The Epic High Altitude Display of Sibinacocha Lake

After a full day of adventures on another memorable road trip in Peru, we made the final ascent past Sibinacocha Lake. It is not too often that we go past the same attraction twice, as we usually continue our way to the next destination.

In the case, our journey through the Inca Road of Qhapaq Ñan was only a day trip. Without a complete loop to take us back to our stay in Sicuani, the only option was to turn around and reverse the journey.

With the views offered by the day trip, no one was disappointed to spend another several hours basking in the scenery. However, it had been a long day and we knew that the drive home would not allow for as many stops as we made on the way up. The windy dirt roads were not a place we wanted to be found after dark or with a change of inclement weather.

It was agreed that we would enjoy the views from the windows without stopping to take more photographs. As on any great adventure, I think these words offer a guarantee that we will indeed see something out of this world and impossible not to photograph.

Just a few moments back on the road, we rose the cusp where the Sibinacocha Lake is cradled. Much to our delight, the lingering clouds from earlier in the day had been chased away to the far edges of the mountain range. The sun cast her rays over the water and the lake shone like a dazzling gem in the sky.

Iced mountains circled the lake, rising above the earth like a crown. It took only a few shots from the window before I insisted that I must get out. I tumbled from the car and stood temporarily stunned by the majestic beauty.

The lake twinkling like the sea, shimmering in colors I thought were owned only by the Mediterranean. In its framework were more white peaks than I could count. From every direction, the snow-covered tips pulled at my eyes vying for my attention. It was impossible to choose the most impressive of them all.

Frias Family Landcruiser


I stood on the dirt road and raised my arms to the side, attempting to stretch myself as far as the views. To my husband and our friend, it was essential that they get out and breathe in this experience. As stunning as the Sibinacocha Lake and the Andes Mountains had been earlier in the day, this experience trumped it 100 fold.

I have always been a lover of lakes and easily impressed by mountains. We have missed several in Peru for varying reasons. But, this place makes up for it. It is like none other and won’t soon be forgotten. The expanse of just a few minutes, it quickly ranked as my favorite place in all of Peru. So far.


Driving the Inca Road of Qhapaq Ñan

The journey begins in the small town of Sicuani, South East of Cusco. On this outing, we did not know that we would venture through the Qhapaq Ñan. An isolated section of the Inca Road.

This and every expedition happened in our vintage Landcruiser, outfitted for a destination of full-time travel, or #vanlife if you like. It is a vessel with memories of its own, of culture and adventures, friendship and family. We call this portal to the world, our beloved ‘Magma’.

She is red and slow and sure. As sure as the last year and the past 13,000 kilometers across Ecuador and Peru. As slow and powerful as the coagulated drops of blood that seep from a volcano spilling all her secrets.

The roads she takes us on are often narrow and forgotten, rustic and undiscovered. The memories she delivers in these far-off places are poignant discoveries of the innards of the earth. Through her, we find ourselves lost in the veins of the last meaningful societies and the final stretches of land undisturbed by man.

Cusco, Peru Road Trip

And on this day, like so many others, we sing songs of merriment as we drift away from the paved streets into the mountains of obscure embankments and rutted roads. On a whim, we joined noggins with another traveling spirit, to plan an adventure without a plan.

We don’t know much. We just know of a lake that floats in the sky and of a dusty trail that will lead us there.

The final hints of Sicuani fade behind us like the last reflections in a fogged mirror. The sprawling countryside floods our senses with visions of a land unravished and a life more simple than we can understand. People with warm faces and cheerful clothing moving about the picture with purpose and admiration for the earth.
Indigenous Children of Peru

The farther we follow the trail, the fewer sightings of our kinship are to be found. The echoes of the valleys offer only words via hoof prints and winds tickling the tips of the grass. Between us, we only offer poetic sighs of awe and bewilderment.

The pastures lose their footing at the shoulders of the mountain. But, the terraces refuse to end their climb. Shelves of green dangle from the tops of the last emerald peaks. Perfectly carved steps catching the corners of the sunlight and cradling the water from the sky. Incredibly, not carved by man but instead formed by an undefined creation of nature.

And then, the green color of life slips away into the abyss, replaced by vibrant yellows and grays that signify life in the thinner air of the heights. We are high and it is cold. From the parallels beneath our feet are the striking highlights of snow bathed peaks.

We can sense that we are not in the heavens yet, but somehow we are no longer of this world.  In a place where sheer slabs of mountains should reign the lands, we find once again the impossible reality of rolling plains. Golden grasslands dotted with a million glistening lakes, reflecting the skies like the looking glasses of angels.

Cradled by the peaks in these plains of the sky, is the largest breeding area for alpacas in all of  Peru.  It is Spring, birthing season during the months of February and March. Little bundles of fur in herds by the hundreds flit across the mountain plains, hop across the road, and stare in wonder at us, their intruders.

With every corner, another misty pool of water offers confusion about where and how to find the gem of the sky, Sibinicocha Lake.  How can it be that just one lake can be singularly more breathtaking than all of this?


We peer at the signs interrupting the view, squinting our eyes to translate the words and their meaning. We have reached an elevation of 4, 780 meters or 15,682 feet.  This is an altitude record for us in our Magma. As the information sinks in, all at once we notice the wavy red letters at the top of the sign spelling out “Qhapaq Ñan”.

The words are clearly not Spanish and I am confused. But, our friend, our traveling companion whispers the words into the air. They swirl in the space between us like a secret meant to be held in. We must repeat it to each other, her, my husband, and I for it settle in. Qhapaq Ñan.

THE Inca Road. It covers more than 30,000 km and 6 South American countries.  It was designed and created by the Inca civilization over several centuries as the main infrastructure of trade between the nations. This relationship still exists today between connected villages and centers of trade. The road has been noted by UNESCO world heritage as one of the most extreme geographical terrains in the world.

Suddenly, it didn’t matter anymore if we found the Sibinacocha Lake. We had found the  Qhapaq Ñan Inca Road. This means more to us than any archeological site we had seen in all of Peru. We were in the path of history and humanity in the remote landscapes of the Andes Mountains. As overlanders, this trail is the holy grail of South America.

We did eventually come to the Sibinacocha Lake. The 22nd highest lake in the world. The name means “whistle lagoon” in the native Quechua dialect. On the first pass, it did indeed whistle to us. Even in the overcast conditions, the sheer magnificence was undeniable. We paused to ingest the magnitude of the place before heading farther down the mountain for a lunch break.

But, the only way to Sicuani was to reverse the same route that we had spent the day traveling up. In the moments between our first glimpse and our second, a whole different world was unveiled. The  Sibinacocha Lake paired up with the brilliant sun and the surrounding mountains in an epic display of heaven and earth. It was the most incredible vision of a natural landscape we have seen in Peru thus far. So much so, that it deserves a post of its own.

Come back in a few days for the impressive reveal of Sibinacocha Lake.

Swimming in the Colcamayo Thermal Pools 

We have officially lost count of how many thermal pools we have visited. Due to the high volcanic activity of both Ecuador and Peru, it is easy to find public thermal pools all over the place. Our most recent visit was to the Colcamayo thermal pools in Santa Teresa, Peru.

The pools are heated by warm underground water sources that are usually full of natural minerals. For this reason, many locals will have strong beliefs in the healing properties of these waters.

Many of the thermal pools we have visited are only warm at best. But, these pools were nice at toasty with temperatures between 104-111 degrees Fahrenheit. These are also the first pools we have visited that were crystal clear and with a natural sandy and rocky floor. Continue reading Swimming in the Colcamayo Thermal Pools 

An Unexpected Farewell to our Nomadic Dog, Dante

It’s never easy to make a post like this. Even when the right words are swirling around in my head, they never come out right on paper (or screen). Putting it into words makes it all too real.

On Saturday, on our way out of the village of Machu Picchu we suddenly and unexpectedly had to say Goodbye to our beloved friend and family member, Dante.

Continue reading An Unexpected Farewell to our Nomadic Dog, Dante

Visiting Machu Picchu with Kids

Just a few weeks ago, we still believed that visiting Machu Picchu with kids was going be a challenge that we weren’t willing to take. It seemed like a lot to ask of our kids, to go on a difficult hike for several hours….and likely in the rain.

In addition, it seemed like a rather awkward journey to come as overlanders into a village that is literally a no-car zone. Our vehicle is our home and our life, and to leave it outside of this excursion felt uncomfortable and bizarre. To leave it parked in the jungle for a few days while we trekked into Aguas Calientes (the village of Machu Picchu) seemed risky and unreasonable.




And to add another insult to our planning, we learned that it was also not possible to bring our dog into either the village or the ruins. Machu Picchu is part of the reserve that for good reason does not allow dogs to enter. The only way into Aguas Calientes is by train, a train that says our dog is too large for boarding.

Continue reading Visiting Machu Picchu with Kids

We Made it to the Village of Machu Picchu!!

Yesterday was a long day for us getting to the base of Machu Picchu where the bustling village of Aguas Calientes lies.

It meant starting the day before the sun was up, at 5 am! That is the second time we have done this in a week. We are getting more and more adventurous all the time. After all, we have the world to see and there is no time to waste!

We took a 4.5-hour taxi ride all the way from Cusco to the Machu Picchu Hydro-electrica. This is the very last stop for through traffic on the destination to the Inca City. At this point, anyone who enters farther must do so on foot or by train.

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For us, the train was out of the question, because our dog Dante exceeds the weight limit for dogs allowed on the train.That means the only way in for our family, was to walk alongside the 11 Km of track that leads to the village of Machu Picchu also know as Aguas Calientes (Or, “Hot Waters!”). By the way, 11 Kilometers is nearly 7 miles.

We carried two backpacks with all the stuff that 4 people and a dog need for 3 nights and 4 days. This is the very first time we have done a backpacking trip like this, and boy it was not easy! Carlos wound up carrying the kids most of the way…and when he wasn’t carrying them, he carried my bag!

Luckily, we never got caught in a jungle downpour, although it did mist on us pretty much the whole way. It took a very long 3.5 hours for us to make the 11-mile trek. But, we were so happy to make it before the sun went down!

It was true bliss to check into our incredible tree-house suite at the Rupa Wasi Ecolodge. We were totally crashed by 8 pm! Thanks to our partnership with Arrivedo, we get to relax in style and with an amazing view for 3 nights.

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Today, we got our tickets for tomorrow’s epic adventure to see the ruins of “the Last Inca City”…MACHU PICCHU!

Hiking the Salkantay Trek with Kids!

Since we have arrived in the Sacred Valleys surrounding Cusco, we have really put our kids to the test with hiking! But, this week, we pushed them a little harder. We had the opportunity to take the first part of the Salkantay Trek with the kids. This short but steep climb is the gateway to the Humantay Lake.

Lately, we have been taking the kids on all sorts of hikes in Peru. We have hauled them through many high-altitude ruins and natural landscapes to be sure that we see all the Sacred Valley has to offer. The kids have proven to not only be total troopers but to actually love the excursions!

This hike was a biggie though, as the whole family did a MAJOR walk in the cold and rain. It is the great accomplishment for anyone to complete the initial part of the Salkantay Trek, up to the Humantay Lake.  And for the kids, even though they didn’t walk a lot, it was a massive feat.

Continue reading Hiking the Salkantay Trek with Kids!

#Vanlife, Home Life, or Backpacker Life?!

#Vanlife, Home Life, or Backpacker Life?!
This past week has been a strange whirlwind and a topsy-turvy twirl of lifestyles. As you already know, we primarily live the #vanlife… living a minimalism lifestyle from the back of our Landruiser and in tents with a healthy mix of hostel life added in.
But, this week we were so blessed to live in a house again quite by surprise. As part of my Arrivedo writing gig, we arrived at this location not quite realizing that our accommodations would be a full 2-story suite with all the comforts of home. Full kitchen, two bedrooms, a sunroom and even a washing machine and a yard!
I have been realizing all sorts of mixed feelings. I almost forgot what home life means, and I even enjoyed those most mundane tasks like making beds, sweeping floors, and doing dishes. It was nice to a have neighborhood and a family that adopted us for the carnival festivities. Funny the things you don’t know you’re missing until they are in your hands again.

Continue reading #Vanlife, Home Life, or Backpacker Life?!

I Say Zapatos, You Say Zapotes

 I Say Zapatos, You Say Zapotes

So it happens that I have come to find a certain fondness for one particular fruit stand over the rest. It certainly isn’t one anyone else would notice. Especially not in this region of Ecuador; where every imaginable dusty street corner is home to one. And then some.

Fruit is everywhere here and I am in heaven. Bruising in a basket in any tienda window, carefully displayed beneath palapa stands on the highway, dangling from beneath umbrellas attached to bicycle carts, even bobbing to and fro in the back of makeshift pickup trucks. Fruit is life here. It is the essence on the wind, swirled up into the salty air, in a combination of nature’s most intoxicating perfume.

Continue reading I Say Zapatos, You Say Zapotes

Tales of a Nomadic Family ***Currently in PERU***