“Be a Pilgrim, Not a Tourist”
Our mission to find great gifts for the adventure traveler in your life
This quote (from Matthew Kelly) was the theme of our most recent trip to Peru. Kelly and I were determined to not merely check off the sights during our latest adventure, but rather we set our sights on experiencing the culture as authentically as possible. By simply changing our expectations and slowing down our pace, we were able to immerse ourselves in the culture. learn and appreciate the simple lifestyle that makes the country so extraordinary.
The adventure begins...
Our itinerary dutifully included the major sights but we intentionally left time for exploration. We were surprised to find one country that varied so dramatically in climate, customs, foods, altitude, terrain and people. It was a model of extremes: colorful yet understated; dramatic, yet simple; impoverished, but rich in tradition, customs and love.
Our bodies were challenged to acclimate to the 11,000 feet elevation in Cusco. Our physical ‘fitness’ abilities were stretched as we explored the Andean mountains above the Sacred Valley on Mountain Bikes (at 12,000 ft!) We conquered the ‘short’ Inca trail – a nine-mile trek that led us up 2,300 feet to the Sun Temple and down into the awe-inspiring Machu Picchu grounds. We then went back up the 1,000-foot grueling Waynu Picchu trail, complete with 60 degree vertical switchbacks and finished up with the excruciating ‘Stairs of Death.’ But the view was worth the pain!
In the cities, we explored Incan archaeological sites. We were constantly amazed by the resourcefulness and ingenuity of the Incan and Andean people. “How in the world did they do that?” was a common question we asked of our guide. We wandered the 'modern' streets of Lima and Cusco and cruised the floating islands of Lake Titicaca. We even got a ‘taste’ of the culture by taking a Peruvian cooking class with a kitchen that could have doubled as a set in a modern television studio.
The most rewarding part of traveling to such a remote destination, though, was the chance to experience the people and culture firsthand. We were surprised by the lively gathering of hundreds of Andeans, dressed in colorful costumes, dancing and singing as part of a simple holiday celebration in a small Sacred Valley town. We were awe-struck as we witnessed a two-hour old baby alpaca taking its first steps while visiting a Llama and Alpaca reserve. We relaxed in a charming Vegetarian restaurant in the San Blas district of Cusco where we enjoyed the most amazing tomato soup. We celebrated our hiking accomplishments with our first Pisco Sour.
We reveled in the simplicity of hot water bottles put under the bedcovers at night. We found peace in the lush, chakra-themed gardens of our retreat space, one which was adorned by a 1,000-year-old Lucuma tree. We kept warm in baby Alpaca woven knit caps and sweaters; satisfied a sweet tooth with a bite of Peruvian chocolate; and calmed our tummies with soothing Muña tea.
All of these experiences have a way of changing you. They open your eyes – and heart -- in a way that only travel can do. They create the space for wonder and creativity and leave you with the knowledge that anything is possible.
Back to business...
But the best part of travel is being able to bring a bit of Peru back to our friends and families and business. This month, we’re highlighting some of our favorite Peruvian finds in our online store to serve as great gift ideas for adventure travelers (click here to visit our Peru favorites) We hope you will appreciate the story we shared and that you enjoy these little treasures as much as we did.
As they say in Quechan, Kawsaypac (pronounced cow-say-pak) which means Cheers… to life, to health and to a beautiful country and the people who live there.