Tag Archives: cusco

Getting shot in Peru

This story will forever be embedded in my book of memories. It was my buddy Hayden’s first time backpacking and I say this because he put full faith in me and all of my experiences. I had planned the trip, reserved and booked all of our transfers and even sent him a “must bring” and “leave at home” list. With that said, picture this…

After hiking Machu Picchu and spending a week exploring the beautiful city of Cusco, we arrived at the airport to make our way North to Costa Rica. Walking with confidence and speaking in my advanced (broken) spanish we approached the ticket counter to check in. Passports, yep. Tickets, yep. Yellow fever card? Hmm….
“I choose not to get shots, but thanks for asking”. I said politely.
“Lo siento señorita, su necesaria para viajar” (sorry miss, it’s necessary to travel).
“No sir, I’ve been to Costa Rica before and I didn’t need a yellow fever card then, why now?”
Turns out coming from the north you don’t need it, but coming from the south you’re at a higher risk, so the shot is required before entering Costa Rica.
At this point, I’m still relaxed regardless of Hayden’s face expressing the “we’re doomed” look. “Where is the nearest doctor? We’ll go get the shot right now and return for the flight”.

Fun but not helpful fact: the shot must be in your system for 10 days prior to travel. This was unacceptable due to the fact that Hayden had his flight back to the states out of Costa Rica in just 8.

The man at the desk replied with a “best we can do” scenario and puts us on a flight to Lima which is the capital of Peru. He suggested that we might have more options there. So here we go, boarding a plane with no guarantee that we can connect to our final destination.

While sitting on this little transfer, my mind is searching all options. We could ditch the final flight and just take a bus over the border to try and sneak our non-yellow fever card carrying selves to Ecuador. Maybe we could hitch hike north until another opportunity presented itself or why not just jump to Mexico? They have beautiful beaches!

Landing in Lima, we gathered our backpacks and decided to approach the ticket counter as if there was nothing was to be concerned of. As the story goes, the same conversation began with the employee confirming that we will not be flying out of the country without our yellow fever card.
Turing to walk away with several thoughts running through my mind, we were casually signaled over by a woman who appeared to be a apart of the airport security. “You need your yellow fever card?” She asked.
Eagerly I responded with a guilty nod, “Ci!”. She gazed away ever so slightly as to avoid eye contact as she suggested we find a man in a red vest and tell him we’re in need of “Air Sanity”.

No time for questions, we’re now on a hunt through the Lima airport desperately looking for a red vested jolly man with, what I imagine, having a stash of yellow cards we can buy off him and be merry on our way. Wrong.

In our search for this “hombre de rojo”, Hayden spots a symbol resembling a Red Cross. We had nothing to lose as we approached a counter that was clearly a medical center. “Hola, necesitamos que nuestros… uhhh… amarillo uhh…”. She cuts me off, “You need your yellow fever card?”
“Yes please!”
She asks us to wait before returning with an elderly woman that had to of been at least 85 years old or 110 and looking great for her age. We followed her into a small room with a tiny business desk covered in several binders and random knick-nacks.
She proceeded to ask if we had a doctor from the United States that could confirm we have received the shots. The entire conversation went something like this:
“You have note with shots?”
“No señora, we don’t have the shots or a note.”
“Some Americans have doctor send paper in machine with card. Do you have a doctor?”
“No señora, I don’t. I’m sorry.”
By this time she is giving me the look of “I know you’re young, but come on lady, get my drift!”
“…but you can have a doctor with note?” She implied.
“Ohhh, ci señora… I do have a doctor with a note!”
“Good then, go with her” she said while pointing to a kind looking woman wearing an outfit that was nothing resembling a nurses outfit.
As Hayden and I made eye contact, I giggled with a shoulder shrug and scooted along behind her with relief knowing we’ll make our flight. Expected to be given a yellow fever card with a wink, I had another thing coming.

We ended our short walk in a room containing a deep freezer, a desk and blank walls decorated with graphs and a few disturbing posters with images of tropical diseases. She rolled out a dusty chair and proceeded.
“Please sit down. Who’s first?”
“I’m sorry, excuse me… what?”
All things became clear as she started to lay out two needles with a substance that, to this day, I have no idea what it really was.

“I’ll go!” I took a seat, and looked at Hayden as she whipped out the syringe. With no hesitation, I was being punctured in the upper arm and injected
with the mystery liquid. Now it’s Hayden’s turn!

To the best of my memory, I believe his words were something along the lines of “Erika, I knew your travels were crazy… but this is insane!”

A needle poke and a few bandaids later, we were sent back to the ancient woman’s room where she had two yellow cards. I watched as she turned back the dial on the date stamp confirming that indeed, we were in the USA 15 days prior and yes, our doctor sent a fax to her. On the way out, our unofficially-official nurse suggested we remove the bandaids before landing in Costa Rica to ensure they wouldn’t be suspicious of a recent shot.

Forty American dollars later, we had cards, tender arms and a half hour till our flight departed. Hoping for a different person at the ticket counter to avoid any awkward moment, we were not so lucky as we approached the same man who had previously turned us away. I walked up as if we had never been there before and plopped up our Passports, tickets and 2 brand new shiny yellow cards.
He looked everything over and glanced up at us, then stamped a few papers and concluded with a “Have a nice flight”.
With sweaty palms and the heart rate of a race horse, I walked away in relief that I had not completely let my pal down. If anything, just given him another story to share back home. Sweet victory!

Here’s the only photo from that day.

2015/01/img_3222.jpg

Handstand of 2013! The winner is…

I absolutely loved watching the votes roll in, thank you! Plain and simple, here are the winners starting with the runners up and working to #1!

The honorable mentions start with an open green area in Cusco, Peru. This area made up just a small part of the exciting journey we spent exploring the streets and unique markets. To this day, it’s still one of my favorite cities in the world!

20140201-200420.jpg

The Golden Gate Bridge is one of the most internationally recognizable structures in San Fransisco, California . Definitely handstand worthy!

20140201-200214.jpg

After Machu Picchu hit the top of the polls for best photo of 2012, I thought it would be refreshing to introduce another wonder of the world. Stonehenge in Wiltshire, England was a classic set up for a proper handstand photo.

20140201-200621.jpg

The sunset over looking The Thimble Islands was a surprise treat while visiting my longtime friends on the east coast of the United States. The colors were not touched up in this photo… All natural beauty!

20140201-200815.jpg

The Cologne Cathedral is the largest gothic church in Germany which made it a bit of challenge to get me and the very tip of the building in the same shot. Well done Hayden!

20140201-202544.jpg

Santa Catalina is a beach town on the west coast of Panama where I was volunteering as a staff member of Cabañas Time Out resort. What an office view!

20140201-203616.jpg

Then there’s my precious family in good ol’ Oklahoma. These are my five siblings that are always eager to help out with the handstand shot. This year we chose to do it in front of our snow woman before she melted away.

20140201-204153.jpg

In third place, we have the Mahogany Cathedral that welcomes you to the north coast of my favorite island. Barbados holds a special place in my heart and I highly suggest a visit if you’re ever in need of a well rounded beach holiday.

20140201-205320.jpg

With a close second place, it’s not a surprise that the temples of Angkor Wat in Cambodia caught your attention. From the peaceful monks walking around to the thousands of stairs and doorways, this scene was easy to get lost in… both physically and emotionally.

20140201-205840.jpg

With a solid win in first place, I share with you the colorful handstand photo from Chiang Mai, Thailand. These lights almost define this magical place and the vibrancy that naturally exists throughout the city. Well done Asia.

20140201-210202.jpg

Markets, street food and exploring (eating) the unknown!

Shoes on, empty tummy and friends to join! Open your eyes and let us welcome you to the streets of Cusco!

20130509-114341.jpg

20130509-114402.jpg

20130509-114638.jpg

20130509-114715.jpg

20130509-114740.jpg

20130509-114837.jpg

One hard boiled egg next to a baked potato topped with a green chile sauce… Yes please!

20130509-114912.jpg

20130509-115934.jpg

Our curiosity finally got to us after passing by this bucket mounted with what looked like a pile of compost. Turns out, they pour water over the goodies and let is seep through to create a tea. We each tried a sip from the warm recycled water bottle that it came in… none of us fought for the last drink.

20130509-114943.jpg

20130509-172511.jpg

This was simply a barrel of baked potatoes. You could a decent bag, warm and ready for less than $0.15.

20130509-171344.jpg

20130509-115800.jpg

Sopa, sopa, sopa!

20130509-120121.jpg

20130509-120214.jpg

20130509-120219.jpg

20130509-120224.jpg

20130509-121518.jpg

20130509-120235.jpg

Back into the markets…

20130509-120702.jpg

20130509-120808.jpg

20130509-120814.jpg

20130509-120835.jpg

20130509-121926.jpg

20130509-120922.jpg

20130509-121123.jpg

Fresh juice smoothie anyone?

20130509-120342.jpg

20130509-120348.jpg

Sharing is caring as we continued to get one of everything that looked intriguing. Grab a bite and pass it around!

20130509-120524.jpg

20130509-120529.jpg

20130509-122506.jpg

20130509-125847.jpg

This little surprise treat was warm white rice mixed with sweet milk, layered with a mild fruit jelly like substance, all topped off with a saltine cracker.

20130509-121334.jpg

On the way back we skimmed some of the non edible items that offered up hammocks, sweaters, jewelry, wallets, dishes, tattoos, and more.

20130509-121900.jpg

20130509-122400.jpg

Ann and I decided that instead of getting matching tattoos (enter sarcastic laugh here), that we would go with Peruvian friendship bracelets.

20130509-122227.jpg

20130509-122233.jpg

20130509-125733.jpg

Sometimes it’s necessary to stop and remind yourself of where you are. We were all just chatting away before we glanced over at this beauty. Handstand time!

20130509-122354.jpg

For more photos and info showing a different side of this gorgeous city, click here to be directly linked to last years posts!

Jump kick in Machu Picchu

Last year, I wrote about some secret tips that were given to me by a local. My promise still stands, if you’re ever going to make experience the sacred city, please write me and I’ll gladly expose a few hints that will enhance your journey! Until then, the secret remains amongst them who have made the trek with me.

4:00am- Alarm sounds to an already awake room of travelers.
4:30- Showered, packed and ready to leave.
5:00- Lined up at the first bus to depart!

20130507-122108.jpg

5:30- Bus ride in the dark to the base of the city.

20130507-122411.jpg

20130507-122416.jpg

6:00am- Whats this? We’re the first people in line to enter the sacred city!

20130507-122451.jpg

20130507-122457.jpg

20130507-122502.jpg

The next 20 minutes is to remain undocumented for the strength of the “secret”… but here is one photo along the way before reaching our lookout point.

20130507-122647.jpg

Once arriving, the fog acted like a curtain that requested patience as it protected the artwork we all came to see. We took advantage of this moment with a few fun photos!

20130507-123035.jpg

20130507-123136.jpg

20130507-123145.jpg

20130507-123307.jpg

20130507-123314.jpg

Layer by layer, the curtains gracefully lifted as the masterpiece was revealed.

20130507-190456.jpg

20130507-190543.jpg

20130507-123440.jpg

20130507-123446.jpg

20130508-120209.jpg

On the way down into the city, I realized that I wanted to mix up the handstand photo from last year . How amazing are my friends? They patiently waited as I ran into the empty field (that was apparently off limits) and snagged the picture. Can you spot me?

20130507-124046.jpg

20130507-124114.jpg

Time to head in and explore the walls that make up this mystical place.

20130507-180600.jpg

20130507-180818.jpg

20130507-180833.jpg

20130507-190157.jpg

20130507-190123.jpg

20130507-180857.jpg

20130507-190238.jpg

20130507-180906.jpg

20130507-180929.jpg

20130507-181002.jpg

20130507-181458.jpg

20130507-181843.jpg

A happy picnic break to take it all in as we watched the herd of people (who slept in) make their way towards us.

20130507-183210.jpg

20130508-115723.jpg

20130507-183220.jpg

20130507-183227.jpg

20130507-183237.jpg

20130507-183317.jpg

Between the four of us and our enthusiasm for fun pictures, it was hard to pass up any of the next photos!

20130701-074415.jpg

20130507-183537.jpg

20130507-181513.jpg

20130507-182045.jpg

20130507-183008.jpg

20130507-180842.jpg

20130507-183736.jpg

20130507-190105.jpg

20130508-120401.jpg

20130701-074907.jpg

20130701-074554.jpg

Here’s the classic pose and snap shots taken before our final hike down the trail.

20130508-113144.jpg

20130508-113205.jpg

A sincere thanks to my new friends Colin and Ann for the incredible partnership and enthusiasm towards this remarkable journey. Hayden, you blindly booked a flight with the trust in me to make it happen… I’m honored for your company on this priceless journey as you enhanced the experience for all of us!

20130508-113223.jpg

Are we supposed to go through that dark tunnel?

Last year, I started my Machu Picchu post with what’s written below.

“I feel a huge challenge trying to describe through words and photos the magnitude of energy and massive beauty that this place holds. If Machu Piccu has been on your “list” or this page intrigues you whatsoever, please remember:

YOU ARE THE ONLY ONE THAT CAN MAKE IT HAPPEN… SO DO IT!

20130506-073927.jpg

Before I begin sharing this priceless journey, if you haven’t read last years trek to Machu Picchu, you can do so at Machu Picchu link or The trek link. It has a more descriptive message of the actual route and facts that come with it. This year, it’s all about the friends and the adventure!

Living on the road has brought many new perspectives into my life as well as more than a few unexpected lessons that I plan on carrying forward. Lets be aware of how easy it is to live in “auto pilot” and go through day to day almost in a programmed sense, passing the garden without “smelling the roses” as they say. Ive grown to appreciate all situations in what they have to offer and am constantly reminding myself to be “in the moment”. Today…right now… This is my life.

With that said, I’m going to break up the Machu Picchu adventure into a few different posts, as the entire journey was special start to finish.

Hayden and I met as kids trying to balance homework and a social life while growing up in the small town of Folsom, California. Now, 17 years later, I get to pick up my dear friend from the Cusco airport as we have plans to hike Machu Picchu with Ann and Colin!

Let’s begin with the morning departure from our Hostel in Cusco. The four of us had reserved the bus to pick us up at 7:45 for the 5 hour ride to the base of our walk towards Aguascalientes. 9:00 rolls around and instead of a bus, we got a woman with her child that said “follow me”…. And so it began.

20130504-110856.jpg

20130504-110903.jpg

20130504-110908.jpg

We made a few turns to find a decent van stocked with two drivers, empty seats and a woman urging us to get in quickly, “Vamanos!”.

All smiles as we’re finally on the road towards one of the seven wonders of the world.

20130504-111015.jpg

20130504-111023.jpg

20130504-111041.jpg

The first pit stop is in the open country side of Ollantaytambo for a leg stretch, optional snack and a handstand of course!

20130504-111118.jpg

20130504-111124.jpg

20130504-111129.jpg

Even though this bathroom brought a tiny challenge of it’s own, it’s luxury compared to last year!

20130504-111158.jpg

20130504-111208.jpg

20130504-111213.jpg

Back into the van, I capture us still smiling (for now) as we have new sights along the way.
More than just mountains and clouds, you’ll see several animals and even cyclist who are making me feel slightly guilty of my sore bum.

20130504-111351.jpg

20130504-111418.jpg

20130504-112128.jpg

20130504-111523.jpg

20130504-111536.jpg

20130504-111554.jpg

20130504-111610.jpg

As we continue the climb up in elevation, you can begin to see the clouds roll in and take over the passage. This is almost a relief due to the unprotected cliff side that so gratiously accompanied the one way road. Each time another vehicle would approach head on, one of us would have to hug the mountain side in order for the other to safely pass. Not fun.

20130504-111730.jpg

20130504-111737.jpg

20130504-111744.jpg

20130504-111757.jpg

20130504-111804.jpg

20130504-111814.jpg

See that tiny little bridge behind us with no guard rail? What you don’t see is that it’s barely suspended above thousands of feet of pure straight cliff side. What you don’t hear is us all gasping for air when the back tire didn’t catch on the tracks… Stomach, please return to your appropriate location and heart rate, it’s necessary for you to regulate again for the future of my journey.

20130504-112021.jpg

20130504-111823.jpg

20130504-112104.jpg

Arriving to Hydro Electronica means we get to stop for a quick break before we start our way by foot towards Machu Picchu. A toast, a few fun pics and the adventure continues!

20130504-112241.jpg

20130504-112202.jpg

20130504-112207.jpg

Find the tracks, find a four legged friend and keep on trekking!

20130504-112718.jpg

20130504-112723.jpg

20130504-112735.jpg

Three attempts to get us all in one photo… Fail.

20130504-112543.jpg

20130504-112549.jpg

20130504-112555.jpg

Awesomely awkward shot of all of us… Success!

20130504-113101.jpg

Finishing up the first hour brings more smiles and more more train tracks.

20130504-113224.jpg

20130504-113245.jpg

20130504-113259.jpg

20130701-073842.jpg

From a distance we could here the tracks in use as the train blared it’s horn. We accepted this as a challenge to not only race the speeding beast, but snag a few cool photos too!

20130701-073701.jpg

20130505-103952.jpg

20130505-104002.jpg

20130505-104009.jpg

20130505-104019.jpg

Due to our relaxed pace, the walk took a bit longer than the average “trek”, but we were definitely ok with that. Considering the amazing conversation, great photo oportunities and the memories that came with it, I wouldn’t have changed a thing!

20130505-104208.jpg

20130506-072041.jpg

20130506-072049.jpg

The sun is sinking and adds one more fun element to our already exciting expedition!

20130506-072417.jpg

20130506-072440.jpg

20130506-072500.jpg

20130506-072512.jpg

20130506-072518.jpg

20130506-072602.jpg

Arriving at night we head directly to get our tickets as the morning will only provide a 4am alarm and a line to depart by 5.

20130506-072939.jpg

Next step… Machu Picchu!