Posts Tagged With: Peru

7 years ago today…

What were you doing on this exact date 7 years ago? I was zipping up my backpack to load up before my mom dropped me off at the Sacramento airport for the first day of an unpredictable journey around the world. I can recall having no fear or at least no hesitation in the adventure I was about to embark on. Just excitement and a new found enthusiasm for life!

As each year unfolded and my passport filled to the rim (with about 80 stamps!) I encountered new friends, adopted cultural traditions and continued to allow my mind to expand. Sometimes it’s surreal when I look back on the photos as it usually feels like I’m talking about someone else from a book I read or movie I saw. If you want to see a clear layout with links of my first exciting year on the road, take a look at the 2012 archives!

I was going to make this post about some of my favorites from around the world, cuisine, music, architecture, etc. but as I began to write I felt more drawn to explore what kind of lessons I gathered from a variety of places. Could be that I’m 9 months pregnant and my sensitive hormones are on high, or simply because I’ve never really stopped to ask myself such a question.

So Erika, where did you learn some significant lessons and how did you walk away from it a better person?

PERU – Although I visited several different cities throughout the country, a little village has always stood out to me. I rarely go back to a place I’ve been, but the magnetic pull was too strong for me to ignore in Huambutio. I was invited to volunteer there in a variety of things from teaching English to painting walls, cooking and even to coach gymnastics.

The lesson here was simple, appreciation for the simple things.

Sounds obvious or cliche, but there were a few events that triggered this conscious thought. First was the toothpaste. We taught the kids how to make their own toothpaste (that they got to take home) and the importance of dental health. The enthusiasm and gratitude they showed was outstanding! Something we may all take for granted or even see as a thoughtless item we look for on sale at Target, but these children guarded their portion like it was gold. Makes me wonder if they had ever used any… ever. Next was meal time. The children’s breakfast everyday was 1/2 of a hard boiled egg with a scoop of plain oatmeal (not your Starbucks brown sugar, toasted nut and cranberry shenanigans, but warm oats and water). We would divide an apple into 1/8 slices in order for everyone to get a bite as a snack and occasionally got to accompany it with a few pieces of toasted corn. Lunch and dinner was whatever we picked that day from the garden. A clear memory I have was the evening they said we were goin to make corn bread. Now, I was aware enough to not aimlessly look for a box of ready make Betty Crocker, but I was on the scout for cornmeal and the rest of the ingredients. I can’t remember how long they let me look before informing me that we actually have to go pick the corn to start the process. After I was done blushing, off to the garden we went! An experience that made every bite of that bread savored as if we had spent hours preparing it… because we did!

I suppose all of this hit me harder than I was expecting when I flew out of Peru into the states to visit family. My first stop was Dallas, Texas… home of everything huge! I had my apple bits, a few nuts and some cash to get me buy as I plopped down in the food court during my layover at the airport. A family sat next to me who didn’t go out of their way to be discreet. The children were clearly mad at the toy they got in the happy meal, a meal that they didn’t want to finish for whatever reason. After fits and French fries on the floor, the meals went into the garbage. I’m not claiming that we need to starve to appreciate fullness, or go without toothpaste to love a good sale at Target. I will admit however, that I may have judged this situation in the moment, but looking back now it was an opportunity that invited me to reflect on my own behavior. Had I carelessly disposed of food that could of been leftovers or compost? How many times did I complain, especially as a child, about the items in front of me with no gratitude that I even had options!?

Moving from food to activity, we ventured to the outdoor area and I was pleasantly surprised at the creative use of items that would typically land in the trash. Used plastic containers, snack wrappers, laundry bottles, juice boxes, warm out shoes and more. I loved it!

This experience as a whole opened a new part of my character to this day (even ask those close to me), it’s left me very aware of waste, unnecessary abundance and a love for keeping things simple. I am that weirdo that has 1/4 of an apple in my fridge with full intentions of eating it. I order a to-go box with my meal whenever we enjoy the luxury of eating out. I choose not to go to Costco and buy a village sized pack of paper plates on sale because I “might” need them someday. By no means am I claiming some sort of award winning lifestyle, just sharing the lesson that 7 years later still sticks in my everyday existence. And now with a little girl due any day, I hope to carry this in our family and raise a grateful human that appreciates her surroundings and has gratitude for our simple luxuries.

Categories: Accommodations, Edibles!, Travel talk, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

It went all over my shoes

In 3 years of traveling, I’ve only gotten what some would consider “sick” just a handful of times. No more than if I were at home living a day to day routine. With that said, here’s a short story that sent my happy trails on a little detour.

It was the beginning year of my backpacking and my first trip to Peru. I had met a sweet young Dutch couple while studying in Argentina that decided to link up with me for a Machu Picchu adventure.

If you’d like an entertaining read with several pictures check out the entire 3 day journey here.

Here are a few photos from that memorable experience.


2015/01/img_3241.jpg We had completed out trek with an amazing day exploring the grounds of the ancient Incas. Making it back to the main city of Aguascalientes, I was beginning to feel a little uneasy. Nothing major, but just enough ache in my tummy to want to lay down as my friends left to grab dinner. Food was the last of my desires. The hostel we had slept at allowed me to bundle up in the employees room to recoup before our long train ride home to Cusco. Simon and Ashgan (the two kind smiles at the bottom of the page) said we had three hours before our train departed and they’d come wake me up when it was time to go.

I closed my eyes for what seemed like a minute before the door swung open to reveal both of my friends frantically picking up our bags. “We read the tickets wrong and we have to go now or we’ll miss the train!”

Imagine, you can barely move your head without the feeling of Mr.Nasuea knocking at your door and now it’s time to sprint through unevenly paved streets while lugging a 50lb backpack over your hunched shoulders that are protecting your cramping stomach. Oh joy.

I only made it a few steps before Simon (my Dutch Superhero of the day) clearly read my agony and lifted the bag from my back. I was now able to keep up with the two of them as we hustled down the steep hills and tight turns. You’d think that a sense of relief would come over me as I saw the station, but at this point I knew that poor Peru was going to see what I had for breakfast.

I hollered at them to keep going in order to check us in as I took a hard right into a lonely ally. Plug your ears as you read on to find that this type of vomit was far from what I would describe as danty or sickly. Words that come to mind are violent, uncontrollable and…. All over my shoes.

I gathered myself knowing that the train wouldn’t wait for the extra pale-faced chica to catch up. I spotted my buddies who now had our boarding passes, all of our bags and the look of two concerned parents. I actually felt better, so with high hopes I assumed it was a one-time kind of deal and that the train would be more restful than anything. I was wrong.

We snagged a table booth next to the window and got settled in.

Let’s pause for a moment and talk about this “train”. Please do not imagine a high speed European railway or the popular US Amtrak, oh no no no. This was an ancient line of connecting boxes that reminded me of a daunting Disney ride. Looking back, it was actually really neat, but at the moment it seemed like a legal form of torture. This tiny beast rocked back and forth as if to struggle finding balance between one side of the tracks to the other. Clickity clack, clickity clack, clickity clack…

So the “train”, now in full motion, did nothing to my body except create a movement that encouraged another round of losing whatever may have been left in my guts. I excused myself from the table to find the nearest toilet.

“Pardone, ¿dónde está el baño? Pronto por favor!”

The petite Peruvian woman, dressed in professional attire with a gentle smile pointed to an occupied closet. It was locked. I returned to meet eyes with her and clarified why I needed it… Now! Not understanding my broken sickly Spanish she just kept pointing to the door behind me.

Have you ever drawn a blank while trying to remember a certain word? Especially in another language? I could not think of “bag” or “bucket” or anything for that matter, so I proceeded to take the charades route and made motions of puking while gripping my stomach.

Seriously friends, visualize that one for a minute.

I continued to signal for any type of container and with sympathy, she just shrugged her shoulders. Swallowing (literally) with all of my strength to keep it down, I rushed back to my seat and dug through my backpack to find the stash of plastic bags I always keep on the road. Not wanting to provide a show for the fellow passengers, I swayed back and forth to the end of the car and kneeled down. I opened the bag and at that very moment, my body could no longer keep it in.

So there I was, curled in the corner for all the train to endure as this poor girl emptied her insides into a plastic bag with “Muchas Gracias” printed on the side.

I finally reached a point in which I felt settled enough to go back to my seat. I stood up slowly looking down at my bag full of, ummm substance…. What was I ever going to do with this? After unsuccessfully looking for an employee that could point me to a bin, I had nowhere else to turn except a cart that carried all of the snacks and drinks. That’s it! I saw a symbol that appeared to be for “trash” on top of what resembled a waste compartment. Weak and tired, I still had the right mind to look inside first to confirm that it wasn’t where they stored the complimentary cookies. It was empty. I placed my bag inside with an internal (guilt driven) apology to the poor person who had to find it.

I proceeded to drag myself back to the booth, plop down and fall asleep.

I’d love to finish this story in great detail, but the only thing next in my memory was slowly opening my eyes. Relieved to not feel my stomach at my throat, I looked around placing myself in the bottom bunk bed, in the room of our original Cusco hostel. Next to my bed was a box of saltine crackers, a ginger soda and a pack of gum. My dear friends had carried my belongings back, tucked me in and provided just what I needed upon awakening. I’m so grateful for Simon and Ashgan for their selfless act in nourishing me to health and safety. Much love to you my friends!

2015/01/img_3235.jpg Side note update: Since that journey, I’ve traveled to Holland and have been able to reconnect with these two and their families! What a grand, beautiful world we live in.

Categories: Not-so-happy trails, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Getting shot in Peru

This story will forever be embedded in my book of memories. It was my buddy Hayden’s first time backpacking and I say this because he put full faith in me and all of my experiences. I had planned the trip, reserved and booked all of our transfers and even sent him a “must bring” and “leave at home” list. With that said, picture this…

After hiking Machu Picchu and spending a week exploring the beautiful city of Cusco, we arrived at the airport to make our way North to Costa Rica. Walking with confidence and speaking in my advanced (broken) spanish we approached the ticket counter to check in. Passports, yep. Tickets, yep. Yellow fever card? Hmm….
“I choose not to get shots, but thanks for asking”. I said politely.
“Lo siento señorita, su necesaria para viajar” (sorry miss, it’s necessary to travel).
“No sir, I’ve been to Costa Rica before and I didn’t need a yellow fever card then, why now?”
Turns out coming from the north you don’t need it, but coming from the south you’re at a higher risk, so the shot is required before entering Costa Rica.
At this point, I’m still relaxed regardless of Hayden’s face expressing the “we’re doomed” look. “Where is the nearest doctor? We’ll go get the shot right now and return for the flight”.

Fun but not helpful fact: the shot must be in your system for 10 days prior to travel. This was unacceptable due to the fact that Hayden had his flight back to the states out of Costa Rica in just 8.

The man at the desk replied with a “best we can do” scenario and puts us on a flight to Lima which is the capital of Peru. He suggested that we might have more options there. So here we go, boarding a plane with no guarantee that we can connect to our final destination.

While sitting on this little transfer, my mind is searching all options. We could ditch the final flight and just take a bus over the border to try and sneak our non-yellow fever card carrying selves to Ecuador. Maybe we could hitch hike north until another opportunity presented itself or why not just jump to Mexico? They have beautiful beaches!

Landing in Lima, we gathered our backpacks and decided to approach the ticket counter as if there was nothing was to be concerned of. As the story goes, the same conversation began with the employee confirming that we will not be flying out of the country without our yellow fever card.
Turing to walk away with several thoughts running through my mind, we were casually signaled over by a woman who appeared to be a apart of the airport security. “You need your yellow fever card?” She asked.
Eagerly I responded with a guilty nod, “Ci!”. She gazed away ever so slightly as to avoid eye contact as she suggested we find a man in a red vest and tell him we’re in need of “Air Sanity”.

No time for questions, we’re now on a hunt through the Lima airport desperately looking for a red vested jolly man with, what I imagine, having a stash of yellow cards we can buy off him and be merry on our way. Wrong.

In our search for this “hombre de rojo”, Hayden spots a symbol resembling a Red Cross. We had nothing to lose as we approached a counter that was clearly a medical center. “Hola, necesitamos que nuestros… uhhh… amarillo uhh…”. She cuts me off, “You need your yellow fever card?”
“Yes please!”
She asks us to wait before returning with an elderly woman that had to of been at least 85 years old or 110 and looking great for her age. We followed her into a small room with a tiny business desk covered in several binders and random knick-nacks.
She proceeded to ask if we had a doctor from the United States that could confirm we have received the shots. The entire conversation went something like this:
“You have note with shots?”
“No señora, we don’t have the shots or a note.”
“Some Americans have doctor send paper in machine with card. Do you have a doctor?”
“No señora, I don’t. I’m sorry.”
By this time she is giving me the look of “I know you’re young, but come on lady, get my drift!”
“…but you can have a doctor with note?” She implied.
“Ohhh, ci señora… I do have a doctor with a note!”
“Good then, go with her” she said while pointing to a kind looking woman wearing an outfit that was nothing resembling a nurses outfit.
As Hayden and I made eye contact, I giggled with a shoulder shrug and scooted along behind her with relief knowing we’ll make our flight. Expected to be given a yellow fever card with a wink, I had another thing coming.

We ended our short walk in a room containing a deep freezer, a desk and blank walls decorated with graphs and a few disturbing posters with images of tropical diseases. She rolled out a dusty chair and proceeded.
“Please sit down. Who’s first?”
“I’m sorry, excuse me… what?”
All things became clear as she started to lay out two needles with a substance that, to this day, I have no idea what it really was.

“I’ll go!” I took a seat, and looked at Hayden as she whipped out the syringe. With no hesitation, I was being punctured in the upper arm and injected
with the mystery liquid. Now it’s Hayden’s turn!

To the best of my memory, I believe his words were something along the lines of “Erika, I knew your travels were crazy… but this is insane!”

A needle poke and a few bandaids later, we were sent back to the ancient woman’s room where she had two yellow cards. I watched as she turned back the dial on the date stamp confirming that indeed, we were in the USA 15 days prior and yes, our doctor sent a fax to her. On the way out, our unofficially-official nurse suggested we remove the bandaids before landing in Costa Rica to ensure they wouldn’t be suspicious of a recent shot.

Forty American dollars later, we had cards, tender arms and a half hour till our flight departed. Hoping for a different person at the ticket counter to avoid any awkward moment, we were not so lucky as we approached the same man who had previously turned us away. I walked up as if we had never been there before and plopped up our Passports, tickets and 2 brand new shiny yellow cards.
He looked everything over and glanced up at us, then stamped a few papers and concluded with a “Have a nice flight”.
With sweaty palms and the heart rate of a race horse, I walked away in relief that I had not completely let my pal down. If anything, just given him another story to share back home. Sweet victory!

Here’s the only photo from that day.


Categories: Not-so-happy trails, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

“Do you have a menu with pictures please?”

We’ve explored the beautiful world of international markets, so lets now venture into the restaurant scene. As a backpacker, I’m conscious of when and where I splurge, especially when it comes to food, drink and entertainment. With that said, when friends meet up abroad or a group of other travelers are heading out for dinner, sometimes I’ll spoil myself and join them!

Unfortunately I’m not going to post about every country, but here are some memorable meals and unique bites from around the world.

I’m going to start off with a very colorful, protein packed salad in a cafe near Nice, France. Since the extent of my French is “Parlez-vous anglais?” (Do you speak english?) and “merci” (thank you), this was ordered by pointing at a tiny picture and a huge smile.


This accidental order in Paris came from my eagerness to try “carpaccio”, a plate of thinly sliced raw meat or fish. My innocent mistake was trusting the waiter and agreeing to a similar dish called “Tartare”. This however, is a meat dish made from finely minced raw beef or horse served with onions, caper, seasonings and sometimes a raw egg. Not the same my friends, not…the…same!



In Spain, I usually find myself nibbling around town due to the ever so popular tapas or pinxtos. Clarification, “tapas” isn’t necessarily a particular type of food, rather a small portion of anything ranging with paella, croquettes, fish and peppers on toast, and so on. Pintxos’ are bites you pick up off the bar and bring back to your table to enjoy. Then, depending on how many sticks you have on your plate tells them how much to charge for at the end. Here are some of my favorite scrumptious snacks in Spain.





The course pictured below describes my opinion of the country it came from, Switzerland – clean, tasteful and proper.




Moving on to the hearty land of Germany, specifically the state of Bavaria. Even though I struggle to find lean and light meals there, I can still enjoy a plate of solid comfort food. My favorite is the warm red (or blue or purple depending on which German you ask) cabbage side dish. My not so favorites seen below are the flour and potato dumplings and pretty much anything that may have the word “wurst” in it.






Before I move on from Germany, I’d like to dedicate a short description and a few photos to the wonderful world of Oktoberfest! Continue reading if you’re up for a story or skip to the pictures to see a few options you may get during the traditional festivities.

The day I learned that the Bavarian language differs from the rest of Germany, goes as follows. My dear friend Carina, you all should know her by now, was attempting to help me order soup. She said she’d do her best since she doesn’t fully understand Bavarian. I asked for anything with vegetables “something that grows or is green” was my request and considering we had been at the festival since sunrise with nothing but a liter of beer, I was excited to consume anything! That was until… until we realized I had ordered liver dumpling soup.







Other appetizing dishes to coat the stomach while celebrating the largest people’s fair in the world!






Since I’m usually visiting my friends in Holland, I rarely explore and sit down at a legit Dutch restaurant. I have however, enjoyed the best falafel wrap while in The Netherlands!


Hungry in Hungary? (Curtesy laugh goes here) Expect meat, potatoes, salad and bread. Not to shabby!


Sword fish, greens, garlic butter and bread was the choice in Crete, Greece. Naturally complimented by the traditional Greek dessert of Baklava, Ouzo and fruit!



Heading southeast to Malaysia, I’m going to show you two different ways they can serve up the same meal. First we have the over portioned, grease covered greens aside fried fish.


After being served the plate above, I mentioned my disappointment to a new local friend who then invited me to a different location to show me how it’s “supposed” to be done.


My favorite meal in Malyasia wasn’t due to the taste, but the story that comes with it. If your remember the post of volunteering in Malaysia, then you’ll understand that this surprise dish was given and received with much gratitude. Thank you Marcel!



Jumping over major seas, I’m now bringing you to Central and South America. With several countries, many amazing dishes and unique treats, I’m going to narrow it down to just a few.

First up, Pupusas! These light corn or rice tortilla type patties are stuffed with your filling of choice, then topped with a spicy coleslaw! We were introduced to this savory snack while being treated by a few locals in El Salvador!



Costa Rica was easy. Just show me to the greens with a bit of fish and whatever drink comes blended, fresh and colorful. Pura vida!



Jumping down to Ecuador presents some of the tastiest soups and flavorful ceviche I’ve ever experienced! The rich spices, fresh fish and crunchy toppings make for an amazing treat for your taste buds.





Peru allowed me to feel joy when items like quinoa and sweet potato overruled the usual carbohydrates of pasta, corn and wheat. I love the ingredients of this country so much that I actually took a Peruvian cooking class!





I’m going to bring Argentina into the mix due to the impressive meal we were served last year in Buenos Aires. I’m generally not a huge meat eater, so for this steak to hit my tops picks says a lot for the quality at hand. Take a look at those veggies too!


In the waters northeast of South America sits one of my favorite islands called Barbados. Bajan cuisine includes a vibrant blend of foods with African, Indian and British influences. Not to forget one of my favorites, the amazing Roti from Trinidad!




Australia and New Zealand (I apologize for bulking you two together, but only for the sake of this post), brought many home cooked meals. Mostly fresh from the farms I was volunteering on or hand picked from the gardens that I helped harvest. No complaints here with the abundance of fresh vegetables and local organic meat!




Last but not least is the large island of noodles, fish, rice and other objects I don’t really know about (simply because my Japanese is as good as my French). Considering I’m wiring this post from Japan, there’s definitely more to come soon! For now, take a look at these mouth watering dishes!





Ill leave you with an advertisement that isn’t tempting, but certainly entertaining as it’s a bit different than the usual Big Mac add.


Categories: Edibles!, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Markets, street food and exploring (eating) the unknown!

Shoes on, empty tummy and friends to join! Open your eyes and let us welcome you to the streets of Cusco!







One hard boiled egg next to a baked potato topped with a green chile sauce… Yes please!



Our curiosity finally got to us after passing by this bucket mounted with what looked like a pile of compost. Turns out, they pour water over the goodies and let is seep through to create a tea. We each tried a sip from the warm recycled water bottle that it came in… none of us fought for the last drink.



This was simply a barrel of baked potatoes. You could a decent bag, warm and ready for less than $0.15.



Sopa, sopa, sopa!







Back into the markets…








Fresh juice smoothie anyone?



Sharing is caring as we continued to get one of everything that looked intriguing. Grab a bite and pass it around!





This little surprise treat was warm white rice mixed with sweet milk, layered with a mild fruit jelly like substance, all topped off with a saltine cracker.


On the way back we skimmed some of the non edible items that offered up hammocks, sweaters, jewelry, wallets, dishes, tattoos, and more.



Ann and I decided that instead of getting matching tattoos (enter sarcastic laugh here), that we would go with Peruvian friendship bracelets.




Sometimes it’s necessary to stop and remind yourself of where you are. We were all just chatting away before we glanced over at this beauty. Handstand time!


For more photos and info showing a different side of this gorgeous city, click here to be directly linked to last years posts!

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Aguascalientes… more than just hot water

After the memory filled days of exploring Machu Picchu, the boys took the long route and made it up even higher as Ann and I skipped the bus ride and walked back to Aguascalientes.






One of the outstanding features of this city, is how it sits hillside with a beautiful river running through it.




Even though it is fully stocked with several gift shops, craft markets and tienda’s, we went for the group effort and indulged in a game of “table hopping”.





This pleasant pause was with a local woman behind a card table, whom I believe was fully impressed with our enthusiasm for her amazing stuffed peppers and veggie potato snacks!


Not only did we find Jenga at this pit stop, we found one of the last empty blocks to make our mark!







Wrapping up our self entertaining excursion, we boarded a train to connect us to a bus, that finally dropped us off back for the walk to our hostel.

Tomorrow, the markets and inner streets of one of my favorite cities in South America… Cusco!


Categories: Edibles!, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Jump kick in Machu Picchu

Last year, I wrote about some secret tips that were given to me by a local. My promise still stands, if you’re ever going to make experience the sacred city, please write me and I’ll gladly expose a few hints that will enhance your journey! Until then, the secret remains amongst them who have made the trek with me.

4:00am- Alarm sounds to an already awake room of travelers.
4:30- Showered, packed and ready to leave.
5:00- Lined up at the first bus to depart!


5:30- Bus ride in the dark to the base of the city.



6:00am- Whats this? We’re the first people in line to enter the sacred city!




The next 20 minutes is to remain undocumented for the strength of the “secret”… but here is one photo along the way before reaching our lookout point.


Once arriving, the fog acted like a curtain that requested patience as it protected the artwork we all came to see. We took advantage of this moment with a few fun photos!






Layer by layer, the curtains gracefully lifted as the masterpiece was revealed.






On the way down into the city, I realized that I wanted to mix up the handstand photo from last year . How amazing are my friends? They patiently waited as I ran into the empty field (that was apparently off limits) and snagged the picture. Can you spot me?



Time to head in and explore the walls that make up this mystical place.













A happy picnic break to take it all in as we watched the herd of people (who slept in) make their way towards us.







Between the four of us and our enthusiasm for fun pictures, it was hard to pass up any of the next photos!












Here’s the classic pose and snap shots taken before our final hike down the trail.



A sincere thanks to my new friends Colin and Ann for the incredible partnership and enthusiasm towards this remarkable journey. Hayden, you blindly booked a flight with the trust in me to make it happen… I’m honored for your company on this priceless journey as you enhanced the experience for all of us!


Categories: Fitness, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Are we supposed to go through that dark tunnel?

Last year, I started my Machu Picchu post with what’s written below.

“I feel a huge challenge trying to describe through words and photos the magnitude of energy and massive beauty that this place holds. If Machu Piccu has been on your “list” or this page intrigues you whatsoever, please remember:



Before I begin sharing this priceless journey, if you haven’t read last years trek to Machu Picchu, you can do so at Machu Picchu link or The trek link. It has a more descriptive message of the actual route and facts that come with it. This year, it’s all about the friends and the adventure!

Living on the road has brought many new perspectives into my life as well as more than a few unexpected lessons that I plan on carrying forward. Lets be aware of how easy it is to live in “auto pilot” and go through day to day almost in a programmed sense, passing the garden without “smelling the roses” as they say. Ive grown to appreciate all situations in what they have to offer and am constantly reminding myself to be “in the moment”. Today…right now… This is my life.

With that said, I’m going to break up the Machu Picchu adventure into a few different posts, as the entire journey was special start to finish.

Hayden and I met as kids trying to balance homework and a social life while growing up in the small town of Folsom, California. Now, 17 years later, I get to pick up my dear friend from the Cusco airport as we have plans to hike Machu Picchu with Ann and Colin!

Let’s begin with the morning departure from our Hostel in Cusco. The four of us had reserved the bus to pick us up at 7:45 for the 5 hour ride to the base of our walk towards Aguascalientes. 9:00 rolls around and instead of a bus, we got a woman with her child that said “follow me”…. And so it began.




We made a few turns to find a decent van stocked with two drivers, empty seats and a woman urging us to get in quickly, “Vamanos!”.

All smiles as we’re finally on the road towards one of the seven wonders of the world.




The first pit stop is in the open country side of Ollantaytambo for a leg stretch, optional snack and a handstand of course!




Even though this bathroom brought a tiny challenge of it’s own, it’s luxury compared to last year!




Back into the van, I capture us still smiling (for now) as we have new sights along the way.
More than just mountains and clouds, you’ll see several animals and even cyclist who are making me feel slightly guilty of my sore bum.








As we continue the climb up in elevation, you can begin to see the clouds roll in and take over the passage. This is almost a relief due to the unprotected cliff side that so gratiously accompanied the one way road. Each time another vehicle would approach head on, one of us would have to hug the mountain side in order for the other to safely pass. Not fun.







See that tiny little bridge behind us with no guard rail? What you don’t see is that it’s barely suspended above thousands of feet of pure straight cliff side. What you don’t hear is us all gasping for air when the back tire didn’t catch on the tracks… Stomach, please return to your appropriate location and heart rate, it’s necessary for you to regulate again for the future of my journey.




Arriving to Hydro Electronica means we get to stop for a quick break before we start our way by foot towards Machu Picchu. A toast, a few fun pics and the adventure continues!




Find the tracks, find a four legged friend and keep on trekking!




Three attempts to get us all in one photo… Fail.




Awesomely awkward shot of all of us… Success!


Finishing up the first hour brings more smiles and more more train tracks.





From a distance we could here the tracks in use as the train blared it’s horn. We accepted this as a challenge to not only race the speeding beast, but snag a few cool photos too!






Due to our relaxed pace, the walk took a bit longer than the average “trek”, but we were definitely ok with that. Considering the amazing conversation, great photo oportunities and the memories that came with it, I wouldn’t have changed a thing!




The sun is sinking and adds one more fun element to our already exciting expedition!







Arriving at night we head directly to get our tickets as the morning will only provide a 4am alarm and a line to depart by 5.


Next step… Machu Picchu!

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Return to Club Suyai Wari!

After playing in the dirt and enjoying breakfast with the students, it was now time for the homework help, art and crafts, and anything else that kept them intrigued.

Real quick, I want to toot my own horn with the childish excitement I had when seeing my old painting still on the wall. Here is was in the process and finished last year…



…and it’s still here!


The kids arrived after school and were definitely ready for some quality time. These students aren’t orphans or homeless, just often times in need of positive attention. Traditionally, they go to school then wander the village or help their parents by farming or selling goods on the street. We’re here to supervise them being “kids” while directing their energy towards learning new skills to benefit their future.

All righty adorable little sponges, lets play! Option one is using your small motor skills and an imagination by playing with building blocks and hand braiding jewelry.






For the older group, homework help and a game of memory with English words.


Have more energy? Head outside for a game of fútbol!


Hungry or not, everyone loves chocolate cake!





Boys will be boys…





…and girls will be girls.



Once we played around the house for a bit, a few of the kids finally recognized that I was a familiar face. We had a little fun looking through old photos and comparing last years smiles to the present.


To see these precious faces last year with the unforgettable experience I had with them, click here for the direct link to that post.

For more information about Club Suyai Wari, please check out their website at

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For dessert… Hugs around the table.

It’s been said that you cross paths with people for a reason, season or a lifetime. In my case, I come across so many beautiful connections, I feel like they all have a reason. Some, for that very moment to bring joy or possibly a lesson that is needed at that time in my life. Others, I bond with imminently as if the purpose was to develop an instant friendship that without a doubt would continue on.

If you’ve been following even for a short while, you can remember Ann and Colin from Ecuador. They’re the adorable couple that came to the Donkey Den as I was leaving. With only 2 nights and a short walk to bond, we made plans to hopefully reunite someday either in South America or even back in the states.

Here we are a few weeks ago in Santa Marianita, Ecuador…


…and now Cusco, Peru!


We came back together with the intensions of having lunch or maybe a night out, but after a short conversation (and a Cusqueña Negra) it was decided that much more was in our future!


Not only are we going to hike Machu Picchu together, they’re going to join me as I revisit the home I volunteered in last year! (To see that full experience click here)

We start by meeting up with one of the other volunteers. Abigail is here from England and was all smiles as we made our way to the tiny village of Huambatio. Follow now as we jump from taxi to bus to a decent walk before finally landing at Club Suyai Wari.






We’ve made it! Now to figure out how to turn on the electricity and water while we wait for Enrique to get home.



A few unexpected volunteers showed up with backpacks, smiles and an appetite… Problem solved!





Rise and shine! Time for an adventure in the local school where we’ll be doing anything and everything that we can help with. A gorgeous morning walk leads us to a view that sits beyond this vibrant school. A quick tour before the kids see us!






Ooh, which door will he go with folks?


This was a little building full of recyclable designs, representing just a small portion of the reused objects placed within the property. How encouraging to walk around knowing these students are being shown how to use their creative minds!







Shoe garden, toilet seat… Backpacks! Who needs planters when you can use your old purse? Time to get our hands dirty!










With 5 happy, healthy and high energized volunteers, why not put us to some solid use? A great workout that will benefit everyone involved. Ready, set, go!







As we finished up, we were literally taken by the hand and guided in for breakfast.
Step one- Pick a mug and gather around the table.








Step two- Enjoy half of a hard boiled egg and a cup of warm quinoa soup. I love this place!


Step three- Gladly return the hugs being passed around the table while holding back the tears of joy that gently fill your heart with the good stuff.




Finally, rinse your dishes and put them in the bucket for tomorrow’s breakfast.



Ann was kind (and brave) to walk with me as I tried to remember the way into the next village. Key word tried, as I forgot that there was a small bus that took you most of the way before the jaunt up the hill. Here we are realizing it, then hitchhiking our way to the finish line. Thank you Ann for your positive attitude during our accidental mini journey!



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