Cruise to Alaska

In early September, I embarked on an Alaskan Cruise with some of my closest friends, and we had one heck of a time. From the minute I stepped onto the boat I thought I was on the Titanic. This was going to be an epic 7 days.

Our Cruise Line

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View of our ship in Glacier Bay

We chose to travel with Princess Cruises to Alaska. The coordinators of our group chose to book through Costco. We had a group of 9, and I was the sole cruise newbie. But to be fair, a few hadn’t been on a cruise since they were like 10 or something. The ship’s decor was incredible. It was very elegant, everything looked fairly new, and the staff was very friendly. My favorite room was the Piazza. It had two spiral marble staircases, a piano where they would play music daily, a cafe and a wine bar. All the employees were foreign which I thought was interesting. They all spoke English well but did carry thick accents. Your key card also served as your credit card. It was nice because I didn’t have to carry my purse or cash around the boat, but dangerous at the same time. Anything that wasn’t included in your cruise package you could just charge it to your room. WiFi on the ship is very expensive, and there is no cell service in international waters. Princess offers a messenger service. I’m not going to lie, the app needs some work, but it gets the job done. So it works similar to Facebook messenger and uses the ship’s WiFi (for free) so you can message other people on the boat. The negatives are, the app doesn’t alert you that you have a message, and it’s quite slow and cumbersome to use. They need someone to make a few adjustments to their coding, and it will be a great feature for cruise passengers.

The Food

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The full group in Juneau

Let me tell you about the food. You could eat at the buffet for breakfast, lunch or dinner. They also had 2 dining halls that were available for breakfast, lunch or dinner. They had a pizza and ice cream bar, a burger bar, and a cafe that served various salads, soups or paninis. Room service was included in your food package, and they had 3 restaurants that you had to pay extra to eat at. One was a bistro, there was an Italian joint, and a steakhouse. We mostly ate breakfast at the buffet, lunch was kind of all over the place, and dinner was at the dining hall. Dinner was at least four courses. Some items would rotate daily, others were on the menu every night, and they usually had a theme. There were a few dishes no one cared for, but overall the food was amazing. It is impossible to go hungry while on a cruise. There is so much food available to you 24/7. However, drinks are not included in your package. And not just alcoholic drinks. You had to pay extra for anything that wasn’t water, black coffee, tea, or juice at breakfast. Outside of the extra money for basic drinks, I thought the dining experience on our Princess Alaskan Cruise was outstanding.

On the Boat Activities

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Rare sunny day in Ketchikan

One of my companions who was on his 3rd cruise I believe said he never spent too much time in his room because there was so much to do. He was right. If I was in my room it was because I didn’t feel good (probably a combination of too much liquor the night before and the swaying boat), or I was exhausted. I mentioned the live music in the Piazza, and they would also have live dancing performances and magic shows. Each evening there was something to see from musicals, comedy shows, and even “The Voice of the Ocean.” I was surprised how popular karaoke was on the cruise ship. They had a late night club that would feature a DJ some nights. There were bars around every corner. The boat had a workout facility, a spa, at least 3 pools, and like 8 hot tubs. There was definitely quite a bit to keep you busy. Plus, the scenery on the Alaskan Cruise is so gorgeous you can just walk around the ship and sightsee.

On Shore

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Hiking around Dewey Lake in Skagway

The cruise I was on was round trip from Seattle. Our port calls were in Juneau, Skagway, sightseeing in Glacier Bay, Ketchikan, and Victoria. You were given ample time in Juneau and Skagway and only a few hours in Ketchikan and Victoria. I was on a 7-day cruise, and I felt like I spent a lot of time on the boat. However, what I did see of Southeast Alaska was absolutely amazing. I visited the Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau. My friends then took a tour to the Alaskan Brewery, but I chose to stay behind and check out downtown a bit more. In Skagway, we each sort of did our own thing. I found a few hikes I wanted to do, one friend went rock climbing, another went biking, a few went zip lining, and some took the train ride. I thoroughly enjoyed my hikes, but it sounds like the zip lining was pretty amazing. I was trying to limit myself on excursions because they are excruciatingly expensive, and I had been living on a non-working travelers budget for a while now. Skagway was by far my favorite port. I like the terrain, the town, and the people. I could have easily spent multiple days there. We bar hopped a bit in Skagway to get to know the community and it was great. I recommend the Spruce Tip Ale at Skagway Brewery, the habanero infused tequila, and of course a duck fart. It’s simple Alaskan tradition. In Ketchikan, a majority of our group decided to go kayaking and that ate up all our time there. It was a beautiful bay, and it did get us out of the main tourist town which was nice. And in Victoria we didn’t arrive til 6pm and only had a few hours, so we bar hopped mostly, visited a Tim Horton’s and tried to get a feel of Canadian after dark.

Weather

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John Hopkins Inlet Glacier Bay

I think we were fairly lucky with the weather. It poured almost the whole time we were in Juneau, but we made do. Otherwise, there were periods of cloud cover and periods of sun. It was definitely cooler so dress appropriately. Where we lucked out the most was in Ketchikan. This place receives about 300 days of rain which equates to about 13 feet of rainfall. It was sunny when we arrived. Incredible.

Bottom line

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Glacier Bay, Alaska

I’m definitely going back to Alaska. I want to go on a fishing expedition and explore around Denali National Park. The cruise is nice because you get to explore a part of Alaska really only accessible by boat. I am very thankful I was invited to join this cruise because I had a blast. If you are looking for less boat time, and to hit the larger mainland part of Alaska, I would recommend a one-way cruise. I know Princess has a 7-day cruise from Vancouver to Anchorage. It’s incredible how big Alaska is because even Anchorage is only a small piece of it. If you get the opportunity to go on an Alaskan Cruise take it. It’ll get you hooked on Alaska and you’ll want to go back for more.

San Antonio

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I had a few long yet successful days in Corpus Christi celebrating my sister getting her Naval Wings, and now it was time to move on to San Antonio. Rather than giving a detailed reenactment of my time there, I thought I would share the places I visited, what I liked, and what I wasn’t a fan of.

The weather

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It was early July, and it was hot and humid. We spent most of our first day walking around the Downtown and Riverwalk area while we waited for hotel check in. We eventually retreated to the mall to escape the heat. Air conditioning is a must down there, pools are a plus, bring lots of water, and don’t worry…everyone has the same sweat marks you do.

Our hotel

We stayed at the Red Roof Inn. It had a pool, which we didn’t end up using, but the thought of it was nice. The A/C worked great, and the location was pretty good. The hotel was located just outside of downtown so you could walk everywhere. The room was nice, but I was not a fan of the check in process and the bathroom. Since we booked last minute, I’m assuming that is why we given the room with the handicap bathroom. I don’t have an issue with that, but the bathroom was gross. We wore our sandals in the bathroom and shower because the floor looked dirty. There was a sink but no counter. The bathroom needs a remodel. I stayed in a roll in handicap bathroom in New York, and it was clean and chic. The one at the Red Roof Inn needs a makeover. Check in was awful because it was painfully long. And after over 20 minutes of what felt like torture, they put us in the wrong room. If I were to stay in San Antonio again I would look to stay somewhere else first.

Downtown and the River Walk

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Both were great. The highlight of downtown I would say is the Alamo. It’s an amazing historic site which I was surprised was free to enter. They have a lot of tourist things like Ripley’s Believe it or Not, souvenir shops, pubs, and the mall in their downtown area. The mall is huge. The Riverwalk is something different entirely. It is below the city, and I think about 10 degrees cooler. It’s filled mostly with restaurants, pubs, night clubs, and some shops, but it is still a site to see. The river you can tell is man made. It is funneled off of the main river into this large canal that runs right down the middle of everything. The landscaping is done well, and it is a very popular place. Very busy. I definitely recommend it for lunch, dinner, and a night out on the town. At night, the streets are lined with glowing carriages like from Cinderella that you can hire to take you around.

The Pearl

This is another “area” of San Antonio just outside of downtown. It is less crowded and to me had a more hipster vibe. More cafes, and boutique kind of shops. There is also a large brewery there, but I did not get to see it. We showed up on Sunday, and a lot of the places were closed. I couldn’t really tell if the Pearl had much of a nightlife, but it definitely looked like a place you could spend the day, have lunch and get out of the downtown area. We visited a macaroon shop there and all the flavors were delicious.

The Safari Park and Six Flags

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San Antonio reminded me of Southern California in a sense of all their amusement parks. You have Schlitterbahn, Six Flags, Sea World, Aquatica to name a few. They also have a Safari Park. Most of these parks are a little bit out of town and are accessed best by car. While I was there I visited the Safari Park and Six Flags. Both were great. I went on a safari in Africa about 6 months ago, so I found it a little funny to be seeing the same animals planted here in States. The difference though is you could feed them and pet them. Just don’t get out of your car. The animals at the park include goats, deer, a variety of antelope, buffalo, longhorns, zebras, and ostrich just to name a few. It was really a fun experience, if you have a car to get there I highly recommend it. I also spent a day at six flags. Again, the weather was boiling, so the water rides were heaven. It wasn’t too crowded when we were there, and there is a water park attached to it. So with the price of one ticket, you get access to both parks. I also recommend Six Flags if you ever find yourself in San Antonio.

Last but not least….the food!

I definitely had to detox myself when I returned to the west coast after a week in Texas. I wanted to enjoy all the good Texas food and then some. After getting off the airplane, I went to a Cracker Barrel. I had Chic-Fil-A for dinner that night, and again for lunch the next morning. (The only two times I’ve ever had Chick-Fli-A in my life, we don’t have one where I live). I ate at Whataburger and consumed a lot of Mexican food and BBQ. My taste buds were surely satisfied. I drank a Big Red soda and tried out some local Texas beer. The beer was okay, they can leave the craft brew to the west coast. At one bar we asked for something local and they suggested Lagunitas. I grew up in California, so I stood there scratching my head for a bit trying to figure out how that was local. One of my best food finds was J  & I cafe. It’s a small hole in the wall on the other side of downtown. I was a bit weary walking to it from my hotel in the morning. It’s a Mexican restaurant that serves the most bomb breakfast tacos and horchata. It was super cheap too. I had never had a breakfast taco before then, and I might be ruined for them now because it was delicious. I definitely ate my way through Texas, so it’s probably a good thing I walked so much in the heat because I sweated everything out.

Bottom line

Go to San Antonio. I did not make it to Austin (before you slap me, I ran out of time!) But I know it’s about an hour from San Antonio, so you can easily take a drive down, or even a mega bus, and check out San Antonio. It’s a city full of a lot of history, activities, and some really neat niche areas to check out. I will make it to Austin soon, and if I have time I’ll for sure swing back down to SA and get myself another breakfast taco.

 

The Amazon and Back Again

As I sit on this extra-long plane ride home from Dallas, (thanks Air Force One) I have decided to finally finish writing about my trip to Peru. I left off returning home from Machu Picchu tired and excited. I had a free day before I had to go back to school and then that night I would take the bus to Puerto Maldonado (Peruvian Amazon). I did most of my packing before school, but it didn’t even dawn on me that I was supposed to check out of my room and remove my belongings since I wouldn’t be sleeping there. I ended up having to pay for the extra night, but luckily it wasn’t expensive. My silly mistake. I grabbed my bags and took a cab to the bus stop. The bus we were on was pretty fancy in my opinion, and I had a killer seat. I sat on the top level, right up front. It was a single seat with no one behind me. The closest people were across the aisle. They had free movies, and I was getting into my book. It was an overnight bus, meaning I left at 9pm and was arriving at 7am, so I knew sleep was crucial. In between cat naps I would look out the window and watch the rain fall and the scenery change. I was going from 11,000 feet high in the Andes to Sea Level in the jungle. I could see the condensation on the bus windows and feel the humidity. I finally dozed off for quite some time only to be awoken by the bus making a sudden stop and people getting on board. It was the Peruvian Military, and when they came on I could vaguely understand they were asking for passports. I handed the man my passport, he looked at it, looked at me and then returned it. He did the same to my neighbors across the aisle and then asked me for mine again. I assumed he was looking for my visa slip which I kept in a different location so it didn’t slip out of my passport. Everywhere and everyone in Peru wants to see your passport. I handed it to him a second time, he checked everything out and then returned it back to me. He left the bus with some of the local’s id cards and returned later to hand them back. I guess he was cross checking their names on some database. I found out later that he also took some passports from the lower level off the bus and returned them later. I think I would have been nervous had a scary looking foreign military man that I cannot communicate with took my passport out of my sight. Everything ended up okay. I guess they do random stops to make sure no one on the bus had been reported missing or is on a known list. Safety precautions. I arrived in Puerto Maldonado and boy was it humid. I hadn’t felt that type of humidity in a long time. Luckily I showed up during a “storm” (it was overcast), so I wasn’t getting all the heat. I found the man with the sign waiting for my group and he took us to our destination. We were to hang out at the headquarters of our lodge while we waited for everyone else to arrive before we could take the boat to our lodge. I was definitely tired and ready for a shower. We got a home cooked breakfast from the neighbors who were originally from Morro Bay, California. It was delicious. The boat ride down the Made de Dios River and it was was long. It felt like forever before we reached Planet Amazon. I liked the lodge. I got my own private bungalow (because I was travelling solo), and we had all our meals cooked for us. I was there for two nights and everything was led by a guide.  I thought the main lodge area might have wifi but it did not. I was okay with the idea of being separated from the online world for a while, but I had told a few people I would take to them that night, so I was hoping they wouldn’t worry. We went on guided walks looking at the flora and fauna and keeping an eye out for wild life. We visited a wildlife sanctuary, went Cayman spotting and on a night nature walk. We climbed a tree bridge that gave us an incredible view from the tree top. Since it was overcast the whole time I was there the weather was perfect and I didn’t have a problem with bugs. I had some pretty awesome people in my group, and luckily a few of them were taking the same night bus as I back to Cusco. Because of flights, we had to take the boat back to the main town quite early. Puerto Maldonado is not as big of a tourist town as Cusco, so it was nice getting a different view of Peru. I slept like a baby on the bus ride back, and this time no cops came aboard. The only bummer was we got back at 7am and you can’t check in until after 12, so we dropped off our bags, grabbed some breakfast and explored more around Cusco. This was it for me. I was going home the next morning. I bought any last minute trinkets and headed back to my room. I took a much needed shower and nap. Even though I slept on the bus, there is nothing like sleeping on a non-moving bed. I grabbed one last meal and hung out at the bar in my hostel one last time. I had an excellent time in Cusco. I was a little sad I wasn’t getting to explore more of Peru or South America, but I had been travelling for a long time and was ready to go home.

 

Machu Picchu

I arrived for my briefing the Tuesday before my Machu Picchu Trek. I met the other people I would be hiking with and my guide. We had 5 people in total. Two Greek girls, one lives in Zurich, the other in Edinburgh, and an Australian couple who were on their honeymoon. We were given the run down for our trek. Turns out I only needed to take my small day pack and carry my essentials. My clothes, toiletries, and anything else I needed would be carried in a duffel bag by a horse. My first backpacking experience was proving to be a fancy one. Not only was most of my stuff going to be carried for me, but I was going to have all my meals cooked for me, and they were going to be proper meals. No MREs or boiled noodles. We woke up bright and early the following morning. I decided to rent trekking poles because I wasn’t sure how my knee would handle the steep decline. The last time I did a steep decline was in Big Sur, it hurt quite a bit, and since I was going to have to hike for about 4 days I didn’t want to take any chances. I don’t know if it was the hiking poles, or better use of my brace, but my knee never hurt. The only thing that suffered on my trek was my feet, but I’ll get to that. After renting any last minute equipment we might need, we got into the van and started our journey up the mountain. We made one more stop in a town for any last minute snacks and breakfast. The hot chocolate I ordered was terrible. Awful. We needed to get toilet paper. Some toys to hand out to children we would see on our hike if we wanted to, and any other last minute snacks we wanted. We continued to drive up the hill and boy was the scenery pretty. The mountains were so jagged and majestic. They were green, brown, black, and had all sorts of grass grazers roaming the sides. It was a long drive to where our hike was beginning. We left Cusco at about 6:30, and didn’t start hiking until 11ish. The 5 of us hiked with our guide Percy, and our stuff was tied to the three horses who were lead by the horseman and accompanied by the cook and his assistant. The very beginning was quite steep, and I feel my breath shortening and my heart pounding. We started our hiked at about 12,000 feet. Maybe more. It eventually leveled out so we could catch our breath and rest. After a few hours, we stopped for lunch. The horses and crew had taken a road while we hiked on the trail, so by the time we showed up to camp they had a lunch tent set up and food was just about ready. We had juice, guacamole, trout, rice, really fancy food for a hiking expedition. I don’t usually eat this fancy while camping. We sat around for a bit after lunch to let everything digest and then started hiking again. We eventually did walk right through the middle of a small village and yes the kids saw us coming. They are used to hikers walking through their village and giving them treats of some sort. I had a few toys I had bought to give out, and then I shared my bag of M&Ms. I didn’t realize there would be so many kids. I would of brought all the gum my mom gave me and handed that out, but I had left it behind for the school kids. Our camp for the night was just at the outskirts of the village. I watched a girl run up a mountain and cross a creek just to get to us and see what we had. Luckily I had a few M&Ms left. It’s almost like a permanent Halloween for these kids. They live a simple life. Miles from anywhere. Definitely self sufficient. We did see a school, but they live in small homes, and no wifi. We arrived at camp around 5pm. I should of brought a deck of cards, but at least I had a book. The cook puts on a happy hour for us around 6 which is basically tea and crackers. Then we have another 3 course meal, and after we chat for a bit, discuss the following day, and return to our tents for bed. The first night I read for a bit and went to bed around 9 or 9:30. I froze all night. I tried really hard to sleep without socks so my feet could breathe, but I couldn’t take it any longer. I was wearing yoga pants and a ski thermal, and I froze. So I didn’t sleep so well. Our morning wake up call came around 5 or 5:30 with one of the helpers tapping on our tent, “Buenos Diaz Senorita, muna tea.” And I would unzip the tent and he would hand us a cup of hot muna tea. I was originally supposed to sleep in a tent by myself, but I ended up switching with one of the Greek girls because I thought it would be warmer. Day two of our hike was meant to be the hardest. We were going to summit to about 15000 feet before lunch. It was also the most beautiful day, besides Machu Picchu. It was freezing when we first left, but as soon as we started hiking and the sun peaked out from behind the jagged mountains the layers started coming off. One of the hardest things for me was going to the bathroom. It had been over 24 hours since I’d last had a proper toilet, and we had done quite a bit of walking. Squatting and trying to your business was not that easy. Our hearts were still pounding, so we took it slow. We admired the landscape, the llamas and alpacas. It was just us and nature and a few villagers. You would see the farmers in the hills running after their flock in sandals, and here we were in proper hiking attire, walking slowly, and about to keel over. It was a long slow hike up, especially the last part which was the most steep, but it was so worth it. The view of the Lares Valley was calming. After spending time is a busy, firework loving, car honking Cusco, it was nice to be in a more remote and peaceful part of Peru. I felt more connected to the country and what it represented. We left camp before the helpers had finished taking it down. They had packed up camp and zoomed passed us on the mountain. At the end of our trek I called them loco for running up the mountain. After summiting, we took a nice well deserved pow wow. Photos were taken, food was eaten and I stretched. We were going to descend basically everything we had just walked up and then some for the rest of the day. Lunch was after the initial decent. The view for lunch was probably my favorite of the hike. I did acquire a bit of a headache and had some coca tea with lunch and took an Advil. I felt better, and then proceed to whack my head on my way out of the lunch spot. So mixed with lots of walking and high altitude, my head was throbbing. We left lunch early because it had started to rain. It was only a light rain, and it stayed away just in time for us to reach our next camp for the night. It was on the edge of another village. We arrived at 4, but I had to take a nap. My head hurt. Plus it was raining, and there wasn’t much else to do. After happy hour and dinner, we retired to our tents for bed. This place had about as proper of a toilet you can have in the middle of the Andean Wilderness and helped alleviate some stomach cramps. We were awoken the following morning with the same wake up call. Buenos Diaz Senorita, Muna tea. I slept much better that night. I wore socks. I wore my yoga pants and rain pants. And I wore my ski thermal and a fleece. I was toasty. We were only walking half a day on day three. Once we reached Ollantaytambo for lunch, we would have the day to explore before taking the train to Aguas Calenites or Machu Picchu Pueblo. And for night 3 we would be staying in an actual hotel, where we wouldn’t freeze, a true bed, proper toilet and we could shower! It was a dream come true for my group. The hike into town was a downhill gravel road. And it destroyed my feet. Since I wasn’t able to let my feet breathe because there was a lot of horse poop around, so I always wore my boots, or it was cold so I always wore my socks, my feet looked like they had been in the shower for to long. I had blisters all over my toes, the one on my pinky made the toe double in size, and the balls of my feet. I think the worst part was the athlete’s feet I started to develop. It was tearing my sensitive skin. As soon as we reached Ollantaytambo, the boots and socks came off. I apologized for any offensive smells. We didn’t explore the town. In our defense it was pouring rain, but we were also beat, and my feet hurt. So we sat in the cafe and drank awful coffee until our train. The train ride was gorgeous. Even with its misty atmosphere. Our guide picked us up at the station and showed us our hotel. We had 20 minutes to shower before dinner. Luckily I had a room to myself. It was an amazing shower. And I was really excited that I could wear shorts and no socks to bed. We got back from dinner late. It was a great time, but we all missed our cook’s food. He was an amazing cook, and earlier that day we had said our goodbyes to our team except the guide. We went to bed around 10 or 10:30 that night and had a morning wake up call at 4:00am. The reason for our trip had finally arrived. We were going to Machu Picchu. Our guide did not knock on our hotel doors and hand us a cup of tea, but the hotel did provide us with a sack breakfast. Everyone looked clean and refreshed from our days in the Andes. We had to get in line for the bus which wasn’t leaving til 5:30. Even though we arrived at about 4:50, the line was already long, and we were on the 6th bus. The bus ride up was steep, windy and gorgeous. There were some people hiking up. We were glad that wasn’t us. We had done enough hiking, and still had some more to do at the site. We waited until the gates open at 6am, and watched the sunrise over Machu Picchu. Just like the Incas. We took some tourist photos, and our guide gave us the run down on the incomplete ruins. Thank goodness the Spanish never found it. We said our goodbyes to our guide, and decided to climb up to sun gate. Basically its another gigantic hill you climb, in the heat, to get an epic view of the site. Sun Gate is where the Inca Trail trekkers first see the ruins. It’s where the “sun first hits”. It was another long and hard hike, but beautiful. Everywhere you looked was beauty. Everything was so green, and ridged. We ate our lunch at the top and then made the climb back down. We took a few more tourist photos and decided we were ready to relax. After taking the bus down we grabbed lunch, did a bit of shopping in the market, and waited for our train. The next 3 to 4 hours were long. It was a train ride, and then an exceptionally long bus ride home. It was after 9pm when we got back to Cusco. And by the time we ate dinner and showered we all were going to bed close to midnight. It was a long but magical day. One I will remember forever.

Exploring around Cusco

I had a half day Friday. I left about an hour before my tour, so I had time to grab lunch and visit the ATM. It took me an hour to get home, traffic was horrendous, so I quickly changed and skipped the ATM and lunch. The tour guide was a 1/2 late picking me up so I would have had plenty of time to do the things I skipped. I used the last of my cash to get inside a church. I can go into detail about the Church and its history, but you can also google it. We got into the bus and made our way to some ruins just outside the city. Turns out I needed a lot of cash to buy a tourist ticket. There was no ATM nearby and no one took a card. I was going to have to sit on the bus for the entire tour when the bus driver decided to loan me some money. It was really kind of him. The ruins were beautiful and the history was kind of sad. The Spanish sort of annihilated the Incas and their traditions. It was a long tour with lots of sites to see, but I was also starving, and I started to get really cold. The tour ended, and I paid the bus driver back, got food and prepared for my quad tour in the am. The next day I left before breakfast, so I packed a few snacks. I was on a tour with all Remote Year people. They were friendly enough, but I was definitely the oddball. I was familiar with the quad. Peru is the 3rd country I have gone on a quad ride in. We road around some beautiful scenery. Saw some more ruins and a salt mine. I got extremely dusty, and we were gone all day. So now I had no breakfast or lunch, only my snacks. Overall it was a good day. After we returned from our adventure, the group of us went out to linner, and I made my way back to my place for a much needed shower. On Sunday I went river rafting. The guide retrieved me from my hostel and took me to the bus. We sat on the bus and drove around Cusco for an hour and then started our journey. When we arrived at the rafting spot, the guide told us we would zip line first. A few people didn’t go because they said it didn’t look safe. I thought it has to be safe because the company doesn’t want that reputation. A few people were hooked up wrong, and it wasn’t properly explained to me how to break. Everyone made it across. A different guide explained to me how to break, so the second zip line was a bit more enjoyable. Even though it was shorter. We then geared up for river rafting. I was in the boat where half spoke English and half spoke Spanish. The sun was hiding behind the clouds, but I had a great time. I sat up front and got extremely wet, but it was a blast. After river rafting, we had a delicious lunch and started the journey home. The journey home was awful. We got stuck in traffic like I had never seen, and I was exhausted. We were supposed to be gone for 6 hours and ended up being gone for over 10. And I think almost half of that was spent on the bus. I needed to do laundry before my trek, but that didn’t happen because we got home too late. I still enjoyed myself, but it had been a really long weekend. I spent my nights socializing in the bar in my hostel. I met some really cool people from all over the world, and my friends won the beer pong tournament. Meeting people is probably my favorite part about traveling. It makes me forget how terrible traffic is, or how exhausted I am.

My School

I was up and ready for the taxi at 9am, but this is South America. He arrived at about 9:20, and told me the following days he would probably be there around 9:15. I was told to not bring a lot, so I had change for my bus ride home, my cell phone, and a water bottle. I arrived at the school and was greeted by a male teacher. He did not speak English, and I don’t really speak Spanish. I asked for the name of the principal, but she was not there. He showed me to another administrative type of lady who speaks a tad bit more English. She gave me a tour and then showed me to the Art room where the first male teacher I had met was sitting. He motioned me to sit down, and we had a bit of awkward silence since there is a language barrier. There were a few kids there. Most had some type of a disability,  and none spoke English. He showed me a drawing, and motioned that I copy it. I am a terrible artist, but I did my best. I drew and colored, and then the teacher perfected it. In the end it didn’t look half bad. Eventually the cook showed up, and she started preparing lunch. She didn’t speak any English as well. I believe at this point the main principal had showed up, and she told the cook I was there to help. My first day in the kitchen mostly consisted of peeling and chopping which I am terrible at. I’m used to all my first world kitchen tools, so to take those away from me I am almost useless in the kitchen. I would peel one potato by the time she would peel 5. But I was helping, kind of. As lunch time grew closer, another volunteer showed up. She was fluent in both English and Spanish. I was relieved to have a conversation with someone that didn’t require sign language. We had some downtime before lunch, so I sat in the sun. Mary Ann, the other volunteer, said sometimes she brings a book, because there is often downtime around lunch. I don’t remember exactly what we had for lunch my first day, but I have yet to have a bad meal. After lunch, the 3rd volunteer, Lauri, showed up. I was going to help her teach English in the afternoons. Mary Ann is there a few days a week and she helps with homework. The first day of class was quite interesting. We have two groups. Basically the young kids and the older kids. They knew a little bit of English, but not as much and I thought they would. They were also quite wild. Everyone would talk at once. They were easily distracted. They constantly kept coming and going out of the room. It made for an exhausting first day. Luckily Larui was taking to same bus as me home. Only difference is she got off earlier than I. The bus turned out to be the easiest part of my day. No issues getting on, with the ride, or getting off. The second day of school was very similar. I did some painting in the art room in the morning, helped out in the kitchen before lunch. I brought a book, so I sat in the sun and read a bit until it was time to teach the kids after lunch. The kids were still rambunctious. They would slide on the floor, the older ones would play on their phones, and they loved to write on the dry erase board. Some kids were better at English than others, they all seemed interested in learning, but some were more easily distracted than others. I would essentially be at school from 9-6 everyday. So when I got home from school, I would eat, relax for a bit, and then go to bed. Outside of school I would either hang out at an Irish Pub or my hostel. On Cinco de Mayo, I went to the only Mexican restaurant in central Cusco, along with every other American. I kept wishing everyone a Happy Cinco De Mayo, and expressing my excitement for tacos and margaritas, and everyone thought I was a weirdo. Except all the Americans at the restaurant. They knew what it was about. Turns out they was a group of about 75 all travelling together on a Remote Year. I don’t feel like explaining what that means. You can ask me privately if you are interested in learning about it. Thursday was probably the best day for the kids. They were calm, and active, and you could tell they were really learning. It was a beautiful moment as a teacher. That Thursday morning when I showed up, I didn’t see anyone. No teachers, just two kids. I think an administrator was upstairs. I sat in the sun and read. I was reading a really good book so I didn’t mind. Friday was a half day for me. I was only at the school for a few hours. I didn’t even finish helping with lunch. I was going on a city tour which is why I left early. I’ll explain my weekend in a different post. Monday I returned to school, as I did on Tuesday. I was only working two days that week because I was leaving for Machu Picchu on Wednesday. I had a lot to do before my trek. It was kind of a sad moment because that Tuesday was my last day volunteering with both Mary Ann and Lauri. We had a mini picture day before class. The younger kids were all about taking pictures, but only one girl from the older group would take a picture, and she was all about the selfie. I have one more day of volunteering, and that is Monday, or tomorrow. I will have one familiar volunteer, John, and one new one. The new one is replacing Larui, and John rotates days with Mary Ann. I have enjoyed my volunteering experience. Everyone was really friendly. The kids might be wild, but they have a good heart. I will miss everyone.

Peru take 2

Alright well that didn’t take as long as I thought. So my flight to Peru was over 24 hours long. And I did not receive a proper nights sleep in almost 3 days. It may have been the most confusing 3 days of my life. We left for SFO at 2 am. My flight was at 6:50 am. I landed in El Salvador 1:40 my time. And then I left El Salvador at 8pm, to arrive in Lima at midnight, to leave for Cusco at 3am and to make it to my final destination at about 5am. Long day. And of course, no one lets you check in early, So I took a seat on a bean bag chair and passed out. I’m sure that was a sight to see. The El Salvador airport was something less to be desired. Hardly any restaurants, shops, and limited wifi. I found a place I could nap. Then when my gate was announced they would let me access it. It was behind a extra screening system. And even when the “be at your gate time” had come and passed they still wouldn’t let me through. They was a group of us and we were all very confused. Turns out the extra screening was for flights going to the US. Since we were headed to Peru, we had to wait until all the US bound people had left, so they could shut down the screening and let us through. No extra bag check. No one could explain this to us. And darn USA and their extra security checks. I arrived in Lima and immigration and customs was a breeze thank goodness! They made me put my bag on a x-ray machine, which I’m thinking now might of been for drugs. The only two countries that have ever x-rayed my bag was Costa Rica and Peru. I’m pretty sure they are looking for drugs. So after arriving in Cusco and taking my nap on a bean bag, I decided to explore around the city. I have been to quite a few places, and have met people from all over the world. I hadn’t really experienced a language barrier until then. Even in Italy most people could understand me or speak English. The language barrier has its perks. When street vendors try to pester me I honestly don’t understand them. Cusco is a city where there is something always going on and the sun shine brights. One of my first purchases was a hat. There was a parade going on in the main plaza, and it was relaxing to soak up some sun and watch the dancers and the musicians. I did retreat to my hostel and take a nap once I was able to check in. The following morning I had a meeting with the “principal” of the school I would be volunteering at. She runs the school, but it isn’t a traditional school like what I am used to in the US. That Monday was a school holiday, so I had another full day to explore the city. I spent a lot of time aimlessly wondering around. I had a map, but I found the city hard to navigate around. I got things ready for my first day of school. I was told the kids usually show up in the afternoon, so in the morning I would probably help in the kitchen and there was an art room. It was definitely going to be a new experience for me.