Machu Picchu!

Skipping over (for now) Quito, Banos, Cuenca, Trujillo & Chan Chan, and Lima — I’m in Cusco and I went to Machu Picchu yesterday!

Alone on like two hours of sleep, in the rain, on swollen ankles and borked knees and back, and it was definitely worth it. Spectacularly.

I arrived in Lima with train tickets for Sunday, but still no actual ticket to Machu Picchu, due to the legendarily headachey website. There were still plenty of tickets available, but really did not want the additional what-if of, you know, what if, so I spent the extra $10 USD or so to book through the hostel travel agent. Unnecessary, but halfway worth it, at least.

So my day started about 4am, since the morning train for Poroy near Cusco leaves just after 6, and the train station is outside of town. I was grateful that the Uber driver did not try to engage me in pre-dawn Spanish practice and I dozed the twenty minutes to the station. Naturally, as soon as I was there, I ran into my two roommates from Brazil in Lima, with whom I had exchanged numbers and fully intended to get a drink with, and then didn’t. They were taking Inca Rail, though, and I took Peru Rail (effectively the same, as far as I can tell), so we just kinda waved and groggily asked if everyone was still alive and moved on.

Being freezing fucking cold, the train station had a number of heat lamps inside, which I thought was quite classy. My mom would approve.

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Ended up sitting next to a sort of extended American family, which as an American I will say is hit or miss, but they were very pleasant, and I talked all the way with my seatmate, commiserating about idiotic injuries and ogling the incredible views. (She was, of course, from Florida as well.)

They say the train between Cusco/Ollantayambo to Aguas Calientes is almost as amazing as the ruins themselves, and like, they ain’t lying.

Before I start with the huge photodump, oh my god, this is not a short day; I wish I’d stayed the night in Ollantaytambo. 5am Uber ride, 3.5 hour train, 20 minute terrifying bus ride; 5 miles hiking around he ruins; 20 minute bus ride, 1.5 hour train ride; wandering aimlessly out the train station hoping there was in fact still a collectivo to Cusco — which there was, exactly one, with exactly one seat. But it worked as intended, and got back my hostel after a very short but very very cold walk from the collectivo to my hostel.

(My photos are, as usual while still on Chromebook, unedited and disorganized; apologies.)

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So we got to Aguas Calientes, which is a pretty town, though pure tourist. Growing up in Daytona Beach, I’m like, oh, yeah, AU hometown. But I befriended a cat. (With assistance of leftover empanada.)

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ANYWAY and then I got the (irritatingly expensive) bus up the hairpin curves to the temple itself. The driver was very safe, but I am coming to terms with my fear of heights, and staring out at level distance to Andean peaks and then looking down at the bus tires like inches away… . .

But we did not fall off the edge.

I didn’t get the Machu Picchu passport stamp; I’m not sure if it’s even still a thing, since all info is from who the hell knows. I’ll live. And I started climbing up the like Actual Hike, got about fifteen minutes up — and it was difficult, due to the fact that I can’t fucking breathe, but could have done it slowly — but could not go down, due to knees about to pop out every step. So I crept back down and went down to the feeble-person-circuit, which is still mostly all of the temple, just not the cool views. I was afraid I wasn’t going to be able to do it at all until I realized there was an easier path, so I’m cool with it.

Also lots of alpacas.

 

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Zona de Trabajo, indeed.

And now to collect the laundry that probably have should been burned after Machu Picchu, along with my skin, coated in sweat and rain and sunscreen and bug spray, and head to Puno tomorrow morning, to see Lake Titicaca, because:

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No shame.

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BIG UNTITLED UNEDITED MEDELLIN PHOTODUMP, MOVING ON

So I admittedly spent most of my time in Medellin lounging around the hostel — and working a lot, to be fair to myself — and trying not to cough directly in anyone’s face. And taking a shit-ton of pictures of the fog that looks so gentle on the Andean peaks, because it’s just so intensely foreign to this bitterly Floridian girl.

But it was a pretty fucking cool view.

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And I did manage to drag my plague ass out a couple of times.

The coolest by far, though, was the Medellin Metrocable, which aside from having a fascinating history and a rare example of a city actually building major infrastructure to help its most poverty-stricken areas is also a completely unreal view. Even when it grinds to a halt, swinging precariously over the Andes Mountains and you make eye contact with the other people in the car for the first time and just kinda shrug.

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And also the Parque Pasaje Paisa —

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— which was really neat, despite the unimpressive pictures, as I was busy falling down the fucking hill, to no one’s surprise, ever.

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And Plaza del Botero —

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— until Medellin erupted into its delightful (seriously) afternoon storms, and finally to the Jardin Botanico. I’m bummed I did not see the huge-ass iguanas, but it was still very cool.

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SO THERE, that’s Colombia.

Since then, I spent four days and change in Quito, and am now in Banos de Agua Santa, hoping the volcano-baths will maybe coax whatever is still stubbornly lurking in my lungs the fuck out. Tuesday I go to Cuenca — then Mancora (I think), then Trujillo, then Lima. Then fly to Cuzco(!) and Machu Picchu(!!), then [vague mumblings] Santiago, down Chilean Patagonia to Ushuaia, up Argentinian Patagonia to Bariloche, and I think another three weeks or so to wander the rest of Argentina and a bit of Uruguay and then fly back to the US.

And then figure out how to do it all again.

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Bogota // Botero Museum photodump

STILL SICK, still suck at updating. anyway here’s this photodump, then perhaps I can finish catching up on Medellin, and then I’ll only be one city behind…

This is a really cool museum, though, especially for free. Like most people, it seems, I had no idea there was such an incredible collection here, totally for free.

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malady in medellin

So I made it to Medellin! — which everyone here I’ve asked (which is everyone I’ve spoken to) confirms is in fact pronounced meh-deh-JEEN not meh-deh-YEEN (I’ve forgotten too much of the IPA to transliterate it accurately). Huh.

Flying over the Andes is a fucking trip, y’all. I got to Bogota at like 2am, so I never saw anything but clouds and then sudden city lights. The flight to Medellin was only about half an hour (so naturally this was the one flight that I was like the only person on the plane with spare seats in my aisle — but since I’m sick, I’ll take it), so it barely even went above the clouds, but, like… wow.

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Raises the hair on my sea-level arms.

I decided to brave the bus at least partway down from Jose Maria Cordova Airport, because a taxi/Uber would have been like 20-30 USD, whereas an airport shuttle + Uber was like 9 USD. Not a huge difference, but it ended up super easy, so like, why not? And amazing glimpses from up in the mountains down into the city valley, during the not-very-but-a-tiny-bit-terrifying ride winding down through.

The hostel I booked is absolutely beautiful — it’s raining, of course, and there’s a fountain inside the hostel, so the combined water-sounds is hauntingly lovely.

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But unfortunately the WiFi does not work in the tiny closet of a private room I got — which kind of defeats the purpose of holing up and hibernating for a few days as I try to kick the death-cough. So I’m still getting side-eyed in the common area, but at least later I’ll be coughing at them through a thin wall, instead of like… the same bunk bed.

But they were very accommodating, and tried to fix it, and when they couldn’t they refunded me the next three nights I’d booked without any unpleasantness, so I’d totally stay here again once I can like stay in a dorm without feeling like Typhoid Mary over here.

And Medellin, the little I’ve seen of it, is so gorgeous. Being from Florida, I’m used to green things, almost offensively lush, so it’s almost familiar, but the backdrop is so, so different.

It also feels hot as balls even though it is only like 70F/21C so I’m not sure what that’s all about.

I also think I tentatively have my route onwards from Quito sketched out! Flying Bogota to Quito purely to skip the potential border hassle, then bus trips from Quito to Banos, Banos to Cuenca, Cuenca to Mancora Peru, Mancora to Trujillo, Trujillo to Lima. So that will be a thing.

Anyway, still not dead or kidnapped in Colombia.

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bogota // back to vagabond life

So after ten days in Bogota, I still haven’t gotten used to the altitude, and the dry cough and shortness of breath has officially devolved to a full-blown chest cold. Sorry, dormmates. I tried to be responsible, and moved to a single room for a few days to avoid inflicting the cough on others, and thought it was getting better, and then boom, hard nope.

Bogota is beautiful, however, and having spent basically my entire life in some form of flat sea-level terrain, I am still far from being over seeing the god damned Andes mountains looming up in all directions, especially when there’s fog drifting over the tops.

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Mostly I have been staying at the Masaya Hostel in La Candelaria, which I really like, especially because of its multiple chill, plant-filled common areas.

 

And even made some friends! I have been more social in the last week than I have been in five months in Florida, despite the rattling death-plague in my chest.

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The only downside to this hostel is that, unlike another hostel I bounced off to for a couple days just to explore, it does not have a huge, indescribably floofy, sweet, cuddly delight of a German Shepherd guarding its perimeter. I apologize for the photo spam, but she’s really important. To quote Rosa Diaz, if anything happened to her, I’d kill everyone in this room and then myself.

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SO. MUCH. FLOOF.

I did make it to the Museo Botero, which was super fucking cool, and also totally free, and like two blocks from the hostel, but I’ll save that photodump for another day.

Wednesday I fly to Medellin, for… I dunno, somewhere between a week or two, probably, before I head to Ecuador on May 21; I am very much hoping that some time in a slightly warmer place and more importantly a far lower altitude will help this chest cold fuck right off.

Before, you know, I go to Quito. Which is like a thousand feet higher than Bogota. So that’ll be interesting.

Also:

Big Ass Ants.

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SO, FINALLY, I AM IN SOUTH AMERICA FOR THE FIRST TIME.

In preparation for this trip, I did the responsible thing and murdered some muppets for cuter hair.

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Worth it.

And then like… tried to “improve” it own self, which is never a good idea, but could have gone worse.

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So yeah, got an Uber to the bus station, then a shuttle to Orlando; Orlando TSA agent greeted me with “yo, pink hair, over here!” Which… fair enough.

And then flight was of course delayed like two hours, because “well, the plane we were on was… broken, and this one… isn’t.” So that’s fun for a night flight already supposed to land at 10pm, and then like midnight.

Otherwise the flight was fine, and I know I got a bit ripped off taking an airport shuttle to the hostel instead of the official yellow cab, but honestly it was like $7 ripped off and at that point I was so tired I probably would have gotten in the back of an unmarked van offering me a pillow and candy.

Checked in and got settled in my room as quietly as possible at 2am or so, went to the bathroom to change and brush my teeth and all, and was suddenly, without warning sick on the bathroom floor, so that was precious. Cleaned it up as best I could, let the front desk guy know because I’m not a complete asshole, and was exhausted and headachy and dizzy and short of breath all night and this morning and then —

Oh, right. Altitude sickness is a thing. And I came from below sea level to 8600 feet. I still feel a bit crappy but better, especially knowing I’m not, like, getting the flu.

Anyway so I mostly just chilled in the hostel today, aside from a short walk around La Candelaria, which is sure as heck not lacking in character.

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Tomorrow I am planning to go up Monserrate, although definitely not by foot, and maybe Simon Bolivar Park Monday, since apparently it’s hella thronged on Sundays.

And eat more than terrible hostel lasagna because I am starving and I’m not feeling walking around La Candelaria by myself at 11pm.

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Travel gator says hello.

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Apparently I took actually zero pictures of Dublin. So I guess I’m done catching up which is good because forty-eight hours from now(ish) I will be landing in Colombia and what am I doing and why do I do this ahhhh!

But I have most everything in place from now until May 25, flights booked and paid for and hostels at least booked between Bogota, Medellin, and Quito –still a bit of grey area for my last week or so in Colombia, because I don’t know if I’ll want to stay in Medellin a bit longer, or spend a bit more time in Bogota, and it’s really not much more expensive to book late domestically.

My flight from Bogota to Medellin was expensive at a grand total of $44, because I have a bottle of dental wash that like is kind of important — because after 13 years before this dental checkup and subsequent work, my mouth is a mess, but also a completely recoverable mess, so like. Worth the $15 to check a bag and shove stuff in there.

I’m in that numbness that precedes a big trip; I am excited, and terrified, and a whole lot of other things, and just spinning in circles. I feel like there’s so many things I need to do — but really not? I have my shiny new passport, I have all my vaccines except the fucking flu shot jesus christ, I have sneakers and walking sandals that pass for cute; I have loaded up my parents’ freezer with food… I still need things like a sturdier glasses case (because dear god, that’s my nightmare), a camera case, a universal charger… and to put all important things into gdocs, since I’m not taking my laptop, only Chromebook.

I am always crippled by this feeling of impotence, that I can’t do anything, and I have yet to reconcile that feeling with the fact that jesus yes I do things, I do things that many other people don’t do, of my own volition and mostly on my own scant dime, with some help. I always dreamed of traveling and always accepted that it was a thing some useless asshole like me couldn’t do, until I didn’t accept that, and I don’t remember what if anything pushed me to the edge.

And now I am about to go to a fifth continent in not a whole lot over a year. I am terrified and paralyzed, excited and nauseated, and like… kind of proud of myself, for once.

 

2okCEGo

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