Because Peru was the last country of our trip, we really savored it and tried to make the most out of every day. We spent a lot of time in Cusco, but the longer I was there, the more I wanted to get out of the big city and back to the small towns of the Sacred Valley. Towns like Ollantaytambo, Urubamba, and Pisac, which are surrounded by the Andes, ancient ruins, and cobblestone streets that are a thousand years old. In Ollantaytambo, we had a near crisis when arriving after a long day at Machu Picchu. We arrived late at night and our guesthouse was down a bunch of dirt side-roads in what appeared to be a dodgy neighborhood. There was lots of trash and drunk men walking by our car when we arrived at our guesthouse, and it appeared to be closed! After many failed attempts ringing the doorbell and trying to call, our taxi driver ran around the neighborhood and happen to find the owners hanging out at a nearby party. To our surprise, the place was nearly brand new and very nice! The next day, we stumbled upon a pottery maker who made wonderfully unique pieces from all the similar touristy ones. Despite the hanging laundry and chickens clucking in his studio, the pottery was very nice and he explained each step of his process in Spanish. In Urubamba, the flirtatious older woman who ran our guesthouse was very taken with my dad. Her beautiful garden in the middle of town was a surprising twist but not as surprising as when she pinched my dad's butt. In Pisac, two of my favorite pasttimes: ruins and markets! Pisac has one of the best markets in the Sacred Valley and some of the best Inca ruins.
Surprisingly, our final days saw our first major scheduling mishap. We arrived at the Cusco bus station at 10 pm for our overnight ride to Arequipa, only to find it had already left two hours before. We were incredulous at our mistake, which stemmed from not carefully reading the 20:00 departure time. So after yet another day in Cusco, we finally got on the next night bus and arrived in the “White City” of Arequipa, so called for its beautiful white stone architecture. Our final excursion launched from here, a hike into one of the deepest canyons in the world, Colca Canyon. It was grueling at times, but the views rivaled some of the best we had seen thus far.
Peru was perhaps the place I dreamed of the most before we embarked on our year. It ended up being our last place and it exceeded my expectations. The thrilling mountains, incredible food, riveting history and the bonus or rendezvousing with my family made it the best last spot on earth. Now, on to our next adventure...whatever that may be!