Group: 4 people ages 34-40
Days: 7 end of oct/beg of nov
Places Visited: Sacred Valley, Macchu Picchu, Cusco, Puerto Maldonado, Lima
Budget: $2500 pp (not including airfare from States)
Hotels: Ramada Del Costa, Sacred Valley Casa Andina Private Collection, Inkaterra Machu Picchu, Reserva Amazonica, Aranwa Hotel
Tour Operator: Enigma Peru
To start my long awaited adventure to Peru, I planned out the places I wanted to go and hotels I wanted to stay, and tours we wanted to do. We travelled with another couple and because we both have small kids at home, we tried to cram in as much as we could in a week, as it is hard to leave them for longer than a week with school, grandparent burn out, etc... I emailed a few companies, Enigma Peru had great customer service, and reasonable prices. I must have exchanged about 100+emails before leaving for the trip and they answered each email promptly. Their tour guides were informative, nonintrusive and professional. They organized all the activities, arranged the hotels and transportation and tickets to museums, trains, wayna picchu, etc. Enigma asked for money to be wired instead of credit card, which is very common for Peru, and I had no problems at all with this method. They even have a bank in Florida you can wire to to avoid an international wire fee. They arranged all our flights within Peru which was Lima to Cusco to Puerto Maldonado to Lima, and this was included in our $2500 budget as well as most meals, so we spent very little money except for all the alpaca and pisco sour brandy, coffees and chocolates, which of course is entirely our own fault!
Our flight from LAX to Lima was uneventful on LAN until we arrived in Lima and found out our friend’s luggage was missing. LAN took down our info but since there was only one flight from LAX to Lima every day and we would be leaving on a connecting flight to Cusco the following day, chances would be grim that she would collect her luggage for at least two days! This would be a slight problem as on day 3 we were scheduled to climb Macchu picchu and Huyana Picchu and my friend had worn non hiking shoes on her flight over. LAN blamed our domestic airline Alaska for not getting the luggage to their terminal. This excuse was a little suspect because her husband’s bag made it, and they had a 3 hour layover in LAX before connecting to LAN which would have been plenty of time. “Todo esta bien!”, said the LAN lady as it was approaching midnight, this would be a reocuring phrase we heard on our trip.
We exited the luggage claim and there was a guide waiting for us with a sign. This was a bit overkill as we were literally just walking across the street, but as I said earlier, Enigma was very professional and complusive about their service. Ramada Inn is convenient when you arrive close to midnight after a long flight. It was hard to sleep though because of the excitement in the air and our impending activities ahead. It was however a mediocre hotel, dark and had the bare essentials. There were lots of tourists in the lobby, very busy traffic and you felt very safe, There was wifi in the lobby and we were able to skype with our kids (gotta love modern technology!). Our Enigma guide told us to get back to the airport to catch our conncecting flight two hours before and the Ramada guy at the lobby told us an hour was fine. Our flight to Cusco was on Star Peru at 8:30am. We decided to split the difference and get there about 1 ⅕ hours before which would prove to be a mistake.
Early morning breakfast, then walked back across the street, to a horrendous line on Star Peru. As 30 minutes had passed, and we hadn’t moved, I went up to a Star Peru agent and asked if we would make our flight, and she said (in Spanish), “Don’t worry, everything will be fine- no se preoccupada senora, todo esta bien!” Well, we had heard this last night when my friend had lost her luggage, “todo esta bien!”. This conversation went on two more times over the course of the next hour until we finally got up to the counter about 20 min before takeoff and of course we could not board the flight. Apparently there was a tour group of 26 people who had ticketing issues and had held up the line for an hour! And the next flight at 10:00 would cost us more money. After throwing a small fit, i was “muy preoccupada, and I asked your agent three times in the span of an hour if we would make the flight”, maybe she felt sorry for us and just gave us the next flight without charging us any extra fees. We called Enigma to let them know we had missed our flight and arrived in Cusco closer to 11. Our guide Franklin and driver met us in Cusco with our newly scheduled arrival and we were on our way to the sacred valley to Pisac ruins.
Pisac ruins were lovely, especially when the sun hits the terraces a certain way, it was quite a sight to be seen. We walked into the area but we didn’t hike up to the ruins because we were on a tight schedule as we had missed our initial flight. In a way, it was a mixed blessing because the altitude was quite noticeable from the beginnning and walking all the way to the top would have been strenuous. We all took Diamox the night before and none of developed any altitude problem, except I developed some tingling and numbing in both my hands so I stopped taking the pill after 2 days. On to Pisac Market, it happened to be a sunday, and it was very fun to browse through the different stalls, we bought lots of knick knacks, a hand carved recorder for my son, an alpaca hat, some organic dye paint, etc.. nothing too pricey and Franklin our guide was very appreciative, he was thankful that we were supporting the local economy and merchants. Found a nice empanada stand, our first bite of local food (ramada inn didn’t count), it was delicious filled with tomatoes and cheese. Didn’t get too adventurous with the innard kabobs (yes i said innards). Tried some local passionfuit and cocoa leaves as well.
We then drove to Casa Hacienda Orihuela, a private residence with an impressive collection of Inca and colonial art and artifacts where they also serve an amazing four course lunch Hacienda Concepcion. This was one of our best meals, and arranged by Enigma. The lunch was fabulous, with nice china, a beautiful courtyard and the best lomo saltado, causa and pisco sour we had the entire trip. Next stop was Ollanytambo ruins. We had about an hour to tour the ruins, and the steps are quite steep, we walked to the top where is had a nice terrrace and down below you could see a stadium where they were participating in bullfighting. Again, Franklin our guide was great, gave us great information that we would have otherwise overlooked. When people talk about steps in Peru, you cannot envision the type of stair steps you have in the States or even some of the cobblestone steps in Europe. These steps are steep, crooked and never ending, and on top of that add about 10,000 ft of altitude. We are in our mid 30s and relatively fit and we were short of breath at times.
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