A Day off in Cusco

The city was even more beautiful when we arrived back at the Eco Hostel. The beds were freshly made and the blankets kept us so warm and cozy. It was nice to rest our sore muscles. We asked the staff where they got the blankets and they just said in town, so we decided to go hunt them down. We wanted one for ourselves and a gift for family members. We were allowed to carry on one bag each with Spirit Airlines so we were going to get two blankets only. We asked the person at the front desk of the hostel for directions and headed into town. We walked down the hill and turned right as the directions stated, while the night was looming overhead. Darker and darker the streets were getting due to being in the mountains. We wondered if we would find this magical shop.

We were very tired when we turned on to the shop’s street and it was a ways off. We crossed over intersections and avoided cars. On the street where the blanket would be there was wire protruding off the roof of another shop. Chris and I are tall so I almost cut my eye on it. He saw the wire and pulled me out of the way just in time. I learned at that moment to watch my step way more carefully moving forward. Getting to the shop in the distance was such a reward. The owner was an amazing and honest man. He ran a family business and his son tried to spike the price on us since we were tourists. We said the price said a lot less on the floor model and he kept telling us it was way more. We decided to only get one blanket. As he rang us up, his father came out and got very upset at his son. We ended up getting two blankets for the owner’s original set price, which was less than the price his son wanted to charge us for one. This whole blog is turning into a sales pitch for these blankets but they are worth it!! I would link it here but there is no option to purchase them online. You just have to go to Cusco and ask.

After leaving this shop we had to walk up, up, up the hill back to the hostel. As we walked we saw a store with amazing fabrics and thin ribbon stitching for bags. I wished we found this place earlier because I would have bought some fabric and made my own bag. At this point we were running low on funds and space in our rucksacks to take back home to America. I was happy just window shopping in this wonderful shop brimming with colorful dyes and textiles. Peru is such a lively place filled with various hues that play with the eye and let the imagination run wild. On Friday I will walk you through the other shops in town we went to, our souvenirs, and the flee market shenanigans. Until then, have a wonderful Wednesday. The paintings from Peru are at the bottom and all linked if you are interested. Thank you for reading!

-Karen Hilliard

Here are the paintings in this Inca Trail Series so far…Number 1 is from Blog, “Trekking to Santa Teresa”. Number 2, is a work in progress. Number 3 is from Blog “Delicious Fruit.” Number 4 is from Blog “Hot Springs.” Number 5 is from Blog “Climb to Machu Picchu.”

Trekking back to Cusco

We left Machu Picchu in the afternoon and had to keep a steady pace. We were going to have moments in Aguas Calientes to gather our bags, run around a few shops, and then catch the train back to Cusco. Our first thought was to take our time down the steps leading back to the city. We side stepped the whole way back to save our knees after Papi told us what happened to his. He said he was foolish in his younger years and was living with the consequences now. In order to protect our knees we watched and made sure our knees were not going over our toes and we were not taking giant step as forward. Instead, the side stepping and keeping our hips in a perpendicular line or 90 degree angle was our goal. There were so many steps to navigate. We found some cool stones on the way down set like the “Stairs of Death” and got some great pictures! On we trekked to get to the city.

Down, down, and down we went until we reached the hiking sign and the bridge. It was nice seeing everything in the daylight and we got some great photos to remember those moments. The bridge we walked on in the morning was even nicer than we previous thought and the water flowing beneath it was breathtaking. As we crossed the bridge, we recalled our time on Machu Picchu. It was such a magical place based high in the mountains encamped by morning midst and we will remember it fondly for all time. Saying goodbye to something on our life’s bucket list felt strange because we waited so long to see it, hike the trail to it, and to just be present in Peru. We were both smiling as we walked into the city of Aguas Calientes feeling like something great had been accomplished.

Walking around the shops was wonderful. I really enjoyed all the colors and images throughout the city. We were on the hunt for produce to find a giant avocado. Luckily, we ran into our friends again from Taiwan and ended up finding an amazing market with produce galore. There, in the middle of the hustle and bustle of people and food stood a stand with giant avocados! We were really excited and picked out two that we would eat later at the hostel in Cusco. After saying goodbye again to our friends, we went to a few more shops and proceeded to go find the train. Chris had never ridden on a train so this was really awesome for him. We found a great spot and took some pictures, then our two friends boarded and joined us for our final hang out of this amazing trip. Everyone fell asleep and when the train stopped we were told to hustle off because the next stop was a long stretch away. Chris left his water bottle on the train and we learned to not ever rush, even if we ended up going the wrong way for hours on end. Taking the tortoise cow is our way. I hope you all have a wonderful start to your week and thank you for reading! Wednesday is about our day off in Cusco!!

-Karen Hilliard

Here are the paintings in this Inca Trail Series so far…Number 1 is from Blog, “Trekking to Santa Teresa”. Number 2, is a work in progress. Number 3 is from Blog “Delicious Fruit.” Number 4 is from Blog “Hot Springs.” Number 5 is from Blog “Climb to Machu Picchu.”


Also this lovely Number 5 closing the Inca Trail Series and the two Llamas are all AVAILABLE!

Llamas and More Await!

There were llamas everywhere we looked munching on grass throughout Machu Picchu. The brown and white ones were especially interesting to look at. I was partial to my all white llama that watched me paint for 60 seconds. He was a cheery one. None of the llamas spit on us so that was nice. Did you know that in the wild they fight off predators with their talon like hooves? They are fearless!! They live in high altitudes and their coat keeps them extra warm including their long graceful necks. I decided to do a Tiny Painting watercolor series on these llamas because they were just a dream come true for me to see them.

I would always see pictures of Machu Picchu with llamas walking around it in tourist photos. Seeing them has been on my bucket list for a while. Right when we entered the ruins it was super foggy and misty. Once the midst cleared we saw a brown and white llama immediately munching grass in one of the stone tiers. We were a safe distance away so I got my camera out and started snapping pictures. Chris and I are used to being super respectful of wildlife and try to never disturb them in their habitats. These llamas, however, were very used to people. As we walked up the many stairs to take more pictures of Machu Picchu, you know the classic one I posted in my last blog, there were llamas abound! 

When we found an initial photo opportunity we came across three llamas lying down with their necks stretched upward eating the leaves off trees. I stopped to take a picture with them for my nephew because I got him a Machu Picchu book with a llama on the cover. After this amazing experience was complete we got our photo with the mountain behind us. We were discussing how high we would have to climb to get the ‘classic’ photo of the whole mountain and ruins together. We walked on, and up many stairs, then found the spot. That is when we ran into the other person from our group and he helped us with the photo. After this we sat and had the wonderful llama experience I shared in “Exploring Machu Picchu.” After Mr. Llama was done watching me paint, Chris and I sat together marveling at the landscape and remembering our first hike where we both said “Machu Picchu” for the place we wanted to travel the most. 

Thank you for reading and have a wonderful weekend! I look forward to writing about the journey back to Aguas Calientes, the shops, and the train ride back to the hostel next week. Stay tuned…

-Karen Hilliard


Machu Picchu in All its Glory

Reaching the top of the stairs to Machu Picchu was a huge feat. We met up with Papi and the rest of the group and then proceeded to wait in a very long and grouped up line. There were so many people! We were glad to have our guide at this point of the experience. He led us all in and told us to stop and look around for a minute to take it all in. The midst rolling over the mountains in the early morning light was magical. It felt so surreal for Chris and I and we were speechless. This is saying a lot because we talk all the time. We have spent hours in road trips cross country with no radio in just listening to one another. So, I o have no words, was wonderful. We both just stood there admiring the landscape. Everyone in the group actually, all stood in silence. Then we heard Papu’s voice in the wind.

He was ready to tell us all about where we were, the people who built Machu Picchu, what the ruins represented, and so on. He told us once we were finished with his tour there would be time to explore individually and he would be gone. We were going to miss him and his great sense of humor but we’re so grateful for the stories and lessons he shared. He took us to the mirror pools, a lookout place, explained carvings, etc. we all stood around listening in awe and wonder. I sketched in a couple of places while Papi was talking and everyone enjoyed this. At the end, we all said our goodbyes and one person from our group took a giant avocado out of his bag, then started to eat it! Chris wanted to know where he got it and that will be in a future blog!

After we were done looking at him devour an avocado, we said goodbye to the people from Taiwan and they headed up to Wayna Picchu. I will tell you about their experience in tomorrows blog along with more on my and Chris’s Machu Picchu adventure. When everyone dispersed, Chris and I had to figure out where we were going and we went the wrong way. The ruins are set up on a one way system. We did not know this and a nice gentleman kept telling us we needed to turn around. Every time we thought we were going the right way we ran into him and he said nope, in Peruvian with a lot of head shaking and pointing. Eventually we went the right direction and ended up outside the gate of Machu Picchu super sad that we could not get back in. After waiting around, we heard others talking, followed their lead, and got back in with a stamp. This time…we would not mess up! More on what we saw in tomorrow’s blog and the llamas!!!! Below are some Peru Paintings I am putting on SALE for 10% OFF as a special deal to go with these blogs!

Thank you for reading and Happy Monday!

-Karen Hilliard

For the Original Train Painting Click Here! For the Original Grasshopper Painting Click Here! For the First Llama Click Here! For the Second Llama Click Here! Enjoy 10% off from Today Monday the 23rd Through Saturday the 28th of October!

Climb to Machu Picchu

The walk in the wee hours of darkness to the base of a mountain with my best friend was amazing!! We had vouchers for the hike up to Machu Picchu and were patiently waiting in line with our passports to cross the bridge. Upon arriving to the line there were several people waiting, which we did not expect. We should’ve assumed there be this many people since it’s such a popular spot in the world but we had no idea it would be like Disneyland. It was unreal. How many people were there at 4 AM getting ready to hike up several steps to the ruins of Machu Picchu.

Karen Hilliard Art Blog

The bridge over the river from Aguascalientes on the trail to Machu Picchu was very wide to appease the mini travelers, I am assuming. It was modern and well-built, and the signs at the end of the bridge to get up to Machu Picchu were very self-explanatory, which we appreciated. It was super dark so we decided we would take pictures of those signs on the way down, so they’ll be in a later blog. In this blog, I’ll talk to you about how dark it was, the need for headlamps, the mist coming over the mountains, and just the constant laughter of Chris and I while we hiked up trying to stay out of people‘s way who were hiking at a much faster pace.

Karen Hilliard Art | Tiny Painting | 4x6 | Watercolor | Original Art | Inca Trail Series

The hike was super dark, and Chris and I were very fortunate that we brought our headlamps with us, as we did forget our tent poles. We packed everything for this trip, including our tent, then we forgot to bring the polls and we’re thankful to stay at all the youth hostels along the way. Luckily, however, we did have our headlamps, which we didn’t need for hiking up to Machu Picchu. As we hiked, we thought about our tour guide and how he had gone up on this hike several times. We wondered if this was why he decided to meet us at the top by taking the bus because his “knees weren’t what they used to be.” We were trying to ponder how many times he climbed these steps to Machu Picchu because we were only on a ten day tour with him and there are 365 days a year. We were also his last tour because of his age so he had to have done this trail many, many times. As we got higher and higher, the sun started to come out, and we were able to see the mist over the mountains, but the mountain still was a shadow like silhouette, black. It was surreal, beautiful, just an amazing experience all around for both Chris and I.

I think my favorite part about the hike was the constant image of seeing llamas when we got to the top. I really wanted to get pictures of llamas and just sit on the grassy knoll of Machu Picchu painting the ruins, while being around llamas. I was really hopeful that this would happen. Chris and I were crawling up the steps and felt like they were so high, almost up to our knees. We had to high-step, and he is six foot four and I am six foot one so us high-stepping is saying something. He was excited to see a part of the ruins where the steps were on the side of a cliff. They are known to just be rocks coming out of the rock and it is a very deadly trail on Wayna Picchu. We did not know this at the time and did not go all the way up to the top. I guess we are going to have to go back someday soon. For now, I will write more about Machu Picchu next week!

Have a happy weekend and stay safe…be careful if you do the “Stairs of Death.”

-Karen Hilliard

Aguas Calientes…The Ice Shower

At the base of Machu Picchu, high in the mountains of Peru, there is a city named for it’s hot waters. The river flows through this beautiful place and hot springs abound. This being said, let me explain about the ice shower experience we all had. When Papi gave us the room assignments he gifted everyone rooms with two people a room. We got a place all to ourselves the whole trip because he called us the honeymooners. He was a super sweet and informative guide on his last tour, for those of you new to my blogs. You can read more about him in previous blogs such as, “Delicious Fruit,” “The Inca Trail Begins,” or “Biking Down the Andes.” He is in all of my previous Peru blogs. Back to the showers that will send chills down your spine. 

Chris and I arrived exhausted with tired everything!! All of our limbs ached and when we met Papi he mentioned dinner in an hour. We got the keys to our room and I immediately sat on the floor to stretch. I wanted to take the first shower since all the other places Chris had, because I always needed to stretch first, and when he did, the water was warm for him and cold for me. This time everything was different. He came out of the shower, not long, and I asked how the water was. He said, “my nipples are so hard they can cut glass!” I was not looking forward to my shower, let me tell you…and it was as if ice was coming out of a machine and freezing every part of my body. My hair even felt crispy like it had a frost…no, it didn’t…but in my imagination…it did. We just thought maybe the hotel was older and the pipes had cold water? We were unsure. Our room was in a different wing than the others so we finished up and got dressed, then headed to the hotel lobby to meet up with everyone.

As we sat down, three more travelers were shaking their heads. One person from our group asked us, “did you have hot water?” We replied no and they said, “man, did you feel that water? It was like ice!!” Yes sir, we felt it, and it was! Other people from other groups were all talking about it as well. I asked Chris if I should title this one, “The Ice Shower,” I should type it in under “Aguas Calientes.” Anyways, we all headed to dinner and walked the lovely streets of the city. Colors surrounded us with the rainbow flag. Aguas Calientes is in the Cusco Region and the flag represents the Inca culture and the pride of the people of Cusco. Along with the rainbows and colorful shops, we spied many weary travelers. All of us were chuckling in our heads that they would soon be more awake after taking a shower!!

Thank you for reading and have a wonderful Wednesday! On Friday we head to Machu Picchu…stay tuned! 

Here are the paintings in this Inca Trail Series so far…Number 1 is from Blog, “Trekking to Santa Teresa”. Number 2, is a work in progress. Number 3 is from Blog “Delicious Fruit.” Number 4 is from Blog “Hot Springs.”

-Karen Hilliard

Still Walking…Arrived!

The walk to the city of Aguas Calientes was a long one. A cool breeze and shade from the trees made the temperature bearable. Chris and I had long sleeve shirts and pants on to keep the bugs at bay. I wanted to tell you about the collage photos in my last blog, “The Walk to Aguas Calientes.” The photos show Chris walking on railroad tracks, which we both did to pass the time. He made up a game of how long we could stay on the tracks hopping from one section to the next. The rails were super slippery and I did not last long but we think he made it to 40 in a row. We had to jump off when a train was coming of course, so this hindered the game a bit, or made it more exciting. We did this for a long time so several of the miles. I love that we always invent new games to play depending on our surroundings and try to fully immerse ourselves in every situation we find ourselves in.

Train.Peru Series Number 3

It was fun watching for trains because our injured friend had to take the train into the city instead of walking the last 19 miles. She had hurt her leg and could not make the journey until it started to heal per the doctor’s orders. Stitches are nothing to mess with especially on a trip in another country. As we walked and had to hop off the rails, we would wave and wonder if she was in the train. After several hours passed we actually saw her in one of the train cars and waved. She did not see us but we saw her and were super excited!! I had taken a picture of this exact train as it was coming and then she was on it! What are those odds, we thought? So when I got home, back to the States, I did a little watercolor of the painting to always remember the moment. I later created a watercolor of that same picture for the world to enjoy and I hope it brings much enjoyment. Trains are a wonderful form of transportation and bring to mind so many happy memories for me of the winter season. I often drift off to think about the Polar Express or the Hogwarts Express. It was cute watching Chris wave and hearing, “Do you think she saw us?”

Karen Hilliard Art Blog

Another thing Chris did that was super sweet was to carry my wet clothes. He tied them to his backpack so they could dry in the sun. He said he would be my clothesline. So sweet! I had taken a shower before we left for ziplining and put my clothes in a plastic bag to dry them later. My sarong acted as my towel for everything this trip. I always carry a sarong after a trip taken in Barcelona, Spain with my cousin before I met Chris. Maybe I will blog about that one sometime as it was just as interesting. Back to the moment of wet clothes…Basically, he got several looks and heads were shaken, to all of this he just smiled and carried on. He is full of wonder and great ideas. My clothes dried by the time we reached Aguas Calientes which was good because it was getting dark. We arrived at dinner time and met up with Papi for room assignments. I will share more about this on Wednesday and the ice shower. 

Happy Monday and have a great start to your week. Thank you for reading!

-Karen Hilliard

Santa Teresa

Finally reaching our destination for ultimate relaxation was wonderful. There were showers where we could rinse off before getting into the magical waters. The divine hot springs of Santa Teresa were there for years prior and in our lifetime they had been sectioned off by mankind into various size pools for mankind’s enjoyment. We were grateful to relax and rejuvenate after a very long hike through the jungle. 

Karen Hilliard Art Blog

Our entire group got ready and went into the waters while Chris and I sat outside of them and waited. The lighting was perfect and the sun was ready to go and sleep behind the mountains. I had a little bit of time to create a painting in my travel sketchbook so I decided to enjoy that moment before dipping into the hot springs. Chris chose to hang out with me and talk to me while I painted. The rest of our group soon realized I was an artist and it became a point of interest in every stop we had after this.

Inca Trail | Peru | Machu Picchu | Karen Hilliard Art Blog

When the painting was finished, Chris and I went into the waters and just looked at each other with a smile on our faces. It was a magical moment for sure. One of those times where everything just felt right, calm, peaceful, and yet exciting all at the same time. When we all got out and the sun had set, we finished the day in Santa Teresa. Our sleeping arrangements that night were wonderful and the group decided to give Chris and I a room to ourselves. Papi and the wonderful people chose to gift us a private room for the rest of the trip as a honeymoon gift. They were all super kind and this was an amazing experience for Chris and I. We slept so good and woke up, joined everyone for breakfast at a local restaurant, and got to walk around the town for a bit.

I hope you all have a marvelous Monday. Here are the paintings in this Inca Trail Series so far…Number 1 is from Blog, “Trekking to Santa Teresa.” Number 2, is a work in progress. Number 3 is from Blog “Delicious Fruit.” Number 4 is from Blog “Hot Springs.” Thank you for traveling around Peru with us, reading these blogs,  and Wednesday we will take you on our zip lining adventure!

-Karen Hilliard 

Delicious Fruit

Trekking to Santa Teresa Part 2

We set out to finish the trek to Santa Teresa with our bellies full, bodies strengthened, and minds rejuvenated. What goes up must come down is a fun saying and an even truer statement for this hiking experience. After walking up almost the whole way from the hostel to the little store, then onward to the restaurant, we now were going down towards the river. We walked along the river’s path hunting for wild orchids and butterflies. Chris and I saw a beautiful blue butterfly and followed it while keeping up with the other humans in our group. We constantly have fun and jump in and out of our imaginations. This kept the whole trip on the trail quite stimulating and exciting.

Nearing the end of the trail to the river, we came to an abrupt stop. This is where Papi told us what we would be doing next. There was a bridge going over the entire river that we had to cross. It was modern and very wide so we were not nervous but we did have to walk more staggered and less altogether to keep the weight even while walking across. At the end of the bridge there was a nice older woman selling fruit. Chris and I bought some and they were quite refreshing. The peel looked like an orange but when we opened it up they had seeds like a passion fruit and tasted like a cross between both. Sweet and citrus flavoring touched our tongues and continued down our throats nourishing us with hydration.

These were a wonderful treat to sustain us for the hike ahead. We had a ways to go before we could cross the river on a pulley system. We decided to savor the moment and enjoy the delicious fruit as we looked around at marvelous beauty. The rocks along the river were breathtaking. I am always fascinated that a river can rage and run so rapidly yet the foliage near it can be calm and wispy blowing lightly in the wind. I look forward to sharing the rest of our hike with you and taking you to the Hot Springs of Santa Teresa.

Have a Wonderful Wednesday and thank you for reading!

-Karen Hilliard


The month of September is filled with such joy, warmth, and love. The seasons are officially starting to change from Summer to Autumn. Certain parts of the country may notice a change in temperature, colors on the trees may be transitioning, and the excitement of holiday vacations are in the air. Here in the desert we are lucky if the weather starts to cool. Chris often says the temperature does not change until November, but this year, we have felt a slight shift in the heat. We are getting very excited to hike the dog in this new season. After so many rainstorms, the desert will be alive with colors. I cannot wait to go out, take photographs, and share with you all. For now, we are staying safe and indoors. Everytime I wish to travel I remember the dog has a fur coat and it would just be miserable for him.

Recently I have been sharing past experiences and trips with you all. The fall series I created was from a hike taken a few years ago during the Autumn season. Looking through old photographs is quite joyous for me. I often say that I have taken so many reference photos and may not have enough time in my lifetime to paint everything I wish to. However, I am sure going to try and share all my visions with the world. A huge feat this is for sure! The recent sketchbook painting “Autumn is Here” has been one of the more fun projects for me. A lot of energy and time was placed into every centimeter of this painting. I am very happy to have been able to create a print for everyone. I hope people will enjoy having this painting hanging on their wall for years to come. 

Fall in Red Rock Canyon | Karen Hilliard Art | Prints

The tiny painting series was wonderful to paint as well since I love small surface areas. Each of these paintings has brought back so many memories of Fall. So many traditions happen this time of year and I am excited to create some new traditions as well. This season holds my favorite color palette as well. What are some of your traditions or favorite memories this time of year? Is there any food you enjoy or recipes you would want to share? I have been drinking hot chocolates regularly just dreaming of cooler weather. Maybe this is why I feel a drop in the temperature and my husband does not…because I am imagining the chill on my face as I drink hot beverages. I love how certain smells can transcend me to different places! 

I hope you all have a wonderful Wednesday and thank you for reading!

-Karen Hilliard