Welcome!

Well hello there! Welcome to The Adventures of Rob & Lauren. We are two professional photographers from Canada with a passion for art and adventure. This blog follows our journeys around the world as we seek out incredible people and places. We also try to share as much knowledge as we can with our amazing readers!

Feel free to poke around the site. There’s a lot of great resources and articles regarding photography and travel. And make sure to use an RSS reader or check back frequently. We promise lots of hilarious antics, super cool photos and exciting stories! 

Not Machu Picchu

This post was supposed to be about our time at Machu Picchu. It’s not. Instead it’s about one of the most tiring, trying, and just downright ridiculous days we’ve ever had while traveling. Buckle up, this will be a long one.

Getting to Machu Picchu is not an easy, or cheap, task. The fact that is is now one of the New Seven Wonders of the World means that it is in very popular among tourists. For many people it is the reason they travel to Peru. The sole provider of transport to Machu Picchu is PeruRail, and they are all too aware of this fact.

Typically we have been spending about $10 for a 7 hour bus ride in relative comfort (large, reclining leather seats in a semi-private cabin). To get to Machu Picchu you are forced to pay $50 for a 4 hour train ride, each way. Then you need to take a bus to Machu Picchu itself (about $12 for a 20 min journey), and then pay about $25 admission to the site. If you want to see the ruins early in the morning, without the masses of tour buses swarming around, you will need to stay overnight in one of the most overpriced cities in Peru. Overall, the cost of visiting Machu Picchu would roughly be $150 per person. For Peru, that is insane. But the trains are constantly fully booked, even in the off-season (which is right now). It’s just that popular. And everyone proclaims that it was completely worth it, so we coughed up the dough and bought our train tickets.

We arrived at the train station outside of Cusco (oh yeah, a $10 cab ride to get to the station!) around 7:00AM. Our train was scheduled to leave at 7:45 so we settled in for a short wait.

That short wait turned into quite a long one. And one without any sort of explanation. The minutes would just tick by, and we all sat packed in this station with no clue why we hadn’t left. Eventually they boarded our train around 9:30AM. The waiting sucked, but at least we were on our way to Machu Picchu!

A little ways into the train trip, we stopped. Again, no explanation. We waited, and then the train started up again and everyone cheered. Too soon, however, because we shuddered to a halt soon afterwards. And again, we waited. And waited. And waited. Eventually one of the PeruRail employees announced something in Spanish, and then left. All the English speaker travelers then had to look around for someone to translate for them! We luckily were sitting near some very nice Argentinean girls, and one of them was able to translate for us.

The train would not be moving any further. We heard rumors that a rock slide had taken out the tracks (it’s the rainy season right now, and we’ve seen many rock slides). Of course, we weren’t told this directly by anyone, we really just had to try and figure out what was going on for ourselves. Buses would be coming to pick us all up, and take us to Ollyantaytambo, another train station, and from there we would take another train to Machu Picchu. 

At this point, it was probably around noon. Many travelers had planned to do a day trip to Machu Picchu, and time was really running out for them. The site closes at 5:00PM, and by the time they arrived they would have very little time to see it before having to return. The PeruRail employees came around asking everyone is they were going to continue on to Machu Picchu, or return to Cusco. For those who were planning on continuing to Machu Picchu, and then heading back that evening, they wrote down new, slightly later departure times. It seemed like we were going to get there, even if we were a bit late.

So again, we waited. And waited. And waited. There were three trains that left Cusco that morning. One class was “Vistadome” and they were the first to be picked up by the buses. Our class was the cheapest, “Backpacker”. The final train to leave that morning was a crazy expensive class called Hiram Bingham that is the full luxury experience. Of course, they were snuck onto buses right away while  dozens and dozens of Backpacker class travelers waited out in the sun for hours, without any food or water. Every half hour or so a bus would come by, and take about 12 passengers. At this point I started taking photos to document this crazy experience. 

The chef aboard the Hiram Bingham, trying to figure out what’s going on. 

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Waiting around for the buses. Clearly people thought I was strange holding up my camera to take a shot. 

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 I wandered off on a quick photo walk to try to make the best of a frustrating situation. 

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We were with the very last group to get on a bus. What followed was both a gorgeous and quite terrifying bus ride. On the one hand, we were busing through the Sacred Valley, off the beaten path, and witnessing some of the most amazing scenery we’ve ever seen. On the other hand, we were quickly informed by one of the Argentinian girls that our bus driver was either drunk, or very near exhaustion. And we were careening around on cliff-side roads in a huge tour bus. Awesome!

Even though we were quite worried, we did manage to get take a ton of photos. Everyone on the bus thought we were insane, dashing back and forth from either side of the bus to shoot the most interesting scenes.  

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We of course made it safely to Ollyantaytambo, not without a lot of angry words to the PeruRail employees from our Spanish speaking friends. We then were shown to a Vistadome class train, and settled in. It was around 4:30PM, over 9 hours since we first arrived at the train station. At least we were finally on our way to Machu Picchu!

Then we waited, and waited. The train was running, but not moving. Rob and some other travelers got up to go and ask when we would be leaving. And that’s when the final hammer fell.

The river had taken out the tracks further ahead, and there was no way to reach Machu Picchu. 

Then came the difficult task of trying to figure out what was going to happen. Would we get a refund? Would they pay for our hotel room as we were now stuck in Ollyantaytambo? Was there any way of reaching Machu Picchu at all? What happened to everyone else who caught buses before us? 

It took a lot of work, demands to speak with supervisors, and a ton of vague promises, but we finally found out. The others who had been on our train in the morning had started off towards Machu Picchu, only to have to turn around once they found out the river had overrun the tracks. We could either stay in Ollyantaytambo that evening, and try to get to Machu Picchu the next morning, or bus back to Cusco. For us, we didn’t have much of an option. We have a flight booked to Lima, and couldn’t risk getting stuck at Machu Picchu. Because as impossible as it was for us to get to Machu Picchu, it was just as impossible for anyone to get back. It was quite the pickle!

We quickly decided to catch one of the buses PeruRail was providing back to Cusco. However, once we reached it, we were told it was full, and that it would take quite some time until the next one would be leaving. Imagine how we felt in that moment: tired, dehydrated, starving, just wanting to get back, and being told it would take quite a while. It was rough. I took some shots of the river that ruined our plans. Rob and Drew say it looks like chocolate milk. 

 The trains just sittin’, with nowhere to go. 

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 The river. That silly river. 

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Rob and Drew begged the girl to at least get us some water or something while we waited. To their credit, they took us to a waiting room, gave us tea, water, and some food. We were ready to wait a while, but they quickly came and got us. We were expecting to be shown to a bus, but instead were put into a cab. Things were looking up. We started the hour and a half long drive back to Cusco. And again, managed to see some incredible scenes.

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By now, my intrepid reader, I’m sure you’ve realized that nothing went as planned on this day. The drive started off normally enough. Off in the distance, however, rain clouds were on the horizon. Literally. I heard today that this is an El Nino season, and water and rain levels are extremely high. 

Perhaps half an hour into the drive the rain began. It would come on and off, at times being quite light. But once the darkness set in, the rain seemed to follow suit and it was intense. At times we literally couldn’t see a meter ahead of us. 

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Now, you didn’t think that was all that went wrong did you? I’m sure you knew there had to be at least something else. Well, you’re right. Drew had probably the worst couple of hours of his life as he was doubled over with stomach cramps all the way home. Our cab driver seemed quite worried that he was going to die in the car! Those last hours went by really slowly as we worried about Drew, and getting back alive through the storm.

Needless to say, we did indeed arrive back at the hotel we left that morning, thoroughly exhausted, and just ready to crash.

But, wait! There’s more!

Naturally, they didn’t have a room for us, and we had to walk for 15 minutes in the pouring down rain to get to another place. When we stumbled in, I can’t even imagine what the staff thought. We were soaking wet, exhausted, and Drew looked like he was about to die. They quickly ushered us into our room, where we spent the night huddled under tons of wool blankets, because, if you didn’t know, Cusco is actually insanely cold when it’s raining!!

So that’s our story of how we did not see Machu Picchu. We are disappointed, of course, but that’s traveling for you. I kind of feel like it’s life, but condensed. You see more, experience more, and end up in situations that will test you more than you’d likely be tested at home. You learn so much about yourself, and what you are really made of. Every trip we’ve ever taken has changed us, and I already know that this time in Peru will change us again. 

PeruRail…what to say about them. We just got back from the station after receiving our refund with no problems. At times it was a really rough, and I don’t think they always did the best job possible (I mean, you have to provide people with water when they’re standing out in the sun for hours, that’s essential!). That being said, it was a really difficult situation that they didn’t cause, and we managed to get home in one piece thanks to them. Take home message? Traveling isn’t always what you expect, and some days it really really sucks. But at the end of it all, we are still so happy to be here, and can’t wait for all the adventures ahead. 

And we will definitely see Machu Picchu on our next trip to Peru. 

Disclaimer: I do realize this is two posts in a row with a bit of a negative feel to it. I don’t want anyone to think that we’re not enjoying ourselves, or think poorly of Peru. Quite the opposite. We are having an incredible time, and count Peru as one of our favorite places we’ve ever been. Traveling is just an adventure, and we want to show people what it’s like. It’s sometimes frustrating, sometimes upsetting, but always, always, always worth it. 

UPDATED: Now that we’re safely here in Pucallpa, we’ve been able to find information about the floods in Machu Picchu. It seems as though we were incredibly lucky. One day earlier and we would be stranded there among up to 2,000 other tourists fighting to get out by helicopter. To read more check out this article: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/us_and_americas/article7004836.ece

Needless to say, we feel very very lucky. 

Safe and Sound

Hey everyone!

You may have read my tweet saying that we were not going to be able to make it out to Machu Picchu, but that we were all alive. Well, it seems that may have scared a few people (namely my mother!). Just wanted to let you all know that we are indeed safe and sound. We weren’t able to visit Machu Picchu due to a lot of rain causing a river to flood the tracks. I have a full story written up, but things have been crazy these past two days and I haven’t been able to post it just yet.

Just wanted to let you all know we are doing good, and will be posting again soon! 

Rob & Lauren :)

The Floating Islands of Lake Titicaca

When we first arrived in Puno, we immediately felt the effects of the higher altitude. Puno is 3,860 M or 12,421 FT above sea level. Edmonton (our home town) is 668 M, so needless to say there is a huge difference. Even the smallest flight of stairs would leave us feeling winded! Both Drew and I were definitely not feeling hot for the first couple of days, and just took it easy. In other news, Rob seems to be made of pure steel as he didn’t get sick at all. What a jerk. ;)

We eventually pulled ourselves together enough to head out onto Lake Titicaca, one of the highest navigable lakes in the world, and the reason we went to Puno. Initially we had planned to visit a couple islands, but we chose to begin with Uros, which is a group of floating islands made of reeds called totora. The lake itself is quite impressive, and the boat ride to the islands resulted in some pretty cool shots.

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We then arrived at the Uros. The women all wore very brightly colored skirts that added some great punches of color. 

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When we docked at one of the islands we were met by a member of the Uros who gave us a little info session. Unfortunately, it was all in Spanish! But we were able to get a few tidbits of info from another gent who came along and spoke English. The people of Uros use these reeds for so many purposes, it’s incredible. They build their islands with it, through an extensive, year-long process (the islands last for about 50 years before they need to create a new one). They also create their homes, boats, and all sorts of handicrafts with the reeds, and they can even eat them! Talk about multi-functional. 

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I liked this bird that was hanging around. I have no idea what kind of bird it is though. Look at all this information I’m throwing your way!!

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Walking around on the island was quite the experience. It was squishy, and at some points it felt like we might sink right through! They know what they’re doing though, and we were safe and sound.

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Now this was just crazy. They have solar panels attached to their huts and use the electricity to power TVs, hot plates, lights, and radios. They told us they might be getting internet out there soon. Unreal!

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Cat-dog fight!!! The cat totally won. 

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Look what I found!! Can I keep him????”

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And finally, a neat shot from our hotel room in Puno.

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Now, here’s where things get interesting. Our overall impression of the islands was not the greatest. Don’t get me wrong, it was a very fascinating experience, but sadly it is incredibly commercialized. From the moment we stepped foot on the islands, we were constantly being sold, sold, sold. We ended up having to wait around for an hour on the “capital city” of the islands, where people could buy postcards, eat at the restaurant, get a cold cerveza, and buy lots of very very over-priced souvenirs. 

This issue comes up a lot during travel. Often times you find that so many tourists have come before you, that the locals have changed their ways to suit the travelers. Are we perpetuating this by traveling? Is it something we just have to live with? I’m not really sure of the answers to those questions, unfortunately. And it was a pretty upsetting experience. We were all quite disappointed and decided not to spend any more time at Lake Titicaca.

A caveat for all you reading this: this is simply our experience, and may very well be in opposition to the experience you would have. Travel is a very personal thing, and no one can tell you what you will or will not enjoy. I’m sure many people find visiting those islands to be a fantastic time, and that’s great! It simply was not for us.

That being said, we heard from another traveler that the Amantani island was very enjoyable, so if you plan on going to Lake Titicaca, that would be a good one to visit! 

After spending most of our time in Puno being sick, we were really ready to get out of there. We hopped on a bus (luckily avoiding a bus strike that could have stranded us!) and made our way back to Cusco. We’re now about to journey to Machu Picchu! It should be quite the adventure! 

Hope you’re all enjoying following along so far! We’ve been really lucky to find internet very easily, and are hoping that’s the case for the rest of the trip so we can keep you all updated!

Until the next post, lots of love,

Lauren & Rob

Enjoying the Unexpected

International travel is an interesting experience. You can never quite be sure how any day will turn out, and the most unexpected event can become an unforgettable moment. 

We hopped on a bus from Cusco to Puno. We expected just another long, uncomfortable bus ride. Instead, we were treated to one of the most visually stunning trips I’ve ever been on! I’ll let these photos Rob took do all the talking. 

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Gettin' Artsy

Here are a few “artsy” shots for you today! The weather here is incredibly unpredictable. It can be sunny, clear blue skies, and hot as anything one moment, and then pouring rain, or even hailing the next! While this has delayed photo outings more than a few times, it gives us some incredible skies to work with, and we couldn’t ask for anything more. Here are a few “cloudscapes” that Rob took, and that I absolutely love. Can’t wait to print some of these when we get home!

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We also wandered out one evening after it finished raining because the boys wanted to do some light painting and night photography. I’ll be honest, neither of those are really my thing, so I just hung out and watched. It was fun though, just exploring the streets of Cusco at night. I daresay it is more lively in the evening than during the day!

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It was quite the show watching those two paint these cacti over and over again. They sure attached more than a few curious glances! 

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A Bus Ride of a Lifetime

In my previous post I said that the bus ride to Pisac was one of the most breath-taking I had ever experienced. It was, up until the next day when we spent 7 hours driving from Cusco to Puno! Rob got some amazing photos from that bus ride that we’ll share soon, but for now here’s a quick video, taken with our handy (and fully charged :) iPhone:

Bus Ride from Cuzco to Puno from Rob & Lauren on Vimeo.

The Pisac Market

Pisac is a small town in the Sacred Valley, about an hour bus ride from Cusco. Every Tuesday and Thursday they have smaller markets, but on Sundays people come from all the surrounding villages and put on a huge market with textiles, fruits and vegetables, and tons of handicrafts. 

We got up pretty early to catch a bus out there with the hopes of arriving as everyone was setting up. The bus ride was easily one of the most breath-taking I had ever experienced. We were packed in, shoulder to shoulder, the only travelers on the bus full of locals. And it was wonderful. I sat next to a very lovely lady who spoke no English, but seemed very excited to show me this incredible terracing way up in the mountains above Pisac.  

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I love this shot I snapped super quick as this gentleman rode past us. What a great smile. 

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We were happy to find that we had indeed arrived before all the tour buses, and found the vendors still setting up their stalls. It gave a really great insight into the whole process for these people. They would meticulously polish, arrange, and hang all their goods. 

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We wandered to the end of the one of the streets of the market to find ourselves faced with this view. If I lived in a place like this, I don’t think I would get much done. I’d just want to sit and watch. Especially those clouds. I can’t get over the clouds. 

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The array of spices was really neat to see, but sadly I didn’t really understand what most were! I did get some cinnamon sticks which smelled lovely! 

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This is the lovely lady I bought the cinnamon from. At first I was a bit upset about the “Telefonica” sign in the background, as I felt it ruined the photo. But I suppose it shows Peru: growing more modern, yet still retaining traditional ways of life. It’s a very fascinating dynamic and one that I hope we capture more of in our photos!

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The fabrics here are just gorgeous. We’re definitely going to have to bring some back with us!

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Children here work from a very early age. It’s something that I have a hard time coming to terms with, and figuring out how to feel about it. It definitely hurts my heart to see those living in poverty. Traveling often puts you face to face with these issues, and it can be tough to handle, especially coming from such a privileged country as Canada. At the very least, traveling teaches you to appreciate every single thing you have, and not to take any of it for granted.

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I adore the way they dress here. Such vibrant colors, and they really can pull off a hat. 

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Speaking of hats, Rob picked up an Indiana Jones hat. I think he looks rather dashing!

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These dyes were incredible. So vibrant and colorful. The craziest thing about them was that some of them would become a totally different color when they painted with them. 

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This woman had such a remarkable face. You can tell she has smiled a lot in her life! 

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Hope you enjoyed that little look at the Pisac market!! Feel free to leave a comment! We absolutely love hearing from you all, and are doing our very best to reply often!

Rob's Journey to Salinas & Moray

So, as I very much expected, I got hit with a mild case of Delhi Belly. I have a weak stomach, and even though I never ate anything the boys didn’t eat, I was still the one sick. So I spent the day recuperating in the hotel room as the boys ventured into the Sacred Valley to visit Salinas and Moray. And boy, did they see some amazing things! Here are some of Rob’s digital shots. I can’t wait to see all the film stuff he’s been doing!

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This was one of two amphitheaters at Moray. The other one was in better shape, but this one was quite stunning with the mountains in the background. It is hypothesized that the Inca built these to have different microclimates on each terrace. They would test to see which climate was ideal for growing their crops. It just blows my mind to hear of such scientific prowess. 

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 As they were shooting, the boys saw a little house up a dirt road. Being the adventurers that they are, they visited it, and met a wonderful couple who showed them around, and even gave them their first glass of chicha! From what I’ve heard, it’s most often fermented corn beer with a little added saliva to make it extra tasty!

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 Some chickens running around at the little house they visited.

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 This is the more popular amphitheater at Moray, which is in much better condition. However, as you can see, there are many more tourists there. Not quite as awesome for photos. 

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I can’t believe the clouds here. They are just so imposing. 

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These are the salt pans at Salinas. They still collect salt from these, though now it is mainly used for salt licks for animals. It’s really an incredible site!

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 And finally, some of the Instax that we’ve been shooting! We obviously don’t have a scanner here so we’ll just take photos of the shots. So do excuse the slightly lesser quality :) 

Here you can see the little house the boys visited. 

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The amphitheater at Moray.

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The salt pans of Salinas. 

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A wicked blue Volkswagen. We see these everywhere so we suspect they may still be in production? Anyone know?

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A street view of Cusco.

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The lovely woman from the little house in the Sacred Valley. I adore this shot. Rob took two shots and gave one to her. From what I hear she was thrilled. This was the reason we brought that camera, and it will be wonderful to give these little gifts to the people we meet!

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Hope you guys enjoyed all that! I’m feeling much better after a day of rest, and hoping that my stomach will be better for the rest of the trip! Thank goodness for loperamide and rehydration powder!!

Lauren :)

The Streets of Cusco

Well guys, we have some exciting news! We  we located an iPhone cable! Hooray!!! We took a taxi to what we were expecting to be a shopping mall, which really was an open-air market packed full of stalls selling every type of wares you could imagine.

We were a bit nervous after walking through aisle after aisle of clothes, but eventually found ourselves in an electronic section. Nestled in between locals selling boomboxes we found a stall that had a selection of phones in the display case, including an iPhone. We were excited!

We pulled the boy away from watching his movie to ask if they had a charger. “No” was his quick reply. We pointed to the iPhone in the case, and suggested that if he had that, he must have this cable. He took a moment to root through a box full of cords, and pulled out that glorious white one. I’m pretty sure I heard some angels singing…

Rob asked the price. “10 soles” he replied (Roughly $3.30). Clearly Rob’s excitement gave him away, and instantly the price doubled. We had spent far too much time searching to even care, and happily paid him. So now, we can share some videos with you guys! And you’ll see some of Rob’s fantastic iPhonography soon as well! We’ll start out with a quick video Rob took of our first hotel. The view was just breathtaking!

First day in Peru from Rob & Lauren on Vimeo.

We spent our second day here just exploring the city. Here are some shots of our wanderings around the streets of Cusco. Hope you enjoy! 

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Check back tomorrow for some amazing shots of some salt pans and an ancient Inca amphitheater used for testing the climates most suitable for growing crops. Neato!

The Food in Peru

As many of you know, we looooove food. I suspect we’ll be blogging about the food here quite a bit, since it gives such a great look into the culture! Also, our food experiences in the first two days have already been nothing short of incredible, so I know there’s a lot of exciting stuff to come! So let me tell you a bit about Peruvian food.

Our second day here was spent wandering around. And I literally mean wandering. We would simply walk in whichever direction seemed interesting. It’s a really great way to see a city, as you often find yourself well off the beaten path, in some fascinating places.

For instance, we set off in search of some lunch. We saw some touristy places around a square, but decided to keep going. We eventually found ourselves quite lost, and quite hungry. So we literally stepped into the first clean looking place that smelled great. We followed our noses. 

And guys, I can tell you it was one of the best lunches ever. Our waitress spoke no English, and we speak very very very little Spanish, so we eventually just gave up trying to communicate and told her to bring us anything. Out came a warming soup, and then an incredible mix of fried chicken, rice, potatoes, and a tangy salsa to throw on top. Unreal. I’ll tell you right now, it’s the best way to experience some local flavour. Sure, it’s probably a crap-shoot some days, and you can’t be a picky eater, but it was a really incredible experience, packed shoulder to shoulder in room full of locals, not knowing what was going to come next. 

We love to take photos of what we’re eating, when the light allows. First up, some photos from our dinner last night. This was our lovely coca tea. They use the coca leaves to help treat altitude sickness. You can buy leaves, tea, candies, coffees, pretty much everything! It has a very unique earthy flavour, but has been really lovely.

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And these sauces. My lord, I almost just drank them up. The white one was a garlicky one, and the red a spicy one. I put them on everything I ate for dinner! 

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As we were walking out I spied some pretty sweet light on some drying pasta. I’m lucky that Rob is a patient guy, and he took out the camera for me, after just putting it away! But these were some wicked cool shots, so I think he was happy to do it. (The wood stove is what they roasted the alapca in, yum!)

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I’m finding the people here to be incredibly friendly. They might give us a wary glance at first, but when I throw them a smile and a “Buenos dias/tardes/noches” they instantly smile right back and return the greeting! I had stopped to take a photo of these funky looking fruits. The lady selling them said a whole lot of stuff to me in Spanish, and then started to cut one open for me to try. She gave one to Rob as well. It was a really great flavour, and really interesting texture. I tried to pay her for the fruits, but she wouldn’t take it. Heart = warmed.

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We also tried our first pisco sour today. It looked and smelled fantastic, but I’m not going to lie, none of us really enjoyed it. But I’ve heard so many great things about them that I’m not going to give up! The hunt for a great pisco sour continues.

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And finally, we have someone to introduce you to! Our friend Drew is actually traveling with us for this whole adventure. He’s a young photographer from Edmonton as well. We’ve had fun hanging out at home, so we suggested he come along. He’s never really been traveling before, or done much portrait photography, but this kid is an all-star. Rob and I are still a bit shy about doing street photography of people, but Drew just jumps right in there. He definitely pushes us to be more bold, and is going to be an awesome travel companion! Make sure to be checking out his blog as well: http://drew.myfotojournal.com, he has already posted some insane shots!

I’ll leave you with a shot of Drew, a shot of myself, and the both of us sitting on a ledge, checking out the rooftops of Cusco.

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