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Just Back from Peru -- Questions Welcome

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Jun 2nd, 2008, 02:55 PM
  #1
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Just Back from Peru -- Questions Welcome

Hi,

My husband and I just returned from our ~ 2 week trip to Peru. We traveled independently and arranged all hotels in advance by email/phone from the U.S. Please let us know if you have any questions.

Our general itinerary below:
* 2 nights in Ollanta
-- Ollanta ruins, town, fiesta
-- Horseback riding to Moray, Maras, Salineras
-- Pisac ruins and Sunday market
-- Hotel: Munay Tika
-- Favorite Eatery: Hearts Cafe

* 2 nights in Aguas Calientes
-- Vistadome train from Ollanta to Aguas Calientes
-- Backpacker train back to Ollanta
-- Inka Massage -- twice
-- Hotel: Wiracocha Inn
-- Favorite restaurant: Indio Feliz: Peruvian French. Ate both dinners here

* 1 full day in Machu Picchu
-- Hiked Huayna Picchu
-- Spent total 9 hours in MP
-- Overnight in AC before and after

* 3 nights in Cusco
-- Sacsayhuayman ruins
-- Ninos Hotel -- lovely!
-- Somes churches and Inka museum
-- Fiesta, fiesta, fiesta. Too much in fact that it interrupted our sightseeing. Many museums and churches were closed.

* Bus from Cusco to Puno
-- Inka Express bus
-- Sightseeing along the way

* 1 night in Puno
-- Hotel: Posada don Giorgio

* 1 1/2 days in Lake Titicaca
-- Tour boat from Puno to Uros and Taquille
-- Private boat from Taquille to Amantani Island
-- Overnight in Kantuna Lodge (not really a lodge, more like someone's house with a few more rooms, but there's electricity)
-- Private boat to Peninsula
-- Combis (!!) back to Puno. Packed with locals. No other means of transportation. It turned out fun afterall.
-- Advice: Need 3 full nights to do Lake Titicaca. And go with an established tour like All Ways Travel. Our customized tour was a lot more expensive and stressful (some glitches in the arrangement).

* 2 nights in Lima
-- Sheraton -- Club Level. Much needed after our adventure in Lake Titicaca area.
-- Churches and the Museum of Larcoma Herrera (expensive, but interesting but potteries).

Overall, we love the Sacred Valley the best -- amazing scenery -- mountains, valleys, farmlands, people, food.
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Jun 2nd, 2008, 07:41 PM
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Thanks for your report. We'll be doing something very similar the last two weeks in July.

Can you tell more detail about bus trip from Cusco to Puno? How long, what were stops etc.

Would you recommend the trip to Puno/Lake Titi? Trying to decide whether to go that way or other way to Arequipa and Colca Canyon - after Sacred Valley and MP -

Views of the Lake Titi trip seem to be mixed . .
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Jun 2nd, 2008, 08:00 PM
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Hi JC,
We are leaving this week for a very similar itinerary minus Lake Titicaca. We are travelling with our kids 8 & 10. Can you tell me more about the Fiesta's in Ollanta and Cusco....was there a local holiday or do they have them regularly? We are also staying at the Ninos. What was the noise level like during sleep time? I have read that it can be noisy. Do they have hair dryers by any chance? How/Where did you arrange the horseback ridiing? Any other advice will be much appreciated. Thanks!
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Jun 2nd, 2008, 10:43 PM
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glover, the bus from Cusco to Puno took about 8 hours, but it didn't feel too long. We stopped like 5 times including an hour for lunch. We went with Inka Express, and the bus was professionally run with a tour guide speaking good English. Cost is $40 USD and you could book it by email from the US. Drinks are provided on the bus, served by a "stewardess" in uniform and heels--the poor girl trying to walk around carrying drinks on a moving bus in heels.

My favorite stop was "the Sistine Chapel" of Peru and the highest point on the route in the altiplano.

As I mentioned before, you need 3 full days to do Lake Titicaca. In terms of scenery, I don't think it's too spectacular. Pretty much like the lakes in California and the west. The most interesting part for me were the floating islands. Although touristy, they were interesting in concept I thought. I wish my tour boat had spent more time there. Taquile and Amantani became very peaceful once the tourists left, but I guess the point of spending time there is for the history and seeing the people and the way they live (if you do a homestay). We didn't exactly do a homestay as we stayed in a "lodge" that was run more like a hotel with electricity.

We didn't go to Arequipa and Colca Canyon, but heard rave reviews from other travelers.
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Jun 2nd, 2008, 10:58 PM
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takingthekids, let me try to answer your many questions.

* Fiestas. I don't know if they have fiestas very often. We didn't even know about the festivals until we got there. The Corpus Cristi (sp?) fiesta was going on everywhere for a whole week or more with processions, dancing, loud band music playing everywhere. No guidebooks mentioned about this, but it seemed pretty big, esp. in Cusco.

We liked it best in Ollanta (since that's where we first saw it). There was a small procession carrying the figure of Christ dressed like an Inca emperor. Men wearing colorful costumes witha stuffed lama in their back and knitted masks in black and others in white dancing and butting chests with each other (like male walruses fighting on the beach). The festivity lasted into the night with fireworks and a huge bonfire burning right in the middle of the plaza to keep people warm. It was so magical to see it for the first time in the small plaza of Ollanta.

And when we went to Aguas Calientes, and the celebration was also going on there although less elaborate. Men and older women were locking arms marching a parade with a loud band blasting music everywhere. Some younger men in the parade were hoisting cases of 24 bottle Cusquena beers on their shoulders. You know how the festivity'd end up. The band was playing the same tune over and over and so loud that we couldn't sleep! Our room at the hotel was overlooking the rushing river that's supposed to lull us to sleep. But no the party across the river where the locals lived kept on going on and on all night long. We ended up knocking ourselves out with ambien so we could sleep and get up early for Machu Picchu the next day.

In Cusco, the fiesta was the biggest and it was going on every single day there. Churches from surrounding areas all came here w/ their own procession and band and dance troupe. The main plaza of Cusco was all clogged up. And we missed out on seeing many sights because they were closed due to the holidays.

Anyway, too much rambling here... Let me get to the next question.

========================
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Jun 2nd, 2008, 11:10 PM
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Should have proofread my writing before posting. Many typos and grammar mistakes. Please bear with me.

* Ninos Hotel. Our room faced the street and it did get a bit noisy, because we opened one of the windows. The windows came with 3 layers of doors, and I think we opened one of them to let in some light. You could request for an inside room. Despite that, we slept well enough there.

We thought the Ninos Hotel was very charming and a great deal for the price and the mission they're supporting. (BTW there are 2 Ninos. We stayed at #1.) Our room was very spacious room(we got a room with 2 double beds and 1 single bed even though we'd booked a double). Clean and airy with high ceilings, painted wood floor, and simply decorated with 2 colorful paintings by the children. The bathroom was nicely decorated with a cool modern looking sink like in a boutique hotel. The Spanish courtyard where we had breakfast was utterly charming with a fountain in the middle.

The people at the hotel were very friendly. We also had them do our laundry there. It's like 4 soles per kilo.

Overall, it's a great place to stay.


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Jun 2nd, 2008, 11:13 PM
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Also, no hair dryer at the hotel. No shampoo and conditioner either at the Ninos or any of the small hotels we stayed at. Only tiny soaps. So bring your own shampoo and conditioner. That's a must-bring to Peru if you're planning to stay at any of the smaller hotels.



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Jun 2nd, 2008, 11:20 PM
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Horseback riding. We booked it through KB Tours office right in the Ollanta plaza. It was $45 USD for the 6 hour horseback riding tour to Moray, Maras, and Salineras. We had a horse trainer and a tour guide with us, but the tour guide didn't know too much English. They were fun to have around, and we tipped them like $10 USD each. Seemed like too much, as we were new to Peru and didn't know what the going rate was.

The ride was long and the trail was scary in some places -- winding along a cliff. How old are your kids? It might be difficult for them and even for adults.

We got the criollo horse--the more sturdy type than the other more famous "elegant" horse. The horses tended to break into a gallop at every opportunity, so a lot of bouncing on your bums (that's why we needed the Inka massage the next day! . But you could rein them in.

You might want to ask for a shorter, easier ride, esp for the kids.
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Jun 2nd, 2008, 11:28 PM
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More about horseback riding... we really loved that experience. We were the only 2 people on this tour and we went through winding trails with beautiful changing sceneries -- mountains, valleys, farmlands, rivers in a distance. We didn't see any other tourists around until we got to the Moray ruins and Salineras.

Along the way, we saw women and children picking corn on the field, sheep, donkeys, bulls. In fact, we encountered a few traffic jams on the narrow winding trail (barely 2 ft wide in places ) with a group of donkeys and even bulls coming from the opposite direction! Each party had to maneuver the animals so we could pass each other. Pretty fun.

But again, you need to balance yourself on the horse, as you could easily fall off.
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Jun 3rd, 2008, 10:45 AM
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JC98--

I'm working on a trip report, but I think we must have been in Cusco at the same time. Different people's perspective on the same things are interesting. We purposely planned our trip so we could be in Cusco for Corpus Christi; it was one of the highlights of our trip. Different strokes for different folks.
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Jun 3rd, 2008, 10:55 AM
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JC98,
Thanks for being open to questions. We will go with our kids 12 and 16,leaving in just a few days . We plan to hike Huayna Picchu. Trying to decide about running shoes vs Keens for that part of the hike.What is your take on that? We are pretty fit and have hiked Angel's Landing in Zion which sounds similar in exposure. I had heard that one needed to do that hike first since there is a limited number of people allowed up. Was this how you did it? How long does it take to hike up? We are currently scheduled for one day with a morning tour,after our train gets in at 10 am and a potential second day at Machu Picchu so were planning to hike then.
Much appreciate your advice and also am noting the restaurant for a meal .
Evelyn
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Jun 3rd, 2008, 11:29 AM
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JC98 I just thought of something else. Would you recommend a restaurant in Cuzco, or let us know if there is one we should avoid? We will be there during Inti Raymi, which will no doubt make everything very crowded.
Evelyn
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Jun 3rd, 2008, 05:39 PM
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venturesome, replies to your questions:

HUAYNA PICCHU HIKE:

* Shoes: Good traction is a must, as the path could be slippery. Keen shoes should be ok if they have good traction. But you may want to wear socks too, as toward the evening in Machu Picchu you'll get bitten by some invisible insects. We wore good hiking shoes (Merrell) and thick hiking socks. Even then these insects bit through my socks.

* How long: It took us 1 hour to go up, and about one hour to come down. We stayed up there to relish the scenery, but there's a guard up there who tried to get people off the peak. He didn't bother a few of us up there too much. We were taking our time to enjoy the scenery and take pictures. Take your time--you'll see wild orchids and exotic flowers blooming along the path. And look at the surrounding mountains. Going down I thought was harder because the path was steep, narrow, and the stone steps were kinda slippery. Some places there are no ropes, so you have to hold on to the previous step as you go down to keep your balance. It's shorter than Angel's Landing in Zion, I think, but more slippery.

* When to go: Best to go early in the morning. Once we were in the park, we right away headed toward the entrance of Huayna Picchu to sign in and climb up. It was after 8:30 a.m. when we signed in and we were already in 160 and when we came back the numbers almost ran out. If you have 2 days in MP, best to go early morning on the 2nd day then.

* Intipunktu Trail (Sun Gate): If you have time, also hike on this portion of the Inca trail. We wish we had time to do this. And skip the trail to the Inca Bridge--it's not worth it. The hike is not that interesting and they don't let you get close to the bridge. You can only see it in a distance because some tourist fell to their death sometime back. Skip this trail and do the Sun Gate trail instead. We wish we had done this.



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Jun 3rd, 2008, 05:47 PM
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RESTAURANTS IN CUSCO:

* Pukara -- Decent Peruvian food. Just off the main plaza. Reasonably priced. Try their chicken and rice dish--cooked like a paella even in a mini-cast iron pan.

* Granja Heidi -- Near San Blas. Excellent place for breakfast. Fresh milk, yogurt, butter, cheese from this German expat's farm. Everything was freshly baked and yummy. The restaurant itself was bright and airy, like a Scandavian house.

* Chez Maggy -- your kids might like this. Pizza baked from a wood burning oven. The crust was good, but the toppings and flavoring were so-so. Very busy and slow service though. We tried to avoid eating pizza in Peru, but ended up eating here because of a disastrous meal right before that in another restaurant (forgot what it was called but recommended by Lonely Planet.)

In general, go with restaurants recommended by Fodor's -- they have good taste in general (the editor should be happy to hear this. . Don't trust LP's recommendations too much for food. LP is good for how to get around on your own but not for culinary matters.

For that night with bad food, we wish we had gone to MAP Cafe at the Museum of Precolombian Art instead -- $35 USD for a prefix with wine.

Hope that helps.
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Jun 3rd, 2008, 07:39 PM
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thanks so much for the excellent advice! I'll be copying these pages and putting them to good use.Thanks also for getting back to me so quickly. We leave in 3 days .
Very exciting!
Evelyn
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Jun 4th, 2008, 10:55 AM
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venturesome, have a great trip with your family! It's also good for me to answer questions here. It's a way for me to capture what we experienced.



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Jun 5th, 2008, 12:08 PM
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A useful thing to bring to Peru is the Ocean nasal spray. My nose bleeds almost every day probably because of the dryness and the high altitude. Best to irrigate the nasal passage.

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Jun 9th, 2008, 12:23 PM
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Thanks so much for the report! Julies, I am awaiting yours as it seems you travel in the same style I do.

Can you please elaborate on your accomodations, ie., cost, location?

I am doing a similar trip in Nov. but it will be for 1 month and include some other destinations.

Thanks!
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Jun 9th, 2008, 03:02 PM
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eurotraveller, all of our hotels are recommended by guidebooks and tripadvisor. They're walkable to the main plaza of each city. They're all double rooms with private baths and include breakfast except for Ninos Hotel in Cusco. Ninos Hotel is our favorite--very charming and it's run as a charity.
The price is in the budget category--$40 to $45 USD.
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Jun 9th, 2008, 04:40 PM
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Thanks JC! I already have my sites set on Nino's so I hope they have a room when I get my schedule nailed down.

Cheers!
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