Back on the Open Road // Peru

Oh, hi there!  We know it’s been quite some time… No, we didn’t forget about you.  Yes- we promise we really didn’t forget about you!  There has been just quite so much to do- but we are back, and we will do our best to not take so long before the next post.  Enjoy!
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From the balmy end of summer light, we departed Los Angeles- excited for our next chapter on the road.  The light in our hearts could not be dulled by dreary, cloud-smothered Lima.

Our pals Karin-Marijke and Coen of Land Cruising Adventure  met us at the airport, where we somehow finagled the jumbo surfboard bag + 6 boxes of stuff into their home on wheels.
Our beloved Westy was right where we left him, snug behind the gate of our friends Felipe & Carlos’ (whom are brothers) place in a private security heavy neighborhood of San Isidro.  After a week of Peruvian bureaurocracy including holidays and the expected delays, we finally had the ‘temporary import permit’ for the van back.  We could finally roll!

We met with the VW Lima Club, arranged by our friend Miguel, along the malecon one Friday evening.  Enjoying the shared company of fellowWesty lovers, everyone was checking out each others rides, swapping camp stories and upgrades, revisions, and customizations.

Club Germaina is a big sports club hosting a great soccer field, swimming pools, tennis courts… and a secure parking lot for European overlanders.  Coen sweet-talked the front desk into allowing us North Americans to camp with them for a few days.  We spent an afternoon baking bread on our Coleman Camp ovens.

Emily’s first bread on the road!  Used whole wheat, quinoa, soy, amaranth and barley flours along with sunflower seeds & walnuts.  YUM!
Coen’s loaves were pretty pro.
Colette made peanut butter with Karin-“the peanut butter lady”-Marijke.  This was probably their 10th time making peanut butter together, so the nickname is well earned.
Evenings we gathered to share good meals and great company… laughing late, playing games and drinking too much wine!

Our new GoalZero Light-a-Life is the perfect camp addition, powered off the Sherpa 50 Power Pack which conveniently can be charged by  their solar panels or shore power.  The long cord and easy clip system make finding the right spot a breeze.
10 years on the road!At the Saturday organic farmers market in Lima, we stocked up on a gorgeous selection of fresh fruit and veggies, making a delicious vegan mostly-raw lunch fit for kings.  Karin-Marijke made her first kale salad with quinoa sprouts and carrots; Emily made a raw fennel salad with oranges and sunflower sprouts, as well as a raw candy-striped and golden beet salad.Chores are chores and must be attended to or they just get worse… fixing a leaky CV joint before departing Lima. Excited to be back on the road, we inched at a snails pace through the insane traffic leaving Lima.  Smog-spewing 18 wheelers, buses packed to the brim with people, motorcycles weaving precariously between vehicles of every make and model all honked, cut each other off and generally caused a caucophany unlike any we have yet to encounter.  2 hours and only 25 miles later, the traffic thinned and we took a sigh of relief.

We found the turnoff and gleefully wound the narrow dirt road up, up and up to the tiny village of San Pedro de Casta.  Set on an undulating hillside at 10,400 feet, the village of 1,000 souls overlooks steep canyons on both sides of the narrow finger that extends dramatically into the thin air.  Just a few days before, the local bell-tower sunk in a bit, giving the stained glass tower a new perspective.  
At the local cemetery, tiles printed with loved ones images plastered the fronts of small cement boxes stacked upon one another.
Early the next morning, we set off with Karin & Coen for the long hike up to Marcahuasi- a sacred site atop the mountains at 13,000+ feet, where the granite rock formations resemble religious symbols, human heads, and animals.

Along the steep dirt path, we encountered many friendly locals, and enjoyed stopping to chat (and catch some much needed air).The altitude brings some pretty heavy sunrays… Adam was stoked to wear his new Raen Myopia shades, which he loves for channeling old-school mountaineering vibes with a modern twist.Emily rocked our new Poler rolltop backpack, which was the perfect size for the day hike holding all three of our warm layers, lunch, water and had room to spare!Unfortunately struck with some major altitude sickness further up the trail, Emily had to turn around.  Karin agreed to accompany Colette and Emily back down.Coen & Adam continued upward with our adopted dog for the day, Lassi.  In the village we learned that Lassi is a bit of a gringo-phile and hikes alongside them (us) any chance he gets.In the dramatic plateau of Marcahuasi, the guys crossed paths with a gypsy Peruvian family that had been camping in the region for a week. The fog rolled in and out of the granite guardian spires.An eerie lake atop the plateau showed the rings of so many seasons of the waters fluctuating levels.Several structures, in various levels of decay, dotted the area, as did prayer stones, stacked rocks with each rock representing a prayer.
The energy up here was immense.  Someone was feelin’ it and set up shop to channel something… not quite sure what any of this meant but the arrangements were very interesting. 
The rocks, outside, seemed to have psychedelic powers- morphing in and out, faces on faces, the energy pulsating in the strata.Our camp in San Pedro de Casta was right at the center plaza- unlimited fresh, clean mountain spring water and a decent public restroom were plenty to make us travelers happy.

We said our goodbyes to Karin-Marijke & Coen, not knowing when our paths will cross again- we heading south, and they north.Down the bumpy and winding road we set off for the next chapter.  
Here you can see the sketchy bridge that led us over the 1,500 foot drop to the base of the river carved canyon.  We pulled over right after crossing the bridge and were blessed to see three majestic Andean condors soaring along the thermal drafts and canyon breeze.  They would swoop down into the recesses, and rise up again, looping over to their nest perched in a protected cove.

The most important bird in Andean mythology, this mighty avian has a wingspan of up to 10.5 feet.  Their images have been depicted in art form from 2,500 BCE, as a sun deity and ruler of the upper world.The road in and out was pretty sketchy.  One lane (at best), the flow of buses and drivers with no regard for their lives (or others!)  did not cease.  We slowly inched our way down, wishing to god our horn worked so we could honk as we neared a corner warning others of our presence.  Mark that high on the “to do list”- repair horn!Out of the winding highlands, a warm valley abounding with cherimoya and avocado orchards was set on both sides of the beautiful Rímac River.  After a long hike the day prior, a cool (ok, cold) bath was in order- we each took our turn plunging, soaping up and rinsing off.  If we weren’t awake after the scary road, we surely were now!Rising up from one of the many valleys, the spine of the Andes leaps skyward, thrusting the longest continental mountain range in the world right before your eyes.  Set amongst these otherworldly sights was this small alpine lake.A few peaks over, we started to see mining towns like this- corporate row houses neatly arranged whose purpose is to scrape the contents of the earth out with wild abandon, using heavy machinery and dynamite to extract any profitable resource.
Peru is one of the worlds top mineral producing countries- extracting from the rich mountains gold, silver, copper, zinc, lead, tin, arsenic trioxide and minerals like bismuth (the chemical element Bi and is used in cosmetics, pigments and in Pepto Bismol) and molybdenum (chemical element Mo, has the 6th highest melting point of any element- lending itself in the use of creating high strength alloys and superalloys).  The highway comes to a “T” is the town of La Oroya- one of the worlds 10 most polluted places.    Local children have lead levels in their blood at 3 times the World Health Organization limit.  Soil is polluted with cadmium, lead and arsenic.  The trains carry minerals in and out of this production center.Deciding to skip the rough & tumble reputation of the mining town, we spent several more hours driving until we arrived at the calm, pristine Laguna de Paca outside of Jauja.  We spent a quiet night on the lake, watching lightening illuminate the sky in flashes of hot white.  The heavy rain was only interrupted by the croaking of frogs and grasshopper songs.  The morning was clear and bright.  “The birdies are singing me a good morning song!” Colette happily exclaimed.We spent a bit of the morning in Jauja on a wild goose chase for a market that had happened the day before… whoops!Down the pastoral valley we meandered.  Artichokes, corn, and alfalfa grew in small fields plowed and maintained as they have been for centuries.  We take these times to talk with about the cycle of seasons, the cycle of planting and harvest, where food comes from, the importance of agriculture.  “Thank you farmers!” Colette exclaims.Headed in the opposite direction, we passed several moto-taxis that had all manner of foreign drivers.  “What is going on?” we asked each other.Needing concessions, we stopped at a local farmers market we passed.  Colette, her friendly personality and her blond hair always draw quite a bit of attention in rural areas.  “Is her hair dyed?” we are sometimes asked.  “NO?  But your hair is both dark” they proclaim in disbelief.  She is hugged, asked her name and age- and when she replies to their Spanish queries ‘en espanol’ they throw their heads back in delight! Good thing we stocked up, because shortly after TOWN, the wide pastoral valley turned into a narrow canyon following a river.   This road was LONG and slow, and perhaps one of the most scenic sections of driving we have yet to do.  Hours and hours of slowly winding canyon, dramatic precipices overlooking the layers of exposed rock, green hills changing to dry brown lands then back again.  This is most certainly not the fastest route from Lima to Cusco, but certainly the prettiest.It had been hours since we had passed even a village, and found a roadside pullout that looked frequented by truckers.  We pulled in, set up camp, and stared in awe at the gorgeous full moon!  A clear dry night, it was the perfect view of our closest neighbor.  The Tycho crater (the big, white blast at 4 o’clock) is usually at the very bottom for us from  the northern hemisphere.   It is amazing that we get such a different view of the moon from the southern hemisphere.  Our morning view!  We put some water on for coffee and enjoyed the warm canyon breeze.Carried by on a warm gust came the buzzing of a chainsaw, or a weed whacker… but it was getting closer?  What is that noise?  Aha- more of the moto-taxi riders!  We waved as they drove by, then they signaled that they were turning around.  In pulled Kit & Alejandro;  Alejandro is an expat of Cuba and both guys currently live in Norway. We shared our pot of freshly brewed Kona coffee as we gabbed about life on the road. 
This current adventure we had been witnessing is  “Mototaxi Junket”, a collection of adventurers in majorly underpowered vehicles traveling 2,200+ miles from Cusco to Colan, in Northern Peru- through terrain of high mountain, jungle and desert.  
We departed ways, winding down the 1 lane road that doubled as two.  We thought the road to San Pedro de la Casta was rough, but it was just an hour or so of full-attention, hands at two and ten kind of driving… this road on the other hand was two FULL days of it!  

Another set of Mototaxi Junketeers, these guys were from the States!
Scrub brush replaced draping vines, and cactus grew bountifully in this section of the river gorge.  We ambled down the dusty road, music blasting, windows down, smiled plastered on our faces.  This is good.

 Feeling stoked, we pulled over to capture our new Raen shades.  These cactus buddies were pumped to get to see things in a new light!Always the ‘ambassador of love & joy,’ Colette thought sunglasses on cactus was pretty silly.
This local goad-herder was just confused by it…
The local bridge was under construction, so in true entrepreneurial spirit a guy made a small bridge across the river and charged a small fee. 
After 2 days winding thru the desolate and gorgeous canyon, it opened up to slowly rolling red hills.
The van had started chugging strangely, so Adam started to investigate.  He pulled off the gas pump, and found a major collection of paint chips, sand and grit.  He wired up the pump from the battery in reverse (positive terminal on the battery to negative terminal on the pump and vise versa) That makes the pump run backwards thus pushing out the gunk.  He learned that years ago on a Baja trip- and boy were we amazed by all the gunk that came spewing out!


We saw two magnificent Swainson’s Hawks circling the skies, which took turns landing in a bush for a rest.  This is a long-distance migrant from the prarie of western North America.  Oh, hey there buddy- we know what a long flight you have had!  Overlooking Ayacucho, a bustling city  and a few hours later, a remote peak… the contrasts we can see in a day still drops our jaws.
In Pisac, when we need wifi, we park next to El Parche hostal, which overlooks the river.  There is a bathroom inside, but sometimes you need a potty with a view of the only graffiti we have seen in Peru.
Coco & Adam took a nice hike one afternoon, exploring the gorgeous agricultural valley.

The Inca terraces are still farmed and water flows from the mountains into the canals, built thousands of years ago.  Colette learning about where food comes from, our connection to PachaMama- our earth mother, and the cycle of it all.
Back at Quinta Lala in Cusco, we finally crossed paths with some fellow VW dwellers that had their Subaru engine tuned at Out Front Motor Sports, same as we did just days before we both embarked on our journeys.  Tom & Brooke were on a very different pace than we- getting married in Costa Rica a few months into their adventure down the PanAm- and arriving in Peru nearly 4 months after we did.  So happy that we are now “on the slow boat” of overlanders!
Tom made this beautiful balsa board in Ecuador.
Using the original propane fridge, Tom & Brooke refill often and have devised their own method of filling up.  The further south you go in South America the propane adapters change from the standard American nozzle so it’s really hard to find a place to fill.  Tom devised a method that seems sketchy at a glance but really works.  It’s hard to explain but we will be adopting this method when we need to refill for our stove.  
Meet Greg Mallory in his custom Sprinter.  We originally met in Puerto Escondido and hit if off immediately, sharing a beer in the warm Mexican sun.  He is a bas ass river kayaker, on a 2-year trip with friends and family in their gang of 4 Sprinters, riding rapids from Oregon all the way to the ends of the earth.  Slightly out of breath, he rolled into camp one day saying “I’m a bit tired, I just climbed all the way up.”  For those of you that have seen Cusco, you know the steep hills that surround the basin.  We hike down and taxi up…  Greg rolled himself up the cobblestone incline thinking nothing of it, on two wheels no less!
After we posted a photo of him on Instagram, we googled him and were awed with what we discovered.  Greg is a two-time Paralympian having competed for the US Ski Team.  On National Geographic there is a great short film about him.  Yeah- he is as humble as he is cool.  Visit Southerntiptrip.com to read more.Filled to the gills with the bounty of a busy #24HourBazaar, we finally made this vision Adam had long-imagined come to life.

For those of you who don’t know- when in inspiring market towns, we curate an assortment of fair-trade artisan goods in a flash-sale we call ‘24 Hour Bazaar’ and drop ship directly from the road to your doorstep.  If you would like to be included on the list, send your information to contact@ouropenroad.com and you will be on the list for the next & all future bazaars. 
At the Mercado San Pedro in Cusco, one can find everything- from trinkets to blankets, rows of fresh fruit & veg, freshly fried picarones (sweet potato doughnuts with molasses and orange blossom syrup, OMG!) and steaming bowls of  soup containing every innard imaginable.  You can also find the sacred psychedelic cactus Wachuma (aka San Pedro) amongst transportive Palo Santo incense and dried maca roots.
Also in the mercado are rows of juice stands.  Everything is 3-7 soles ($1.15 to $3) for your choice of the markets ‘fruit so ripe it is on the verge of spoiling and it thus perfect to be made into juice’ which comes with a free refill.  Not so sure on the eggplant as an offering, however.
At camp, a bus of the Rainbow family from Brazil rolled in.  Within 2 minutes, we were joined with them, holding hands, singing songs and then hugging profusely.  These 15 individuals are traveling on a 2 month circuit from Brazil, north into Ecuador, down into Peru, across into Bolivia then back into Brazil.  Having a ‘leader’ whom everyone agrees will lead, taking time to connect every day and rejoicing in the simple beauty of being alive were the key elements we witnessed to their collective enjoyment of a journey where individual wants are addressed in terms of group flow.  
We shared a delicious meal together and the next day they set off.  We will be sure to connect with this beautiful ‘family’ when we make it to Brazil!
It seems Cusco really has us… it is a place we keep returning to.  Collectively, we have spent more time here and in the Sacred Valley than anywhere else on the trip thus far, by far.  So far from the beach, how does this happen?  
Out for a day down in town, Colette looks chic in her Poler x Raen shades.
Steep and cobbled streets connect the neighborhoods which dapple the hills of Cusco.  At 12,500 feet, us lowlanders take quite some time to make it around the barrios.
A pit-stop to feed the llamas some alfalfa.  Dramatic lighting in the afternoon slides into the mercado.  We stock up on our groceries for the week- fresh baked bread, quinoa, dried nuts and fruits, mountains of fresh fruit and vegetables.  In the midst of commerce both local and foreign, life in the market ticks onward; between buying potatoes and pears, you notice sweet and tender moments of life in the market.  Most vendors are here 12 hours a day, 6-7 days a week.  There is a beating heart of the men, women and children who live their lives in this flea market extraordinaire.  
Juan (a radical Pixar animator) & Stephanie left the SF bay area a year or so ago, and are making their way to Tierra Del Fuego.  We geeked out sharing various VW mods, which convinced them to rip out their AC unit.  Steph is excited to have a new cabinet for her knitting gear!  You can see things from their perspective at vanenvan.com
We lined up all the VW’s for a portrait.  
Tomas & Dylan are traveling north from Argentina to Montana with their two kiddos Eva and Cosentino, aka little Coco.  We had many fun afternoons watching the kids just go nuts together in the campground- chasing ducks, finger painting, and snacking non-stop as growing littles do.  They are sharing their adventures here.   
This is how we roll!  ….except with seat belts, always, we took this while stationary- promise. 
A breathtaking river valley meanders among terraced peaks, the thin air sparkles in the intense morning sun.  It is not difficult to see why this is the Valle Sagrado de Los Inca, the Sacred Valley of the Inca.Market life IS life- a place to socialize and catch up with friends, do your weeks grocery shopping from your favorite vendors, grab a meal from a tarped restaurant.  It is an experience that we greatly enjoy- stateside we would weekly visit our local farmers market and do the same… it is a cycle that ties us to our community, wherever we may be in the wide world. 
Like father…like daughter!
One especially gusty night, the 500+ year old Pisonay tree in the center of Pisac fell.  It was a majestic tree, full of hanging Spanish moss draping off the branches… who knows what the town will put in ints place.

All Emily wanted for her birthday was a hot bath… at Chaska Wasi, we found just that.  Not just any bath, but the hottest water we have yet to discover on the road- you travelers know what a challenge and welcome reward this can be.  Hot water, secure parking, a beautiful courtyard and real bagels!   It is the simple things that become so luxurious.  
The van was loaded to the hilt with goods from our November 24 Hour Bazaar- we got a rustic room in which we could sort orders.  We sent goods in this round to Japan and Australia, Alaska and Hawaii, New York City and small rural towns- we are thrilled to see where these beautiful goods go.  If you would like to be on the list to receive our catalog of goods for #24HourBazaar, please email us contact@ouropenroad.com.

We also have sent a collection of beautiful fair trade, artisan crafted rugs and pillowcases to Los Angeles that are available in our SHOP now!  These goods drop-ship from our warehouse in LA- so they will get to you in a matter of days.    Patience be damned- we got you covered. 
On the anniversary of the founding of Pisac, the town arranged games in the plaza- who could eat an apple off a rope the fastest, uniformed parades, tug-of-war and much public beer drinking.  Locals came out in their festive best, adorned in their brightly detailed clothing. 
Aaaaaaand then- it happened.  One day back in Cusco, while we were in the Post Office, shipping out a pile of packages for 24 Hour Bazaar on a bright, sunny afternoon on a busy street- someone (or most likely 2 someones) broke into the van.  They were slick, popping the front passenger lock nearly without a mark, sliding open the sliding glass window and reaching in to unlock the back door.  The tore open our cabinets, rifling through our underwear and kitchen wares.  It appears they were in and out very fast.  They got both of our iphones and most damaging- Adams bag of camera equipment.  They left our gps and took some Bolivian cash, and most thankfully they left the van.  We were just 8 weeks out of our 1 year travel insurance policy and shit-out-of-luck.

We knocked ourselves for not utilizing the awesome system Adam had built to safeguard the van.  How in broad daylight on a busy street does this happen?  We pondered “why oh, why” didn’t we park in a garage.   Did someone see us unload the van at the post office then wait for the right time to rob us?  Ahh, the tortures of “ifs, ands or whys.”

The tourist police were NO help, only asking several times if we had insurance and pointed to a poster that said tourist insurance fraud is a crime.  Umm, no- we aren’t faking this for an insurance kickback- our home was broken into and our shit was stolen!  They took several hours slowly making a report before announcing that we would need to go to a special bank and pay $2 for a copy of the police report.  When we inquired about which markets stolen lenses like ours might show up at there were “many” and retorted they are “far too dangerous” for us to visit.  Wow- thanks for wasting our time.

On the other hand, our friend Guy set us up with every possible source he could think of to find our stuff.  Adam went out on foot with Guys employee Sadam thru the cobbled alleys of Cusco to a tented city of stolen cell phones.  No luck there.  Guy sent two local friends to a 6-7am only Saturday market for (black market) electronics… no lenses or phones there either.  We checked every camera and repair shop along Avenida del Sol.  A ‘fixer’ who can get almost anything done for the right price called the two people who would know what to do with such gear- no word from them.  We told everyone- no questions asked- we just want to buy our gear back.  Crickets…

A week later, we finally came to accept we had done everything in our power to relocate our stolen goods- and they were gone.  We sucked it up and asked our Instagram community if someone was coming to Cusco soon and could transport some new gear to us.  See, the price of Canon lenses (and most electronics for that matter) in Peru are 2 times what they are stateside and that is IF you can find what you need.  Shipping is a major hassle as customs will get you for import taxes and duties on everything… so a personal delivery was ideal.   Guy generously gave us a lens to tide us over as well as a device to get us back up on Instagram while we arranged for the gear we really needed.

We wired the money home and our good buddy Colby in LA came thru on meeting with the Craigslist sellers to purchase new lenses for Adam.  Besty Michelle assembled the elements mailed in from Amazon and from Kate- a generous fellow traveler and cartographer who sent 2 used iphones.  She blogs about life in her Airstream at Aluminum Loaf and you can see her cartography work at Blackmer Maps.   Emily’s sister Laura delivered the box to our ‘mule’ Jenni!  Jenni lives in LA and does a cool blog The Adventure League.  Many, many heartfelt thanks to each of you.  We are SO thankful for all of your help everyone!
In the highlands outside of Cusco, above the Sacred Valley is the town of Chinchero.  On Sundays the town has a bright market where locals set up on blankets selling textiles and toys, grains and greens.
Chinchero has a rich history in weaving tradition.  Here, a cactus paddle inhabited by the cochineal insect.   Used since the 15th century as the dye carmine, it has been an important export since colonial times.  Peru is currently the largest exporter, where worldwide the  use has increased after a waning interest in the 19th century when synthetic dyes replaced traditional methods.  Widely used as food coloring, in cosmetics and in traditional dying methods, cochineal is one of the most stable natural dyes, does not degrade with time, is light and heat stable as well as being oxidation-resistant.  Cochineal, also called carmine, has over 18 natural colors which are created by various additives such as calcium salt, lime juice, water, aluminum or egg white.
Ch’illka is a plant prized for anti-inflamitory and anti-rheumatic properties, as well as creating a range of beautiful green into yellow dyes.  The first dye is the darkest, with subsequent batches lightening as water is added.
This yellow is made from quolla flowers.

“Beard of the rock” moss, found in the dramatic cliffs of Sacred Valley creates a rich ochre.
A ‘test’ spool to check the color of the dye lot.  I think this ombre effect is gorgeous and ready to go- don’t you agree?
I forget the name of this spike covered bush, but the berries produce a wonderfully rich black to navy blue finish.
Sunday afternoons are for kicking it with your ladies, throwing back a few brewski’s.
A while back, we camped at El Molle and met two lovely international families that live there.  All having energetic gringitos, hanging out was fun for adults and munchkins alike!

Elian, 3 1/2, shows off his globos
You have never heard three happier children than Elian, Eva and Coco shrieking in pure joy over the simple pleasure of balloons!  
Originally from Finland- Michelle, her 6 month baby bump, and Eva will return to Australia in a weeks time.   
Kristina, from Sweden, and Marc, from Germany, met each other while in Nepal and lived there for several years exporting crystals and jewelry to Europe.  Elian was born in Nepal, and tiny Alva-Lillith, just 8 days old, was just born here in Peru.
Back in Cusco, Adam set off on a hike with Guy, who is a major adrenaline junkie.  He and his wife Didi set off from Belgium 10 years ago, overlanding their way for a few years before they set up shop in La Paz to guide downhill mountain biking down the “death road” and to open an outdoors store.  After a few years, they again had filled their coffers and became restless- setting off for another few years on the road.  This last time, they set up in Cusco and opened a travel agency… for the past 2.5 years they’ve done so- but just this week was their last.  They set off again for the open road in just 10 days!  
With trusty pal Rusty, they climbed right behind Quinta Lala campground, exploring the beautiful landscapes set around the sacred Inca site Sacsayhuaman.  You can view Guy’s photography here.  
North of Pisac, we followed the road until the houses waned, and the sky opened up.Laguna Para Para, set below high peaks, is at about 4,500 meters- or 14,700 feet!  Sheep, alpaca and llama grazed about, and were herded back to their corrals as biting winds blew across the rock strewn lands.

Morning came, a bright and windless welcome to the day.  The lake lay flat and peaceful beneath the peaks.
We love our GoWesty pop-top tent!  It’s so nice to look out into the world from the comfort of our bedroom!  
We layered up and set off for a morning hike amongst the jaw-dropping beauty all around us.
The local residents were as curious of us as we were of them.
On the left, a Huacaya alpaca stands tall, the other type- Suri alpaca (not shown)- have long, silky almost dreadlock looking locks.  Baby alpaca, having received their first shearing, appear gangly and awkward.  
Stream crossings in Papa’s arms are the best, but little Miss Independent quickly wants down to explore on her own.  We are happy to have such a happy hiker!  
The self-timer option is necessary to capture some family portraits in this remote locale.   These Wy’east gloves from our friends at Poler fit snug so you can still use your digits- Adam can operate his camera, turn pages in a book or put on some snow chains all while keeping his hands toasty warm.  He has the large, and Emily has the size small.
A local farmer almost becomes camouflage in his native surroundings.  
Stone corrals hold up to the hearty elements and stand the test of time.  In this land where so many cultures have lived for so many millennia, it is hard to tell what is modern and what is from the past.  It all seamlessly blends into the present, which is an honoring of the past, an incorporation of age old traditions and methods, and a look to the wild future unknown.  
In the village near the laguna, high altitude fuzzy cactus adorn the fences between yards.
The time has finally come to leave Cusco and the Sacred Valley.  We have made some money with two 24 Hour Bazaars and some other exciting projects (more on that in March) and now, we are biting at the bit to continue the journey south.  So with full hearts, we excitedly push onward, south into Chile.