Machu Picchu, Peru

Machu Picchu, Peru

After a 1.5 hour train ride from the Sacred Valley, through snow-capped mountains, past rushing rivers and lush valleys, we rode to a rainforest covered train station. We walked through a tent-market of trinkets to a wooden bridge that led us over a waterfall to our hotel’s entrance. Talk about an Eden!

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We checked into the Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pubelo Hotel and walked through the resort’s rainforest grounds to our villa. Our room was on the second floor with floor-to-ceiling windows looking into the forest. It was so beautiful and relaxing!


We had massages scheduled upon our arrival, so we all changed into our robes, put on our slippers, and walked to the spa. We dipped our toes into the pools while we waited and then had our hiking induced knots kneaded out via hot stones. After such a fast paced vacation so far, it was nice to be able to take the load off our feet!

After our massage, we gathered by the fire in the hotel lodge for a pre-dinner pisco sour. The restaurant was just a few flights of stairs away and I enjoyed a delicious meal of quinoa stuffed pepper, passion fruit sweet potatoes, and white fish.

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Since we were only hours away from reaching Machu Picchu, the pinnacle of our trip and the reason we gifted this trip to my dad for his birthday, we celebrated with birthday cake and were all in an amazing mood. It is days like this that I feel so lucky to have such a close-knit family and the ability to travel the world with them!

Only a few hours of sleep later at 4:30 AM, our alarm woke us to get ready for our 5:30 AM bus up to Machu Picchu! I turned the bathroom light on and was startled into alertness by a giant spider in our sink – who knew that would be a better engery booster than coffee!

We met our unenthusiastic guide and walked to the bus station. There was already a huge line at the crack of dawn before the busses even started, so we had to wait about 35 minutes to hop on one of the 38 busses that raced up the switchbacks to the top of the mountain. I was starting to feel a little strange on the drive up, but I was much better off than the hikers trying to catch a ride half-way up the trail! The busses were specifically instructed not to pick hikers up and the stairway to Machu Picchu was a very, very steep one.

We finally made it up to the top and toured the bottom half of Machu Picchu first. There were huge block steps up and down the terraced mountain side and the views were incredible as we learned all about the history of the world wonder.

About 15 minutes into walking around, my stomach started cramping to the point that I had to sit down. Ryan would carry my purse when we walked around and then I had to sit wherever we went. A word of advice, bring a backpack or satchel, not a big purse, when traveling / hiking. I was getting really light-headed and we decided to sit at the top of the ruins for a bit in the shade. Unlike the 40 degree weather in Cusco, it was in the 80’s on top of Machu Picchu!

It was getting more and more crowded as the day went on and we quickly learned that personal space was a luxury. While there was at least 5 feet of space, this woman sat right next to me, literally so close we were touching hips, and this other woman sat on my other side in a space that was more like a crevase than a seat, and spit right next to my shoe! Ugh! Then, this guide stood on the rock my sister was sitting on and his group crowded around us.

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One of the women in the tour group asked if she could take a photo of me with her 60 something year old brother, while Ryan was right there. Again, very odd and I said “No”….


We decided to get out of there and hike up to Inti Punku, the Sun Door, once the main entrance to Machu Picchu. Both Ryan and my dad were wearing jeans which were not very conducive to an hour-long, all up-hill / stairs hike in the sun and heat! My mom sprinted ahead with my sister, so I walked with the guys since I was still feeling pretty awful. About half way up, Ryan lifted up his jean cuffs and steam came out. We couldn’t believe it so he lifted the other leg and, not kidding, there was a poof of steam. Crazy!

We finally made it up to the top and the view made every minute of the hike worth it! The shade felt amazing and the outcropping was the perfect vantage point to take in the whole experience and absorb how amazing whole trip had been so far.
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The hike down was much quicker and easier but, by this point, I had serious stomach pain and was very nauseous. It was time for lunch so I thought some food and water would help me out. For some reason, the only restaurant atop Machu Picchu had our reservation under the wrong name and it was for 7 people, not just the 5 in our group. We were let into the buffet regardless and we sat down but I couldn’t eat so I just drank water. The manager came over to us and told us we had to pay $50 USD per person for the lunch that was included in our tour for the day. Since I couldn’t eat anyway, I left the table to call our tour service and get everything straightened out. Thankfully, we got everything sorted quickly, but I almost passed out while waiting. While I wanted to explore more, my body couldn’t take it, so Ryan and I took the bus back down the mountain to relax at the resort while my family did the Inca Bridge hike. I was sad to miss out on the few hours we had left at Machu Picchu but, honestly, I was glad that I was the one to get sick so everyone else could get the most out of the trip. Ryan was happy to go back with me as he couldn’t walk much more in his skinny jeans!

We freshened up when we arrived back at the Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pubelo Hotel and lounged by the pool for a few hours. It felt nice to put our worn-out feet in the pool and we recommended it to my family when they finally arrived from their hike. My mom dipped her toes in… and then the rest of her fully-clothed self as she lost balance and fell in! Talk about a hilarious oops!

Unfortunately, we had to go back to Cusco that night, so we repacked our bags and hopped on the train. Talk about a long day! While I tried to sleep most of the ride back, it was a bit tough since there was a fashion show on the train selling all sorts of alpaca wool goods! The stewards played loud music, everyone was clapping, and there was a guy dressed as a tiger making weird purring noises while the models walked the isle “cat-walk”. It would have been quite fun if I hadn’t been basically dying on the inside!

Once we reached Ollantaytambo, we had another 45 minute, bumpy and winding drive through the mountains to get back to Cusco. We were exhausted but fate rewarded us with an upgrade at the Hotel San Agustin to a huge suite with the biggest tub I’ve ever seen. Montezuma might have been waging a terrible revenge, but being sick was worth it for such an amazing day!

Machu Picchu

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Ketchikan

Ketchikan

Ketchikan, Alaska

6:15 AM wake up for our 7 AM arrival at the Ketchikan port. The city is absolutely charming with the different colored houses making their way up the mountains. Ketchikan is 3 miles long and only 3 blocks wide since the mountains make it difficult to build upon. Some of the “roads” with street signs are actually wooden stairs that lead up the the higher houses that cannot be accessed by traditional paved roads!

View of Ketchikan, Alaska from the Crown Princess cruise ship

We got off the ship right at 7 AM and had about an hour to make our way to the Liquid Sun Gauge where we were to meet our kayaking guides. It was about a 10-minute walk down the dock to the gauge and we perused some stores along the way. One of the stores had a “Short cut to downtown” sign that pointed through its doors as you could walk through the store and out the other side. Talk about cute but effective ways to get people in your store!

We arrived at the Liquid Sun Gauge which had Ketchikan factoids on it and showed how much rainfall the town has seen to date vs. its record of 202.55 inches in 1949. The above shows approximately 180 inches through May of 2016 alone! Next to the gauge is a huge bronze statue called “The Rock” portraying a native Ketchikan woman welcoming all of the traveler types that shaped the town (i.e. gold seekers, fisherman, tradesmen, loggers, and more). We waited by the statue until our guide arrived with a big yellow paddle. She escorted us, along with 6 others, further down the dock to Southeast Sea Kayak’s boat HQ. We got a brief safety instruction, dry bags for our valuables, and life vests. We then transferred to a smaller boat to drive about 20 minutes to Orca Cove. Our transport ship’s Captain was from Australia and was quirky and informative about much of Ketchikan. He told us of the natives and various islands where people live around the city. He also informed us that there was no whistling allowed on the ship. We still have no idea why he was so opposed to our tunes, but both Ryan and I got in trouble a few times for that one!

Sea kayaks in Orca Cove, Ketchikan Alasak

The view on the ride to Orca Cove was amazing. There was a larger boat waiting for us in the cove which had all of our kayaks attached. We hopped from our boat to the larger and got put into our two-person sea kayaks. Ryan was too big for our kayak so they had to remove our rudder controlling pegs so he could fit! We also had to wear these water skirt things that we wore like overalls and that covered the sitting hole so if any water came up onto our kayak, it wouldn’t go inside. The water was very calm, but the skirts were nice since they kept our stuff dry from water running off our paddles and kept the heat in so we were warm!

Sea kayaking in Orca Cove, Ketchikan Alasak

The tide was at its low point for the day and we paddled first to the rocky inlet of a salmon run stream. The tide was so low that all of the water from the stream was gone and we could not paddle up, but we were able to look down and see tons of sea life in the rocks since the water was crystal clear. We saw what must have been thousands of red or purple starfish all over the sea floor and exposed rocks that were waiting for the tide to come back in. There were also loads of anemone and sea cucumbers! The amount of life teaming below our little kayaks was amazing.

Star fish on the rocks during low tied in Ketchikan, Alaska

We continued to paddle along the shore line. There were only 6 of us, our guide, and the sounds of nature. We came across a rushing waterfall sourced from an inland freshwater lake and multiple eagles who were perched close to their nests where they mate for life and raise their young every year. At one point, two bald eagles took off from their tree and flew right over us to the neighboring island. It was incredible!

Sea kayaking in Orca Cove, Ketchikan Alaska

We kayaked for just about 2 hours. It was so relaxing and by far my favorite experience of the trip so far. Unfortunately, we did not see any whales or otters, but the scenery alone was enough to satisfy. We headed back to the kayak docking boat and chatted with the guys who captained the boat for a while about their travel stories and how they arrived in Alaska. Most of the workers we met were seasonal and just traveled the world for each regions various tourist seasons. What a life huh?

The owner of theSoutheast Sea Kayak makes his own smoked salmon which we got to snack on after our kayaking ride. With a little cream cheese and crackers, it was so yummy! Our boat back arrived just as we finished our snack and we hopped on to go back to shore. I was so sad our last Alaskan excursion was over, but there were still a few cruise days left!

It took about 20 minutes to get back to shore. We grabbed our stuff and browsed quite a few of the gift shops on the way back to the boat. I bought some smoked salmon for my folks as they love to have salmon on the bagels in the morning and where better to buy smoked salmon than the salmon capital of the world!?

Hanging with my bear friends in Ketchikan, Alaska

Our ship departed from Ketchikan at 1:15 PM. We had “A Taste of India” for lunch and I was surprised at how good the ships take on Indian food was. It wasn’t the best ever, but it was not disappointing either! After that, we hopped into our bathing suits and into a hot tub on deck 15. We were having a nice time and I was stretching my IT bands in the hot tub since they were a bit sore. With one foot out of the water, I looked up and saw this 40ish year old guy in a bright red jacket with fanny pack take my picture, smile, and wave at me! Then he turned around and walked off. It was so weird and creepy – I guess he really liked my feet?!

We didn’t stay in the tub too much longer after foot guy before we had to run back to the room and get ready for formal night! I wore a blue cocktail dress and Ryan matched me with a navy bow tie. We did a little pre-gaming at the buy one get one for $1 drink event at the Wheelhouse bar – a great way to have some strong and cheap cocktails if you do not have a cruise drink package. We then continued our party in the Botticelli dining room and had quite the feast or lamb and veal pate, beef Wellington and smashed potatoes, and baked apple cake with vanilla ice-cream.
After dinner, Ryan and I grabbed the bottle of wine from our room and headed to Disney trivia in another bar. While Ryan’s sister and her husband knew almost all of the answers, Ryan and I were pretty poor Dinsey fans. The girl hosting the trivia used to work at Disney and her questions were very detailed! We opted for trying our luck in the couples “how well do you know each other” game after trivia, but we got turned away since Ryan and I are not yet married – boo! After being rejected, we decided to head back to the room to watch movies and sleep off our wine!

Sea kayaking in Orca Cove, Ketchikan Alaska