Well, That Was Fucking Terrible

It’s hard to complain sitting in a five star hotel wrapped in a bright white fuzzy hotel bathrobe, and wearing cute little hotel slippers, but I’m going to try my absolute best!

Saturday we arrived in Cusco, the hotel sent a car to pick us up from the airport which was very nice. The driver worked for a tour company and asked if we wanted to do any tours while we were in Cusco. He had a tour book in the car, and we had already decided we wanted to go to Rainbow Mountain. He took our name, and said he be back tomorrow at 5am to pick us up. He was very pushy and we both got a bit of a dodgy feeling about him, so we decided to visit the tour company office to make sure. Sure enough he was trying to overcharge us for the tour, $50 USD vs. $28 USD. He was clearly going to keep the extra for himself, but that’s between him and his company. We booked a tour to Rainbow Mountain for the next day.

As promised, at 4:30am a large 20 person Mercedes sprinter van showed up, the woman had our name on her list, and we loaded into the van like the cattle that we were.

This is clearly the 4:00am thing to do in Cusco. The vans go from hotel to hotel gathering their tourists before heading out of the city to the different locations. They do this at top speed racing through the cobbled streets without the day to day traffic to contend with. Being a passenger in one of these vans required full participation, it was a core work out trying to stay in one’s seat.

Once the van was full we began the journey to our destination. The journey was also driven at top speeds. Our driver had zero regard for his passenger’s comfort, as he was quite literally drifting the van around corners, tires squealing and all. He was also most comfortable on the wrong side of the road. Passing other cars, vans, even an ambulance (with lights flashing- on its way to the hospital) at one point. He owned the wrong side of the road, the oncoming traffic was merely a small inconvenience.

We stopped for breakfast at what can only be described as a tourist warehouse. Multiple vans stopped here at the same time. We were herded into a large room with long rickety tables and food was rapidly flung in front of us. Everyone had a single gelatinous pancake, and a bowl of old fruit. I ate as much fruit as I could stomach. The coca tea was good.

It was here that we learned that we were not going to Rainbow Mountain. We were in fact on our way to Humantay Lake….the exact same lake that we will hike to during our 7 day trek. Of course by this time we were two hours into a road trip and there was nothing to be done, but go to the lake.

It turns out that there is no tour to Rainbow Mountain on Sunday, but we wanted a tour on Sunday, so we got one! Peruvians are very helpful. They were a little confused as to why we were upset. A tour is a tour!

At the end of the day, despite the 6 hours of nauseating van ride, the hike was at least beautiful. And we got a very good taste of what our next seven days will be like.

The horses were for the tourists who couldn’t make the hike. The poor beasts looked miserable going up, but they seemed to enjoy running down hill.

By the way hiking at altitude is really hard! Our training paid off, but breathing was a bitch. From base to the lake was a 3,000 ft elevation gain. The lake rests at 13,800 ft. It took three breaths during the hike to get the same amount of oxygen as a breath at regular/ accustomed altitude. I could feel the lack of oxygen in my muscles as well. The pressure in my head was the oddest thing. It was in spots. It felt like I was wearing a too-tight hat. The cocoa candy helped, but I was definitely feeling a bit woozy. The tree hour speed-racer van ride home has really put me off of #vanlife, and I’ll be ok with never stepping foot in another van for many many moons. Matt has had almost no issues at all with the altitude, and hasn’t the entire trip. Which is total bull shit in my humble opinion.

Tomorrow we begin our seven day trek!

Thanks for reading my rantings,

Matt and Jill

Arequipa, Peru

We are deeply in love with Arequipa. It is quaint and pretty, the weather is perfection, and the people are kind. We feel safe here and the language has not been a barrier. Most people speak a little English and we speak a little Spanish, and everyone is more than willing to try to communicate. This is our last day here, and while we are excited to see Cusco and get to the Inca Trail, we will be sad to leave Arequipa.

The sunsets here are always phenomenal, so much so, there are many roof top cafes and bars dedicated to watching the sun set and viewing the three surrounding volcanoes. Our first day here was basic sight seeing and getting our bearings.

Yesterday was magical in its own way. Ladies I have to say – Get you a man or woman, who is so dedicated to your hobby that he/she, not only researches yarn and fiber shops in the town that you will be visiting, but finds a factory store, AND then runs to three different ATMs to get enough cash to pay for your haul!

Feast your eyes on the Factory store of Alpaca Mundo. They also had a small museum and a few alpacas that we got to feed!

I spent $85 in USD and in return received about $350 worth of yarn. It was possibly the best day of my life!

We also visited the Monesterio de Santa Catalina and it was beyond beautiful. I would highly recommend paying for the guided tour. We learned so much. When the monastery was founded the tradition was for the second daughter of the family to become a nun and join the convent / monastery. This sounds horrific upon first hearing about it, but throughout the tour we quickly realized that the second daughter was the lucky one. Only wealthy families were able to send their daughters to the monastery, so the nuns had private apartments with maids, cooks, and other household helpers. Their homes and gardens were and still are beautiful.

On our way!!!!!!

We are at the airport getting ready to board our flight! We will fly to Atlanta (Hi Bob and Greg) then to Lima.

I barely slept last night I was so incredibly excited! Although coming face to face with an 11 hour travel day has sobered me significantly. It’s a good thing I packed snacks and knitting, but don’t worry! I left enough room in my bag to bring back the equivalent of an entire alpaca in yarn form.

What’s in the bags you ask? Everything!

Our packing list for the hiking part of the trip is below. Packing for the rest of the trip was fairly basic. Nothing fancy.

We will post updates whenever possible!

Matt and Jill

*Trekking Packing list

Day pack

Sleeping bag

Sleeping pad

Hiking boots

Water reservoir

Spare water bottle

Trekking poles

7- hiking socks

7-hiking shirts

3-travel quick wash underwear

3-hiking pants

Hiking shorts

Wool hat


Sun hat

Rain coat


Rain pants

Wooo zip jacket

2-Long underwear shirt

2 -long underwear





2-rolls of toilet paper



Tumms / pepto



Wet wipes

Dry shampoo powder

Hand sanitizer keychains

*Trail food stuff

7 -Protein bars

Nuun tabs

Salt cap pills

7-Human gel

The Food of PDX

I adore Portland! It is the land of artists, foodies, GF foodie options, food trucks, master gardeners, cute shops, Powell’s Books, and so much more!
I apologize up front for all of the photos of half eaten food. I get so excited by the meal in front of me that I dive right in, and forget to record the beauty for posterity.

Behold the food!

First up Killer Burger   – Peanut butter Pickle Bacon sounds odd, but damn it’s good! And they have a GF bun option! Winning!

I’m not a super wonderful food photographer, it’s me, greasy fingers, fumbling with my phone, trying to take a photo all the while continuing to eat! I am not a gracious or graceful woman.

Pastrami Zombie food truck by SAMMICH was to die for! Also with a GF bread option. Portland makes eating good food so easy, even when you have guts that aren’t down with gluten.


I’ve saved the best for last. Petunia’s. An entire GF bakery, and it’s good! So so so good! Not a bit of sawdust in sight, which is what most GF pastries taste like. I had my first piece of pie in such a long time. It was strawberry rhubarb, and I got a good photo because I was too busy crying tears of joy over the wonder of pie to actually eat it right away.


I think it goes without saying that I’ve been to Salt and Straw a few times now. There are no photos of ice cream, because it’s ice cream and it’s gone before any camera has a chance. Instead here is a selfie with me and a mostly empty cup. It was the seasonal GF Beet Red Velvet Cake with a swirl of ream cheese frosting.


Off to dinner now! More poorly lit, greasy food photos are on their way.

Protein Powder is Life

I arrived in Portland, Oregon on Monday evening, and I am staying with my most delightful friends John (JN) and Ella. You might remember Ella from my first post, she has mostly forgiven me for blatantly trying to use her as my personal guide to Peru. I am staying with them for two weeks, or until they start hinting wildly that it’s time for me and my little black dog to move along. When JN picked me up from the MAX line station his first question after our hellos and hugs, was – “Are you eating all healthy now that you are training, or do we still get to do our Portland food tour as per usual?”  I laughed and laughed and said, “JN have you met me!?! Of course, we are going to do our food tour! It’s why I’m here, it’s what I live for.” He was visibly relieved.  What you need to understand about JN is that he is man with an iron stomach and he loves to eat! As do I, but unfortunately my stomach is not bullet proof like his. First stop was ?Por Que No? a famous Portland taqueria that has the best tacos I’ve ever had in my entire life! Their tortilla chips are so crispy, crunchy, salty and oh so good! After fighting JN for the last few chips in the basket, I then stuffed down two Pescado #1 tacos, and the special taco of the day – I don’t remember the name, I just crammed it in my face. We mowed those tacos. Today’s destination will be Salt and Straw the best ice cream in the whole world! I love Portland.

Later that evening as I lay flopped on the couch, groaning in pain and massaging the taco baby in my belly I started thinking more about JN’s question.  I had to admit that yes, our eating habits had actually changed quite a bit in the last few months. For starters the amount of protein powder that is being consumed is off the charts! I feel hungry all day if I don’t have a protein shake after a workout. Nuun hydration tablets, and SaltStick pills are another new staple. Those were the first few changes. They didn’t feel major, but they were the gateway for the many changes to come.

Friday nights we used to cook a larger meal after a week of rushed slam-it-together dinners. Friday dinner was maybe steak and potatoes, pork chops, a hearty pasta dish, or something along these lines. Now that I am doing long runs on Saturday morning and getting up at the crack of dawn to do so, I can’t eat a heavy meal the night before. Our Friday night meal has become a grilled chicken breast, a side of veggies, and brace yourselves…no ice cream. I don’t know that this is “living my best life”. Who goes to bed without ice cream? And really when did a pint of ice cream last more than a week in our house?! I sincerely don’t recognize the people we’ve become.

Another change, that I don’t actually mind is breakfast. Matt used to skip it all together, now he eats every morning, generally eggs. I used to have a yogurt with a handful of granola for crunch, or a small bowl of oatmeal. Now I’m eating a double serving of plain Greek yogurt, with a whole sliced banana, a fistful of blueberries, a few strawberries -when they were in season, a fistful of mixed nuts, a tablespoon of chia seeds, and a swirl of honey. It actually takes a while to eat it all, but after a big workout I’m still hungry only a few hours later. That’s where an apple with mega schmears of peanut butter come into play. It’s fast, has lots of protein, and when I’m in that freak out hungry mode it goes down quick.

Lunch for me used to be frozen mac and cheese, or something equally as heavy and cheese laden. Now my go-to is salad greens with an entire avocado, a hard-boiled egg, a peach, sliced almonds, and goat cheese. Matt used to go out to eat for lunch most days, or skip it, and then come home ravenous and hangry. Now he is packing fruit, string cheese, nuts, and making lettuce wraps.

Snacks used to be an entire bag of popcorn, now snacks are an entire bag of popcorn and an apple with peanutbutter.

With all the fresh fruit and veggies and $27 cans of protein powder being consumed, you’d think our grocery bill would be sky rocketing right about now, but in reality it’s about the same. We aren’t buying thick cuts of meat, ice cream, organic frozen mac and cheese (which isn’t free, btw), or multiple bags of popcorn. I do miss ice cream and GF frozen donuts, but I don’t feel terrible. In fact, I feel pretty good, and my run time is getting faster.

Obviously, none of the above is going to stop me from stuffing myself silly with all of the wonderful things Portland food trucks offer, but everyone knew that. Please bear with me while this becomes a food blog for the next 10 days. I’ll do my best to post photos from the upcoming Mt. Hood hike we are planning in the midst of the feeding frenzy.

We’re Going to PERU!!!

I have wanted to go to Peru, specifically Machu Picchu, every since I first learned about it in art history class. I don’t remember what exactly drew me to it so immediately as it was 18 years ago, but best guess is the blood sacrifice – fascinating! Also the magnificence of an entire city, so far up in the mountains, it seemed, and still seems totally unreal. As far as daydreams go, getting to Machu Picchu seemed just that, a far off daydream. South America felt too intimidating and too expensive for college age me, and I never reevaluated that intimidation, so I let it hang out for the next eighteen years.  Then I met Ella! A world traveling, roller derby skating, bad ass who was fluent in East L.A. Spanish. She had been to Nepal, Vietnam, and Machu Picchu -several times! She was my golden ticket. I would go with her (she didn’t know this yet, by the way). I would slowly befriend her. First I got in good with her dogs, real good! The poodle still pines for me. Then I got closer and closer to her, until finally I could smell Machu Picchu!  It was about this time she snapped her ankle during a derby practice and after six years skating claimed her knees were too bad to make the climb again. I was devastated! All those years of friendship – wasted!  I joke. Ella is one of my closest friends and will always be. Machu Picchu or not, she won’t shake me anytime soon!

Enter my husband, my dear dear delightful husband. Winner of the “Best Husband of the Year” award three years and counting. He cooks, he cleans toilets, and he is a budgeting genius! I still don’t know why, and at this point I don’t care enough to ask, but one day he said, “Let’s go to Peru and hike to Machu Picchu,” I said, “YAAAAASSSSSSS!”

Side note: When he said hike to Machu Picchu – he didn’t mean take the train to the top of the mountains and hike the few hundred yards to the city. He meant start at the bottom of the Andes Mountains and spend the next SEVEN days hiking though Peru where eventually we will come over a crest and on the last day walk down the mountain ending our journey in Machu Picchu.  So, um yeah we are going to Peru!

Stay tuned for my next post titled “Panic Training -What Prepping for a 51 mile, 7 day Trek Looks Like, when Popcorn is a Food Group, and Walking to the Bus Stop Counts as Exercise!”