One of the most beautiful places you can go in the entire world: Laguna 69 in Huaraz, Peru. But you have to work for it. At 15,000 feet, you need to be stuffing coca leaves and coca tea and coca candies into your mouth constantly. The hike to the lake started out pretty easy, taking pictures, talking about how amazing everything looked, passing cows and horses and beautiful scenery. As we followed everyone in front of us on the path, it became increasingly harder to catch your breath and the incline steepened. Conversation pretty much slowed to a stop for the three of us by the end. But with every turn on the path, we could see more and more of the mountains surrounding us, and look back down at how far up we had come. We started to see the glaciers on the top of the mountains, but the entire time we were hiking the mountains were so tall we could never see the top. It took about three hours to “hike” (crawl at snail’s pace taking frequent breaks) to the top. But when we finally got there, it was pretty obvious why it’s a World Heritage Site and why people come from around the world.

After a granola bar and an hour long mouth-gaped-open exploration of the lake, we walked two hours to the bus feeling like tough seasoned hikers.