Land of Fire & Ice (And Everything Nice)

Bright rainbows breaking through clouds, the rush of a waterfall around every corner, rolling green fields, and the nicest people you’ve ever met?

Sounds like heaven, but the name is Iceland.

I was lucky enough to visit this incredible country this past week- this time with my boyfriend for our three year anniversary. It was our first international trip together, and his first time outside of North America- something I’ve been wanting to experience with him since we started dating!

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We got a sneak peek of the mesmerizing Northern Lights as we flew over Greenland. Our captain woke us up to instruct us to look out the left side of the plane for the show!

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Due to the weather, this would unfortunately be the only sighting we’d have the rest of our trip, but the views alone of this country and the adventures we went on more than made up for it! We spent the first full day exploring Reykjavik. The country’s capital and largest city, and it charmed us from the very start. Take a look at some of the city’s gems:

We saw the Sun Voyager, a striking steel sculpture along the water.

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Harpa, a concert hall near the harbor where we saw an awesome exhibit.

Hallgrímskirkja, an immense church that boasts outstanding panoramic views of the entire city.

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Perlan, a glass dome rotating restaurant where we enjoyed a delicious dessert after a long day of hiking.

 

Lake Tjörnin, Ráðhús Reykjavíkur (City Hall), Monument to the Unknown Bureaucrat,  etc.

 

As much as we adored the city, we loved the countryside even more. We couldn’t pass up one of the most famous routes out of Reykjavik- the Golden Circle- featuring Þingvellir National Park, Haukadalur geothermal area (Geysir, Strokkur), and Gullfoss waterfall.

Gullfoss waterfall– This double-tiered waterfall reminded me at first of Niagra Falls, but I loved how close we could get to it!  Not to mention the way the sun reflected off the water- the rainbow was a gorgeous payoff for the long climb and the downpour of rain we got caught in!

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Þingvellir (Thingvellir) National Park the site of two tectonic plates (American and Eurasian) that drift apart at a speed of 2 cm/year, and also the site of Althingi, the oldest functioning parliament in the world. We couldn’t get enough of the history and autumn colors here.

 

Haukadalur geothermal area (Geysir, Strokkur, etc.)

Bright blue bubbling pools, hot springs, and mud pots, this place was a delight to see! Although the sulfur smelled like rotten eggs, you forget all about it with the excitement of seeing Strokkur explode every 5-10 minutes.

 

We made a stop at Fákasel Horse farm to see the famous Icelandic horses. They are all pure bred- once an Icelandic horse leaves the country it cannot ever return, and no horses can be imported. They also have five gaits instead of four, making them very unique.

 

We didn’t think we could top the Golden Circle, but we were proven wrong during our exploration of Iceland’s South Coast shores:  Skógafoss waterfall, Reynisfjara’s black sand beaches, Sólheimajökull glacier, Eyjafjallajökull volcano, and Seljalandsfoss waterfall, among others.

Skógafoss JJ and I were able to climb to the very top of this powerful waterfall. (Look to the top right of the photo- that’s where we were!) The slippery steps led us to an unbelievable view looking down below.

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Black sand beaches of ReynisfjaraThis world famous beach was like nothing we had ever seen before! Gray pebbles, dark sand, basalt sea stacks, rocky pyramids towering over us. The impressively strong, high waves crashing into the shore and gusts of wind were scary and wonderful all wrapped into one spectacular visit.

 

Sólheimajökull glacier- This glacier emerged right as we rounded the bend after a 10-15 minute hike. It completely took our breath away- it was the first time either of us had ever seen a glacier in real life! We learned it covers Katla, a dangerous volcano that is threatening to erupt in the near future. (Which we were glad we missed.)

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Eyjafjallajökull – You can’t see the glacier here in this photo below, but the left photo is the volcano that erupted in 2010 and stopped air traffic throughout all of Europe. The photo on the right is a massive rock in which houses have been built into. It’s been called the “elf house.” Many Icelandic people believe in elves. JJ and I weren’t convinced, but it is ironic that after we took this photo, our camera stopped working…

 

Seljalandsfoss– By far one of our most favorite destinations. This magnificent waterfall has a path that leads you BEHIND it, so you can actually walk to the other side for an even more stunning view. But beware: you absolutely will get soaked to the core. Definitely worth it!

 

So okay, you get it. We saw some extraordinary things in nature and kissed under a lot of waterfalls. But what did we eat?

Pylsa– Iceland is known for their hot dogs, and I certainly had my fair share of them. Not joking, I could really go for another one as we speak! The picture on the right is at Bæjarins Bestu, which proudly displays a picture of Bill Clinton enjoying his meal. If you order one with everything on it (which I recommend), it includes raw onions, crispy fried onions, ketchup, special Icelandic mustard, and remoulade.

Don’t believe me about how AMAZING and renowned they are? Check it here.

Flatbrauð- rye bread with smoked lamb & Malt drink (non-alcoholic, typically mixed with orange soda for holidays)

 

Skyr– A thick yogurt that was very filling.

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Several different soups to help warm up on colder nights:

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Traditional Icelandic Meat Soup.

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Turnip soup- never had a turnip in my LIFE but this was delicious!

And, of course, who could forget FISH?

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The best fish either of us had ever tried at the Drunk Rabbit.

Chuck Norris Grill– we couldn’t stop laughing at all of these sayings!

 

Dillon Whiskey Bar– Sampled some Balvenie (aged 12 years) here that I loved!

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Drinks- Icelandic Pale Ale & White Ale, Viking, Thule,  Egils Gull beer, Somersby cider. etc. We tried it all but the Black Death, Brennivín, which we plan on trying in the States.

 

Blue Lagoon– How could we come to Iceland and not visit one of the 25 wonders of the world? On our last day, we spent a full day here relaxing and literally soaking it all in. With blue water the temperature of 100° F, a swim up bar, and silica mud masks that left your skin feeling 10 years younger, there was no better way for us to wrap up our romantic, fascinating, and completely breathtaking vacation.

 

We could not have asked for a more beautiful adventure together, and already can’t wait to go back. Iceland captured our hearts from the beginning, but if you’ve read this post, it’s not hard to see why.

 

 

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Belgium Under Bright Lights

Remember when I quit my job and bought a ticket to Spain in 2013? Where’d we leave off on that story of European adventures? Ah, yes. Ibiza & Paris.

It’s been three years since I existed in these photographs. Three years since I traveled to Belgium by myself. Three years since I met some of the closest people to my heart.

One thing I love about solo travel is that not only does it allow for self-exploration, but it also is how I’ve met the most incredible individuals. People always think that traveling alone has to be so lonely. And yes, sometimes, it can be. But it’s all in how you look at it. When you travel with a group of friends, you tend to stick with that group of friends. You talk among yourselves, go everywhere together, etc. However, when you are alone, it’s easier to be approached and more likely that you’ll approach others. Of course, this depends on whether or not you can put your fears (or pride) aside.

I can promise you right now that what stuck with me from this particular part of the trip is not the Renaissance architecture , the taste of chocolate, or the country itself, but the wonderful friends I made while exploring its cities.

Read my journal entries for yourself.

BELGIUM (BRUSSELS)

Tuesday September 10, 2013-  Here I am, about to board my flight to Brussels. I wish I would’ve booked this trip better. I still have to figure out what I will do when I get there, and pick which part of the country I am going to explore. I’m overwhelmed but so excited.

Okay, so I loved flying on Brussels airlines. They served a small roll with cheese and sauce, and orange juice, and a small chocolate. Loved it! Basically I just love food. Brussels airport was confusing. Ugh it was rough, but then even though my taxi ride was 60 euro, it was worth it because I had the sweetest old man as my driver and he showed me a lot of the sights of the city as we drove past. I checked into my hostel, a bunk bed in a private part of housing up the street that is just for females. My roommate hadn’t arrived yet. I charged my iPad a bit, researched some tours, and finally decided on Ghent and Bruges trip …took off on foot toward the city and of course it poured down rain. The map of Brussels I’d been given was awesome, really helpful. I went to see the Use It center and saw a girl with bright red hair and an infectious smile. It was there I made a friend- Radka.

She’s from Prague. We traveled in the heart of the city together and talked nonstop, she’s just lovely and so much better with direction than I am.

We set our sights on waffles- I mean, you can’t be in Belgium and NOT get them! Mine was tomato and ham and then with Belgian chocolate for dessert. (Yep- definitely got two. Told ya, I LOVE to eat.)

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We saw Manneken Pis ( a famous 1618  bronze statue of a little boy pissing into a fountain) which is pretty small in person. We took several funny pictures, walked on and stood in awe at the Grand Place (Grote Markt) and Royal Palace (official palace of the King and Queen). Stopped at Cafe Bizon, which reminded me of a small Irish pub, and I got Gueze Boon and Kriek Boon (hint of cherry flavor) and the easiest sour one to start with, Radka informed me.

It was so good to finally have some girl talk. We talked about relationships and travel, life and love, things we wanted to do in the future. And we laughed and laughed. It was hard not to be happy around her!

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I thought I was funny.

I was very tired at this point from a long day with little sleep. We decided to call it a night, and got cat called in Chinatown on the way back to our hostel. We laughed it off, but I think secretly pat ourselves on the back. We felt so alive and beautiful.

It was hard to say goodbye. Radka and I made possible plans for me to travel to Prague soon. I don’t know if it will work out, but I sincerely hope it does. She has been a blessing to have.

BELGIUM (BRUGES)

Wednesday September 11, 2013- I woke up early for my trip to Bruges. I  hurried to get ready, and grabbed a piece of bread with jam and called a cab to meet at a hotel for the departing spot. I was so late.  Luckily the receptionist called for me and I’m now on the bus, so stressful. Made a mental note to not let that happen again.

So I just met two people on the bus that became very dear to my heart very fast…Kathy and John from California. I can’t remember what got us talking, but once we did, we didn’t stop! They are incredibly kind people and I’m feeling very lucky that I chose this tour, so that our paths could cross. We started off in Ghent, which was a small and cute town.  We explored St. Bavo’s Cathedral when we got off the bus and then roamed as we pleased. It was pouring out and cold, so I tried to find some warmer clothes but they didn’t have too much, and it was more than I wanted to pay. [I started this trip off in June and in Spain, so I packed almost all summer clothes, with only a couple pairs of leggings and long sleeve shirts. At this point in my trip, I’m trying to be very careful about money, because I don’t know how things will work out or how long I’ll stay overseas.]

We also saw the Castle of the Counts of Flanders/Gravensteen Castle and drove through the countryside.

Upon arriving in Bruges, Kathy, John, and I walked the cobbled streets around one of the most romantic cities I’ve ever stepped foot in. We saw Minnewater (Lake of Love) and paused for some photographs. From there, we explored City Hall, the Market Square, and even more incredible sights.

We stopped to have lunch at a really nice restaurant…which normally I wouldn’t have done and stuck to my bread and Nutella sandwiches or got a cheap sandwich from a street vendor, but I technically did have the money and I really wanted to eat with them. We had cheese croquettes, beef stew in a beer sauce, and then chocolate mousse for dessert. It was the most I’ve treated myself on this trip. John got mussels and let me try some when he found out I’d never had them before. We had delicious white wine and shared fries.

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They reminded me so much of my parents back in the States who I missed so much, and I nearly broke down and cried when they insisted on paying for the bill…It was such an unexpected and kind gesture. They didn’t know how much it helped. They told me all about their children and how they met. Her daughter was getting married in two weeks so she bought a lace handkerchief for her and some chocolates…They took an interest in my life, asking about my travels and experiences, applauded the journey I was on. We devoured orange chocolate sticks and stopped for a beer since the weather was quite awful and we chose not to go on the boat in Bruges. The natural conversation and company more than made up for it! I’ve never felt so connected so instantly. Age didn’t make a difference, we felt like longtime friends. Kathy and I exchanged e-mail addresses and promised to stay in touch. I miss them and the comfort of their presence already.

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Gloomy day, but still beautiful!

Thursday September 12- I showered this morning, packed up, checked out of the hostel and printed my boarding passes, then scarfed down breakfast. Headed out to find the Nord station and to the vintage shops, hoping to find some warmer clothes. One had everything for four euros and if I didn’t have to carry my luggage on my back and was the old me, I would have bought so many clothes. It’s funny how you realize you don’t need all these excess material things. The other was small but had a jackpot- an outdoor raincoat. The lady said she’d take it for 14 euros but I only had twelve on me and she gave it to me. I FINALLY HAVE A JACKET. This time, I did cry. I had something to wear in this rain and colder temperatures, but the kindness of strangers, and the friends that I have made here, have been the sunshine that’s been missing the past couple days. Somehow, I know I’ll be seeing them again soon.  I grabbed my luggage, feeling completely rejuvenated, and walked to the Nord train station, ready for whatever was next.

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Less Than 72 Hours in Chicago

Bold architecture? Delectable food? Astonishing art? Chicago, one of the largest cities in the states, has it all.

I’ve been looking for a chance to explore this city, and when I saw flights* for less than $100 round-trip (on a holiday weekend!) I took it.

I left Thursday, September 1st and returned Sunday, September 4th. During my stay, my friends Shawna & Shelly were kind enough to let me stay at their apartment that they just recently moved into.

Here’s what I experienced in my short time there:

First experience on the ‘L’

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**The transit system- easy to use, only $20 for a 3-day pass (purchased from O’Hare station) and quite convenient.

A run on Lakefront trail

I convinced Shawna to squeeze in a 2.5 mile run early in the morning. Loved this view!

Wrigley Field

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While I didn’t catch a game here, I could feel the atmosphere from outside the stadium. Cubs fans and gear everywhere!

Views from the Skydeck (Willis Tower)

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The lines were absolutely terrible, but the view beneath my feet made it all worth the experience.

Chicago style hot dogs at Portillo’s

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We got the tip that this local chain was the place for Chicago style dogs, and not only that, but they had delicious chocolate cake- plus it was all very affordable and had a very retro vibe! 

A theft

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Obviously, this was an event we didn’t plan. Shortly after we left Portillo’s, Shawna received an e-mail about a fraudulent charge on her card. Somehow, someone had gotten her wallet. The next couple hours were spent cancelling her credit and debit cards and accounting for everything that would need replaced. It was stressful, but it could have been much worse. Besides, what’s the full city experience without a little chaos?

Riverwalk

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Did I mention I love these colors? I could take my lunch break along the river any day.

Deep dish pizza from Lou Malnati’s

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***Honestly think I am going to crave this delicious, heavenly pizza for the rest of my life. 

Revolution Brewing, Co. beer

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Another must after a long day of walking. Shawna had this in her fridge, and I was a big fan. Spiced with coriander & orange peel.

Navy Pier

For a holiday weekend + Lobster fest going on, this place = absolute madness. However, the crowds were no match for the views of this landmark. 

Jazz Festival

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I picked a great weekend to visit- the jazz festival was going on downtown and we caught a captivating performance in Millennium Park. 

Lincoln Park/Lincoln Park Zoo

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Lincoln Park Zoo is an incredible place to visit if you have kids, as it’s FREE! We walked through Lincoln Park to the beach. 

Lake Michigan

The contrast of the sand & water with the city skyscrapers in the background was incredible to me. And as you can see, I was really enjoying the weather!

Molly’s Cupcakes

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Because sometimes you have to treat yourself! This place was adorable, complete with swings for seats. May I present to you: The Ron Bennington, Blueberry Cheesecake, and Peach Cobbler cupcakes. 

Millennium Park

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Tons of sculptures, cool architecture, and mesmerizing art. This is where a lot of concerts & large events are held.

Cloud Gate (The Bean)

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Jumping for joy because I love this city!

Buckingham Fountain

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Caught this right as the sun was reflecting off the buildings. An incredible ending! This is one of the largest fountains in the world.

Knickerbocker Hotel

I tried really hard to convince the manager to give me the hook up, since the hotel and I share a last name, but he wasn’t having it. He did, however, show us the crystal ballroom where there was a wedding going on. Beautiful, historic hotel.

Stan’s Donuts

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Okay, people. I really loved this place. A wide variety of flavors, old fashioned charm, etc. The donuts were scrumptious, but don’t inhale them and chug your coffee like I did. Also, maybe avoid diabetes and get one donut like a normal person?

 

Some tips:

*Fly Frontier or Spirit–  If you are flying into Chicago, look for cheaper flights on these airlines. If you can do it, only bring a backpack. I flew Frontier and they charge for carry on and checked bags, but a backpack that fits certain restrictions is free. If you’re only there for a short time, it’s all you need!

**Get the Ventra 3-day pass at the O’Hare airport. I only paid $20, and was told that anywhere else, they charge you for the $5 card fee. This lets you take both the L and the buses an unlimited number of times in that 72 hour period.

***Don’t be afraid to talk to locals. I would have gotten so lost if I didn’t ask someone for help, and we would’ve missed out on a lot of great spots if we didn’t take our new friends up on their recommendations. (Obviously, use common sense and your gut instinct when it comes to your safety to avoid any dangerous situations.)

 

So there you have it. There is PLENTY more ground to cover whenever I visit again, but this little getaway was all kinds of perfect.

 

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Have you been to Chicago? What did you love/do/see/eat? Let’s hear all about it!

 

 

 

Publication Updates

Hi y’all, I have great news to share!

Two articles have been published this week.

Check out a past blog post that made it into Thought Catalog here.

And read on to discover What Keeps Us, published on Odyssey Online. I’ll be posting weekly articles there as well. Please be sure to comment and share! I’d love to hear from you.

 

Thanks for following! Stay tuned for what I have up my sleeve for next time;)

 

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First Anniversary!

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Whoa. Exactly one year ago I created From This Side of the Sun. I had zero clue how to use WordPress, let alone how to blog, and no idea what would happen once I let this baby out into the world. All I knew is that I had to do it. I had to create an outlet for my voice.

Since then, it’s been nothing short of an incredible adventure in itself, and my saving grace in its own right. I’ve been able to share my stories of traveling, my struggles and accomplishments with running, my poetry, and even opened up about my health issues. I’ve written about my passions and my most embarrassing moments, from wild adventures to every day life. I have connected with so many individuals across the country, and surprisingly enough, this blog has brought me even closer to those already here at home.

So a massive THANK YOU, from the bottom of my heart, for following along these past 365 days, being an instrumental part of my continuous growth and support of strength, and letting me share my world with you.

New here? I got ya covered. Here’s a snapshot of  some of my favorite memories (both old & new) of posts from August 2015-now. Time really does fly when you’re having fun, huh?

 

Can’t wait to see what’s next!

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Peru: Part I of II

First part of my South America journey! Enjoy ♥
DAY 1. Thursday July 14- *Travel Day*
Woke up at 4:45 am, caught the 6:15 am Greyhound bus to the Latrobe  airport, was the only one there for two hours before the counters even opened up.
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About to get on the Greyhound bus!

 From there, I flew to Fort Lauderdale, then to Lima, getting in around 9:45 pm. Saw the most amazing view above the clouds. It wasn’t very clear, you couldn’t see much, but all I knew is that it looked like the sun was slipping right over the end of the horizon, like we’d reached the edge of the earth. Beautiful. Shared an airport taxi to my hostel and fell fast asleep.


DAY 2. Friday July 15 *Miraflores & Lima*
 In the morning, I explored Miraflores. It was overcast and sprinkling a little, yet many were out running along the coast and the parks. I loved Parque del Amor (Love Park). It was adorable, and reminded me of Park Güell in Barcelona.
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Morning mist off the coast.

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Too bad there wasn’t any sun in Lima!

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Panoramic view of Parque del Amor. See the kissing statue in the back?

Later, I walked to Miraflores center, near Kennedy Park (a park with a ton of stray cats- over 100!).  Met a guy named Ben who was also doing a walking tour of Lima.  Our group took the bus into Lima and walked to Plaza de Armas, where we saw the changing of the guards.  During the tour, I also met Sydney, Samantha, and Justine, who were all from Canada and doing a trek. We began all walking together to the markets. We tried pisco sour (4 different cocktails- straight, with lime, with orange, and one coffee one).  After, we said goodbye to Ben and the four of us girls got ceviche and shared a pork dish and paella which was really delicious. Never thought I’d be saying this about fish, but ceviche is so refreshing!
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Tastes so much better than it looks, I promise.

We met two guys, Austin and Tommy, who are going sandboarding tomorrow also.
Ended up parting ways for the evening, and I walked to Larcomar (megacomplex shopping center) to get my PeruRail tickets, then returned to the hostel. I had to wake up very early for the bus for my full day of adventure!
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Larcomar.

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Ben & I.

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Every single shop had the same colorful patterns.

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Plaza de Armas.


DAY 3. Saturday July 16 *Paracas, Huacachina*
6 am, got on the PeruHop bus. Drove along the coast- where you could really see the poverty of the country. About four hours later, we arrived in Paracas (Ica) and boarded the boat to the Ballestas Islands. Saw sea lions, penguins, crabs, starfish, and a ton of birds.
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Just a bit windy on the boat!

 

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Can you spot the sea lions?

 From there, a short drive to Huacachina. Sandboarding was up next! It was SO COOL to be on the sand dunes. Words can’t express. We loaded up 9 people plus the driver in the buggy. Drove uphill, got out and got some pictures, then sprinted across the dunes. I was breathless! The boys were running and jumping off the edges.  Went up to the top of the dunes to board down- such an exhilarating experience! But it leaves you with sand on (and in) almost every part of your body.
 After a couple hills, we piled back into the buggy and went to watch the sunset.
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Never will I forget this.

 It was seriously the most perfect thing I’ve ever witnessed. You could see the oasis and the town of Huacachina and these huge mountains all around and just nothing but these beautiful massive sand dunes. We sat on top of the buggy listening to music and watching the sun sink below the horizon. After the sun went down, then came the wild ride. I can’t even tell you how fast we were going. The speed (and crazy driving) wasn’t the issue- the problem was my seat belt flew off! And when you’re going that fast  over these massive dunes and steep hills it’s basically like a roller coaster.  I was coming up off the seat and really close to either hitting my head off the top of the buggy or being ejected out from the side where I was sitting. Luckily the new friends I’d made grabbed on to me quickly, and we got the driver to stop so I could buckle back up. BUT THEN IT HAPPENED AGAIN. And yet again, they helped hold on to me and luckily when we stopped Tommy offered to switch seats with me which I gladly accepted. Despite that, with the adrenaline rush and views alone, I’d rate it 100/10. Got some more photos of this incredible oasis, and then headed back to Lima for the night.
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Huacachina from above.


DAY 4. Sunday July 17- *Cusco*
Today is where I feel like my journey truly begins. It’s the part of the trip I’m most worried about, doing Machu Picchu  and making sure I’ve coordinated things correctly, and also the altitude sickness especially.  I was up until 2 am getting my pack ready. My plan was to catch a flight from Lima to Cusco, then a collectivo (mini-bus) to Ollantaytambo, a smaller town outside of Cusco. I did this since Cusco is over 11,000 feet above sea level. Since I was on a shorter trip, I didn’t have time to give my body the chance to acclimate, so I wanted to get to shorter elevation ASAP to make it easier. Luckily, the altitude never ended up making me sick at all.
Unfortunately by the time I got off the plane and got my bag,  everyone was already gone. There was nobody to split a cab ride with. I knew to be smart enough to take taxis from inside the airport, because even though they were more expensive, they were safer. So I finally gave in. The man didn’t speak a lot of English, so we spoke in Spanish for the ride to Pavitos Street, where I’d get the collectivo to Ollantaytambo. At first we were having a fine conversation about food and drinks and sights to see in Cusco. Then he said I was beautiful. I said thanks and changed the subject. Started to feel weird.  He asked me if I wanted to go for a beer but I said no, I’ve got to go. Then he said again how beautiful I was and how much he liked me, right as he reached his hand back and slid it all the way up into my thighs and between my legs. Thankfully, we had just pulled up to Pavitos Street.  I quickly got out of the car and ran to the collectivo. I was in shock, but thankful that I removed myself from the situation and that it wasn’t much worse.
The ride to Ollantaytambo was beautiful from what I could stay awake for. We passed Urubamba and finally arrived at my hostel (Hostal Los Andenes).
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Coca tea on the patio to help with altitude.

The first thing you notice in Ollantaytambo is the massive ruin I’m sitting on in the picture below. I bought a tourist ticket for the ruins, and climbed up past the terraces of Pumatallis.
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Left a piece of my heart in this town.

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Which one of us is terrified?

From there, I set out to explore more of the Sacred Valley. With a group, we drove down miles and miles of a wandering dirty and dusty road. I was having a lot of trouble breathing because it filled the car. The road was very dangerous and narrow. At the top, we got out and looked below at the salt flats- the size alone was overwhelming. Here they are up close:
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Peru’s Salinas de Maras.

We walked down into them, it’s such an intricate system! They all flow into one another and are owned by families that live in Maras. I got to touch the water (it was warm!) and taste the salt. Next, we went to the Moray ruins. It is believed that all these different terraces, which vary in design and orientation to the sun, were used to measure the effects of climate conditions on crops.
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Rays of light over Moray.

After a long drive, we arrived back to Ollantaytambo, where I was ecstatic to find that the hot water worked! It was so heavenly because it was freezing out at this point. Wrapped in thick wool blankets, I fell asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow.

DAY 5. Monday July 18- *Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes*
The next part of my journey was to take the train (PeruRail) to Aguas Calientes.This is the town that sits at the bottom of the valley of Machu Picchu. There are no roads into Aguas Calientes, you must either take the train or arrive on foot.
As my train wasn’t for another couple hours, I hiked the mountain on the other side of town and enjoyed fresh banana pancakes with maple syrup at Hearts Cafe. I don’t know if I’ve ever had anything better. It was the perfect morning dish. So good!
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About to board the PeruRail train. Next stop, Machu Picchu!

After about an hour and 45 minutes, I arrived!
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The town of Aguas Calientes.

 After a full day of hiking and that train ride, I was almost too exhausted to even eat dinner. I repacked my bag and checked to make sure I had everything I needed. I planned to get up early to hike Machu Picchu, and didn’t know what to expect. Just that it’d feel surreal to finally be there…
 Stay tuned for Machu Picchu, Copacabana, and Isla del Sol!
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