Okay, okay…I’ve been promising Peru updates for over a week now and haven’t delivered. I’m the worst… After getting back home last Sunday, life picked up just where it left off and I found myself struggling to catch up…catch up with work at my day job, catch up with work for my Etsy shop, and — of course — catch up on sleep as well.
For those who are new to my Andean journey–I was lucky enough to spend July 28th-August 10th touring the wonderful, wooly country of Peru. As part of this amazing adventure, I toured through cities and countryside, traveled by plane, train, and automobile — (in an experience that I can only describe as “interesting”) — and took photos of every llama I saw. Every.Single.One. : P In addition to seeing all of the lovely culture and scenery that Peru had to offer, you can imagine that, as a knitter, I was on a certain mission… Happily, I can say that this mission was achieved! But more on that later. 🙂
With this blog post in mind throughout the entire trip, I traipsed all across that country with a DSLR camera, thinking with every shot about what you all would most like to see. I burned through two memory cards and took a grand total of 974 pictures BY MYSELF. (This does not count the photos that the rest of my family took…) I captured just about every sight I saw on that trip…and got a lot of really great photos in the process. (This made for quite a job to look through and pick out what was most essential to share, let me tell you.) But FINALLY, pictures are uploaded, edited, & organized, and sharing can begin!
Organization for a post like this can be a little overwhelming. So I’ve decided to just share a quick run down of the most interesting parts of our journey and share some of my favorite photos from the trip. (Be warned, there are a lot. Narrowing down over 900 pictures is difficult.) Ready for photo overload? Okay, here we go…
(Disclaimer: all photos used in this post were taken and edited by me and are not to be used — other than for personal use — without my express permission. Thanks!)
Arriving in Lima on the 28th, my sister and I met up with the rest of our family (who was already there) and began our adventure. Though we were in Lima for three days, we didn’t do too much, as we were trying to get acclimated to the new environment. However, we did make a few excursions into the city. The first thing we saw in Lima was the Convento de San Francisco. The Saint Francis Monastery (in English) is a beautiful Baroque-style church and convent that is part of the Historic Centre of Lima. One of the most memorable parts of the tour was definitely the catacombs… Used as the primary burial place in Lima during (I think) the 17th century, over 30,000 people were buried here as they believed being buried under a church would help them to be closer to God. After being discovered in 1943, these mass graves were excavated, resulting in the bones of thousands being arranged, not by person, but by type of bone, (i.e., skull, femur, etc.). This has resulted in multiple pits of various bones with little to no identification — some of these are even in (slightly creepy) designs. (Here is the Wikipedia page if you would like to learn more about the Convento de San Francisco.)
Leaving Lima, we headed to Cusco — but not to stay. Upon landing in Cusco, we got the heck out of Dodge as quickly as we could so as not to be negatively impacted by the altitude. Cusco is at about 11,000 feet in altitude, so in order to adjust to the altitude more gradually, we travelled first to a countryside town called Ollantaytambo (pronounced O-yan-tay-tambo) — a town at about 8,000 feet in altitude.
While in Ollantaytambo, which is a small town in a valley of the Andean mountains, we got our first real taste of traditional Peruvian culture. Our time spent here was not hurried…the main attraction being the Incan ruins on the side of a nearby mountain. But there was much to see in the way of Peruvian markets and (sometimes) hand-crafted items.
One of my favorite parts of the whole trip was getting to peruse the marketplaces. These were all over, and people even walked the streets selling their items. (This got annoying after a while…) Though many of these items are mass produced, it was possible to find hand-made items through asking the merchants specifically. Additionally, these markets presented a plethora of negotiating opportunities, as many merchants mark up prices for tourists. Thankfully, my sister is pretty fluent in Spanish and was able to translate these negotiations for us. As the USD to Sole exchange rate greatly favors the American dollar, we were able to score lots of these goodies at prices unheard of in the US. (i.e., hand-woven alpaca scarves for the equivalent of $7!) I had lots of fun with this. : P
Peruvian natives are experts in taking advantage of tourist situations…(this is meant in a complimentary way). In addition to the masses of markets, stores, and independent sellers, it was not uncommon to see Peruvians walking around in traditional dress, taking photos with tourists for tips.
After spending a few days in Ollantaytambo, we caught a train heading through the countryside to the base of Machu Picchu. This was a huge bucket list item on the itinerary as it is now considered one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.
Created in the early-mid 15th century, Machu Picchu took about 50 years to build, but was inhabited for less than 100 years. Though the name Machu Picchu is associated with the ruins themselves, the name is originally derived from one of the mountains present at this site. Located between the mountains of Machu Picchu (meaning “old mountain”) and Huayna Picchu (meaning “young mountain”), the Machu Picchu Incan city was used as a place where people could come and study, as the Incas considered the joining of old and new to be the optimum place for learning. Due to news of the Spanish invasion into Peru in 1550, the Incans abandoned Machu Picchu and fled into the mountains to avoid the Spanish Conquest. Because of this, the Spanish never found Machu Picchu and, therefore, it was not destroyed with the many other Incan cities invaded at the time. (Visit the official Machu Picchu website or the Wikipedia page to learn more about the history of the Machu Picchu site.)
Needless to say, seeing Machu Picchu in real life was incredible. As I’ve said before, this was a bucket list item that I never thought would get crossed off, and I feel extremely lucky to have experienced this wonderful historic site.
After spending a couple of days at the base of the mountain — in a town that is also called Machu Picchu — we headed out on the train again, back to Ollantaytambo, and then, by car, on back to Cusco.
During our car trip to Cusco, and while touring around Cusco, we had Peruvian guides providing interesting information about everything we saw. One of my favorite facts was about how a llama got its name… Apparently, when the Spanish conquered Peru, they asked (in Spanish) what the name of this animal — that they had never seen — was. As the Spanish word for ‘name’ is ‘llama’ (pronounced yama), the Peruvians (who spoke Quechua) thought they were naming it…thus, it is now called a llama. Cool, huh?
Our last stop of the trip was the ancient Incan capital of Cusco. This vibrant city is everything you think of when you think of Peru. It’s got the beautiful architecture, the mountains, the history, and all the culture you could imagine. While we were in Cusco, our primary excursion was a vehicle tour around the city and the surrounding mountains. (Let me tell you, Incan ruins…they’re everywhere in this country. Ha.)
As I said before, being a knitter, I was on a certain mission while being in a country with as many alpacas and llamas as Peru has. I searched high and low for alpaca yarn while touring markets and shops…but to no avail. However, thanks to a tip from a fellow knitter online, I was able to search out a yarn shop while in Cusco! Behold, Michell…
Once we had a vague location in mind, my family and I traipsed through the city on a mission to find this store. After walking through narrow and winding Cuscuan streets, we arrived to find it closed for lunch… Ugh. Thankfully, however, it was scheduled to re-open soon after we arrived, so we waited — under threat of thunderstorm — until the owner arrived to re-open the shop. (My family is so supportive of my addiction…bless them.)
Finally making it inside, I was greeted by a literal WALL of beautiful alpaca yarn. I was in heaven. Unfortunately, I was unable to buy one of those glorious cones due to lack of suitcase space…but I did come away with several (*couch* FOUR) packs of baby alpaca DK weight (10 skeins each) in various colors. Plus, each pack of 10 skeins cost approximately the equivalent of $30 in the US! It was a good day. 🙂
For anyone looking for this shop in the future, it is located just off of the San Francisco Square, on a street that is called both Grenada and Theatro. About a 10-15 minute walk from the main square.
We apparently found the “knitting” part of town on this excursion as, on our way walking back from the yarn shop, we spotted several Peruvians knitting, crocheting, and even spinning while going about their business.
Well, that’s pretty much it! After our journey to the yarn shop, we headed back to our hotel to pack, as we were heading home the next day. A nice conclusion to the trip though, don’t you think? Ahh, to end a great trip with great yarn. Bliss. : P
As I mentioned, this is only a teeny-tiny fraction of the photos that I took on the trip. But I hope you enjoyed taking this journey with me! I truly had a blast on this trip and feel truly fortunate to have been able to experience this culture…but I’m SUPER glad to be home, (funny how travel makes you appreciate your home).
For those of you who followed along with my journey, whether through my earlier blog posts, Instagram posts, or just by actually getting to the end of this post (Bravo!), thank you! I’m really enjoying this blogging adventure, and hope you are enjoying it as well. 🙂
Now that I’m back to normal life again, I’m glad to say I’m crafting away and will have lots of knitting, dyeing, and even sewing projects to share in the near future! So stay tuned!
So, what do you think of my Peruvian adventure? Would you like to visit Peru someday?