How To Get To Bolivia From Peru

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This post is a little late, but I wanted to write this post for those of you who may be planning a trip to Peru and wanted to stop by Bolivia to see the salt flats. This is actually a very popular route that many travelers do, which is why I felt comfortable enough to do this solo even after hearing about bus raids, strikes, and robberies that can happen. If you research online, it has been known that tourist buses can be stopped en route and luggage stolen, but most websites I saw said this is only common with the overnight buses on the popular tourist bus lines, such as Cruz del Sur. Even after reading about this, I still took the leap because a friend of mine has done it before and said she had no problem at all. Hope I didn’t scare you away! Read More

Packing List for South America (UPDATED)

A little overdue, but here’s my updated list of what to take to South America. I’m going to compare this list to my previous list I posted before my trip to let you know what actually worked and what didn’t. Hope this helps!

So, first things first, I took way too much stuff! I only took a 40 L backpack and a smaller day pack and it was still too much stuff. IMG_0108backpack

CLOTHES
I took one pair of jeans, which worked out well for me. Even though jeans are heavy, wearing the one pair while flying helped and I was able to wear them multiple days. Also, there are laundromats all over in Cuzco so you really only need to bring bare minimum cause you can just have your clothes washed for only a few soles. They charge you based on the weight of your clothes. I packed 3 yoga pants, which was a huge mistake. Only 1 is necessary, although having an extra pair was nice on the days you got really dirty (while hiking) so that you have a clean pair you can switch into. I packed way too many t-shirts. Next time I think I will only take 2 quick dry t-shirts and 1-2 tank tops. I had a long sleeve shirt I never wore, a flannel I never wore, and another shirt I never wore. When you’re out and about and traveling with just a backpack, you really want to have the lightest backpack possible. Especially if you’re going to be trekking to Machu Picchu. I regretted my heavy backpack so much on the Inca Jungle Trek. Although they do allow you to leave your pack on some days at the hostel or they have a van take it to your next destination, on one day you have to carry it with you all day. So seriously, the lighter the better! Don’t break your back. I took one fleece sweater which was really important to have because it does get super cold in Cusco. I ended up losing my sweater so I have to get a new one. I also took a rain jacket which is also extremely important to have because it rains a lot in Peru. The one I took was not water proof so I definitely will be investing in a good quality rain jacket for next time. I also took about 4-5 pairs of socks, which was a good choice because it’s nice to have clean socks you can change into when your socks get wet from the rain. I took a few pairs of underwear too just because they are small and I didn’t want to have to wash them often. For shoes, I took a pair of New Balance cross trainers, my Toms, and cheap sandals. Sandals are a definite must! I wore them in the hostel showers and they were great for wearing after each day of the Inca Jungle Trek. My cross trainers held up pretty well. I wouldn’t say hiking shoes are an absolute necessity, but I did kind of wish I had hiking shoes that were a little more water resistant. But a few of the girls in my jungle trek group had hiking shoes and they still got wet. In one of the small towns we stayed at during our trek we were able to pay to have our shoes cleaned and dried. My Toms weren’t necessary, but they were nice to have to wear just on casual days while walking around the city.

EXTRAS
I took my DSLR and I barely ended up using it. I think the reason for that was because I am still a beginner at taking pictures with it and a lot of the times it was a hassle to bring it out of my backpack. So next time, I may just skip taking the big camera and just stick to my iPhone and my Sony Action Cam. I also carried around my Joby Gorillapod, which I never used once!

The collapsible water bottle I took was definitely a good choice. I bought water bottles there and would pour the water into the collapsible one and hooked it onto my backpack. Very versatile!

My Sony Action Cam was great and took a lot of footage with it, but I kind of regret not getting the GoPro instead. Because I didn’t realize that the GoPro can transfer files via Bluetooth on your phone. But the Sony Action Cam is still a nice camera that I was able to take some good videos with.

A rain cover for your backpack is absolutely necessary! It rained a lot during our trek and I felt comfortable that my gear was protected with this rain cover. But I also used these dry bags for extra protection and put my camera and other electronics in these bags inside my backpack.

A headlamp is a must. I only used it the morning of Machu Picchu when we started our hike up around 4:30 in the morning. It was super dark hiking up and it was nice not having to hold a flashlight while hiking.

The money belt I used was also a good buy in my opinion. I felt safer having my passport, credit cards, and some extra cash on my body than in my bag. Your bag can get snatched from you a lot easier than the money belt. I always just kept my every day cash in a smaller coin bag I bought while I was there separate from my stash cash. Some of the travelers I met didn’t even feel the need to keep their money belts a secret and used them like purses! I guess to each their own and you can use it how you feel most comfortable.

A quick dry towel is an absolute must! They are much more compact than a regular towel and you can hang them to dry overnight. Hostels don’t provide you towels, however you can pay to rent them. I felt more comfortable having my own.

Locks are also a must because you need a lock to secure your stuff in the hostels when you don’t want to lug everything around when you’re out exploring. I took two, and used one for my gear at the hostels and one for my daypack.

And finally the clotheslines I took never came to use. I never ended up washing my own clothes and instead just paid to have my clothes washed. It was much more convenient. The female pee pee device I took never got used either. Although, I’ll still have to test this thing out the next time I go on a trip. It was just never practical to bust that thing out and especially because I never had a bottle I could use to pee into. Next time, I think i’ll make sure to carry an empty bottle I can use to pee into while trekking. 🙂

This is the toiletry bag that I used and the day pack I took. I would highly recommend both. The toiletry bag was a little small, but great to force you to take the bare minimum and the bag itself is super lightweight and water resistant. And the day pack I took has a lot of cool security features that allowed me to feel comfortable walking around not having to worry about being pick pocketed. But to be honest, I never felt unsafe during my whole trip, however it doesn’t hurt to be extra cautious just in case!

That’s about it for my gear list! I hope this helps you decide on what to take to South America. Please let me know below if you have any questions and I would be more than happy to help! Also, none of the links above are affiliate links or sponsored. These are my actual opinions and the gear that I actually used and tested on my trip! 🙂

Take care and talk to you soon!

<3, jewlz

Inca Jungle Trek

It’s been about a month now since I came back from my solo trip in South America and I’ve been missing Peru so much. Everyday I crave the outdoors and a new adventure, but I know I have to be patient and make everyday positive until I can take off again. I have a really exciting trip that I might venture on in a few months for my birthday, but we’ll see. It will be a surprise. 🙂

Anyhow, I wanted to finally write about the Inca Jungle Trek I went on. It was a 4 day, 3 night trek that involved mountain biking down the Andean mountains, hiking, rafting, zip lining, and Machu Picchu to end the trip. The total cost of the trip was $230 USD, but you add on extra costs for the zip lining, rafting (I skipped), Huayna Picchu (must-do!), etc. I booked the trip through Loki Hostel, which is where I stayed in Cusco. The hostel was great and the trek was amazing. I would recommend it to anyone! And I am NOT getting paid to say this!

On DAY 1 of our trek we met in front of the hostel in the morning to take off to the mountains. I think the drive was about an hour and a half? I can’t remember exactly. Once we got to our location we geared up to mountain bike down some of the most beautiful scenery I’ve ever seen. The bike was actually too tall for me so the company had to actually saw down one of the seats for me so that my feet could touch the ground. Short people problems! Anyhow, racing down the mountain was such an incredible feeling. I was initially pretty scared cause you’re going downhill and pretty fast, but once I got the hang of the bike I went from the last person to one of the first. Here are some pictures:

Us geared up!
Us geared up!

So beautiful!
So beautiful!

This is the town we stopped biking in.
This is the town we stopped biking in.

Peru, so beautiful in every way.
Peru, so beautiful in every way.
On DAY 2 we had a whole day of hiking. It was raining this morning too, so we started off with ponchos. I wore shorts and a tank top underneath cause it was still very HOT! The hike was pretty strenuous at first and had A LOT of uphill action. I was the last one of the group and had to take multiple breaks for my lungs. Once the uphill part died down, the hike was much easier. The scenery again was so amazing. Being one with nature is always my favorite part when hiking and the mountains there have so much spirit. I definitely felt connected to Mother Earth (Pachamama as they call her) and her awesomeness!

These pictures don't do justice.
These pictures don’t do justice.

The Great Urubamba River. You can feel its strength when you hear the rapids.
The Great Urubamba River. You can feel its strength when you hear the rapids.

Pachamama.
Pachamama.

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A-m-a-z-i-n-g.

A little wobbly and scary, but was so fun to cross!
A little wobbly and scary, but was so fun to cross!

Taking cable cars across the river! So much fun!
Taking cable cars across the river! So much fun!
On DAY 3 we zip lined! And let me tell you, I am scared of heights but still did it anyway! It was so much fun and I do not regret it one bit. Some of the girls in my group were saying that after the first one it gets better, but I was scared each time (total of 5!). I have some videos that I need to edit so I can share, but you can see me scared and then having the time of my life in each one. Haha! After zip lining, we hiked for a few more hours to get to Aguas Calientes.

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On DAY 4 we headed to Machu Picchu from Aguas Calientes.

The road to Machu Picchu.
The road to Machu Picchu.
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Peekaboo!
Peekaboo!
I have more details about the actual hike up to Machu Picchu on my previous post . And I forgot to mention, every night we stayed in different hostels. They were basic hostels with rooms you shared with a few others from your group. Two had wi-fi and one didn’t. Two had warm water and the other was supposed to have warm water, but we had no idea how to work it. Overall, the trip was so much fun and I would recommend it to anyone who likes adventure. Let me know if you have any questions.

Happy planning!

<3, jewlz

 

Plan Your Trip To Machu Picchu

So you want to go to Machu Picchu? It’s been a little over a week since I came back from Peru and I had the best time of my life and wanted to help you plan your trip if you’ve been wanting to go. I mean have you seen pictures? The place is so magical and I would recommend everyone to go and see it in real life!

To start, I want to give you a broad overview on where you actually start your trip. I feel like most websites and blogs just jump into how to see Machu Picchu, but I wanted to give a little extra information to clarify things that I didn’t know before my own trip. So first, you will be flying into Lima because there are no direct flights to Cusco which is the city most people stay in before they journey onto Machu Picchu. From Lima you can either get a connecting flight to Cusco, which usually costs around $100 or more (I paid $109 USD with Star Peru) or you can take a bus. However, this bus ride takes over 22 hours! I was initially considering taking this route, but I decided last minute that I would rather save time than money since my time was limited to two weeks only. The cost was well worth it! I ended up staying at the Lima airport for a 6 hour layover (Starbucks has free wifi!) and then I flew to Cusco in the morning. Once you get to Cusco, many people recommend you acclimate in Cusco for a few days if you are planning to hike Machu Picchu. I gave myself 3 days, but I probably could’ve given myself just one day because I was lucky enough where the altitude did not really affect me. I felt a slight headache on some days, but it wasn’t anything that kept me from doing activities. Then from Cusco is where you start your journey to Machu Picchu and the two most common ways to visit Machu Picchu is by hiking or train. That is the broad overview, but here on some specifics you should consider as well.

WEATHER and TIME OF YEAR
You need to decide when you want to go. This is extremely important cause this will determine how early you have to book things and how costly things will be. I went during April which is considered the shoulder month. October through April is considered the rainy season and May through August is typically their peak season where you will pay higher prices and see bigger crowds. The weather when I went (Mid-April) was mixed with sunny, cloudy, and rainy days. We had to wait for the clouds to move and the rain to stop to get good views of Machu Picchu, but we were lucky overall.

HOW TO SEE MACHU PICCHU
Once you decide when you want to go, you have to decide HOW you want to see Machu Picchu. The most common ways are to hike or go by train. From Cusco, you can either take a train to Aguas Calientes (the small town closest to Machu Picchu) and then take a bus to the entrance of Machu Picchu. This is by far the easiest and least physically demanding option. If you want to put some effort in you can walk from Aguas Calientes and take the steps up to the entrance. Just a warning, these steps felt like they were never ending, but it probably took about an hour or so to get up. You will definitely be able to tell which travelers hiked and which ones came up by bus. We left Aguas Calientes around 4:15 in the morning to get to the start of the steps to Machu Picchu by 5:00 so that we could get to Machu Picchu by sunrise. Another option is to take a taxi or bus from Cusco to Ollantaytambo and then the train to Aguas Calientes and then again take either the bus up to Machu Picchu or walk up! Ollantaytambo is a town further than Aguas Calientes, but definitely worth a visit because it was the royal estate of Pachacuti (the ruler of the Inca Empire). I got to see Ollantaytambo on the Sacred Valley tour the day before I went on my Inca Jungle trek, which was a tour that visited four different Inca sites. I would definitely recommend this tour BEFORE going to Machu Picchu only because Machu Picchu basically tops all. Here are some pictures of Ollantaytambo:
   
    TO HIKE OR NOT TO HIKE
So if you decide to hike, there a multiple options you can choose. The most famous hike is the 4 day classic Inca Trail. If you choose to do this route, keep in mind you need to book this about 6 months in advance. When I started researching different companies in Jan/Feb, by the time I was ready to book everything was sold out because there are a limited amount of people that are allowed on the Inca Trail per month. The cost for this trek is at least $500-600. There are a lot of alternative treks you can go on as well, including the one I went on (Inca Jungle Trek which was 4 days), the Lares trek, the Salkantay trek, etc. I’m going to be posting a separate post on the Jungle Trek so keep a look out for that, but it is definitely a trek I would recommend for anyone who is the adventure type. The trek includes mountain biking, hiking, zip lining, and rafting. 

HUAYNA PICCHU (WAYNA PICCHU)

  

So you see that tall mountain in the background? That’s Huayna Picchu! When you get to the top you get a bird’s eye view of Machu Picchu and I would say it’s definitely worth the extra effort to get there. Only 400 people are allowed per day and you have to purchase a ticket separate from the Machu Picchu entrance fee. You also have to book this in advance because tickets sell out fast. None of the people from my jungle trek were able to get Huayna Picchu tickets so I had to tackle him alone. When I was initially planning my trip I didn’t even have the intention to do Huayna Picchu because of my fear of heights. I researched about the hike and some websites called it the “Death Hike” and described it with narrow paths and sheer drops. Most websites said if you were afraid of heights or had vertigo to not do the hike and also that you had to be somewhat fit.  I even YouTubed videos of Huayna Picchu and those alone gave me butterflies in my stomach when I saw how high you went. I basically scared myself from wanting to do it, but then I realized that going to Macchu Picchu is a once in a lifetime experience so I decided to face my fear and do it anyway! I was honestly secretly hoping I wouldn’t get the ticket when I booked it with Loki travel, but I did. They allow half of the 400 people to start their climb up from 7-8 am and the second half to go up at 10 am (not sure if it’s 9-10 or 10-11). And I secretly was hoping that I wouldn’t make it to the entrance to Huayna Picchu on time when I finally got into Machu Picchu, but I made it to the entrance gate by 8:10am (I was late), but they let me in still cause my Jungle Trek guide rushed me and told me he would tell the people at the main entrance to let me in still. I was the last person to sign the book and I was on my way up! My legs and right knee were pretty much done by the time I made it to the top. It took about an hour and half to get to the top. Surprisingly, the climb up wasn’t as scary as I imagined it to be, but it was definitely physically challenging. The hike up included narrow steps with yes, sheer drops, sometimes with cables you need to hold onto, a tunnel you have to crawl through where I had to take off my pack to get through, a rock with an incline you have to go over to continue on the trail, steps where you have to side step down, and parts where you have to be on all fours. These are the things I love about hiking though! Exploring new places like it’s a jungle gym. And although my knee was done by the time I got to the top (I had to literally side step all the way back down!) I wouldn’t say you have to be all that fit to go. I am a person who rarely works out and I even saw an elderly couple on the way up! The trail does a circle and you can go up and then back down a different path. Most of the older travelers didn’t continue down the whole trail though and instead stopped at the first vantage point where you get this view:  

 Amazing right? The journey was so worth it! I would highly recommend it even if you’re scared of heights! I get butterflies even when I go up multiple flights of and I would still say to do Huanya Picchu. 

Oh and by the time I got to that first vantage point around 9:30 I waited around for the clouds to clear up to get a good view of Machu Picchu. I just busted out some crackers and started snacking while I waited. Food is not allowed in Machu Picchu, but nobody said anything and I made sure I didn’t make a mess or leave any trash. 

FOOD

By the time I got back down from Huayna Picchu my body was aching and I was hungry so I decided to go have lunch and then come back in so I can explore the rest of Machu Picchu. If you don’t pack a lunch you’ll have all but two options. There is a buffet outside and a small snack stand that sells sandwiches and other small items. I actually didn’t even know about the snack stand so I got suckered and paid for the $40 (USD!) buffet. Oh well, at least I got to feast after conquering Huanya Picchu and the food was satisfying.  

OTHER SMALL TIDBITS

  1. Do use the lockers outside of Machu Picchu to store anything you won’t need or take a small daypack. The 40L pack I took was way too big. 
  2. Make sure you have a poncho or rain jacket and waterproof bags for your electronics! They sell ponchos outside too in case you forget for about 5 soles. I’m going to do a separate gear post.
  3. Take the bus back to Aguas Calientes! I think it was close to $12 USD, which I didn’t mind paying for my poor sore body. Plus, I had to catch my train in Aguas Calientes by 4pm. 
  4. And finally, don’t forget to stamp your passport if you want the Machu Picchu stamp! Apparently my guide of the jungle trek told my group that you have to stamp your own passport at the entrance if you want it and I must’ve been sleeping cause I totally didn’t know! So unfortunately I did not get the stamp. However, someone did tell me some countries are picky when you have unofficial stamps like that in your passport. Does anyone know if this is true? It kind of makes me feel better though since I didn’t get the stamp.

Anyway, I think that’s everything I can think of for now. Hope this post helps plan your trip to this magical place! Happy planning! 

<3, jewlz

Solo Trip

So I’ve been officially back in the states since Sunday morning. Oh how I miss Peru. I loved everything about that country. Nothing beats the feeling of being out of the country in a foreign land where everything is so different kind of like when you were a kid filled with so much curiosity and excitement. Two weeks was definitely too short, but I am thankful that I was finally able to go explore and mark something off my bucket list. I never once felt scared on my trip except for on bus rides because people drive like crazies out there. I wanted to share with you some my best moments from my solo trip and hope that it will inspire you to take that leap of faith to finally go somewhere you’ve always wanted to go.

1. I would have to say that my most favorite part of my trip (besides the scenery) was meeting all sorts of people from all over the world. The local people of Peru were so amazing and kind. It was such an awesome experience to talk to different travelers and hear their stories and experiences from their travels. Some of these travelers that I met weren’t even fluent in English, but it was amazing to be able to still communicate and have a good time together. I remember one night a group of us were just sitting outside the hostel teaching each other inappropriate words in each other’s languages. It’s amazing how humans can be connected even without a common language.

2. The scenery in Peru was so beautiful. So different from the United States. My favorite parts were Cusco and the Andean mountains. Cusco is the kind of city that I immediately felt comfortable in. There were definitely a lot of tourists, but still a must-see if you’re planning to visit Peru. The buildings, the doors, the cobblestone streets, and everything in that city were so old and unchanged.

3. Biking down the Andes mountains and hiking in the Andes mountains was probably my favorite part of the 4 day Inca Jungle Trek I went on (besides Macchu Picchu of course). The mountains and how green everything was so beautiful and serene. While we were hiking on one of the days of our trek I decided to listen to some music and I remember feeling like everything in my life was finally in order. I was finally traveling and making things happen for myself and living life. It was just me with the magical nature of the Andes mountains and my music. Everything was perfect.

Although I go back to work and start real life again tomorrow, I am excited to make more money and save for my next trip. I’m trying to figure a way to organize my upcoming posts about the trip, but be on the lookout because they will be up shortly. One will be on the Inca Jungle Trek itself and also an updated packing list on what worked and what didn’t work.

Be back soon! Have an amazing week!

<3, jewlz