We’re just back from our latest travel adventure to South America. It was my first time visiting the continent and being south of the equator. I learned that they have different star constellations down there! And because the moon appears “upside down” they see a rabbit in it, instead of a man. How did I not know this my whole life? I must have been dozing that day in science class…
Besides my celestial realizations, this trip allowed me to conquer the biggest physical challenge of my life (I’m obviously no athlete). I had always dreamed of visiting Machu Picchu while my husband longed to hike the Inca trail. So back in January I joined the YMCA and began a (fairly disciplined) routine of working out three times a week, including Pilates classes. I’ve never deliberately exercised so much in my life! And I really enjoyed it. Now that I’m home I need to continue on, even if there’s no Inca Trail in my immediate future.
We had bought the Lonely Planet Peru travel guide several years ago but decided to travel to Turkey instead when we realized our time off was during Peru’s rainy season. Our book, published in 2010, was a bit outdated (we tried to find several restaurants that just did not exist anymore)–but we always find Lonely Planet’s guides to me most informative to our style of travel. I wish we had also bought the Lonely Planet Bolivia book. Since we were only visiting La Paz, Copacabana, and La Isla del Sol, we bought a smaller one instead. The Cuzco, La Paz & Lake Titicaca (Footprint Focus) guide was adequate but not nearly as helpful as Lonely Planet’s offerings. We also picked up The Machu Picchu Guidebook: A Self-Guided Tour. It’s a really beautiful and informative book, which we took along with us on the trip and to Machu Picchu. Honestly, since we had a guided tour of Machu Picchu, I think we would have done well leaving that heavy book at home–but it is quite informative and makes an excellent souvenir.
We set off for La Paz on Memorial Day weekend. Somehow we managed to pack what we needed into our two backpacks (which began as carry-ons) and two large handbags that included all our camera gear. One of our more recent gear investments are these REI backpack duffels that fold into their own pockets and open to protect your packs if you have to check them–they also provide additional space. By the time we traveled home, we checked both our backpacks inside their duffels and filled the extra space with lots of wonderful souvenirs.
Because we were hiking the Inca Trail, we took along our Sleeping Bag and pads. Fortunately, they provide tents and do all the cooking so we didn’t have to worry about that equipment. We love our Big Agnes sleeping bag set-up. They were a big investment (we got them during a great sale at REI–much cheaper than the prices currently listed) but have paid for themselves as many times as we’ve used them. They are super-comfortable and warm and we’ve gotten pretty good at setting up/tearing down. Last year, when we were camping at my house in Indianapolis getting it ready to be sold, the queen air mattress we were using sprung a leak. We started using our Big Agnes bag regularly then and I can’t say enough good things about it.
The other gear items worth mentioning are the Sawyer Mini Water Filtration System and Nalgene On The Fly Water Bottle, which made filtering water for safe drinking and teeth brushing pretty easy. The Sawyer filter can be a little tricky to use in shallow hotel sinks, but is so lightweight and compact compared to more traditional backpacking water filters. The water bottle was a great size for day use and I didn’t have to worry about it leaking thanks to Nalgene’s improved cap design. We much preferred this to having to buy bottled water.
I’ll update this post with links as I add new entries about the places we visited. I look forward to sharing our stories and pictures with you!
- La Paz, Bolivia
- Copacabana / Isla del Sol (Sun Island)
- Sacred Valley: Pisac and Ollantaytambo
- Inca Trail: Day 1
- Inca Trail: Day 2 – Dead Woman’s Pass
- Inca Trail: Day 3 – It’s a Long, Long Road
- Inca Trail: Day 4 – The Sun Gate and Machu Picchu
- Machu Picchu and Aguas Calientes