Making Do in Peru

Peru misadventures

Honestly, I feel like this title could be a name for an OPI nail polish. Whoever is in charge of coming up with the color names, I want to BE you (OPI marketing team; are you listening? I would be so good at this job!)

Sidetracked. Sorry. So three years ago today (ok, last week) I wrote my first ever blog post! Yippee! More coming soon about this next week – stay tuned as I am preparing a little something-something to say thanks to you guys.

Exactly three years ago was my last college spring break, and I wanted to go out with a bang; so I spent it gallivanting around Peru, my first and last (so far) trip to exotic South America. Some girls like spring break in Mexico or party time for only adults in Punta Cana, me included. Nothing sounded better than visiting a new continent and getting to see some of the sites of my dreams. But more than anything I needed a break from frigid, wintery Massachusetts along with my insane last semester course load.

I needed to get out, and my then-boyfriend and I decided why not Peru?! Looking back, sometimes I think, why didn’t we just go to an island like everyone else?!

Peru misadventures

Did I mention I have the worst luck in the ENTIRE UNIVERSE? The worst!!

I fell head over heels in love with Peru, but she was not an easily romanced. In fact, without doubt those 10 days were jam-packed full of misadventures and failures whose like I’ve ever experienced while traveling. If something could go wrong, it did. Guilty of being a bit of a control freak, I don’t like it when things don’t go according to plan when I am traveling, so I was not exactly happy.

In spite of everything, it was still an epic trip, and I loved it. Peru was a total catastrophe, in the best way possible. Here are the 6 dumbest, craziest, unluckiest misadventures to befall me while traveling around Peru. 

I think I need to give Peru a second chance; what do you think? Have you ever had anything major go wrong while traveling? What’s your best incident?

Peru misadventures

1. Missing out on Machu Picchu

So this one time, I traveled all the way to Peru and didn’t get to go to Machu Picchu! Can you believe it?

A month or so before we were scheduled to depart, there were massive flooding and mudslides around Cuzco and the Sacred Valley, knocking out the train tracks to Machu Picchu for months and closing the famous site to the public; thousands of trapped tourists had to be helicoptered out. Heartbreaking! Not the tourist rescue part but the closed indefinitely part (see, I told you I was selfish!)

It’s every kid’s dream to climb up to these mystical ruins in the Andes, wearing a wooly hippy hat and taking the obligatory llama shot (or was that just me?)

Peru misadventures

Amazing photo from Over Yonderlust (some of my fave bloggers), and the best llama photobomb ever!

Left with the dilemma of canceling the trip, or trying to make the best of it, we opted for número 2. At the time, there was no official stance on how long the monument would be closed (any day now for months), and I being the stubbornly optimistic fool that I am, was hoping and praying every night that magically Machu Picchu would reopen in time for my arrival.

The Incan gods did not hear my prayers.

Peru misadventures

Peru misadventures

Stepping off the plane in Cuzco, it was a ghost town, with hardly a fanny pack or blond in sight, except yours truly. Machu Picchu was closed of course, but luckily most of the other attractions and activities in the region were still going strong.

As bummed as I was that I missed out on one of the world’s most popular travel destinations, I still had a fabulous time in Cuzco and got to see plenty of things I might have missed otherwise. As I understand it, it is usually a very crowded and can be a costly destination, but since most tourists postponed or cancelled their trips, we had Cuzco to ourselves, making it all that more memorable. I hate crowds almost as much as I hate fanny packs.

Peru misadventures

2. We can still be friends

Are you ready, dear readers, to hear one of the dumbest things I have ever done while traveling? I can’t believe I am going to admit this on here, but I promised you guys a 100% disclosure policy, and I don’t think I can really write about my time in Peru and neglect to mention this. Besides, you guys loved it last time I overshared on here, so I’m actually do it for you all. Ok, here we go (god, this is hard).

I went to Peru with a boyfriend. NBD, right? How about, I went to Peru with a boyfriend right AFTER we broke up.

WHAT WAS I THINKING?!

21 year old me wasn’t thinking, that’s what. I had my eye on the prize, Peru, and nothing was going to take that away from me. Do I even need to elaborate on here why traveling with an ex is a bad idea?

Peru misadventures

Exhibit A: it sucks having to do this to all your photos

A break-up and a mudslide in Cuzco before I even got on the plane. Why don’t I ever listen to fate?

I had mentally invested so much into the trip by this point, I couldn’t bear to not go, if that makes any sense. Part of me was hoping we’d get back together, part of me was hoping it wouldn’t matter and we could travel together as friends no problem, and the other part of me wanted that goddamn llama picture on top of Machu Picchu SO BADLY! I should have listened to fate and realized all three were impossible.

I haven’t written much about Peru on here mostly because I preferred to forget that it ever happened.

Nowadays, I don’t regret going to Peru with an ex, though it took a while to come to that realization. I had an amazing time in spite of everything, but I definitely learned a lesson. Several lessons. Listen to fate, and realize that so many things while traveling are out of your control and you have to go with the flow or it could end up blowing up right in your face.

Peru misadventures

Riot police or relationship police?

3. Double camera fail

For this trip I decided to rent a super fancypants camera lens to go on my DSLR camera. I love wide angles and sweeping landscape shots, and I was beyond excited when my Canon EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 (try saying that 5 times fast) arrived in the mail a few days before leaving. My first day in Lima with it was magical, and I took hundreds of photos as we headed north to Huaraz where an old study abroad friend was working in the Peace Corps.

The lens lasted a full day while we were high altitude trekking up in the Cordillera Blanca mountains. It even lasted enough to take the beautiful sunset photos that are now my blog banner; then my camera died. Something happened and it shorted out and no amount of begging, pleading or crying would make it turn back on again. Is there anything worse for a blogger than having your camera die on you in the middle of a big trip?

Peru misadventures

Peru misadventures

Sitting on the rooftop of our hostel, I tried to hold back tears. Was nothing going to go right on this trip? Then I manned up and realized several important things. Much worse things could happen than having a camera break; I was so lucky to be there. Looking around me and seeing half finished houses and children without shoes, with mongrel dogs running every which why. Who was I to be upset about such a luxury?

Of course my back up point and shoot broke on our last day, as it got caked in sand playing around in the desert. Typical.

Ultimately, it wasn’t a big deal. I had another camera with me that worked, and it made me realize that it’s important to step back and really absorb and soak in everything that you experience and see, smell and taste while traveling. Nowadays, it’s so easy to get caught up with documenting things, with your eyes glued behind a lens, that you miss what’s going on around you. Sometimes you have to step back and admit you are being ridiculous. Also, bring a back up camera, maybe two.

Peru misadventures

Peru misadventures

4. Getting stuck on a bus for almost 24 hours

After a beautiful few days in Cuzco, we boarded a luxurious overnight bus to Nazca to see the famous Nazca lines. These are mysterious shapes and drawings carved into the landscape, and many companies run small plane flights over them. Luckily, the fancy double-decker buses in Peru are pretty swank, with attendants, meals and seats that recline almost into beds. Swallowing a few sleeping pills, we promptly passed out, hoping to wake up in Nazca the next morning.

Vaguely, I remember waking up in the middle of the night in a sluggish haze, wondering why we had stopped. Turning over, I fell back asleep til the bright sunshine woke me up the next morning.

Wait, why are we still stopped?

Peru misadventures

6 hours later and so many behind schedule I can’t even remember, we finally rolled in Nazca. The bus had broken down in the middle of the night and took hours and hours to fix. Yawning and stretching we grabbed out backpacks and paddled off to go find one of the flight operators.

There is nothing positive I can add to getting stuck on a bus for a full day; at least it was a fancy bus and not a chicken bus, right?

Peru misadventures

5.  No Nazca lines

Are you even surprised at this point? A week or so before we arrived one of the planes carrying tourists over the famous Nazca lines crashed killing everyone on board. The government finally intervened and grounded all the companies while they carried out mandatory safety inspections.

Of course.

Why hadn’t we heard anything about this? Oh, they didn’t want tourists to stop coming to Nazca! WTF?! There is nothing to do there except see those lines; it’s in the middle of the desert! And the designs are so massive, you can only see them properly from a plane.

Grumbling, we stuffed some hot food in our faces before catching yet another bus to Huacachina, a village oasis in the desert.

Peru misadventures

 6. Getting sexually harassed in Huacachina

It was hot and sunny, just what I needed. Hanging around in hammocks under palm trees by the pool at our awesome hostel while parrots chirped and the sand dunes glowed gold in the afternoon sun was just what the doctor ordered. We scheduled a fun ride at sunset over the sands in the dune buggys. Perfect end to a long day, right?

I should have known something was up as I eyed a group of drivers drinking beers, smoking and making crude jokes as we piled in. What did we get ourselves into? Flying over the dunes at warp speed, I got sand in places I didn’t even know existed. No wonder my camera broke! Convinced we would surely DIE SCREAMING as our rather rotund driver flung the buggy up and down mountainous dunes laughing maniacally, I held on for dear life.

Finally we stopped and he let us out to try sand boarding, which is a lot harder than it looks by the way. I am not the most coordinated of persons, but I gave it my best.

Peru misadventures

Huffing and puffing, our group slowly made our way up the giant sand mountain to the buggy. As I walked past the group of drivers, I realized they were talking in Spanish about all of the girls in our group, and let me just say, it was not nice, friendly, complimentary or appropriate. Then I realized they were talking about me, the only rubita (blondie) in the gang. Oh no.

I could feel my face getting red in embarrassment and anger. I can tolerate a lot of things while traveling, but listening to a bunch of lewd men saying filthy things about me (after I had paid them too-what nerve!) thinking I didn’t understand is NOT one of them.

Throwing my sandboard at them, I calmly and politely (read: hysterical girly yelling) in Spanish said something along the lines of “listen bitches, I understand every dirty word coming out of your foul mouths. Don’t you dare talk about my tits to my face-your man boobs are so big you have no room to talk! And keep your nasty opinions to yourselves, you pigs, before I go complain to the hostel owner myself.” Fold arms, pop out hip to the side followed by the sassy-girl side to side head move, then walk off with my nose in the air.

Men suck sometimes.

Keeping quiet after that, we witnessed a beautiful red sunset over the dunes, turning the sand gold, orange and red. In spite of a few rude people and the fact that I cannot sandboard to save my life, it was still one of my favorite parts of the trip.

Peru misadventures

Peru misadventures

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58 Comments on “Making Do in Peru

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  1. Wow you are just as lucky as I am when it comes to stuff happening to you! Love hearing people travel stories both positive and the mishaps! I love that photo from Over Yondluster! We will be in Peru for our RTW trip in October 2013! It is one of the highlights of our 15 month trip! I am sure sometime in your near feature you will visit Peru and it will be nothing like this trip, think WAY WAY better!

  2. Wow! I’d say that’s an incredible string of bad luck. I’ve never been to South America, but have a friend teaching there. He says the country is incredible. Machu Picchu is definitely on my to do list, and I felt so bad for you reading this when you couldn’t do it. I have no doubt that you will get back to South America and Machu Picchu though.

  3. I love travel misadventure stories, and these are some great ones. Props for having the lady-huevos to tell those pigs what was what! And I definitely relate to the having done stupid things for/about/with boys…ah, youthful ignorance.

    But the good part to all of this is that now you have to go back to Peru! Where’s the downside to that??

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