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Trip Report Machu Picchu Trek and Galapagos-Trip Report-April, 2014

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We recently returned from one of our greatest adventures ever; a 4-night trek to Machu Picchu, tour of the Sacred Valley, followed by a week in the Galapagos. The trek was the highlight! We are in our late 50's and were a bit nervous about our physical abilities as we are in good shape but certainly not serious hikers. I somewhat discounted the opinions of those who said it was really difficult as I think that some opinions on forums are a bit extreme. Honestly, it was the most physically challenging thing we have ever done but we will remember it fondly forever. I spent many hours planning the trip, pouring over this forum as well as tripadvisor. Without going into great detail, I will try to give a few specific bits of information that may be helpful.

We went with Andean Treks (based in MA) as they were one of the few operators that offered a 4-night, 5-day program which is what we wanted and what I definitely would recommend. We stayed the 4th night in a hotel in Aquas Caliente and returned to MP the next day for a relaxing, informative tour with our guide. They also confirmed that they used a latrine tent on the trek which was a definite must for us (and we are so thankful that we had one!). We booked add-on tours through Andean Treks in the Sacred Valley, a definite must see. We were pleased with Andean Treks but cannot say enough about their local operator in Cusco, Inca Tours and Travel Adventures. Our guide, Disnarda, is an absolute gem. There is no doubt that our trek would not have been the experience that it was without her. We did not request it but ended up with a group of five women guided by Disnarda. She was so thoughtful and enthusiastic about showing us "her Peru". We were fortunate to have clear weather on the last morning of the trek causing Disnarda to get us up at 5:30 a.m. to see a wondrous sunrise reflected from the snow-capped peaks of Salkantay. Truly a magnificent and once-in-a-lifetime (short of heaven!) experience. We have never had a guide anywhere in the world as professional, kind, knowledgeable, and considerate as Disnarda.

We went directly to Cusco after a night by the airport in Lima and were glad that we did. Cusco is a lovely city but the Sacred Valley and its many wondrous sites is a must see. We based in Ollantaytambo at Hotel Pakaritampu. We were very glad as we loved the hotel and "funky" Ollantaytambo rather than the more "urban" Urubamba.

We flew to Guayaquil to depart for the Galapagos. To our surprise, Guayaquil is a very large city; we were told it is the largest city in Ecuador. We did not tour Guayaquil and did not feel that we missed much as the locals gave us the clear impression that it was not the safest city in which to walk around. We loved the Hotel Oro Verde. We had dinner there the night we arrived and the buffet breakfast was included the next morning. The buffet was truly over the top and the dinner was excellent. This hotel had the best food of any hotel in which we have ever stayed.

After much research, we ended up going with Ecoventura as a result of a Living Social deal that our friend found. Ecoventura was already at the top of my list so that made our decision for us. We ended up on the Letty. Our guides and the staff were great. It was a wonderful experience. The cabin was small but comfortable and the boat was nice. There were 19 passengers and we were glad that we did not go with a bigger boat. Our only negative comment was that the dining room service was not the best. We were there during Easter week and we thought that the kitchen may have been understaffed for that reason.

LIMA AIRPORT CAUTION: We flew back to Lima from Ecuador as our round-trip air from Miami was through Lima. We flew from Guayaquil to Lima on Avianca. We were told by the flight attendants that we did not go through Immigration as we were not entering Peru but only connecting for an international flight. As this is not our usual experience, we confirmed this several times. Once in the airport, before leaving the immigration line, we again approached immigration, explained that we needed to retrieve our luggage, and were told that we did not go through immigration but through security. We went through the security line and asked about retrieving our luggage for our connecting flight as we knew that Avianca would not be able to transfer our luggage to AA. The airport personnel, including Avianca staff, acted as if this had never happened before and had no idea what to do. There was a young woman from Europe traveling alone in exactly the same position. The staff at the airport were extremely rude and did absolutely nothing to help us. We had to get special clearance to go back through security, through Immigration, get our luggage, go through security again, go outside the airport and then enter to get to the AA counter. After much trauma, an employee from Avianca finally assisted us and we got to the AA check in counter about 5 minutes away from missing our flight!

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