High Life in the Altiplano

After 3 weeks travelling through Peru and Bolivia I’m very happy to be back in Canada – sleeping in my own bed, eating food that doesn’t give me diahhrea, and relaxing with friends and my Xbox.

The pictures are slowly being posted on flickr.

I arrived in Peru 2 weeks after Emily. She was enrolled in a Spanish school and nearly fluent by the time I showed up. Her Spanish really came in handy, as most people who are not directly employed in the tourism industry don’t speak English.

My top highlight was a 5-day trek around the Salkantay mountain and up to Machu Picchu. It was luxury hiking and camping – we had horses to carry our packs, someone set up and took down our tents every day, and the cooks made the best food we ate in Peru. We had a great guide and support staff (3 horsemen and 2 cooks), and our trekking group was lots of fun.

The elevation was the only killer. We peaked at 4800 m above sea level. To give you some context, that’s more then twice as high as Whistler (2181 m). At sea level, air pressure is 101 kPa. At 4800 m it is 56 kPa, or about half. When we were climbing, every step took your breath away. Drinking water left you gasping for air. I had altitude sickness the first night (headache and queasiness) but after a cup of coca tea most of my symptoms went away.

By the time we made it to Machu Picchu, we felt like we had earned it. Machu Picchu is a pretty impressive site, and much bigger then I expected. Since the Spanish never discovered (and weren’t able to build a church on top of it), it’s more intact then all of the other ruins we saw in Peru.

The other big highlight from the trip was the 4 days in a luxurious Amazon jungle ecolodge. We saw monkeys!!! And parrots, turtles, snakes, spiders, macaws, ants, frogs, and river otters. The genetic diversity in the Amazon is mind boggling. It was interesting learning how all the different plants and animals have developed strategies for surviving.

There were lots of other adventures with crazy taxi drivers, overnight “directo” buses to that dropped us off at 6 am on the side of the highway, getting on confusing buses in Lima, trying to find restaurants from our guide book that didn’t exist anymore, thinking we were lost on our trek as the sun was quickly disappearing, and getting stuck in a jungle downpour.

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