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Trip Report DCD's trip to Peru: what a beautiful country

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I'm now at the Miami airport with a long layover and will start this trip report.

After a terrific Celebrity cruise to the Galapagos, my wife and I headed to Peru for a self directed tour.

We left Quito on April 25 and flew to Lima and then to Cusco where we were met at the airport by Percy Salas, a guide we hired after various online forum recommendations. I was the most nervous about this aspect of the trip so I will emphasize it, thinking many of you will be in a similar position of planning a trip to Peru and wondering who to hire.

I solicited bids from 4 or 5 guides and companies which came recommended on various forums. Percy's suggested itinerary and fees were the best. He had excellent reviews. So I hired him. I let him book the hotels and train tickets to Machu Picchu although I could have done that.

My concerns about hiring him were many: Percy, like many of the guides, has no website; about 6 weeks before the trip, I had wired his bank $1,000 toward his fee of $1,280 which covered his fees and 4 nights of lodging at 3 star hotels (he had recommended some and I selected which ones to use); he would be with us for most of the trip so we hoped we would enjoy his company; and I had no cell phone to call him if our flight(s) ended up being delayed.

Well, that was a lot of needless worry. My wife and I can't recommend Percy highly enough. The posters here and on trip advisor haven't let me down yet and that record remains intact.

Percy is terrific. He's 48 and married with 2 children (15 and 20). He was born in Cusco and still lives there. He is very kind, very knowledgeable about Peru and its history, very reliable, nonsmoker, and a great driver (Toyota Yaris). He has a degree in tourism and has been working in this field for 28 years. He became self-employed 3 years ago. He knows his stuff.

His English is very good, which one may not suspect based on his emails. By the way, he was a little slow to respond to some of my emails but he explained that when he is doing tours, as he has been lately, he often doesn't get the chance to respond as often as he would like. He will try to improve that. He has several other guides with whom he works in the event he should have a conflict, something unusual should come up, or it is cost effective.

For instance, on the Machu Picchu part of our trip, he arranged one of these other guides (Esmerelda) to meet us at the train station at Aguas Calientes and to give us a private tour. She was terrific, too. She is based there during the busier seasons and by using her, we were able to save some significant money by not having to pay for Percy to travel with us there.

Anyway, if you are planning a trip to Peru, you won't go wrong hiring Percy. If we return, he will get our business again. His email address is smunditur@hotmail.com. His cell phone number is 984-621152.

He picked us up outside the airport at 12:45pm (I had emailed him a photo of my wife and I so he'd recognize us), and we headed to the Sacred Valley to start acclimatizing to the altitude. Cusco is about 11,000 feet and the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu are lower, about 8,500-8,800 feet. We visited an Alpaca farm first (Awanacancha which is worth a visit) and then headed to Pisac for lunch he recommended (Blue Hearts) which was very good. (We bought his lunch although that was not expected.)

After lunch, we bought a multi-use ticket for entry to various sights for 130 soles each, which was cheaper than paying separately for each attraction. We visited the Pisac ruins (also well worth a visit) and then headed to Ollytamtambo where we stayed at Pakaritambo, which was very pretty and very nice. (This was the only hotel we stayed which requested that all paper, including toilet paper, be put in the trash can.) It is about an 8-10 minute walk to the Ollytamtambo square from there. Percy drove us to the hotel, arriving around 7:00pm. He made sure our room was ready and what he had booked, and then drove back to Cusco for the night (~1.5 hours). We ate dinner at the hotel which was very good. (The breakfast buffet the next morning was included and very good, too.)

Percy met us at the hotel at 9am, and we spent the morning visiting the Ollytaytambo ruins right in town (don't miss these!!!!!) and then went outside of town to visit the Moray ruins and the Moras salt fields. Both were fascinating and well worth seeing.

All of these attractions are in the Sacred Valley which is a gorgeous part of the Andes mountains. At least it is this time of year. In late April, when the 6 month rainy season is generally over, the mountains are a picture perfect green; however,by June or July, or well into the dry season, the mountains turn yellowish and then brown. We had no rain. Just a lot of sun. (Bring a wide brimmed hat and sunscreen!)

Percy dropped us off at the Ollytantambo train station at 3:00 in plenty of time for our 3:40 Vistadome train to Aguas Calientes/Machu Picchu.

More to come. Time to grab some dinner before our flight back to St Louis.

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