Sharing with Sandy: Lima's Light and Leaders - May 2009 travel blog

More mate de coca. A girl's got to stay hydrated!

Walking Sticks...but not for athletic Sandy - ha!

Up with the Chickens-Sacred Valley Sunrise

The Sacred River in the Andes

Big Ole Pebbles

Previously a monastery, my hotel in Yucay was lovely. Upon arrival, you are warmly greeted and given mate de coca, a tea made from coca leaves. Coca leaves are also the source of cocaine. The tea is supposed to help the body increase oxygen absorption, therefore warding off altitude sickness.

After enjoying about 15 cups of mate de coca and wandering the hotel grounds on Wednesday evening, I enjoyed a traditional Peruvian fare called lomo saltado, which is beef tenderloin sauted with chiles, tomatoes and onions then served with french fries and rice.

Up at 4:30 am for a pick-up at 5:00 am to begin my journey to Machu Picchu. After Urie artfully dodged the sheep, cows, pigs, dogs and goats crossing the roads infused with the wonderful smell of eucalyptus, he safely deposited me at the train station in Ollytantambo. I had 30 minutes to wander the outdoor station, which was filled with vendors of course. One vendor was hocking walking sticks

, which I thought I would NEVER need, given that (1) I am (supposed to be) training for a sprint triathlon and (2) I am wearing the cool shoes Coleen gave me. As they say, ignorance is bliss.

Maybe my bliss was from the mate de coca tea that I had on the train

. I hopped on my 6:00 am Perurail train in Ollytantambo on my way to Machu Picchu.

The train ride through the Andes was breath-taking. I have never seen anything like it. The natural beauty along the trail seemed undisturbed, except for an occasional powerline. I was sitting behind a British couple who had a private tour guide, so I enjoyed listening to her describing the regional lore, archeological sites, hiking trails and artisan homes.

A fun factoid: In Peru, there are over 300 types of orchids, 400 types of butterflies and 150 types of hummingbirds. Can you imagine being quizzed on these as a kid?!

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