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brooklyntropicali brooklyntropicali

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Susan Ripley  💕digital nomad ✧ social media mgr ⬖ latin america-phile ✨full-time slow traveler 🌴latin america travel blog ⇟the best mezcal distilleries in Oaxaca

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The high altitude foliage is really different from the jungle-y foliage I've been used to when traveling. It's still abundant, but lush isn't the right word. It's more brown, lower to the ground, and more grassy.
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There's something about it that reminds you that it's hard to live at this elevation. But somehow, some plants and animals can figure it out.
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It's been awhile since I posted a bugambilia photo, so...🌺

These lovelies are in the little town of Ollantaytambo, where we've been staying this last week. We've been catching up on sleep and work, doing some day trips to even more ruins, and absorbing local life in this little town. For some reason, literally EVERY restaurant has "wood fired pizza". It's actually really comical. Only one we've found is good though. ☺️
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Yes, there were a lot of people at Machu Picchu, but yes, it was still amazing.

On our 3rd and last day with @ayni_peru on this tour, we came back up to MP after a restful nights sleep and much needed shower in Aguas Calientes. We first took the obligatory tourist shots at this overlook point. We patiently waited our turn, and then a giant man decided to sprawl out and fall asleep in this small space. (??) Here I am trying not to step on him.

After that we headed down to the ruins, and our guide Greco taught us about the function of this city - how it was a stopover point between Cusco and the jungle, and the layout was strategic to protect itself from invaders.

Then we wandered, hung out with some llamas, and headed back to Aguas Calientes to grab some lunch and catch our train.

Btw, do you know how llamas got their name? The story is that the Spanish arrived and asked the Quechua people what these animals were called - "Como se llama?" (What are they called?). The Quechua people, not understanding Spanish, repeated "llama?" - and so the animal was called llama (pronounced here "yama") from then on. ☺️

Finishing up my stories marathon series for this tour today...
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On our second day with @ayni_peru we hiked the Inca trail. It was definitely challenging - my health app says I climbed 190 floors that day - but it was also amazing.

We climbed up and across the sides of mountains, weaving up and up, eventually ending up in a more green and lush climate. We walked up through one of the most impressive Inca sites I've seen, Wiñay Wayna (why doesn't anyone talk about this site?? photos of it later), and then finally climbing up to the Sun Gate - the hiking entrance to Machu Picchu.

The Sun Gate is located above and still a bit far away from the site, but you have an epic view of the ruins, the mountains, and the valley.

This was my favorite moment of my 2 days at Machu Picchu. Here's the tricky thing about this site - it's crowded. Really, really crowded. I've never visited a tourist site with so many people. That's not to say you shouldn't go because it's downright magical. The ruins and the landscape absolutely live up to the hype.

But for me, the most magical moment was seeing Machu Picchu for the first time from afar with only a handful of other people around me (only those hiking the Inca trail enter through the Sun Gate. All regular visitors enter on a bus up the winding switchback you can see on the left side of the photo). If you can, you should definitely experience Machu Picchu by entering through a hike. If you don't have a lot of time, you can just do 1 full day of hiking like we did, ending in MP late afternoon. Then you head down to Aguas Calientas town for a hot shower and a nice nights sleep before coming back up the next day for a full exploration of the site. ✨
I'm going nuts in my stories again today. Head over if you're curious what the Inca trail and Sun Gate look like.
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Last week I had one of the most jam-packed, culture-filled, nature-overloaded weeks, and I'm still reeling from it. First - we did a 3 day tour with @ayni_peru that started with visiting some important sites in the Sacred Valley, taking a chicha workshop, and then ended with hiking the Inca Trail to the infamous Machu Picchu.
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So the first day, we started our tour at the Salineras salt pools, tucked into a remote part of the Sacred Valley. These salt pools on the side of a mountain have been used by locals since Inca times to harvest salt. There is a spring of natural salty water that they route into these pools. Once the water evaporates in the sun over a few days, they can harvest the dried out salt. 🌸
Aren't these variations of beige and rose so pretty?
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Since I had almost no wifi last week, I'm going to be coinciding my stories each day with the actual day on the tour. Head over there to see the locals working in these salt pools, to see what it's like to make chicha (what's chicha? I'll be talking more about this pre-hispanic drink soon!), and for glimpses of the dramatic mountain and waterfall we visited during our homestay with a local family.
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◆On My Mind: Responsible Travel + Mexico's Earthquake◆
Sorry, this is a long one, but....

Cusco is filled with tons of little foot path staircase alleys that lead steeply up the mountain. They're very charming, and it's fun to wander and find little shops or cafes. But like many other South American cities, the further up the mountain you go, the more favelas (or poor communities) you'll find. That's good to know for a couple reasons:

1️⃣) it's good to keep safety in mind (though I haven't felt remotely unsafe here yet. But I always use common sense)
2️⃣) It's good to keep a perspective on the country you are visiting. Most of us that travel have the privilege of coming from a country where things like electricity and running water are basic and expected. ◇
I want to make responsible travel one of my top priorities. Maybe that's eating at a locally owned eatery, or staying at an airbnb or guesthouse run by locals. Or making sure the tour company we use is operated ethically.

I feel so lucky to live this way and experience these places, I want to find more ways to give back. I'd love to hear your thoughts - comment with any ideas you have to give back while traveling. I can always do a better job with this.

On a related note, my heart is with Mexico this weekend. Much of the south, including my home away from home in Oaxaca, is suffering from destruction after the biggest earthquake in 100 years struck off the coast of Chiapas. At least 61 people have died and many people in the states of Oaxaca and Chiapas are without basic medical or food supplies or have lost their homes. If you want to help, check out the link in @thecatrinkaproject 's bio. .
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So many blue doors...Almost every building in Cusco. Blue is my favorite color so I'm totally into it.
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This week has been epic. I've seen so much bucket list stuff, spent time with awesome locals, learned about this ancient culture, visited waterfalls, ruins, salt pools, hiked a couple 16.5k ft mountains, camped in high altitude wilderness...I'm kind of exhausted. But in the best way possible. I have about 120480340 photos to go through so I'll be at my computer if you need me. .
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Another spontaneous day trip last week was to the ruins at Tipón. Everyone I talked to said we HAD to go to Tipón, so we hopped on a bus and headed over. I kept being surprised how easily it was to take public transportation to some of the archaeological sites. You can totally take the bus to a lot of them if you're comfortable mixing in with locals and speaking a little Spanish.

The ruins here were in a setting that was just as spectacular as those at Chinchero. Like, the Incas really just found the most awe-inspiring beautiful spots and decided to build cities on the edges of mountains. I think this is both impressive and a little crazy. But mostly impressive. ✨
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The color scheme in Cusco is white with cobblestone and blue. Blue blue blue. Mostly doors, but also windows and other accents. I'm assuming the city is ordaining this blue rule, but I'm totally down with it.
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Also, there are so many ornate doors here. I could make a whole series about them.
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In other news, I'm about to go off the grid and explore the Sacred Valley, do a homestay, hike to Machu Picchu and Rainbow Mountain this week with @ayni_peru ! I'll be mostly without wifi, but will be popping my head in and out when I can and posting as many stories as my 2G allows. 😊
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Remember when I visited that ex-monastery in Oaxaca earlier this month and said I had to keep finding convents and monasteries all over? Well I found the convent in Cusco, and it's just as beautiful as all the others I've visited in this part of the world. I don't know if the Spaniards were just really feeling inspired when they built them, or if they felt they needed to make a really beautiful place since they wouldn't be getting out much. Whatever it was worked.✨
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The most memorable of these ex-convent musuems I've visited are in Antigua, Guatemala (2 of them), Oaxaca (another 2), and now Cusco. I visited 3 museums here in Cusco the other day, and this was definitely my favorite. Also, I could just hang out in this garden all day reading a book. ✨
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So I saw my first Inca ruins this last week! I've seen so many Mayan, Aztec, Zapotec (and other indigenous ruins in Mexico/Central America), but there is something about seeing Inca ruins that has me sooo excited. It might just be that it's new to me. But also this landscape, and the history behind it just makes the whole experience pretty otherworldly.

These are the ruins at Chinchero (see me down there on the bottom?!). We've been treating our first week and a half in Cusco reallly casually - not planning anything and just trying to acclimate to the elevation, do some work, absorb the city life, and maybe do some cool things nearby. Last weekend, I decided we were going to head to the Sunday market in a little nearby village called Chinchero, that my friend Alix told me about.
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So with very little planning, we hopped on a local bus, headed an hour to Chinchero, and explored the village. Other than an awesome Sunday market, this town also boasts weaving collectives, a Spanish colonial church, oh yeah, and some really impressive Inca ruins. I didn't expect much, mostly because I hadn't done much research, but they really blew me away.

The setting is insane. You're already at over 12,000 feet, and there are gorgeous, rugged mountains like this looming in the background. The ruins are all in the terraced style that is typical here. And there is a steep drop off into a canyon. This was definitely an amazing introduction into the area's Inca ruins.✨
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