Sunday, August 7, 2016

PerExit & BrEntry

Lets all say good bye to South America. 

Fine, lets bring it in for a hug!

Don't act like you don't want to
I'm really gonna miss you.

Good bye South America (may not actually be South America)

After my month in Cusco, Peru, I have said ciao to South America and bonjour to Europe. London specifically. You know, that country that just voted to leave the EU. There's plenty to talk about my new adventures on this new continent, but I know you're dying to hear about Peru, so we should talk about that.

As I may have mentioned before, this place is full of the cutest animals ever. Since I'm such a nice guy, I'm gonna throw in pictures of alpacas and goats and maybe even a puppy throughout this post. Here's your first:

It's like he's looking right at the camera
Cusco is basically a tourist town as it acts as the staging point to go to Machu Picchu. Even though there was someone trying to sell me something on every block, I actually really enjoyed it. It was a city built by the Inca's and was full of one way narrow stone streets (that served bi-direction traffic somehow) with the occasional Inca wall still standing (the Incas knew how to build a wall).

Jeff Gaughan from RY2 (Remote Year 2...the group we are trailing by one month), made this cool video of our walk from hotel to office space.

Cusco, like La Paz the previous month, is at an elevation around 13,000 ft and as you might have noticed there's like over 100 stairs to get up to the hotel room (plus hills up the whole walk) that sucked. I also tried to run a few times during the month, but it was impossible due to altitude and consistent up hills. I basically had to stop every hundred feet to catch my breath. Thankfully, though, I didn't have to do any hiking up mountains this months.

That was a joke. I actually had to hike up lots of mountains this month. It's funny because I said the opposite of the truth.

The weather in Cusco was quite cold. At night it would get below freezing and most of the buildings don't have heat. It's like they built the city without considering the fact that its cold for part of the year. Lots of places had heat lamps or space heaters (like my bedroom), but they didn't really cut it. So, on this  year long trip where I'm supposedly "chasing summer", I had to wear a jacket every day

This doubles as an example of me wearing a jacket and a cute animal picture (and a Cholita picture)

July is apparently festival month in Cusco and there are literally, literally (not a typo), parades every single day.

Every day

Like every day

No, really...every day

So that rainbow flag is the flag of Cusco. You may think its the gay pride flag, but if you look closely, you'll notice its actually upside down. I guess you can't really tell from this picture b/c its flat and there is no upside down....but if you hang it, then you can totally tell the difference.

OK, time for an extreme alpaca close up..

Extreme alpaca close up

I mentioned earlier that there's lots of Inca stuff in Cusco. In fact, they say they built the town in the shape of a Puma because it was one of the Inca's sacred animals.

Cusco in the shape of a Puma....kinda of

It seems more like if you just randomly draw lines through the city that looks like a Puma, then yeah, its in the shape of a Puma.

That head part of the Puma is an Inca Ruin called Sacsayhuaman. If you sound it out (at least the way the Peruvians do) it sounds exactly like Sexy Woman. So, when you walk around Cusco you are often asked if you want to go to Sexy Woman. And of course, every time I say yes, and then I'm disappointed. I get up there and there's no sexy woman, just some ruins and this telephone pole...

The great Sexy Woman telephone poll
I suppose it's a pretty sweet view at least.

Oh my god, how cute is that?

One observation I will make about Cusco is that people seem to work crazy hours. Like 14 hour days, 6 days a week. I met multiple people in this situation. Not sure how that is possible.

Moving on....for my first big side trip of the month, I went to Rainbow Mountain. I'm not sure why people don't know about this place cause it's ridiculous.

Rainbow Mountain....where Skittles come from

Like, how have you never seen a picture of that before in your life? Everyone knows Machu Piccu, but this is like just around the corner (so to speak). They really need some better marketing.

The backside of Rainbow Mountain

So much rainbow
This was prob the toughest hike, IMHO, that I have done on this trip. It's not that the actual hike was tough, long or rigorous...its that you are ascending to 15,000 feet. No Oxygen! No bueno! The only thing that really got me through this madness was the constant stream of cute llamas on the hill side.

So many llamas (or alpacas)

One of the most important things I learned this month was the difference between a llama and an alpaca.
  1. Ears - Llama ears are larger
  2. Size - Llamas are bigger
  3. Face - Llama have longer faces
  4. Attitude - Llamas are assholes

Which one do you think this is?

Nope, you're wrong! It's my girlfriend. She's human.

The next trip I took was an all day ATV tour of the area surrounding Cusco, known as Sacred Valley (when pronounced sounds like "seductive mistress"). This trip had all your usual, expected ATV elements...

Matt as a badass on his ATV with an amazing mountainous background

Never in my life have I seen such a badass

Quinoa (took me 5 times to spell that right)

They love their quinoa in South America

Salt. So much salt!

We visited a salt mine. It was delicious.

The back of my usual

You recognize me now

Nazi storm trooper helmets

[Insert German here]

And finally, me licking the salt

What is wrong with me?

List Over!

Before we get to my final adventure of the month, here's a cute puppy to keep you occupied.

Actually a llama

My final adventure of the month was the big one. The whole enchilada. The whole Machu Piccu as they say. That's right, Machu Picchu (pronounced MAH-choo-PEEK-choo which of course means "Old Mountain" in Quechua (the native language). If you pronounce it MAH-choo-PEE-choo, it means "Old Penis". But that may be what you actually wanted to say).

Now you can just take a train and a bus to Machu Picchu and walk around, but I wanted to go big. So, I booked a trip with 14 other people from my Remote Year trip for a 4 day hike of the Inca Trail. Only 500 people a day are allowed to enter the Inca Trail (including guides and sherpas), so I felt really special (and also I booked the trip back in January to ensure we had spots). For the 15 of us on the trip, how many sherpas do you think we had? 10? No really, guess. Eleventeen? Thats not even a number. The answer is 21. We had 21 sherpas (including a chef) and 2 guides.

So many sherpas

This was more like luxury hiking than hiking. Every meal was amazing. He even made a pizza and a cake without an oven (not sure how thats possible). It is just the best when you roll into camp after hiking all day and everything is all setup for you.

The hike itself was not that tough, but it had some pretty amazing views along the way.

Day 2 of the Inca Trail

Day 3 of the Inca Trail...what a pose

Machu Picchu (PEEK-choo) was not actually the highlight of the trip. In fact, it kinda sucked. I mean the actual place was amazing, but there were soooo many tourists. Like an out of control number of tourists. Like enough tourists so that I didn't even think this was the most amazing thing ever...

Not the most amazing thing ever...cause of the tourists

What was the most amazing thing ever, and possibly my favorite day on Remote Year (it's a tough call between this and biking Death Road in La Paz) was Day 3 of the Inca Trail. Lots of Inca ruins, some of the best views of my life....and no tourists.


Above average

A little cheesy

Kinda cool

But don't get me wrong, day 4 was an amazing day too. We woke up at 3:00AM in order to get to the Sun Gate at sunrise and maybe beat some of the crowds to the main event. The Sun Gate is just like this other ruin with a good view of Machu Picchu (PEEK-choo) (I'm sure it has some other significance as well). So after hiking all morning we finally made it.

The cloudy Sun Gate

Oh look, a bunch of clouds...

Alright, I guess I got some other good ones.

Don't wear the shirt of the band to their concert

I'm tired of writing captions

Extreme selfie

Alright, its pretty impressive

All that Machu Picchu-ing calls for another cute animal

Baby goats....why not

One other unique things I did in Cusco was eat Guinea Pig (yeah thats a thing there). However, it was definitely not worth it. Its expensive, there's no meat and it doesn't taste good....the three things you look for in a meal. But it makes a nice picture I guess.

You're childhood pet

And that about wraps up my month in Cusco, Peru. But before we move on, I'll give you one more picture of an alpaca.

Too soon? I promise it wasn't the cute white one.

Then, I went to London for a month.