After our stint in the hospital in Cusco we found ourselves to be in a bit of a travel funk. 
We didn't have the energy or desire to see any more of Cusco. Our next destinations, Arequipa and the Colca Canyon, were no longer a sensible option since we knew that Bek couldn't handle any trekking. So we decided to head to the coast for some rest and recovery.
We spent 2 days in Lima and it was all we could do to manage a walk around the historic part of town one afternoon. The constantly grey skies that plague this region in the winter seemed to match our moods. We should have known better, we rarely enjoy visiting a city!
So we headed south to Ica for a bit more tourism. Trip one, a boat ride out to Las Islas Ballestas. This was absolutely amazing, millions of birds of all different types everywhere, including Humboldt penguins, as well as some lazy looking sea lions. Unfortunately we were crammed into a boat with 40 people and only had 45 quick minutes to appreciate it all. Not quite the style we prefer, we could have easily spent a few hours out there!
Trip 2 was out to the amazing sand dunes and oasis of Huacachina. Neither of us had ever visited a place that was all sand and it was really beautiful. It was particularly stunning to see a watery green oasis amidst all the sand. We enjoyed a thrilling ride among the dunes in a dune buggy and a bit of sand boarding at sunset.
But despite these great activities we just weren't feeling it. I know this sounds quite whiny but just trying to be honest. We were particulary put off by just how touristy everything was. Until now we have been fairly fortunate to be able to stay away from the big groups of tourists and to keep off the well beaten path. But here in Southern Peru it is much more difficult, they don´t call it the ¨Gringo trail¨ for nothing!
So back to Lima for a quick stopover and to enjoy the colorful water-fountain park - good clean fun! And then to shake things up we headed to the mountains hoping that would be the key to lifting our moods. Again, what were we thinking?! 
Bek is still recovering from typhoid and her other ailments and we decide to go to a town at 3,500 meters to go hiking! We did one day trip, without packs to visit a glacier at 5,050 meters (16,665 ft; Mt. Whitney is only at 14,505 ft.) and we were flat out trying to walk 2 km (1 mile). So we figured our desired 4 day trek at elevation was not in the cards. It was great to be up in the mountains, see some crazy plants related to the pineapple, and watch a storm move through the mountains, covering everything in a coat of white. It was tough to walk away from, but we knew in our current state that we could not do them justice.
Instead we decided to search for some warmth, sunshine, and relaxation along Peru's northern coast. 
Thankfully our moods have risen with the temperature as we creep ever closer to the equator, and we are back to our normal happy and explorative selves :)
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A relative of the pineapple plant
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Ice and snow, we have had a lot of that on this trip
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Plaza de Armas, Lima
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Humboldt penguin
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Yes please! Las Islas Ballestas
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A real desert oasis
 
 
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We fully intended to go to some churches and museums in Cusco. This wasn´t going to be another of those cities that we spent a week in without seeing the cultural sights. Well the fates were against us this time. We did spend a week in Cusco and only went to one church and museum :(
Bek had been complaining of a pain in her esophagus for a while and then after a miserable day with a fever and an inability to eat due to pain we decided to call a doctor.
One thing cascaded into another and before we knew it Bek was in the hospital on IV meds!!! A blood test had revealed that Bek had an infection of Typhoid that was off the charts!!!
The following day an endoscopy revealed a pretty big ulcer in her esophagus. Add to that a common cold and Bek was in a right miserable state... So 2 days in the hospital and a few more days in a hotel recovering and Bek could start to eat soft foods and walk around. Thankfully recovery has been steady and Bek is looking and feeling much better (a loss of 10 to 15 lbs leads to a nice bikini body :). But needless to say we were ready to get out of Cusco! We will leave the churches and museums to all the other tourists.

The hospital stay did give us a good opportunity to evaluate the Peruvian hospital system. Here are a few observations:
  • Gloves were not as commonly used as one would hope. But Bek´s nurses did use them on occasion, to tie around her arm in order to get a vein for the blood draw and IV but not on their own hands as they worked!
  • The only people wearing gloves - the women who came around twice a day to clean the trash and make the beds.
  • They are not interested in propagating the spread of superviruses, so no alcohol/hand sanitizer stations.
  • They don´t make you wear embarassing clothing, you can wear whatever clothes you came there in.
  • And they welcome guests! Dale had his own bed in the room, which he would later actually need when he too came down with some nasty bugs.

It was an overall memorable experience and one that we hope to never repeat.


 
 
With eager anticipation we arrived in Cusco, Peru. Where Titicaca is considered the birthplace of the Inkan empire, Cusco is considered the navel, the centre about which the empire developed. Although there are a plethora of sites in Cusco and about the Sacred Valley, we were most focused on just one - Machu Picchu. Many a documentary have we watched about this site, and as for many... nay every tourist in South America, much of our trip planning was based around seeing this most-famous of places.
But how to see it in style? What better approach than to trek for 5 days through the mountains much as the Inkans would have done themselves, following ancient paths etched high into the sides of the mountains.
The Salkantay trek is well-known and well-regarded for its beauty and contrast, with no two days spent in the same ecosystem. What we hadn´t heard mention of was just how physically challenging it would be. We expected to struggle at 4600m (15000ft) on Day Two after spending a frigid night camped out in a valley in the shadow of Salkantay Mountain (6271m  or 20573ft); what caught us by suprise was the 8-10 hours of hiking each of the following days. Thankfully the scenery more-than distracted us from the drudgery. Cloud forests with hummingbirds and the Peruvian Cock-of-the-Rock (with a name like this you know it is an interesting character, look it up); rivulets turning to streams turning to a river carving through the Andes; a pleasantly welcome hot spring at the end of Day Three; Day Four consisted of a gentle stroll up a mountain gaining some 800m of elevation and descending over 1000m, but with a cracking view from the top of Machu Picchu on a plateau opposite; and finally Day Five - the ruins themselves.
After countless hours of hiking and many miles covered, we took the easy way out and caught a bus to the ruins. Of course this still entailed waking up at 4am to be in line for the first bus departing 5:30am. A few hours of strolling the ruins, a heart-pounding climb up Machu Picchu mountain with an equally heart-pounding view from the top; and now totally wiped out, another stroll around the ruins. It was all we could do to keep our eyes open on the bus down, let alone the train-bus combo that delivered us to Cusco.
We were not sure what to expect when we got to Machu Picchu. With such a large reputation and so much hype we did not expect to be as amazed as everyone suggested we would be. Thankfully Machu Picchu exceeded to its reputation! It was stunning not just for the amazingly crafted ruins but also for the beautiful setting, up on the saddle of a mountain, but still surrounded by dozens of much taller peaks. Could not imagine a better place to spend out 4th wedding anniversary (well played Dale)! It is well worth the journey to get there, so if it is on your list of things to see, make it happen!
 
 
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Lake Titicaca, nestled amongst the Cordilleras at some 3800m (12,500ft) above sea level in the altiplanos of the Andes Mountain Range, can only be described as distinct. Its claim to fame is that it is the highest ´navitagable´  lake on Earth, and if you were to ask an Inkan, the birthplace of the world.
We have been blessed with the opportunity to travel to quite a few destinations over the years, and we constantly find ourselves comparing our latest vista with that of other places. Lake Titicaca is such a unique mix of ancient and modern culture; geographical extremes yet tranquil ambience; happiness and hardship; that it defies categorizing as `such-and-such a place`.
We only spent a week on its shores, at the most touristy of sites; on the Bolivian side at Copacabana and the Isla Del Sol; the Peruvian side at Puno and the Floating Islands; yet we still felt off-the-beaten track and witness to a spectacular and exotic way of living.



I could wax poetical all day and yet not convey anything of substance that could describe being here.
Perhaps the best course of action would be to recommend that you the reader investigate for yourself;
books; documentries; or better yet a few days walking its shoreline.