Archive for August 2013 | Monthly archive page

What to pack for the 4 day Inca Trail hike to Machu Picchu
I love packing. The thrill of making many items fit into a small container, the stress of figuring out what the bring, the panic that sets in when you wonder if you’ve brought enough…it all makes me giddy. But I understand that I am an anomaly, and that most people find packing tedious. Which is why I am going to tell you exactly what to bring on the 4 day Inca Trail hike to Machu Picchu. I’ll let Darren cover the actual hike in a separate post, but in order to survive the hike, you’ll want to read my list closely. Onwards!
DarwinDiscovered_Peru_WhattoPackIncaTrailHike-2
This is the duffel that Wayki Treks provides for a shared 2-person porter (15kg)
What to pack for the 4 day Inca Trail hike to Machu Picchu

1. Waterproof Hiking Shoes– I wavered for a long time between hiking boots and hiking shoes, and ultimately decided on these Columbia hybrids (sorry, forget the model number) because they were a) waterproof; b) lightweight; and c) $24.99. I stuck my running insoles in them prior to departing and they served me well throughout the hike – after 8 hours of hiking, your feet are going to be tired no matter what. That being said, I would recommend considering the following factors when debating whether to go for a hiking shoe/hybrid or a hiking boot. First, how agile are you with your feet? I tend to forget to pick up my feet sometimes, and as a result did roll my ankle a few times throughout (no injuries though!). Ankle support would have been useful in those instances, but of course the tradeoff is weight. Second, how much time do you have to break in the shoes? If it’s a matter of brand new versus well worn, choose the latter. Third, make sure the shoes are waterproof, even if you go in dry season as we did. Weather in the Andes is highly unpredictable, and blisters are no fun! I did see a few others doing the hike in trail running sneakers, but hiking shoes (examples herehere, and here) and lightweight boots (like these and these) were the trail norm.

2. Flip Flops– Although it got cold by the time we entered camp each day, I was grateful to slip into my flip flops for a few minutes and give my feet a break from my shoes. Others also brought old running shoes, which probably function better especially when using the toilets (watch where you step!).

3. Hat, Scarf, and Gloves– We hiked the trail in August, and temperatures plummeted to just below freezing at night. Night 2 was particularly cold. Preserving body heat is essential especially during the evening and early morning.

4. Waterproof Duffel– I’ve blogged about packable duffels before, and this waterproof Oakley duffel that we brought along was the perfect size for the hike. Although Wayki Treks (our tour operator) gives you a duffel to store your belongings for the porters to carry (see picture above), their duffels aren’t waterproof. If it rains…yup, you’re screwed! In fact, on the last evening we experienced a torrential thunderstorm that left a few fellow hikers with damp clothing even though their things were inside of the tent. Store all of your goodies in plastic bags or a waterproof duffel, folks. Darren and I stashed our belongings in my Oakley duffel, which we then put into the trek operator duffels.

5. Underwear– You’re not showering for four days, but that’s no excuse for swamp ass.

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Plaza de Armas, Cusco, Peru
Plaza de Armas, Cusco, Peru    Cuy (Guinea Pig) at Kusikuy in Cusco, Peru
Cusco, Peru

As with many travelers that swarm the notorious Gringo Trail annually, Cusco was the launching point for our two-week Peruvian adventure. Located at a not-so-comfortable 3,400 m (11,800 ft) above sea level, the historical Inca capital boasts numerous attractions that left us, quite literally, breathless.

Getting There and Around

From DC, it was quite the trek to Cusco. There are no direct flights to neither Lima nor Cusco from the three WAS airports, and all flights to Lima from DC take place late afternoon/evening…making an overnight at the airport to make your AM Cusco connection all too likely. Our journey went like this: IAD >> PTY >> LIM >> CUZ. A heart-stopping 42 minute connection in Panama City was followed by a 5 hour overnight layover in Lima, bringing our total travel time to just over 14 hours. Buenas suerte friends, buenas suerte.

From the airport to the Plaza de Armas (city center), a taxi will cost you 10 soles. You MUST negotiate fare before getting into the cab. If you don’t like the price the drivers give you, walk away and find another car. Meters are non-existent in the cabbies, so buyer beware. No need to tip unless the driver handles your baggage, in which case 1-2 extra soles would be appropriate. Once you’re in the city center, everything is reasonably walkable. If you get tired, a cab to various parts of town shouldn’t cost more than 5 soles max.Plaza de Armas, Cusco, Peru

Stay

We stayed at Hospedaje Turistico Recoleta on Jiron Pumacahua for $10 a night per person (4 bed, ensuite bathroom). The hostel is zero frills but has the necessities: free blowdryer, linens, towels, breakfast, and luggage storage (what, did you think I wheeled my Samsonite along the Inca Trail?). There’s hot water and heat, but both were of dubious quantity, a pattern that repeated itself at our various hostels across the country. The staff was friendly and spoke English if you need it. My only complaint would be that the hostel was located about 15 minutes walking from the Plaza de Armas, which wouldn’t be a problem except that we had to walk through the narrowest of alleyways, with traffic, to get there.

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Murals, San Francisco Balmy Alley Murals, San Francisco Balmy AlleyMurals, San Francisco Balmy Alley     Murals, San Francisco Balmy Alley
Murals, San Francisco Balmy Alley Murals, San Francisco Balmy Alley Murals, San Francisco Balmy Alley

Murals, San Francisco Balmy Alley Murals, San Francisco Balmy Alley

This is a scheduled post. We’re in Peru until late August and may be unable to answer your questions and comments until we return.

Located in San Francisco’s Mission District, Balmy Alley is the best place to see a collection of SF’s street murals. Many of the murals are considered a commentary about various social issues both at home and abroad. The alley is located between Treat and Harrison off 25th.

Los Angeles: Runyon Canyon Park Hike Los Angeles: Runyon Canyon Park Hike Los Angeles: Runyon Canyon Park Hike Los Angeles: Runyon Canyon Park Hike Los Angeles: Runyon Canyon Park Hike  Los Angeles: Runyon Canyon Park Hike Los Angeles: Runyon Canyon Park Hike Los Angeles: Runyon Canyon Park Hike

This is a scheduled post. We’re in Peru until late August and may be unable to answer your questions and comments until we return.

While spending time on the West Coast in June, I had the fortune of spending a morning at Runyon Canyon Park. My synopsis: fabulous views, and lots of trails to choose from. My brother decided to take me up the ‘difficult’ trail, which was difficult mainly by virtue of the overbearing heat that started beating down on us at 8 AM. Wear shoes with a good grip and plan on going early- the ‘difficult’ trail has no shade and gets hot fast. Park wherever (it’s limited. We set the GPS to 2001 N Fuller Ave and got lucky with parking) and walk the flat trail (look for lots of runners and kidnappable dogs) to the entrance of the difficult trail (doesn’t really look like an entrance). Enjoy the view at the top!

His & Hers: 5 Travel Essentials By Darwin, Discovered

Happy Friday! Since we’ve had packing on our mind this week (3 more days till Peru!), we thought we’d bring you a few of our travel favorites.

His

(From Darren)

1. New Trent Portable Battery charger
Don’t know where I would be without this one.  Now that I use my phone for everything when travelling (mostly looking at google maps for places to go and yelp for places to eat), I can always count on my battery dying at some point.  With a portable battery charger, especially one that has 5200 mah or 7000 mah, you can charge your phone 2-3 times while you are out.  Or if you don’t like carrying something extra (or your girlfriend dislikes carrying your gadgets in her purse – AHEM), I also use a built-in extended battery case like the Mophie JuicePack Air, which you can find on Groupon for half the price every so often.

2. TripIt
I’ve gone with four electronics devices as my other four travel essentials, so I might as well continue the theme.  TripIt takes a little while to set up to the way you want to use it, but once it is ready, you never need to worry about printing itineraries again.  It syncs everything online, so whether you access your itinerary from a computer, or on your phone, you’ll know exactly what’s next.  You have two options in the free version: you can forward your confirmation emails to TripIt, and it will automatically add it into your itinerary, or you can allow it to search through your emails for confirmations.  I use the former, and it works great, but if you use the latter, I would love to hear your experience!  TripIt is free to use, with a paid “Pro” version ($49/year) that enables instant alerts (like flight delays, cancellations, gate changes), frequent traveler points tracking, and seat alerts.

3. JVC Marshmallow Earphones
I’ve had several iterations of these for the longest time now, mostly because my ear canals are so oddly shaped that normal buds don’t stay in.  These I chose because they have a memory foam tip, ensuring a snug fit regardless of the activity.  They are dirt cheap (<$12, even for the one with the built-in remote) so you won’t kill yourself if you leave them on a plane, or in a cab.  BONUS: the snug fit of the memory foam makes sure creates a semi-noise-cancelling effect, perfect for drowning out the hum of an airplane engine.  Or a screaming baby.

4. Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover for iPad
This thing is awesome.  One, it serves as a sleek, magnetic cover for your iPad, complete with matching aluminum-casing, so you almost look like you are carrying a really small MacBook.  In its other form, it serves as a sleek, full-functioned bluetooth keyboard so your iPad really becomes your laptop replacement.  Keys are quiet, the stand is sturdy (and magnetic), and the battery life is off the charts.  Get one, and say good bye to lugging your now (relatively) brick-like MacBook around.

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