I went to Peru for two weeks to visit one of my college roommates in Lima and to hike in the Andes! I'll be posting a 3-part series of my journals from the trip - hope you enjoy 🎉
Travel Day 1: Tuesday 10.11.22
GJT 🛫 DFW
Well, here I go - off on another fall adventure while I have this window of jobless time to travel! I wrapped up my season with Seeds in September, and the seasonal work thing has actually been such a great opportunity to take some chosen time off in between.
I've been wanting to visit my college roommate Charlotte for so long that I feel kind of amazed that it's really happening! Plus, Peru is such a mecca for trekking that I knew I wanted to backpack while I was there. So the idea was hatched - catch up with Char for a week, and hike the 5-day Salkantay Trek in the Andes to Machu Picchu.
The planning has been a bit of an adventure. I realized after booking my tickets that my passport was going to expire 5 months after the trip, and Peru requires 6 months of validity from your dates of travel. Because of my previous trip to Iceland for Melissa and Nathan's elopement, I wasn't able to physically send in my passport for renewal... because I needed it in hand for that trip.
Fast forward to me driving 5 hours to Denver for a passport agency appointment a week before my flight out! But praise God, everything worked out smoothly.
I also had a mini heart attack when I went to book Machu Picchu tickets and they were all sold out on the official site. After an evening of freaking out, I realized it was possible they had been bought up by tour agencies or other sites, and again - PRAISE GOD - I found a third party guide service that had my dates available.
So with my pack in hand, I boarded my flight in Grand Junction around 4pm, and now I'm soaring towards the Dallas Airport.
I was a bit nervous that my backpack wouldn't fit in the overhead, but with a good hiker shove it worked out.
I can't wait to catch up with my dear friend, see her world, and have another crazy solo hiking adventure.
Jesus - thank you for making the way for this trip to happen. Thank you for the way you make my heart brave and the peace that comes from you. Help me listen to your Spirit and watch for divine appointments on this trip. Help me to learn and grow as I encounter a new culture. Thank you for snacks and the Walter Mitty Soundtrack and Claire who drove me to the airport. Amen.
Travel Day 2: Wednesday 10.12.22
DFW 🛫 MIA
MIA 🛫 LIM
I convinced myself that it would be worth it to save a little money by just sleeping at the airport last night instead of springing for a hotel... oof, that was a mistake. I got to Dallas around 7pm and treated myself to some Tex Mex, then wandered the terminals scoping out potential spots. I found some nice options, including a sectioned off yoga area in the E terminal and a "resting area" near B28 that had some comfy chairs and dim lights, but too many people for my liking at 9pm. Eventually around 10, I settled on a quiet nook over near the deserted B1 gate that was close to an outlet.
Since I had my backpacking air mattress in my carry on, I blew that up and settled in. The lights were bright and I could hear the janitorial staff vacuuming, but I dozed on and off until 3am, clutching the straps of my bags.
I woke up with a slight headache and feeling like a complete zombie. Yikes. The bright lights were not helping my zombie state or headache, so I popped some ibuprofen, packed up my crap, and made for the resting area, hoping to snooze as much as I could there. At 3:30am, it had emptied out quite a bit and I was able to pull an extra chair over for a foot rest. The dim lights were wonderful, but the TV across the hall was blaring Steve Urkel's voice at an ungodly volume. Thankfully I brought earplugs and managed to get a solid hour and a half of extra sleep.
I made my way to my gate at 5:30 and blearily sipped some coffee. Somehow sleeping on the plane seemed like my best hope for getting rest this morning.
Sure enough, I napped hard on the plane to Miami. My layover was only 2 hours, so I had time to freshen up in the bathroom, grab breakfast, walk a bit, and then get to my gate.
On my flight to Lima, seated next to a British woman who was born in Lima but now lives in Texas, and a native Peruvian. I've been listening to their conversation in Spanish and trying to keep up, but my brain is tired and so I've been napping whenever I get a chance. Here's hoping I'm able to stay alert when I get there!
Getting to the airport was a bit overwhelming, but I made it through immigration without much hassle and then connected to the wifi so I could message with Char.
Thankfully, I found my bag quickly and headed outside because you can only enter the airport with a boarding pass. There were a bunch of taxi drivers outside trying to get people to take their cabs... Yikes! Char met me outside just a few minutes later though, and we loaded my stuff into her taxi and started the drive to her place.
It was so surreal to see her and I was taking in all the sights and sounds of the city. Pretty soon, I remembered that I had looked up some Peruvian slang phrases so I could greet her with "Como estás, causa?"
She started laughing and asked me if I knew any other Peruvian slang and after a couple common expressions, I proceeded to accidentally curse at her in Peruvian Spanish. The taxi driver started laughing at us as she gave me the more PG version to use 😂
Something I didn't realize until I landed in Lima is that the whole city is basically under a low-hanging foggy cloud in their winter from May to November. So I was a little surprised to see how foggy and gray the city was when I arrived.
After about an hour, we made it to Char's house across the city. She lives in a super beautiful house provided by the Christian school she works for - basically it's housing for the international teachers. Char ordered us some baked pollo for dinner with potatoes - super yummy - and then I got settled in. We talked through our plans for the week, and what I was hoping to see while in Lima. Most of all, I was just excited to see her!
Peru Day 1: Thursday 10.13.22
Ica Sand Dunes
We got up early for the 4 hour drive to Ica, Peru! I've learned that Peru has very distinct climate zones - the coast, the desert, the jungle, and the mountains. Ica is known for its incredible desert sand dunes and a beautiful oasis.
Char just recently bought her own car and started driving in Peru, so this was the furthest she's ventured out driving on her own as well!
We made a quick stop at Wong's (the big grocery store near her), Starbucks drive thru, and then we were on our way.
It was super good to talk and catch up with Char in the car while we drove. She's been living in Peru and teaching at a Christian school for the past 7 years, and there have been a lot of ups and downs, but she's really enjoyed teaching sixth grade especially. She has also been with a church plant, Nueva Vida Lima, connected with her church in Chicago.
We stopped to go to the bathroom a few hours in, and whereas Char was trying to prepare me for a remote gas station bathroom, somehow we had stumbled on a random bougie resort-like restaurant that was playing American country music in the bathroom 😂
A few more hours, and we had made it to Ica! We found a spot where they'd let us park for free if we used their dune-buggy guides, so we opted for that. I could see the massive hills of sand beyond the village.
We got buckled in the buggy with our chest harnesses and sped off up a dirt road that led into the dunes and started the wild ride! It was exhilarating and so fun.
Partway through, our driver let us get out and admire the view of the oasis in the desert.
And next after that, he took us to some hills to slide down on sandboards. It was kind of like sledding and besides the sand in the face, it was awesome.
After the dune buggy ride, Char and I headed into the little town around the oasis. So pretty!
We got lunch at a cute rooftop restaurant and I tried Lomo Saltado for the first time. It's a typical Peruvian dish with rice, peppers, onions, french fries, and chunks of beef on top.
We walked through the village markets and enjoyed the lake a bit before starting the drive back to Lima. It was a super full day with a long drive, so we were both super tired, especially Char.
But the last thing on our list today was something I had requested - a stop to try Bembos, a Peruvian fast food chain.
We were in a drive thru line, and I kinda panicked so I ended up with a burger topped with shredded chicken, crispy onions, and tartar sauce 😂 it was surprisingly not bad, but also the flavor combo was hard to wrap my mind around.
Peru Day 2: Friday 10.14.22
Centro, Miraflores, Paragliding, Worship Night, and Char's friends
After coffee and breakfast, Charlotte and I took a cab to the city center (el Centro). I had wanted to see the Basilica San Francisco, the cathedral of the Franciscan monks. We couldn't take pictures on the tour, but we were allowed to take them in the church.
I was surprised by a whole room of Rubens paintings of the last hours of Jesus' life. And the moorish inspired patterns in the ceiling were beautiful!
The last part of the tour was visiting the catacombs beneath the church, or more accurately, the crypts. It was kinda creepy, but really well preserved. Pretty nuts to think that for a while, that spot was the biggest cemetery in the city.
After the tour, Char and I got some churros and walked to the Plaza Mayor where the main cathedral is. It was super beautiful.
We paid to go in the cathedral and walked around for a bit, but afterwards we were feeling done with the museum stuff.
So Char got in touch with her friend Paola and we got a car to Miraflores, one of the nicest neighborhoods by the coast.
I had told Char I wanted to try ceviche, and she said the best place to have it is somewhere near the water earlier in the day when you can get it extra fresh. It is made with raw fish, after all.
The restaurant was super bougie, but the flavors were amazing. And it was so nice to meet Paola and her little boy, Liam!
Afterwards, we walked around the neighborhood of Miraflores towards the beach. It's a super lovely area with a lot of good restaurants, coffee shops, and parks.
We walked the Malecón, a beautiful cliffside walkway along the coast.
It was a beautiful day, and the sun was poking through. I saw some paragliders, and I had heard that you could pay to try it, so Char and Paola went with me to find out more!
We talked with the guy near the area where they were taking off, and he said the takeoff spot for paid rides was a short drive away. It was a bit of a splurge, but how often are you in Lima with the chance to paraglide?! So Char got in the car with me and we rode down to the takeoff spot. I watched a few others take off and started to get nervous, but I was excited!
I got all strapped in and they got a goPro set up to record the flight.
The next thing I knew, we gently lifted off the ground and I was floating over the coast! It was a crazy feeling, and the wind was freezing cold, but I just soaked in the incredible view!
Once I was back safely on the ground, Char and I swung by a french bakery to get some pastries for an afternoon snack. We headed over to Paola and her husband Chris' apartment to share our goodies, and then Chris took me across the street to get some good coffee.
We hung out and chatted at the apartment, and I really enjoyed getting to know Chris and Paola more. They both go to Char's church, and they seem super great. Chris is a super Lord of the Rings fan, so it was fun to nerd out over the new Rings of Power series and see his Middle Earth maps in his office 😂
We had planned to go to a worship night at Char's church, but we made plans with Chris and Paola to meet up with them afterwards at a pub called Garrison for some snacks.
It was super sweet to worship in Spanish with Nueva Vida Lima and meet more of her community. A lot of the songs were ones I knew in English, so it made it a bit easier to follow the lyrics and sing along.
We headed to Garrison shortly after that, and met up with a really fun group of people including Chris, Paola, Toño, and Melissa. I did my best to work on my Spanish, but thankfully a lot of Char's friends speak some English too, so a lot of our conversations flipped back and forth between the two.
After a SUPER packed day and some yummy pizza and tequeños, we were ready to crash and headed home.
Thanks for following along, and stay tuned for more adventures from Peru!