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Getting to Machu Picchu!

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Visiting the world renowned archaeological site of Machu Picchu has long been on my ultimate wish list. I can’t even describe how thrilled I was when I boarded the 16 hour bus that would take me from Huacachina to Cusco, Peru. All I could think about, was that I should be wandering the famous premises in about 48 hours!

From the Plaza de Armas in Cusco, I boarded a collectivo (peruvian small van) which took me to the small mountain town of Ollantaytambo for $10 USD. The views from the bus window were stunningly beautiful, with landscapes ranging from rustic farm houses and fields, to the towering snow capped Andean mountain range. The air was super clean and crisp, seemingly untouched by pollution, and the sky was an amazing shade of blue.

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After being dropped off in the main square, I hoisted my backpack on my shoulders and went about looking for an affordable place to stay. I severely underestimated the task of walking up and down cobbled streets at a seriously high altitude of 2792 metres above sea level.

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Just when my lungs were about to burst, I stumbled upon a guesthouse called Full Moon Lodge. For $25 a night, I got a private room with a comfy bed, a nice bathroom and even internet connection! There were hammocks and dream-catchers everywhere and the family dogs were friendly and totally adorable! I freaking loved it.

Early the next morning (around 5am), I woke  up, quickly got dressed and hustled to the train station to board the Expedition Train #81 to Machu Picchu. The cost of my round-trip ticket was $130, which was fairly expensive given the relatively short ride.

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The train was punctual and interestingly decorated with lots of Andean artwork. A complimentary snack and a drink were served after our departure from Ollantaytambo. Basically, the journey took a little over an hour ,then we were pulling up at the train station in Aguas Caliente (also known as Machu Picchu Town). Aguas Caliente is your typical tourist town, so be prepared to overspend on just about everything.

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The last leg to the archaeological site was by a coaster bus which I boarded at the bus terminal for $18.50 USD roundtrip. The road up the mountain was narrow and extremely winding. We were surrounded by dense forest for the entire time, as we climbed our way further and further upwards. There were a LOT of Chinese tourists on my bus, who were fascinated with taking countless snaps of the passing bush. (I didn’t get it!)

Finally!!! I arrived onsite! At this point, I was simply too tired to be adequately excited. I joined a lengthy queue of visitors waiting to enter the grounds, and took the opportunity to give my passport an official Machu Picchu Stamp. I think that’s when it really sank in. I was here!

Stay tuned for an account of my detailed visit, coming up next!

Loki Hostel in Mancora, Peru

Loki Hostel in Mancora, Peru is a great place for a fun loving person to meet awesome travelers from around the world. Mancora is predominantly a beach town in Northern Peru and it’s mainly known for its surfing conditions. Loki is situated a mere three minutes walk to the downtown area and is literally steps away from the sandy coastline. However, the visitors who book a stay here are usually younger and are always looking for the next place to party. As such, the hostel has quite a reputation for being the place to have a great time. Light sleepers should take note.

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Although it is a hostel, mostly because of the availability of shared dorm rooms, one could easily mistake the premises for a high end resort. There is a large swimming pool and an area with hammocks which is absolutely heavenly for lounging with a drink. Plus, there is a large bar area complete with a pool table and the security onsite is very efficient. All guests are required to wear special wrist bands which are checked before entry into the grounds.

I had booked a room in a six bed dormitory with an ensuite bathroom. The bed was soft with crisp and clean white linen. The bathroom was well kept and stocked with toiletries, and a very large locker was provided for the safekeeping of my bags and valuables. I spent a total of four nights at the Loki hostel, although I had originally booked for two nights. The rooms were serviced daily and I generally had no complaints.

CAMERAThe bar was a definite high point during my stay. The drinks were reasonably priced although cheaper cocktails could be had outside of the hostel. For dining, there were menus for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I ate several times at the bar, and while the food was a bit pricey, it was always well prepared and tasty. I especially enjoyed their omelettes at breakfast along with complimentary coffee and tea. Such a meal was approximately $3 USD. The bar staff would check your wristband for your room number and you would be billed upon checkout. Happy hour equals discounted drinks and there was even a BBQ one night.

Loki Hostel is a good option if you are a young (or young at heart) traveller and you are on a budget. I paid only $11 USD per night for my dorm room and it was easily worth more in my opinion. It’s perfect for solo travelers and there are private rooms for couples or families. I easily recommend.

I Love My Xshot Monopod!

I’m really big on photos, and one of the major downsides of traveling abroad solo, is the difficulty in having your photo taken. Whether it be standing in front of the Eiffel Tower or the State of Liberty, it’s not easy trying to take a decent ‘selfie’ with the landmark in the background.

During my trip to NYC in January, I decided to purchase a monopod. I’ve seen countless videos online with regular folks obtaining awesome footage or photos with the help of this device. After a bit of research, it appeared as though the most travel friendly monopod for my lifestyle was the Xshot.  It claimed to be small enough to fit inside of my pocket, while having the capability to extend to 30 inches in length!

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I made the order on Amazon.com for approximately $20 USD, and patiently awaited the arrival of my package.  I am happy to report that I am absolutely thrilled with my Xshot! It’s an extremely handy gadget which gives me the an entirely different dimension to my photography. With a proper grip on the handle, blurred images aren’t a factor, and the 10 second timer on my camera is all that’s needed to snap a great selfie.

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I think that all travelers could benefit from purchasing a monopod, whether it’s an Xshot or not, just as long as it’s portable. Families could easily take group shots at various destinations, or even capture of photo of someone sticking their head out of a train window. The possibilities are rather endless! If you have one already, let me know what you think of it!

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