Peru: Mission Complete (Pictures and Videos)

Breathtaking mountaintops. Incredibly deep canyons. Impossibly vast deserts.  Sprawling urban landscapes.  Gravity-defying floating islands.  Ancient ruins that felt more at home in myth than reality.

My trip to Peru had it all.

To say this adventure was a life changing experience would be an understatement.  I know that sounds cliche’, but I truly mean it.  Nine months ago, I was one of those guys sitting at a desk thinking “some day I’m going to see the world”…and then did absolutely nothing about it.  Well, after taking control of my life back in June, I decided it was time to stop waiting and start doing.  I wanted to live a life worth living.

Eight weeks ago, a trip to Peru wasn’t even on my radar.

However, thanks to having complete freedom over when and where I get to spend my time (and 32,500 AA points), I was able to book a last minute trip to Peru with Cash, my best friend since first grade.  During our seventeen days there,  we hiked down into the world’s second deepest canyon (and back out again), slept in a poolside bungalo, mountain biked through the Sacred Valley, visited more than a dozen Inca ruins, rode snowboards down sand dunes, stayed in ten different towns, took nine different forms of transportation, ate all kinds of exotic (and bizarre foods), and partied our butts off a few times.

Not bad for less than $1000!

This is going to be quite the lengthy post, including my thoughts as a first time traveler, the stats from my adventure, lessons learned, etc.  If you don’t want to read all about it, just stick to these top two sections: they have the video and pictures to prove that I had the time of my life.

Enjoy!

Exercising Around Peru

While exploring the various locations, ruins, cities, and villages of Peru, I knew I wanted to do something special in each location to tie everything together.  Because this is Nerd Fitness, and I’m getting ready to travel the world, it only made sense to exercise all over the place. 

Heavily inspired by Where the Hell is Matt, maybe one of the best viral videos ever created, here’s a look back at how I spent my seventeen days in Peru:


Exercising Around Peru (YouTube)

Now, I tried this video with about twenty different songs, and the only one that felt right was “Eye of the Tiger.”  If you happen to live in a country that YouTube won’t allow to view the video, fear not: you can view it here.

Peru in Pictures

My friend Cash is a fantastic photographer, and he took about twenty gigs worth of photos. He’s in the process of sending them to me now (which I’ll be adding to my flickr page), but in the meantime here are thirteen that stuck out to me.  He’s put some cool effects on some of them, but these are all real pictures taken in real places.

Lessons Learned as a First Time Traveler

This was my first time spending more than a week out of the country on a vacation, my first time not staying in a nice sheltered hotel for a trip, and my first time to South America.  Here are some things I’ve learned as a first time extended traveler out of the country:

There are ATMs EVERYWHERE. I was worried about not being able to get enough cash, so I brought a bunch of US dollars and hit up the ATM in the airport for a bunch of Peruvian Soles in case I couldn’t get money out elsewhere.  Not necessary, as there are ATMs everywhere, including small towns on the sides of mountains.  My Charles Schwab checking account offers free ATM usage at any ATM worldwide (which is why I switched to them).  If you’re a frequent world traveler, I’d look into getting one of these accounts.

Everybody is friendly, I never felt unsafe. I didn’t know what to expect; I’m sure Cash and I stuck out like sore thumbs while visiting some of the more remote locations on our adventure.  However, everybody was incredibly nice and very accommodating, and never once did I think i was going to get mugged, robbed, or anything of that sort.  We also kept an eye on our stuff, stayed out of the incredibly sketchy parts of town, and behaved ourselves (our moms are so proud).

Spanish was helpful but not necessary - I’m probably 70% proficient in Spanish, and had no problem carrying on conversations with locals.  However, even if I didn’t speak Spanish I still would have been fine as so many speak the language that “hablas ingles?” is a question usually answered with “yes, what can I help you with.”  I’m still glad I speak Spanish, but this gives me hope for the rest of my adventures where I don’t speak the native language.

Traveling during the slow season rules – I was worried that it would be boring traveling during Peru’s “slow season.”  Wrong.  Things were still quite lively and fun, except that every restaurant, hostel, and bar practically fought for our business with reduced rates, special offers, and free drinks.  No place was too crowded, Machu Picchu wasn’t overflowing with people, and we often had cheap dorm style rooms completely to ourselves.  It was a budget traveler’s dream.

Always ask questions - I was usually good about this, but it’s important to always ask every question imaginable before you book a tour/room/excursion.  We got a great deal on a sightseeing bus from Puno to Cusco through a dealer…who conveniently neglected to tell us that although the bus “makes five stops at fabulous Inca ruins!!!” we had to pay extra to actually get off the bus and visit each of them them.  In Cusco, we spoke to three different adventure travel agencies about a bike tour; before booking it, we went to one last place, where Dougie (our savior) informed us that the bike path was actually almost completely closed, so we would have only biked for an hour (instead of an entire day’s worth) before being loaded back into a bus and driven to our final location.  ALWAYS ask “what’s included? what’s NOT included?”

Peru can be experienced incredibly cheaply - you’ll see below, but our seventeen day trip cost less than $1000, including EVERYTHING I did down there (that amount also includes the first aid supplies and snacks I brought with me from the US).  Clean hostels with hot showers and complimentary breakfast could be had in many cities for less than $10 per night.  Four course meals with a free glass of wine were often only $6.  A 12-hour overnight luxury bus cost us less than $25.  If we had cut out some of the extra adventures (like $100 for mountain biking, for example), we could have done this trip even cheaper.

Mission Statistics

For those of you who are wondering my itinerary while in Peru, here’s where we went and when:

  • Lima – Oct 27th
  • Huacachina – October 27th
  • Overnight bus – October 28th
  • Arequipa – October 29th
  • Colca Canyon – October 30th
  • Arequipa – October 31st-November 2nd
  • Puno – November 2nd-November 3rd
  • Cusco - November 4th – November 6th
  • Ollantaytambo - November 7th
  • Aguas Callientes – November 8th
  • Ollantaytambo – November 9th
  • Cusco – November 10th
  • Red-eye flight – November 11th

New Foods Eaten:

  • Guinea pig – kind of like chicken, but with very little meat.  Meh.
  • Trout from Lake Titicaca – I don’t eat fish, but this was delicious.  Pleasant surprise.
  • Beef heart – If I didn’t now it was beef heart I wouldn’t have been able to tell the difference between this and normal steak.
  • Alpaca – tasted like a sweeter, but much tougher type of steak.  Not bad!

Activities performed

  • Hiking
  • Mountain biking
  • Sandboarding
  • Soccer -
  • Running
  • Body weight exercises

Languages spoken

  • English – 100% proficiency
  • Spanish – 70% proficiency

Total Cost of Adventure – $998.72

  • Two red-eye flights (32,500 American Airline Miles)
  • 14 nights of lodging
  • One overnight bus trip
  • All other modes of transportation
  • Mountain biking tour ($105)
  • Two day hike ($40)
  • All meals
  • Drinks at bars and clubs
  • Supplies

What’s next for Steve?

Now that Peru is crossed off the Epic Quest of Awesome list, people have been asking me what’s next. Here’s a rough timeline, although almost none of this is set in stone:

  • December 15th – Move out of my apartment in Atlanta, drive home to Massachusetts with my car and a few boxes of things, where I’ll be selling my car to my Mom.  Hang out in MA through Xmas and New Year’s.
  • January 6-10th - Rock Boat XI out of Tampa, FL
  • January 15th – Use award travel on Airtran to book a one-way to Las Vegas, spend a day or two playing poker? Why not!
  • January 17th – book a one way on Southwest for $49 to San Diego
  • January 17-31st – Hang out in San Diego with my brother (he doesn’t know this yet, but NOW HE DOES)
  • February 1st? – Book a one-way flight to Sydney, Australia using AA or British Airways points

It’s funny, I have a very definitive plan as to the direction my business is heading and how I’ll get there, but I have absolutely no clue how the next 6-12 months of my life are going to play out.

Oh well, I’ll just wing it.

-Steve

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  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=777708113 Rich Borgatti Jr

    Wow Steve! Peru looks awesome. Machu Picchu is on my list as well. Last year I went to Tunis, This year I went to London and Hawaii. Next I am going to try Egypt to see the pyramids. Machu Picchu is after that on my list.
    When you get to MA feel free to come drop in for a workout with our group!
    htttp://www.mountainstrength.com

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  • Nicolakgreen

    That’s a whole lot of inspiring. Thanks so much for sharing.

  • halftruths

    That sounds like a hell of a trip! And I’m jealous of your upcoming itinerary. My hubby and I once packed up everything, put it into storage at the family shop, and high-tailed it to Australia and New Zealand (with a side trip to Fiji) for 7 months. To say that it was awesome is an understatement, and I think you’ll gobble Oz right up. Incidentally, while the prices of hostels in Australia are much steeper than in Peru, Australia’s YHA hostels are generally of very high quality and cleanliness, and some of them are way better than many hotels you could hope to stay in. If you are going to be in Victoria state at all, DEFINITELY check out Hall’s Gap in the Grampian mountains, and stay at the YHA Eco-hostel there. The place is freaking awesome – the building is a beautiful AND beautifully engineered sustainable architectural piece, there are kangaroos everywhere (I breakfasted with one just on the other side of the dining hall windows, about an arm’s length away), and they have a little flock of free-run chickens; if you wake up early enough, you might be able to nab a couple freshly laid eggs for free (the staff gather them and leave them out for early-bird guests). While Hall’s Gap is a little touristy, it is a very small town and the hiking around that area is spectacular and readily accessible.

  • Janis

    Steve — good for you! The video is great and your walking lunges segment reminds me of Monty Python’s ‘Ministry of Funny Walks’! It is difficult to understand people who take vacations and just sit someplace when the world is so big! Looking forward to your future trips and posts.

  • Suse

    awesome photos! Cant see the video while I am at work but will check it out later!

  • mjmetcalf

    Awesome! Great pics and a cool video but I have to ask, is that twist and jump at the end from something? It looks like something from a video game but I’m not sure which one.

  • http://joelrunyon.com/two3 Joel Runyon | [BIT]

    1 – Great call on going with a stellar photographer. Always helps when your awesome trip is accompanied by awesome photos.
    2 – Loved the “hydrating with alpaca part of the video
    3 – I’m officially jealous and you’ve re-ignited the travel bug…

  • http://www.facebook.com/shauncy Shauna Stacy

    Thank you for sharing this! That jump at the end of the video reminds me of more than one installment of Zelda… classic!

  • Anonymous

    Great report and glad you had a good trip. Now I am all jealous though.

  • Dan

    Hey Steven awesome stuff man! You should write an article about cheap ways to travel/save and things like that. I know you suggested some books… But I wanna hear it from you. I already ready 4 hr work week, it was pretty awesome :)

  • elmanuel

    Jumping jacks with ducks FTW!
    Have fun with your winter plans.

  • Nick

    Wow…just wow. Looks like you had an amazing trip and its definitely an inspiration to search out non-tour guided trips to other countries. My two cents: “rehydrating with alpacas” = hilarious! I also read “tastes like a sweeter” as “tastes like a sweater” which cracked me up because it’s alpaca, then I realized I’m a moron. :) I hope the rest of your Epic Quest goes as well as this trip!

  • http://outwardlypleasant.blogspot.com Kris

    That video was awesome Steve! The pictures are breathtaking too. I’ve been wanting to travel to Europe again, Husband doesn’t want to, and now I really really want to take another trip. Poor Husband will just have to deal with me trying to convince him again this weekend.

  • http://twitter.com/HowIGotInShape Bill

    Awesome. You have the travel bug now and you will never get rid of it.

    Leave on your adventure and never come back.

  • http://twitter.com/AlanPerlman Alan Perlman

    What a whoppingly awesome post. Like how you were transparent with your costs–curiously, which reward flights did you book to only use 32,500 miles? I’m looking at the AA reward chart and see 17.5K miles, one-way to Lima. Looks like you beat the system?

    Hilarious video too. You need more of those!

  • http://www.stevekamb.com Steve Kamb

    Yeah, I don’t know…I was expecting it to be 35,000 as well!

    The lady on the phone (had to book on the phone because I had to use LAN on my flight from CUS-LIM) told me it was 15,000 going from ATL-MIA-LIM, and then 17,500 from CUS-LIM-MIA-ATL

    Oh don’t worry, I have plenty of videos coming :) I’m already itching to go on my next adventure…

    -Steve

  • http://www.stevekamb.com Steve Kamb

    Yup, I’m hooked. Already planning the next adventure.

    -Steve

  • http://www.stevekamb.com Steve Kamb

    You can convince him! I have faith. Let me know if you want me to write a permission slip:

    “Dear Kris’s husband,

    Kris needs to go to Europe pronto, so you should make that happen.

    -Steve Kamb
    Kris’s adventure therapist

  • http://www.stevekamb.com Steve Kamb

    Hahahahahahha

    “tastes like sweater” would have been WAY funnier. Damnit. Is it too late to feign creative genius and post that instead?

    -Steve

  • http://www.stevekamb.com Steve Kamb

    Ducks need to exercise too.

    -Steve

  • http://twitter.com/AlanPerlman Alan Perlman

    That’s awesome! Thanks for replying. Looking to book some reward tickets next summer and plan on doing everything over the phone.

  • Anonymous

    Great pics! Nothing better than having top quality digital memories of a trip of a lifetime.Peru is one of the most amazing places I have seen. You really set the bar high for yourself having gone to Machu Picchu on your first true “World Travel.” Having done 2 Europe trips and 1 to South America, Machu Picchu is bar far one of my favorite places I have experienced. With that said, traveling added more substance to my life than any other single action. Good luck in your future endeavors!I too would be interesting in hearing how you went about completing this quest on a low budget. Peru is not an expensive place to visit, but under $1000 is a success in itself.-Ryan

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  • http://twitter.com/Sexyfuntraveler Crazysexyfuntraveler

    LOVE the pics and everything! Peru is one of my dream countries so hopefully will get there soon:)
    Take care at ur RTW trip and lookin forward to hear ur stories :)

  • http://twitter.com/Sexyfuntraveler Crazysexyfuntraveler

    btw i’m laughin my ass out at the video, it’s amazing!!!

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  • http://vakantiehuizendenia.villamar.nl/findAllVillas.php?filter=Denia&lang=nl villa denia

    Wow..!! What a fantastic visit you have there in Peru….Your this post as well as the pics recalls me my visit to Peru last year…Machu Pichu is great destination to enjoy the hiking as well as the adventure too…I like this place for its awesome beautiness…

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  • http://marketingwithsergio.com/ Sergio Félix

    ROFLMAO “tastes like sweater” had me!

    As for the music goes you can NEVER go wrong with “Eye Of The Tiger” suits your video perfectly man.

    I just watched your video about exercising all over the world and I love your sprinting running form. This may be a dumb question… But have you ever ran long distances like half marathons or full marathons before?

    I think that an article from you on that subject would be very entertaining to read. ;-)

    Sergio

    PS. Awesome visit to Peru, you’re definitely an inspiration.

  • Abyelise

    Ehe – hey. Steave what where you doing, over in peur, trying to be a assassin???

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