Settled in Krakow, Poland.

So as you all know, I have made the move to Poland, permanently.  I’ve spent the last few months settling in, hosting guests, and traveling a bit.  So as to not bombard Facebook Feeds and Inboxes, I will be slowly posting what happened in the last three months, and hopefully by February or March I will be all caught up and can write in real time.

So just to expand on what is currently going on, our house is full of people all the time, as we have listed our guest bedrooms on the wonderful website AirBnb.  If you know anyone that will be backpacking through Europe or headed our way please share with them our listings, which can be found here and here.  I am about to finish up my last week of Polish Language School, and I have begun working as an English teacher for the York School of English here in Krakow.  Jack is about to finish up his Master’s Degree this summer, and we hope to get to travel around a bit once he is finished.

Krakow has gotten a fresh dusting of snow this morning, with more to come the next few days.  It chilly, but not much colder than at home in the States.  Anyway, more to come soon, from my projects/adventures in November!

Pre-Incan Ruins

Smack-dab in the middle of the hustle and bustle of Miraflores, is a ruins sight that once spanned many blocks, but now only has this one block left. The ruins, were formed thousands of years ago, and once stood as a tall pyramid. What is left of them is able to be viewed by guided tours. You will see where mummies were found, and learn about the native plants to the area as well, and of course you can see some llamas and alpacas!

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Parque de la Reserva

We spent an incredible evening walking for over an hour to the Parque de la Reserva, or as some call it, the park of fountains. All day and night for most of the week (not Monday and Tuesday) this park houses over 12 water fountains. Some are meant for gazing, and some are meant for playing, but either way the park is magical. Three times a night there is a laser light show at the Fantasia Fountain, and right next door you can find the original fountain built here in the 1920s, that gave way to all of the other fountains constructions.

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Peru Hop: Paracas to Lima

Our last stop before Lima took us to Paracas where we stayed at the Kokopelli Hostel and enjoyed laying in hammocks and swimming in the pool. But the best part was our tour of what some refer to as “The Poor Man’s Galápagos Islands” or the Ballestas Islands. Here we were able to see, from our boat, sea lions, penguins, pelicans, and many other types of birds. We also saw an ancient candelabra that was drawn onto the surface of the desert.

After the tour of the islands we headed to the national park where we saw a beautiful oceanfront view, and what is left of the cliff side after an earthquake several years ago. Eventually we began our journey back to Lima with a pitstop at an old mansion, that had underground tunnels we were able to walk through.

Like always, if you want more information about Peru Hop, click here, or search them on Facebook.

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Peru Hop: Huacachina and the Nazca Lines

We next journeyed to the Nazca Lines, where we climbed a viewing tower and watched the sunset over these famous ancient lines, carved into the dessert hundreds of years ago that still stand today. After that we went to Huacachina, a desert town that was fortunate enough to have an oasis in it. Here we had the most fun, getting to ride on a horrifying dune buggy and go sandboarding down steep sand dunes. We also had the best milkshakes and fruit filled crepes here, oh and our pool had a relaxing swimming pool. For mor information on Peru Hop go to their website here or search them on Facebook.

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Peru Hop: Arequipa and the Colca Canyon

We needed to get back to Lima for our flights home next week, so instead of taking a regular local bus, or even an expensive flight home we tried South America’s first hop-on, hop-off bus that goes between several cities, called Peru Hop. The company began four months ago, and is still figuring out some of the kinks, especially relying on Peruvians to be punctual/organized, which is sometimes not the case (if you’ve been here you’ll know what I mean). Our group became very close and we even got to sit down to a delicious dinner with the owner of the company so that he could apologize for our bus’ DVD player being broken. I highly recommend traveling from Cusco to Lima, or the other way around, using Peru Hop as your means of transportation.

Our first stop was in Arequipa where we drove outside of the city to view Condors and the Colca Canyon; as well as, some quaint hot springs near the mountainside. Back in the city we had a meal with our new friends, and explored around a bit to see the main squares. For mor information on Peru Hop go to their website here or search them on Facebook.

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Sillustani

After a few hours of shopping, because as I’ve mentioned before, it’s not only our favorite thing, it’s also what we’re good at, especially bargaining, we had lunch and took a bus to an archeological sight that our teacher had recommended.

The sight is home to tombs from the Incan empire and before, where many mummies have been uncovered. The history was intriguing and the views were spectacular. We even watched a thunderstorm in the distance as the lightning struck down on the mountains.

After an extensive history lesson, we traveled to the home of a local family where we tried some local delicacies, including potatoes with clay dip (literally a dip made from combining the clay found naturally in the soil with boiling water and salt), and fried quinoa dough with cheese. Oh and of course we saw 20 alpacas, llamas and other breeds of cute furry animals.
Oh and the craziest thing, we went on this tour who our new friend Catherine, and not 2 minutes into the tour did two of her housemates get onto the bus, expanding our group to five. Which we eventually increased to six by dinner when we invited an England-born, Italy-living, UN-working friend to join us also.

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Puno: Uros Floating Islands

Diana and I arrived on an overnight bus to the town of Puno at 5am on Saturday morning. Not needing to waste a moments time we went to a hostel a friend had recommended and booked a tour that left at 6:45am to Uros and Taquile. The hostel, offered us a very inexpensive breakfast while we waited and then we were on our way. After a moderately long boat ride we arrived at one of the 45 floating islands of Uros.

The Uros floating islands are built on top of soil that is filled with dried out roots causing them to float. On top of the soil the locals thatch together locally found reeds, which they also use to build houses, and boats; as well as it being a source of food supply. These reeds also float very well. The locals catch fish and hunt; as well as make tapestries and other figurines from reeds. They rely on tourism as well, and rah day a different island is visited to spread the money across them.

Our guide, with the help of a local, explained all of this to us, and then we were given time to take a boat ride around the lake, and buy handmade goods.

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Puno: The Island of Taquile

After a short visit to the floating islands we took the motorboat onward to the island of Taquile. This island was naturally formed, therefore not floating on reeds, but was a magical beauty in its own. We hiked up a beautiful walkway to an outdoor restaurant where we ate trout, quinoa soup, beet salad, bread, and tea; all while overlooking beautiful Lake Titticaca. Afterwards we participated in traditional dances with the family and enjoyed the views.

As we traveled onward we were continuously greeted with amazing views and wonderful local children who sold us beautifully handmade bracelets, hats, and belts (because clearly if there is one thing Diana and I know how to do best it’s shop).

We headed back to the mainland, and arrived around 5pm, where we quickly caught a cab to our hotel, which was actually a restored boat from the 1800s.

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Puno: Uros Floating Islands

Diana and I arrived on an overnight bus to the town of Puno at 5am on Saturday morning. Not needing to waste a moments time we went to a hostel a friend had recommended and booked a tour that left at 6:45am to Uros and Taquile. The hostel, offered us a very inexpensive breakfast while we waited and then we were on our way. After a moderately long boat ride we arrived at one of the 45 floating islands of Uros.

The Uros floating islands are built on top of soil that is filled with dried out roots causing them to float. On top of the soil the locals thatch together locally found reeds, which they also use to build houses, and boats; as well as it being a source of food supply. These reeds also float very well. The locals catch fish and hunt; as well as make tapestries and other figurines from reeds. They rely on tourism as well, and rah day a different island is visited to spread the money across them.

Our guide, with the help of a local, explained all of this to us, and then we were given time to take a boat ride around the lake, and buy handmade goods.

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Free Walking Tour

It was our housemate Tia’s last day, so we decided to pack it full of as many things as possible. One of these was the free walking tour offered in town. Even though we had already been here for two weeks, we thought we could use a refresher course on the city, and so we joined a tour on a Saturday and visited several restaurants, shops, and landmarks. Our guide Luis was full of energy, very fun, and showed us some great places we hadn’t been to before. We even got to try playing some new instruments at his friend’s house!

After the tour we went out to lunch, visited San Pedro market, and got hot chocolates at a small cafe our teacher had reccommended.

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The Sacred Valley: Chinchero

Our last stop was Chinchero, where we got to visit a center that is focused on preserving the Andean women’s handicrafts, including weaving and dying of Alpaca and Llama fur. Then we went to a beautiful church that was from the colonial period and clearly had more influence from Spain than from the Incas, but there were small Incan touches throughout.

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The Sacred Valley: Urubamaba

We stopped in Urubamba for both lunch and more ruins. We ate in a quaint open-air restaurant, and then went to see more mountains and terraces built for farming. There were also some areas that were meant for religious activities.

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The Sacred Valley: Pisac

Our first stop on the Sacred Valley was the town of Pisac. We saw many different Incan ruins, including an urban center with royal homes and normal homes, terraces built for farming on the mountainside, and a mountain that at one point held over 200 bodies/tombs. We then visited the Pisac Market, and did the best shopping so far on the trip, getting large and colorful duffel bags, headbands, and llama stuffed animals. The views were spectacular, and gave us a taste of what we will encounter Sunday when we begin our trek of the Inca Trail leading to Machu Picchu.

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Cusco: City Tour

Today Patty, our host, arranged for us to go on a city tour. We met our guide just off of the main square and took a bus around to several different spots. Each spot was a different Incan structure, so we saw an ancient place of worship, a fortress, a place where animals (and possibly humans) were sacrificed, and our favorite, naturally formed slides that only the locals know about.

Our friend Amy told us that when we get to Saqsaywaman to have the Jesus sculpture at our back, the town of Cusco down at our left, and we will find a set of stairs leading to these slides. During our ten minutes of free time in these ruins we rushed to find the stairs, which were actually super easy to find from Amy’s instructions, and followed them up to a large array of different sized slides, filled with small children riding them over and over again. We practiced on a small slide, then I rode the biggest one, and we both rode a medium sized ones before leaving. It was so much fun, and we are so grateful Amy shared this information with us, as it seems no one but locals know about this spot.

We also met a wild dog that could have passed as a baby llama, and learned the difference between real Alpaca and fake. Essentially, real Alpaca costs hundreds of dollars, but is softer. Overall, the tour was fun, and we are looking forward to our next tour today.

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