Biking Down the Andes

After waking up from a glorious warm nap we met up with our guide for the excursion ahead. We booked a trip to Machu Picchu on the Inca Trail that was scheduled to start with a mountain biking journey through the Andes Mountain Range. Our guide Papi was amazing and it was his last tour with the company so he went all out spoiling us with adventure and a relaxed pace to all destinations. He was an amazing guide and we went to all local places as he wanted to support his friends’ establishments. When he met up with us he told us to bring our small backpacks instead of our large ones and we were forever grateful. We left the larger rucksacks downstairs in the locked closet the next morning and set out on a wonderful adventure through Peru.

Karen Hilliard Art Blog | Mountain Biking | Andes |Peru | Cusco

Our first stop was to meet up with Papi again and hop in a van from his friend’s company. We were driven all through the streets of Peru and eventually through farms then up a mountain. At the top of the mountain we saw the beautiful tip of the Andes and the glacial magnificence. Bikes were waiting for us, as well as riding jackets, pads, gloves, and helmets. As I wrote before, an amazing tour guide. He made sure we were all safe and happy the entire time. There were 6 of us total. We had the pleasure of traveling with 3 women from Taiwan and their cousin from San Francisco. This trip was an overall out of this world experience of pure joy. Biking down the Andes was a rush like one I never experienced. Luckily the bikes were comfortable, the gear fit, and we had several stops to take pictures and enjoy ourselves. There were a few scary moments on this magical ride as well.

The mountain pass had tight corners and long windy stretches where buses and cars were traveling on it as well. We would be flying down the mountain and come to a tight curve and a bus would meet us head on coming up the other direction. Safety was in the front of our minds and yet we had the time of our life on that ride. Papi and the San Francisco chap road down first at a very fast pace but our guide made sure to stop and wait for us at several sections. He would leave no man or woman behind. He was like a Papa Bear looking after his wandering cubs. I think this is what we liked the most…the space to explore and enjoy at our own pace, yet the care of someone looking out for us. He was filled with vast information as well. At the end of the ride we stopped at a local store for fruit and drinks and after a long van ride we stopped at his friend’s restaurant for an amazing lunch. The table was filled with food and the people were smiling ear to ear sharing the meal they made.

Have a wonderful Wednesday and thank you for reading.

-Karen Hilliard

Cusco Streets

The excitement was looming as we touched down in Cusco. The altitude and temperature were very different from what we were used to. The weather was a huge change from the humidity in Ohio and Chicago with a cool breeze that awakened our senses. The staff at the airport were very nice and helpful when we needed to call the hostel to get a ride into town. Eco Packer Hostel is amazing!! Could not rave about this place enough. They sent a car to the airport to pick us and our bags up, then drove us around on the streets of Cusco. The history and colors were breathtaking and we were so happy to be in the presence of such a rich culture. Upon arriving at the hostel, we checked in, and went up to our room. We chose the option of bunk beds with other people which was very cost efficient for us. This hostel also stored our larger bags in a closet downstairs to keep them safe when we took longer trips.

Karen Hilliard Art Blog | Cusco | Peru

After settling in we decided to walk around the city. It was the afternoon and Peru was alive with dancing, parades, and so many interesting masks. This was a wonderful way to experience Cusco. The steps leading to the capitol building in the center of the city were filled with tourists and locals. Each person was either deep in conversation, trying to sell art prints, sketching original art themselves, or taking photographs of all the stimulation surrounding them. The men dancing in Gorilla Masks were the most intriguing to me. I also loved the women walking around with alpacas. The little baby alpacas were my favorite. The colors of the blankets the women wore to carry their children and their goods were vibrant and made the City Center come to life. Chris and I stepped into a new world on that day and were very happy to be there. 

We walked around mapping out shops we wanted to revisit toward the end of our stay to bring home souvenirs for loved ones. We found an amazing gourd for ourselves to drink Matcha out of and decided to come back for it later. This gourd ended up becoming the most challenging thing to find again. I will write more about this in a later blog, it was an interesting experience. After the on level shops were explored, we decided to travel up a long hill to more shops. In a tiny alleyway, hidden away, we found an amazing watercolor artist. This wonderful person had shown his work in a New York gallery many years prior and we all tried to have a conversation about it, which was nice. We ended up coming back to his stand at the end of the week and buying one of his paintings. Later on, after all the uphill stores, we were getting quite sleepy and decided to go back to the hostel where we relaxed in the courtyard. Both of us ended up falling asleep with the sun high in the sky overhead and were wrapped in its blanket of warmth. 

Have a meaningful Monday and thank you for reading!

-Karen Hilliard