Tuesday, April 6, 2010

It's Official we are headed to Peru

In less than a month and a half I will be seeing this amazing site in person. This is, of course, a photo of Machu Picchu. Every year I take a trip for my birthday which usually is some place involving a passport. Last year, with the wedding two months away from my birthday we decided to stay in the state to save money so we drove up to the hot springs for my birthday. This year, however, my friend Casey is getting married in May in Birmingham and so I decided, as long as we are going we might as well plan our trip to Peru because we can fly from Birmingham to Atlanta and then on to Lima. Conveniently Casey's wedding is May 15th and my birthday is May 18th which means I'll be in Peru on my actual birthday. I hope they have cupcakes for me (haha).
Being that I am the flight attendant of the family and it's usually my crazy idea to travel to these far off destinations, it usually falls on me to plan everything. I use to view this task as an annoyance but now I love it. I have control of all the details and get to pick where we stay and what we do so at least I am assured I will have a good time. Whenever I start to plan a big trip like this, especially to a place I don't know, I always look up flights first and see how I'm going to get where I want to go. Lima is a big city and easy enough to get too from Atlanta but if you want to see Machu Picchu you have to travel to Cusco. As with Bangkok and Phuket I first wanted to see how far apart Lima and Cusco were and the easiest way to get there. I do not do foreign buses and especially long distance foreign buses unless they are a private charter (as we did in costa rica to get from san jose to santa theresa) because there is too much opportunity for things to go wrong and if it's a 26 hour bus ride that eats up most of your day. So I did some researching and found TACA airlines which operates out of Lima to cusco and the fare was only $66 round trip per person. I booked a 5:45am flight which is so early but my research suggested earlier was better because the area is so mountainous that the weather can turn bad and flights later in the day will often get canceled.
Since we are flying standby from atlanta to Lima I wanted to give ourselves a cushion in case something happened. I bought the plane tickets on TACA and I don't want to risk rebooking in case we don't make it that sunday night. As with most international destinations there is only one flight in to Lima so if we don't make it sunday night we have to try again Monday. This is also why I booked a considerably cheap hotel for Sunday and Monday, the days we will be in Lima. Since Lima is such a big city I didn't want to spend too much time there but we are staying in Miraflores which is a safe part of town.
(photo: the Kokopelli hostal we are staying at in Lima) When I book hotels in foreign countries I truly have no idea what I'm getting into. So I try to narrow it down to the few things I know I want: hot water, an airport shuttle, cheap, free breakfast, within walking distance to things. I usually just google "places to stay in (insert location)" then once I find a few cool spots I'll plug them in to trip adviser and see what people have to say about them. I found this place and loved the pictures of the lobby and it's owned by some Americans so I figured I couldn't go wrong. Plus it's only $30 a night and there is a bar. If nothing else it's always good for your hotel to have a bar that way if you feel to unsure about going out or the weather is crappy you are at least entertaining yourself.
Finding a place to stay in Cusco was a bit more challenging because it's a smaller town so prices are more expensive. They have everything from luxury resorts that are $100+ a night to hostals where you share a bathroom for $8 a night. You can't actually stay in Machu Picchu because it's a protected park (which is great because it means no one hawking you junk once you are inside the gates) so you have to stay in Cusco then take a train up into Machu Picchu. I figured we would buy our train tickets once we got down there. If it's anything I learned from Thailand is that it's much easier and cheaper to book once you get there and since almost everyone staying in Cusco is making a trek to Machu Picchu it won't be hard to figure out where to go. I'd like to visit Lake Titicaca as well so I'm hoping we can take the train in for a day and visit. Once again, details I'll figure out when we arrive.
So knowing we would spend the bulk of our trip in Cusco I wanted something a little nice but still affordable. After reading many reviews and looking at various websites I booked this place: Hostal Llipimpac
It's $40 a night and includes breakfast and airport pickup. It also has this sweet courtyard and is in a more quite section of the city which is great because we will be having some early mornings if we want to get a day of hiking in. Apparently there are also some Aquas Calientes nearby (hot springs) so I'm hoping we can make it over there too. The flight back from Lima to Atlanta leaves at midnight and our flight from Cusco to Lima gets in at 9am so I'm thinking we may just have to take a taxi from the airport to the beach or something and kill some time. Chad and I always travel with our backpacks so it makes it really easy to jump around and go from city to city because you aren't worried about lugging around a roller board. Plus it considerably makes you look like less of a dumb tourist.
I'm really excited about our trip to Peru. I know a week won't be nearly enough time to fit everything in but I'm going to try to see and do as much as possible. Chad and I were discussing the problem with us is that we travel to all these great places we'd love to go back to and yet there are so many new places we want to discover as well. And as Chad says, "you've only got so many years to live how do you do it all?" I guess the answer is you probably can't, but what's to stop you from trying?
(picture: Cusco, Peru)

(picture: Lake Titicaca)

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