryne and I snuck in line with stranger lady. She got me in, told me to the enjoy my trip and disappeared. Thank you stranger lady, for letting me enjoy the perks of the business lounge on our long layover.

After landing in Chiang Mai with the fam, we drove about an hour to our hotel, Sukantara cascade restort and spa. It’s a small piece of paradise that is located on a set of waterfalls. We spent every  morning and evening eating homemade Thai food by the waterfalls.

All around Chiang Mai there are signs for crazy animal shows. “Feed a cobra!” “Tame a tiger!” “Stick your head in a crocodile’s mouth!” The crocodile one intrigued my parents and so we found ourselves there. Next thing I know they are pushing me into the pit of crocs and telling me to sit on one to get a picture. What??? I’m pretty sure the one we sat on was drugged but the rest were definitely alive and kickin. My parents thought this was hilarious.

crocodiles in chian maiNotice that I am actually too scared to actually make contact between my butt and the crocodile tail.

This guy is the craziest. I wonder if doing this daily pays well…

crocodileThe next few days were spent visiting the Long Neck People who are from Burma and have moved to Thailand to seek better employment (they are beautiful), shopping in the markets, and hanging out with elephants. I am kind of tempted to go work on an elephant reserve somewhere. Putting that down on my ultimate dream list right now.

Long Neck People

Long neck people of Thailand

Elephants in Thailand

riding an elephant

riding elephants in Thailand

Sukantara resort, Chiang Mai

waterfallThis place is a dream, so if you’re headed to Thailand, don’t miss it.

P.S.-most pictures taken by the one and only Michael P. Curry

Tessa’s Travel Trials Vol. 1

Getting food poisoning on an airplane, meeting a dreadlocked lover, sharing twin beds with strangers, losing my luggage, hauling 300lbs of luggage all by myself while running through an airport, and missing one of my best friends wedding. These are just a few of the stories you will get to hear from this new series of Tessa’s Travel Trials. After traveling across the world many times to visit my family and heading out on different adventures, I’ve had, well, a lot of terrible traveling experiences. Not that it’s stopping me, but they are worth noting. So here it is, the first installment:

The time I got food poisoning and then missed a flight in one of the most dangerous cities in the world

A few years ago I was hopping on a plane in December to meet my family in Namibia for two weeks of road-tripping through safaris. The itinerary went like this: SLC-ATL-Johannesburg-Namibia. The first leg of the trip went fine. I had checked my two giant bags (my mom makes me bring a bag of mostly heavy things she can’t buy abroad) and I had my backpack with me. Next up was the longest part of the trip, a 17 hour flight from Atlanta to Johannesburg. To my dismay, I realized I was sitting in a middle seat in economy between two *bigger* guys. Not an ideal situation, but whatever.

Then, a few hours into the flight we had been fed sandwiches with some kind of processed meat. This did not settle well with my stomach and I found myself taking deep breaths with my eyes closed telling myself that this “holy crap I’m about to upchuck” feeling would pass. But then it didn’t. In a panic, I surveyed my exit options and jumped over the smaller of the sleeping men. I then ran to the nearest bathroom and pushed the door open just in time to throw up all over the bathroom. And when I say all over I mean the toilet, sink, and walls were covered. Yum. I then cleaned it up and didn’t tell anyone out of fear of being quarantined in a scary city. How I made it through the rest of the flight I still don’t know. I don’t remember the rest of the flight. But I do remember realizing that we were late and I had only 30 minutes to claim my baggage, re-check my baggage, and check in with the new airlines.

We de-boarded and I went as fast as I could through the airport only to be told that I was too late. More good news, there were no more flights going to Namibia tonight. Awesooooome. So there I was, sick, stuck in Johannesburg, no cash, no phone, and only an itouch ipod to buy Internet with to tell my family. Then I realized I needed to find a place to stay that night.

As I was standing in line to re-book my flight I noticed a girl and her aunt who had been on my flight. I stroke up a conversation about missing flights and casually asked what they were doing that night. Luckily, they invited me to share a hotel room with them. The unfortunate part was that the only rooms left were twin beds. So, we pushed two twin beds together and spent the night getting well acquainted. In the meantime my parents are freaking out because the email I sent looked something like this:

“Hey Dad,

Missed my flight. Coming in at 11am tomorrow. Got food poisoning, not fun. Found some people to share a hotel room with.”

And then I didn’t have Internet again. Luckily everything went smoothly the next day and I made it to Namibia. I don’t think I’ve ever been more relieved or more happy to see my family. It’s always a sweet reunion, but that one takes the cake.

Namibia sand dunes

 

A wannabe Mexican local

A mere 15 years ago I moved to Mexico City where I spent 2.5 years of my adolescent life. Mostly what I remember of it is crazy traffic, crazy pollution, stray cats, and street performers. Apparently those are the things that stick with an 8 year old. Also one time I almost got lost on a field trip to the city center. That was traumatizing but irrelevant.

I hadn’t been back to Mexico in 12 years, but I broke that streak last week when Michael and I found ourselves flying down to Puerto Vallarta for a late honeymoon (which didn’t feel like a honeymoon, but more of an adventurous free trip, which was awesome). And that’s when I remembered why I love Mexico and speaking spanish and eating tacos. So here are the reasons why I am a wannabe resident of Puerto Vallarta:

1. Street tacos. Nowhere in the United States, or any other country for that matter, will you find tacos this good. Plus, they are like 30 cents so it’s a budget friendly meal. I could go on and on about these but it just makes me want them so I’m going to stop.

2. Music. Thankgiving night we walked along the Malecon, the area down by the beach with restaurants and shops. We ran into a giant procession of mariachis and their mariachi children. It was magical. Also, tons of restaurants have mariachis that sing to you and you find yourself singing along with everyone else in the restaurant and clapping your hands and then you are up dancing around before you realize what is happening. There is no way you cannot love life when a mariachi band is around.

3. Adventure. We spent an entire day zip-lining. It was exhilarating and exhausting. I think they should turn zip-lining in a sport, just so I can compete. At one point that day I was laying on my stomach, flying over a canopy of trees. This lasted an entire 4 minutes, which might not sound long, but when you are flying over a forest at 60mph while only being held up by a wire, it’s the longest and best 4 minutes ever. I was a bird for 4 minutes! If I believed in re-incarnation I would definitely shoot for the level that lets me come back as an animal.

4. Fiestas. Mexicans love fiestas, which is awesome. Fiestas are a mix of some of my favorite things: food, music, dancing, and pinatas. (I can’t find the squiggly line that goes above the ‘n’, but you know what I’m talking about). So yeah, obviously I want to be at a fiesta all the time.

5. Great Coke. Talk to any Coke junkie and they know, Mexican Coke is delicious. Probably because they still make it with cocain or put loads of sugar in it, either way it tastes great. Plus, they give it to you in a cool bottle that is kind of sticky and has sand on it, reminding you that you are in paradise.