Finally, I have decided that I will be taking off from Ollantaytambo on December 6th, which is a week from today. I have several reasons for leaving almost 2 months earlier than originally planned, and I will talk about those a bit later.
To take advantage of my last few weeks in Ollantaytambo, I have been visiting all the places in the Sacred Valley that I hadn’t yet been to. Two weeks ago, I went to a town a few hours from Ollantaytambo which has a popular artisanal market every Sunday. The town itself was very typical for a town in the Andes. Surrounded by mountains, many people dressed in traditional clothes, etc. The market fills up the entire square with nearly 100 different vendors. Overall, it was a relaxing day just walking around, having lunch in the market, having a coffee and dessert afterwards, and then finally having a chicha in the market.
The past weekend, I went with a friend to the Salineras (salt flats), Moray (an Incan site), and Calca (another market). The Salineras are salt flats just about 10 miles from Ollantaytambo. I had no idea what to expect, but it was interesting to see. Seeming to be carved into the side of this mountain, the whiteness of the salt flats stick out from a few miles away. Each “platform” was maybe 20 feet long and 10 feet wide, and water from the mountain would flow into the platforms. It takes some days before drying and before the salt crystallizes. Cool and unique place to see here.
Afterwards, we hiked to the town of Maras (about 2 hours walking), had lunch, and then took a taxi to the Incan site of Moray. This was sort of an Incan experiment for agriculture. The site consists of several terraces built in a circular shape into the ground. 12 different terraces in total, vertically. They say that each terrace has a different microclimate because of the change in the temperature. Not only is it impressive to have this sort of test facility 500 years ago, but it’s a beautiful site to see!
Finally, on Sunday we went to Calca which is another small Andean town with a popular Sunday market. Again, we went and walked around the market (where I found Christmas movies including (Home Alone, Elf, Alvin and the Chipmunks, and Jingle all the Way), got lunch, and had a chicha. Another nice and relaxing Sunday!
So I have carved out my travel plan, which I am extremely excited about. I have never done any long-term traveling. The most I have been out on the road is 17 days in Italy. Otherwise, I always had a home base to return to for weekend or week trips. This will be different. I will have no home base from the beginning of December until at least mid-March. I’ve been dreaming of this experience since I lived in London and met others who were traveling long term. Finally my turn has come!
I expect it to be a challenge. Traveling isn’t all just rainbows and butterflies. I’ll be facing all sorts of new challenges. Some include not having my own personal space, pacing myself (easy to burn yourself out, but 3.5 months is a long time), feeling socially satisfied (couchsurfing should help), and keeping on a budget. It won’t be as easy as it sounds, but it’ll be rewarding. I think I’ll realize that I need even less than I have now (which already isn’t much). But when I have to carry all my possessions, I think I will have a different mindset.
So here is my current plan, but could change a bit depending on the time I have. So it’s straight to Bolivia on December 6th, probably straight to La Paz. I want to spend probably around a week in La Paz before exploring the rest of Bolivia. I honestly don’t know much that it has to offer, but I will figure out more when I get there! I want to spend 3 or 4 weeks in Bolivia. Afterwards, I will head south to Argentina and make my way across to Chile. I will decide later if I will make it all the way down to Buenos Aires, again depends on the time.
I will then make my way to Santiago, Chile and stay some time there. Around the city is the big wine region in Chile, so I would also like to take some time to travel this area (along with the beaches). Then I will head back north along the coast back to Peru. In Peru, I will stop in Ica (desert sandboarding and dunebuggies), Nazca, and then get to Lima for at least 3 or 4 days. Depending on the time I have, I will either head north in Peru to search out some beaches, or I will fly straight to Iquitos (the jungle in northwest Peru). I will then do a wildlife trip which involves staying in lodges in the jungle and wildlife watching during the day.
After this, I take a boat on the Amazon river to Leticia, Colombia. From here, I will fly to Bogota and hopefully travel in Colombia for 3 or 4 weeks, depending on the time I have (For any skeptics on Colombia, please do some research and find that it’s not as dangerous as you think! I have met several people who traveled there recently, and they’re still alive. Even a 23 year old British girl traveling solo). Finally, from Bogota I will fly to Chicago to end my trip! Obviously, I’m excited about it and look forward to writing about the travels.
I hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving! I missed being at home for Thanksgiving, and I expect to miss Christmas even more. It is definitely the hardest part about being away from home. This is one of the biggest tradeoffs about traveling and being away from home, but Skype at least makes it a bit better!