Happy Thanksgiving to all of you out there who celebrate it! Even though it's another year where we're unable to eat turkey with family, at least we are in the beautiful and historic city of Cusco, the old capital of the Incas.
Ecuador is one of the smaller countries of South America, but even so, a whole lot of biodiversity and culture is packed into its borders. You can pretty much come to Ecuador and fulfill your South American dream, no matter what it is: from meeting Andean peoples in ponchos and bowler hats, to swimming with pink dolphins of the Amazonian rivers, to exploring Colonial Spanish cities perfectly painted and preserved, and you can even see whales, dolphins, or the Blue-Footed Boobies of Ecuador's coast made famous by the Galapagos. In Ecuador, there's a little bit of something for everyone here.
When it comes to Peru, the Inca steal the show. Machu Picchu, Cusco, and the Inca Trail are all things that usually come to mind when thinking of Peru. I certainly never pictured glacier-capped mountains and strikingly-blue alpine lakes tucked amidst them. But I do now.
Only the local Peruvians who have been farming these high-altitude slopes for centuries, overlanders like ourselves, and the most adventurous of travelers ever delve into this region. It's called the Cordillera Blanca (meaning white mountain range), and has some of the highest mountain passes in the world.
I now believe that anyone who comes to Peru just to go to Cusco and Machu Picchu is only seeing the face of Peru, the one in all the postcards and brochures. But they will be missing out on the heart of Peru, the one where it's only you and the llamas standing between stone ruins of long lost civilizations, and where red-cheeked babies peek out from the colorful swaddles on local women's backs. It's where white-washed peaks blend into the clouds and turquoise lakes dot the landscape.