Explorer’s Corner: Honeymoon South America

Megan and Tom recently returned from their perfect post wedding vacay, a honeymoon South America style – they climbed the Inca Trail to the majestic archeological site of Machu Picchu, recuperated in Cusco, and ended their travels kayaking on Lake Titicaca.

A big thank you to Tom for the amazing images and to Megan for her post trip post on the lovely blog změna (visit for the full story of their itinerary). Below you’ll find a smattering of our favorite photos and excerpts.

“I knew we wanted to go with a small outfitter rather than a big-box outfitter, we wanted personal attention, we wanted reliability, we wanted to ensure the outfitter compensated their staff fairly and they worked under the best possible conditions, and – most of all – we wanted an adventure crafted especially for us full of authenticity and just the right balance of grit and comfort. I was hesitant at first, as neither of us had ever done organized travel, and weren’t completely jazzed about it because we like to do our own thing/travel off-the-beaten-path, though I knew this trip would be a different kind of trip.”

“…it was Peru that we were particularly enthralled about exploring. The rich history, the ultra-powerful and incredibly intellectual/resourceful Incas, the stunning and vibrant landscape, the warm culture…we found all of these things about Peru, and more, captivating.”

 “On day 1 we enjoyed getting acquainted with the food (eating Alpaca – yum), coca tea, village and surroundings, altitude and more…”

“We played with village children, ate cuy (guinea pig) for lunch, learned to drop-spin and dye alpaca and sheep skin and watched the weavers in awe, and danced with the villagers…but the most memorable part for me was when Gregorio and his wife took three coca tea leaves in their hand, blessed them and gave them as an offering to Pachamama (mother earth).”

 “I felt the energy in this valley and knew I was beyond blessed to be able to tackle this trek.”

(Megan is pictured here wearing a pack by Ethnotek – a local Minnesota company started by Jake and Josh, who we recently befriended at the Midwest Mountaineering Expo.)

“One of the great things about going with Knowmad was that it meant our journey would look slightly different than everyone else’s…reason being is that the first day we were on an alternate path than the rest of the individuals who start the trek. The first day finds trekkers on a trail that isn’t the original Inca Trail – it is a dirt path (not rocky like the original Inca Trail) and rather than following the rest of the gang, we were on the opposite side of the Urubamba River (a partially navigable headwater of the Amazon River) and the only individuals we encountered were members of our team.”

“Awakened by the sound of roosters bright and early, and the sound of our porters outside of our tent saying, ‘Coca Tea?!’ (this is a wake-up call we quickly grew to love), we were ready to tackle the ascent to our Day 2 campsite Llulluchapampa.”

“As we ascended the mountain, we started to note the change in our surroundings, entering the cloud forest that houses the Quena tree (Polilepis), the highest altitude tree in the world, found in the Andes.”

“Juan Carlos informed us that we still had a couple of hours before we arrived at Intipunku, The Sun Gate. To be quite frank, I thought to myself ‘Eff, there’s more?!’ On top of that, he informed us that there would be a portion of the trek leading to Intipunku that South Americans affectionately call ‘The Gringo Killer’. When we arrived to The Sun Gate it was around 3 in the afternoon, which I loved. I was so thankful we decided to go on the trek with Knowmad Adventures, as arriving at sunset when crowds were beginning to die down a bit more was ideal. We walked through Intipunku and maneuvered around the tourists who had taken the easier route and at that moment I laid eyes on the vast ruins of Machu Picchu, The Lost City of the Incas. Oh my. Speechless. Really.”

“I will tell you that the shower we had at El Mapi felt like the best thing that had ever happened to us. We were absolutely beat. El Mapi is a boutique hotel owned by the same company as the Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel, known as Inkaterra. It was Jordan’s suggestion to opt for a stay at Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel rather than The Sanctuary, and for that I was so grateful. Not only did it save us money, but it was the best advice I got from Jordan on that first phone call we had, and his honesty around that was the reason we ended up deciding to go on this journey with them. We fell asleep early that night. Feeling clean and full of good food and a renewed energy.”

“…we grabbed the bus to Machu Picchu (Old Mountain) once again to climb Wayna Picchu (Young Mountain), which is about a 1,000 ft ascent. I took one look around me as we waited in line and thought if these people (again, mom jeans) could make the ascent, I could. It was difficult, but it was worth it for the incredible view at the summit. And I’d say the climb down was almost as daunting as the way up.  That afternoon, we grabbed our stuff from El Mapi and Juancarlos walked us to the beyond-belief-stunning Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel. One word: WHOA. Y’all MUST stay here. I will not stay at a more freaking spectacular hotel than this in my life. Inkaterra owns more than 5 hectares of land and it is a nature preserve acting as home to numerous bird species, flora and fauna, including the most varieties of orchids in the world. It is gorgeous. The food is delicious. The service is awesome. The thermal baths to-die-for. And the spa…ahhh…we took advantage of the spa (and the Andean sauna)…twice. It was literally heaven on earth. A true sanctuary.”


“We found ourselves back in Cusco, which I was eager to explore as I’d heard so many great things. Cusco blew us away. We fell in love with the vibe of the city, the coffee, the alpaca (both the tender meat in our tummies as well as the textiles), the people, the food…”

“Early the next morning we set off for Lake Titicaca, over the the Llachon Peninsula where we’d enter our kayaks and begin our sea-kayaking adventure to Taquile Island. Aside from a name that makes many adults giggle, Lake Titicaca is the world’s highest navigable lake in the world, at 12,500ft. of elevation. The water is a rich, beautiful blue, and is oh-so-clean glacier run-off from surrounding Peruvian and Bolivian mountain ranges.”

“The Uros Floating Islands are a sight to be seen. These individuals have lived on these islands, fashioned from tortora reed, for hundreds of years.”

“And I thought to myself, ‘This, right here, is the reason I travel. I travel to open my eyes. To share stories of faraway cultures. To share stories of the people.’”