Gimme 5: Peru

Peru 5It’s been 2 months since I returned from Peru. While I have archived my photos on Flickr, and now have a digital album filled with memories, I have struggled to find a way to chronicle my Peruvian vacation, simply and appropriately here. When it comes to blogging it’s common to over-think. I decided to pick five standout takeaways from the trip and build from there.

1 The Inca Trail is an adventure of a lifetime. Being on the 26 mile trail for 4 days exceeded my expectations in terms of thrill, beauty, serenity, spirituality and joy. By the end of our third day, before even making it to Machu Picchu, I was overwhelmed with awe. We began that day with magnificent views of snow-capped Andes Mountains, as seen from just outside our tent door. The day ended at Wiñay Wayna, where we had a stunning and impressive Incan archaeological site all to ourselves to explore, as the sun set on the Urubamba Valley.

Machu Pichu was impressive and there are no experiences I would trade for that moment when we walked through the Sun Gate at sunrise, to see the famous World Wonder waking up for the day amidst blue skies and sunshine. So many memorable moments along the 4 day trek, combined with the most stunning terrain, is what made for an unforgettable vacation (that I will unintentionally compare all future vacations to).

Mt. Salkantay in the distance, from an original stretch of the Inca Trial.

Ferd, Glen, me and Bryan at Wiñay Wayna

Ferd, Glen, me and Bryan at Wiñay Wayna.

2 Pisco makes for delicious cocktails and Peruvian cuisine is among the most unique and satisfying in the world. Food from Peru is influenced heavily by what’s been grown there for thousands of years like potatoes, quinoa and corn. Peruvian cuisine is growing in popularity within world-class cities, as covered by Hemispheres Magazine, in a short and snapy piece in its June issue, which I read right before our trip (just in time to build excitement for my taste buds).

What experienced and open-minded foodie doesn’t salivate at the thought of fresh ceviche?

While I’m not raving here about the guinea pig or alpaca ravioli I sampled, I will say that the home-cooked meals our porters artistically created on the Inca Trail, were as enjoyable in their own right, as the items we indulged in on the tasting menu at one of the best restaurants in Lima.

Spread of local Peruvian food as prepared for us by a group of locals from a small village

A spread of local Peruvian food as prepared for us by a group of locals from a small village.

One of the chef's staff at Central Restaurante came out to walk us through one of our many delicious courses (right before the chef himself came out at the end)

One of the chef’s staff at Central Restaurante in Lima came out to walk us through one of our many delicious courses (right before the chef himself came out at the end)

3 Peru has a rich and fascinating history, rooted and influenced by the rise of the mighty and massive Incan Empire. During the weeks leading up to and through our trip, I read Kim MacQuarrie’s The Last Days of the Incas, which served up a 500 page dose of Peruvian history, starting with the rise of the Incan Empire beginning in the 1300s, well through the Spanish colonization of the 1600s. The facts I learned in this book came to life during time in Lima, Cusco and the Sacred Valley, along the Inca Trail and in Machu Picchu, as well as deep in the Peruvian Amazon. This book is a comprehensive and well respected history lesson for anyone traveling to the land of the Incas.

The Last Days

In April, The Hollywood Reporter published a story reporting that TV network FX is planning to turn MacQuarrie’s book into a miniseries titled, Conquistadors. THR reported, “The drama tells the story of Francisco Pizarro and Diego de Almagro, two Spanish Conquistadors who above all odds conquered the Incan empire of 10 million people with just 168 men, and Manco Inca and Cura Occlo, two teenage Incan royal lovers, who led one of the greatest rebellions in history.”

Pachacuti, who is honored with a statute in the Plaza de Arms in Cusco, expanded the Inca empire from the valley of Cusco to nearly the whole of western South America

Pachacuti, who is honored with a statute in the Plaza de Arms in Cusco, expanded the Incan empire from the valley of Cusco to nearly the whole of western South America.

Saksaywaman was a fort set high above Cusco built with massive and impressive carved and pieced together stones

Saksaywaman was a fort set high above Cusco built with massive and impressive carved and pieced-together stones.

4 The Amazon (which represented nearly 50 percent of our overall Peruvian adventure) is filled with beauty, music, the elements and once-in-a-lifetime wildlife sightings. Using pictures and audio, which often tell more appropriate stories than words, here is more on that:

Beauty: From delicate flowers and butterlies to playful, noisy scarlet macaws, the jungle is home to all colors of the spectrum.

Beauty: From the hundreds of varieties of delicate flowers and butteries, to the playful, noisy scarlet macaws and the many species of their parrot friends, the jungle is home to all colors of the spectrum.

Music: the oropendolas (who build tear drop shaped nests) that resided outside our eco-lodge, far from civilization, provided melodies and sound effects that I can still hear when I close my eyes and reminisce.

Music: the oropendolas (who build tear drop shaped nests) that resided outside our eco-lodge, far from civilization, provided melodies and sound effects that I can still hear when I close my eyes and reminisce… listen for yourself with a clip I recorded outside our lodge….

The Elements

The elements: They call it a rainforest for a reason, even in the dry season. We learned this when we got caught out in the rain on an oxbow lake, doing some friendly stalking of some rowdy cowbirds. We must have hiked more than an hour in a heavy down-pour all the way back to the lodge. It took my soggy shoes more than 4 days to dry.

Wildlife: We had some once in a lifetime wildlife sightings including caimans in the dark, the impressive flock of more than a dozen macaws at a clay lick, a family of capuchin monkeys traversing across the jungle highway, and the world’s largest rodent, the capybara.

Wildlife: We had some unique wildlife sightings including caimans in the dark, an impressive flock of more than a dozen macaws at a clay lick (as photographed above), a family of capuchin monkeys traversing across a jungle highway, and the world’s largest rodents, capybaras (above).

5 Out Adventures, the travel group that my three travel mates and I went down to Peru with, executed a flawless Inca Trail trek and a magical journey in the jungle. Given that the Peru government requires Inca Trail hikers to go with a permitted group, I figured why the heck not try to find a gay group to go with. It’s not that men attracted to men always need or want to travel in packs, yet gay trekkers are going to be like-minded in many ways. Still, I was a little apprehensive going into the trip, traveling with a large group of  strangers.

Our trip was comprised of an interesting and lovable group of guys. From London to Vancouver, our group was diverse, including a soon-to-be father and the first gay marriage divorcees I’ve met. We shared experiences together in Lima, Cusco and on the Inca Trail that we will never forget. If I found myself in a city where any of my fellow trekkers reside, I would make it a priority to see them… (like I did last week when I saw uber attractive and all-around-nice-couple, Alex and Kevin, in their hometown of NYC).

I look forward to a future Out Adventures trip and I encourage fellow gay adventure seekers to explore their once-in-a-life-time excursions — from Croatia and Turkey to Nepal and Burma… and maybe Mt. Kilimanjaro sometime soon? (hint hint, Robert.)

Urubamba Valley

Machu Pichu

There are many more memories from my trip to Peru that I wish I could capture with words. At the very least, I will always have some of these stories to remind me of my adventure and the more than 600 additional photos on Flickr.

3 responses to “Gimme 5: Peru

  1. Great report on the trip Derek. Gracias

  2. Thanks for reading Mr. O!

  3. What a great adventure! I came back renewed, inspired and enlightened.

    So enjoyed reliving this through your words Derek. I could hear the joy of the experience in each sentence.

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