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Trip Report Chachapoyas, Trujillo, Huaraz and more in 2 weeks part 1

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My husband, 11-year old twin daughters and I had an amazing trip to Peru in early May. I wanted to share our experiences because I benefited so much from reading other people's reports. Also, we have some dietary issues and I thought some people might benefit from learning about how we handled those. Unfortunately my memory of prices is a little sketchy at this point so all of the prices I quote are my best estimate. We used frequent flier miles to buy three of the tickets to Lima. Overall the trip ended up costing our family of four somewhere between $5000-6000. We were not trying to be budget travelers, but we also avoided super luxury hotels. The prices I quote should be enough to give you an idea of costs, but please don't rely on them. The trip was entirely independent, and the only guides we hired were found at the locations we were visiting. We made plenty of mistakes. Nothing bad happened to us really, but sometimes we put ourselves in the position where something bad could have happened, and I have ideas in retrospect of how we could have avoided those situations.

My first comment is that you absolutely must speak some Spanish to follow the route we took independently and enjoy yourself at all. Our Spanish is limited, but we managed. It would have been more fun, though, if we had started our Spanish courses at least year before the trip. (I spoke a little Spanish before we started the classes, and my husband had high school and college Spanish plus he has always been our designated Spanish speaker when we travel to Spanish speaking countries.)

I went down a week before my family to study Spanish at Amigos Spanish School in Cusco. I flew Delta directly from Atlanta to Lima and then Star Peru from Lima to Cusco. Making the reservations with Star Peru was difficult. I spent quite a while on the website, but then I finally called the Miami office and made the reservations. Our Star Peru flight was rescheduled, but it just delayed our departure from Lima by an hour. Overall I'm glad I pursued the ticket with Star Peru because it was so much cheaper than LAN--about 1/3 of the price.

Our two-week family vacation is the focus of this trip report, however. I flew back to Lima on April 30 on Star Peru again. I had reservations at Peru Star Boutique Hotel in San Isidro, and I had arranged transportation from the airport through the hotel, but there was no one to meet me at the airport. (The hotel ended up refunding my $25 fee for the transportation even though they did send a driver, but he and I missed each other somehow.) I found an official taxi easily enough and paid the relatively steep price ($30) for a very nice car and extremely personable driver. The driver, like most people we met in Peru were quite willing to speak to us slowly and put up with our limited language skills. If they knew any English they usually preferred to speak to us in English, but they were also willing to help us along in Spanish. My family joined me later that night.

Peru Star is a wonderful hotel. For just under $100 a night we had a beautiful, large two bedroom apartment with a full kitchen in a quiet neighborhood. The hotel restaurant was pricey compared to others, but it was so convenient. Also, we were within walking distance of two nice grocery stores which allowed us to stock up on emergency snacks for my vegetarian daughter. One thing we rely on when traveling with her is milk for protein, but in Peru fresh milk was extremely rare. I was able to fill a duffel bag with shelf-stable milk boxes and yogurt drinks that came in handy. (She ended up eating A LOT of omelets.)

The next day we were leaving on an overnight bus for Huaraz at 11 pm so we had a day to fill. It was a legal holiday in Peru so we couldn't get into the Huaca Huallamarca (a restored pyramid near our hotel), so we just walked around the neighborhood and looked at the huaca from outside the fence. We ate lunch at Tanta, and I got my first taste of good Peruvian food. (I was not impressed with the bland, salty food I had in Cusco.)

After lunch we caught a taxi on the street to go to the zoo. Unfortunately we didn't know the name of the zoo we wanted to see. (My driver the day before had shown me a zoo that he recommended for us.) Our driver was very chatty and we had a long time to chat because we drove and drove and drove on expressways through areas I'm sure most tourist don't see until we finally pulled up in front of a zoo in what seemed to be a dodgy area. The driver looked at our faces as we debated whether to get out of the cab or not, and asked us quite innocently if this was not the zoo we meant. Did we mean Parque de las Leyendas? Yes we said, we must have meant that zoo. We had a complete tour of Lima for $30 by the time we got to the zoo we had in mind. Our driver may or may not have misled us on purpose. We did get to see a lot of Lima--including some areas that our driver warned us never to go near without a good driver we could trust. If you want to avoid an adventure like ours, just stick to a driver arranged by your hotel.

My children felt sorry for the animals at the zoo. (I did too.) So we didn't stay long. The enclosures were really small, but the animals all seemed healthy. There were no other recognizable foreign tourists at the zoo. There were interesting ruins all around the zoo.

We took another taxi to Parque Reserva to see the Magic Water Circuit fountain and light show. The fountains were fun to watch, but it was cold once the sun went down, and we weren't wearing sweaters. If you're in Lima with a free evening it is definitely worth doing. Afterwards we called our cab driver from the day before to take us to pick up our bags and to the Cruz del Sur bus station. I purchased our Cruz del Sur tickets online before we left. The bus station was a little confusing because you have to turn in the vouchers you print out off the web and exchange them for tickets before you get on the bus.

We had cama seats on the bus. There was a movie for a while, but once that ended, we all slept quite well on the bus and arrived in Huaraz around 5 am. The driver sent from The Lazy Dog Inn was there to meet us as expected. Again I had arranged reservations and transportation before we left.

The Lazy Dog Inn is amazing. We spent three nights and four days there. The setting is breathtaking. The food was great and all of our dietary issues were handled beautifully. I had emailed Diana, our hostess, ahead of time and worked out what we could and couldn't eat. It was really nice to visit with the other guests over dinner. Diana took one of my daughters and me on a great horseback ride. Sadly, my other daughter was laid low with altitude sickness so we didn't get to hike around the area like we had planned. Diana went out of her way to help us. We found a place to rent an oxygen tank in Huaraz, and that helped my sick one. We did take a day trip over to Chavin de Huantar. The drive over was really interesting but the road was terrible. Our time at Lazy Dog cost around $400 for lodging and 2 meals a day. The horse back ride was extra, and we did leave a tip for the staff.

More later.

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