With sandy toes and sunkissed shoulders back home in Maine, it is hard to remember that just three weeks ago I was in winter weather conditions in Santiago, Chile sleeping with 2 pairs of socks, layers of sweaters, and mittens on my hands.
When I look at photos or text my friends from my study abroad program now (who have all made it home safely), memories flood my mind. I don’t regret a single moment of my entire journey in South America. Although I must say, it is pretty damn nice to be back in the Seacoast!
Adjusting back to the USA hasn’t been difficult, but when I landed in Miami, “gracias” “está bien” and “que rico” came out of my mouth a little too often for a few days. Once I got back to Maine, however, English started to flow well again.
So, I must apologize for the HUGE delay. Down in Santiago, I couldn’t get enough of my blog. I loved writing and adding photos and informing everyone about my journey. Since I’ve been home, I’ve been enjoying every minute with friends and family, running, surfing, and working. I haven’t had any interest in writing at all! However, Maine is having its first rainy day since I’ve been back (yes, be jealous, it has been a wonderful summer so far!) and I think it is time to inform you about my last week in South America.
My best friends, warm days, cool nights, Incan ruins, tropical fruit galore, llamas on the hillside, and an indescribable feeling of belonging, tranquility or happiness that I have yet to put my finger on.
Grace, Ceci, Sammy, Alex, and I left Santiago at 2:30 a.m. and spent 36 hours traveling by taxi, plane, and bus to get to our first destination of Ollantaytambo.
Ollantaytambo is the only inhabited Incan village that exists today in Southern Peru. It had cute cobblestone walkways, quaint shops, and great restaurants. However, we can’t really say that all the restaurants were great, since we ate at the same one everday, Hearts Cafe. 100% of profits go towards supporting children in the local communities.
We spent our first day hiking Puncamarca and spotting cows, donkeys, bulls, horses, llamas, pigs, and dogs along the way.
The next morning we took a 5:40 am train ride to Machu Picchu. We forgot about the hour time difference between Peru and Chile when we set our alarms the night before. We ended up waking up an hour earlier than we needed to. I had my outfit on, my teeth brushed, and my contacts in when Grace knocked on the bathroom door and quietly and apologetically told me that it was only 2:30am. We laughed and hopped back in to bed.
Machu Picchu is a stone city dating back to 1400 AD. It was mysteriously abandoned shortly after it was built. It has been named one of The New 7 Wonders of the World. It is pretty obvious why:
The following day we headed to Cusco. The day after, we were supposed to head to Lake Titicaca and do a homestay with a local family on an island on the lake. However, a nearby town to Lake Titicaca was full of miners protesting. At the time we heard the news, 40 had been injured and 6 civilians were dead. Needless to say, there were no busses running to this part of Peru and we had to cancel this portion of our trip.
We stayed in Cusco for a few extra days instead and it was probably one of the best decisions we had ever made. Cusco was incredibly cool, for lack of a better word. If I ever come back to South America, I hope I can return to Cusco. It has beautiful architechture, is surrounded by mountains, and is full of hundreds of backpackers from all over the world and an indigenous culture that fascinated me.
Grace holding a baby lamb with a local family on the streets in Cusco
On top of it all, we stayed at the most wonderful hostel we had seen since arriving in South America. Pariwana had hot showers, comfy and warm beds, a full restaurant and bar, games, ping pong, a courtyard, beanbag chairs and lawn furniture, and tons of really interesting people. When we first walked in, we were baffled by all the people wearing “real” clothes like skirts, dresses, strappy sandals, and make-up. We were approached within our first 15 minutes in the hostel by a guy who asked if we were on a volleyball team. I can hope it was because of our height and good looks, but most likely it was because of our attire, sweat, and muddy sneakers. Oops.
Our time in Cusco consisted of a lot of walks and peaking in storefronts, tasting the culture, and a sketchy horseback riding experience where my dear friend, Sammy, was bit by Grace’s horse (she is fine now!).
Before heading back to Santiago, we made one more stop to Peru’s most wealthy city and second most visited city, Arequipa. Stopping here the day before we head back to Chile cut our travel time up a bit and helped us adjust back to some more civilization and modernity, as most of the places we visited in Peru were very poor. We took a bus tour of the city to learn about it in just a few short hours as we didn’t have much time to explore the beautiful place. I joked that we just love to spend time on busses. Joke being the main word in the sentence.
The next day we returned to our host families in Santiago after anothing long day of traveling by bus, bus transfer (that got a flat tire and made us wait 4 hours on the side of a middle of nowhere street before finally changing the flat), and plane.
Returning to Santiago was bittersweet. I was sad that my unforgettable trip to Peru with my friends was over, but knowing I was returning home to the USA just 2 days later made me REALLY happy.
Cheers to an incredible 6 months of traveling
Saying Adios To Everyone Who Helped Me Grow
On July 1 I sat around my host house with my host family and best friends and reminisced about our entire journey, played Spoons, ate my host mother’s good cooking, and drank a lot of wine to gear me up for the 8 hour flight I had ahead of me.
I didn’t feel anything during those few hours. I couldn’t fathom that I was actually leaving.
Then, the clock struck 8:17. My taxi was picking me up in just 13 minutes. I went to my 2×2 room and grabbed my bags. I said goodbye to my white brick walls and returned to the main room in the house to find my entire host family and friends standing in a long line ready for hugs and kisses and final goodbyes. This is when the tears began to flow.
I gave 12 hugs, kisses, and “I love yous” before reaching my 13th fellow. My little Gonzalo grabbed my leg and wouldn’t let go. He kept his head down when he handed me a small gift and 2 cards. He looked up at me to tell me “Te quiero” (I love you) when I handed him his gift. I walked out to the taxi and watched them all run out to continue waving and sending me air kisses until the driver took off. Gonzalo ran down his street behind the transfer until I turned left onto Av Los Dominicos.
I cried all the way to the airport. Memories, moments, struggles, battles, friends, family, achievements, goals, and lessons learned all clouded over my mind as I hopped on to my flight to Miami.
South America, you treated me well.