Wandering Wednesday: Nod ‘n’ Smile discovers Peru.
For our Wandering Wednesday guest posts we ask a fellow travel blogger to highlight one place (city or entire country) that has been one of the most memorable for them. It can be a fond type of memorable, or “my hair caught on fire, I contracted rabies, and my luggage was stolen”- type of memorable. The good, the bad, and the ugly. We’re taking it all.
For today’s Wandering Wednesday, we’re featuring Lanthy from Nod ‘n’ Smile. Nod ‘n’ Smile is the online storybook of a NYC-based blogger sharing her never-ending search for adventure at home and abroad. Her next great adventure will be a round-the-world trip beginning in July 2012 that will take her through Europe, Asia and South America.
First things first, Why do you travel?
This question overwhelms me because there’s so much to say. I know whatever answer I provide now, I’ll think of a better one later. I think for every trip that I take, I come home with another good reason why. But the short of it is that traveling makes the world smaller but my worldview bigger. It allows me to continually discover who I am as well as who I am not. I enjoy being awed, surprised and challenged in my thinking and my travels have expanded the space and provided opportunities where I can be.
What brought you to Peru?
I will be perfectly honest and say that my boyfriend and I decided to go to Peru because we just happened to see an incredible flight deal and thought ‘why not?’ At the time, neither of us knew much about Peru except for the fact that Machu Picchu was supposed to be amazing. It takes very little to convince me to go somewhere- it can be a great deal, a festival, a quirky aspect of the culture, the simple fact that I know nothing about the country, etc. If I haven’t been there, chances are I’d be open to going so any excuse is a good excuse to travel.
What was your most memorable experience (good or bad) from your time in Peru?
During the trip, we wanted to go on a trek through the Andes but we weren’t able to secure a spot for the Inca Trail trek so we decided to take an alternative route and booked the shorter Huchuy Qosqo trek to Machu Picchu instead.
Although we had signed up for a group trek, the other folks canceled last-minute so we ended up on an incredible private three-day tour through the Andes- just the two of us and our ridiculous entourage that included a guide, a cook, two horse handlers, and three horses. Two of the horses carried equipment and gear while the third became the designated “emergency horse” in the event that someone needed it.
My boyfriend and I had joked that I- who, let’s say, am not the most physically fit or resilient person in the world- would be on the emergency horse within an hour. And as we set out, sure enough, we found ourselves winded and stopping every few seconds to try to slow the pounding in our chests. While we were both exhausted, I noticed that my boyfriend was really hurting. After some time he finally confessed that he seemed to be suffering from some sort of food poisoning and gratefully got on the emergency horse. All was well enough until, a few hours later, the horse decided it had had enough and launched my boyfriend off of its back.
To make a long story short, some of the people and horses on our team had already walked ahead to set up camp, but my boyfriend couldn’t continue walking and no one felt safe having him get back on the same horse while we were wandering along steep cliffs. So, we were asked to wait on top of a mountain while the remaining people went to exchange the emergency horse for another. Grateful for the break, my boyfriend promptly passed out but I sat there worrying. After a few minutes, I started to panic when I had a sudden realization that if no one came back for us I would have no idea how to get back to town and all of our belongings (including our passports and money!) were with the horses.
Luckily, our guide eventually did come back with a new horse, but those couple of hours were some of the most nerve-wracking of my life. However, not only did we finally make it to camp safely that day, but the cook and horse handlers collected leaves from the mountain and nursed my boyfriend back to health so by the second day, he was as good as new. We’d never been more grateful, and the trek ended up being one of the hardest but most rewarding things I’ve ever done. And yes, Machu Picchu completely lives up to the hype and more. It took my breath away (no pun intended).
I know that the Inca Trail is the big trek in Peru, and many of my friends have raved about their experiences, but don’t discount the alternative treks. They still take you along trails utilized by the Incans and offer you an experience distinct from the masses. You’re less likely to run into other tourists and you’ll have opportunities to explore ruins and areas less visited. During our three-day trek, we saw many locals, but not a single other tourist until we reached Machu Picchu.
How did your experiences in Peru change you as a person and how you feel about travel?
I’m not sure that it changed me so much as it validated and magnified what I already knew. When I travel, I’m a shinier, better version of myself- incredibly receptive to the people and world around me, and completely in the moment. In Peru, and particularly during the trek, I felt as though I was living an idealized version of life. I ate healthfully for strength, woke up and went to sleep with the sun, challenged myself physically and mentally and approached everything with an open heart and mind. Peru is a country rich in so many ways- its culture, history, and natural environment- and the pride and enthusiasm the locals have for their country is infectious. The trip was an intensely fulfilling experience.
Well, the next major, major trip I will be embarking on is my first (but hopefully not last!) round-the-world trip beginning in July 2012. While my boyfriend and I travel often, the length of our trips have been limited by the number of vacation days afforded by our jobs, so this will be an opportunity to travel more slowly and immerse ourselves more deeply.
But given that the rtw trip is still many months away, and I get antsy if I don’t travel for a few weeks, I’m in the process of planning a couple of shorter interim trips. I think Japan may be next.
Do you or someone you know have a memorable experience from your travels? Want to be featured on one of our Wandering Wednesday posts? Send an e-mail to email@example.com