Trip Report

Oct 17th, 2006, 09:27 AM
  #1  
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Join Date: Jul 2006
Posts: 137
Trip Report

Just back from 12 days (Oct. 1-12) in Peru. Terrific trip - quite an adventure, even for fit 52 and 63 year olds!

Began by flying into Lima on Delta, arriving about 11 pm. Spent that night at the San Isidro Melia Hotel with a 3:30 am wakeup call for our early flight next morning to Cusco on Lan Peru.

We were met at the airport by Percy Salas Alfaro, who was our local guide/travel agent there. Quick note here - we found him from this Fodor section and what a Godsend he was. All of the hotels I was working with wanted 100% prepayment last March for October trip in order to hold our reservations. But when I contacted Percy, he was able to reserve everything for us with no money from us until the day he picked us up at the airport - and he got better prices to boot. He even purchased our train tickets! (He's at [email protected])

Spent first full day on a driving tour of Sacred Valley, seeing the ring terraces at Moray, salt fields of Maras, and ending at the ruins of Ollantaytambo. All were very interesting - highly recommend this route. Spent that night at Hotel Pakantampu - a really lovely hotel with pretty landscaping. Dinner there was good but not great. Better dining to be had in town, but we were simply exhausted having started that day in the early morning. (A theme of the trip, as it turned out...) Service was very good, though.

Next morning we walked to the train station and took the 7:00 am Vistadome train to Machu Picchu's base town, Aguas Calientes. Porters for our hotel that night, Pueblo Hotel, picked up our bags from the station (a terrific convenience) while we continued on to the bus for the exciting ride up to MP. There, we met our guide, Miguel, who had been engaged by Percy. Miguel's English was a little hard to follow, but he is very knowledgeable and passionate about MP, and extremely patient and helpful with me (I have an extreme fear of heights). He toured with us about 4 hours, then left us while we hung out there a few more hours on our own. About 3:00 we took the bus back down to Aguas Calientas and on to the Pueblo Hotel to check in. Meals included here were dinner, breakfast, and lunch. This was easily the best hotel of the trip, with individual casitas placed among beautiful landscaped pathways up the steep hill above the rail line and river below. Food was terrific, and service great, with the exception of an unhelpful waiter at breakfast. Took advantage of the $1/minute massages the following day, after walking one of the trails (filled with hummingbird feeders) - very fine. First class all the way!

After spending some time at the market beside the train station the next afternoon, we boarded our 3:30 train back to Cusco. Percy had arranged our tickets as far as Poroy only (with him picking us up there), since the leg from Poroy to Cusco takes another hour and Poroy is only a 15-minute drive from Cusco. Fashionista Alert - They have a nice fashion show of lovely Alpaca clothing on the train ride. I passed on buying a great sweater they modeled, assuming I'd see it all over Cusco. Of course, I've kicked myself ever since because the price was reasonable and I never saw anything close to it the rest of the trip.

Back in Cusco, we checked into the Libertador Hotel. This is a lovely hotel that reminds one of Spain's paradors or Portugal's pousadas. Ate that night in their snack bar as we had eaten so much at Pueblo's lunch that we still were full! Service here is so good - everyone goes way beyond necessary to make sure you are pleased - from porters to waiters.

Next day was our half day tour of Cusco area with Percy that turned into most of the day. He took us to Sacsayhuaman, Q'enko (tunnel and cave built into a single huge limestone rock), the Inca Baths, and then lunch at a restaurant off the main road that serves small tour groups - a great meal, and in the welcoming tradition of serving guests complimentary Pisco Sours at the start of the meal and Sambuca at the end (except not to Percy, who was driving). Many restaurants in Cusco area do this, we found.
Afterwards, we went in search of jewelry supplies for my hobby/business of designing jewelry, at my request. We stopped at a silver factory, whose employees gave us some leads on buying stones.

After a full day, we ended with dinner at Marengo's, a wood fired stove pizza restaurant a block off the Plaza de Armas (again, full from the large lunch that day).

Following day we were up at 5 am for a 6 am departure to Manu Wildlife Center in the southern Amazon Basin. We stored half of our lugguage at the Libertador and took our Amazon bags with us (completely different climate - 95 degrees and high humidity). After a 40 minute plane ride in a 12-seater, landing on a grassy strip, we boarded a covered, motorized 10-pax canoe for a 2+ hour ride on the Madre de Dios river to the Manu lodge. Nice setup - no electricity, which is harder to deal with than you would think, with individual thatched roof casitas well screened with mosquito netting above each bed. Meals are in the large dining room at long tables with your assigned group (groups range from 6-10 people, with 44 the max number of guests the lodge can hold). In a separate building next door is the bar/store/library, which requires removal of shoes before entering. Food overall at this place was fair, and to compensate, in the dining room was an ever-filled basket of packets of crackers and Chips Ahoy!

First afternoon's activity was a hike on their grounds, which yielded sightings of several kinds of monkeys, butterflies, and birds. That evening, the "pet" tapir, Vanessa, lumbered into camp to scrounge for apples.

Next morning was our 4:15 am wakeup call for 5 am departure to the parrot/makaw clay lick an hour down river by boat. This was fascinating, though time dragged between the parrots and makaw gatherings.

The afternoon activity was an hour and 20 minute hike leaving at 3:30 to the tapir clay lick on the center's grounds. This interesting walk yielded more birds and wildlife, and included numerous makeshift log bridges across low streams. Upon arrival at the lick, guests ate their box dinners they had ported in their backpacks, and then waited in the steaming heat in mosquito netted cells, lying on mattresses, for dark to descend and tapir sightings to occur. Unfortunately, as time went by a heavy rain began, so by the time it was dark it was pouring. After a good hour of this, our guide gave up (worried about the condition of the trail on the return trek) and we prepared to begin the trek back to the lodge in the rain and dark. Just then, a tapir entered the lick area but heard our noise and left quickly. Only one member of the group, my husband, caught a glimpse of it. We waited another 15 minutes or so, but no return, so we began the hike back on the slick trail. Unfortunately, 4 of our 7 flashlights failed within the first 15 minutes of the walk, including of the guide's, so the walk was even more trecherous. General feeling of the group was that this was a potentially dangerous trek, very uncomfortably hot, with apparently little change of tapir sightings (comparing notes with other groups). Our suggestion to the center is to rework this activity.

Next morning was another early one, this time for a 30 minute boat ride to a nearby lake for river otter sightings. This was delightful - despite the heat by the end of the trip, we saw amazing birds, caimans hiding among the water lillies, and a family of 6 giant otters.

That afternoon's activity was a trek to the 160' canopy platform to view the top of the jungle.

Next morning was the return to Cusco, where we re-checked into the Libertador and reclaimed our suitcases of cold weather clothing! Visited the Temple of the Sun across from our hotel, and then had dinner at the very upscale MAP Cafe - highly recommended!

Next day was back with Percy on a tour of Pisac. First stop was at the alpaca/llama farm, to feed and pet these adorable animals, and then to the ruins at Pisac. The walk from the parking lot is almost 2 miles round trip, much of which is along the cliffside on a path or stairs about 2 feet wide at best. These ruins don't compare with MP, but are still worth the trip and the thrilling trek, if you can stand it! After lunch in Pisac, we hit the Tuesday market and made several purchases. Prices far better here than around MP, but you still have to bargain hard.

After it was back to the hotel to pack, and then off to dinner at a restaurant on the Armes Plaza that Percy had arranged for us on our return to the hotel that day because we wanted to finally try guinea pig. You must place an order with this restaurant a few hours in advance for guinea pig. Percy even selected the table to reserve for us with the best view of the square. Dinner that night was better than we though it would be, with terrific service to boot. Guinea pig is similar to chicken (you remove the leather-like skin), but with a hint of gameyness.

Next day it was back to Lima, where we had booked a day room at the Libertador Hotel in San Isidros - a great move! Dumped our luggage and taxied to the Museum of the Nation, then to the main square for lunch, and then to the Museo Arqueologico Herrera. Then back to the hotel for dinner and to the airport for our flight home via Atlanta.

Overall impressions - food is very reasonably priced and good. Peruvian wine is better than the imported Chilean we tried. They eat potatoes with every meal, I swear! Peruvians we met were hard working, intelligent, and very nice people who are eager to please. We were pleased with our decision to spend most of our time in the Cusco area, as Lima didn't impress us. Crime is apparently much worse in Lima than in Cusco, though you must be vigilant everywhere. The countryside around Cusco and Sacred Valley is absolutely beautiful, and the Andean mountains breathtaking. Having a really nice guy, Percy, as a guide made a huge difference, also.

Thanks to fellow Fodorites for all of the great advice that helped make this trip so outstanding! Claire and David
claire_david2 is offline  
Oct 17th, 2006, 11:05 AM
  #2  
 
Join Date: Mar 2005
Posts: 599
Wonderful journey!
Thanks for the report.
Earthtraveler is offline  
Oct 17th, 2006, 11:32 AM
  #3  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 6,344
Great trip report - glad you had such a great time - we also loved MP and SV!
Elizabeth_S is offline  
Oct 21st, 2006, 06:43 AM
  #4  
 
Join Date: Dec 2005
Posts: 61
Great trip report! Extremely useful information since we are planning a trip for August 2007 with an almost similar itinerary: Sacred valley, Short Inca trial to MP, Manu Biosphere and Lake Titicaca. Based on your experience, I am going to contact Percy for our bookings/guide service etc.
Thanks again for posting your trip report.
waxwing is offline  
Oct 21st, 2006, 01:39 PM
  #5  
 
Join Date: May 2004
Posts: 1,549
Thanks for the wonderful trip report. I am off to Chile in a couple of weeks. Maybe I should have chosen Peru instead after reading your report!
FauxSteMarie is offline  
Nov 1st, 2006, 10:14 AM
  #6  
 
Join Date: Sep 2005
Posts: 26
Claire & David,
So glad your trip was great and that it worked out to use Percy as your guide. He helped us last Feb. in Cusco, Sacred Valley and arrangements for MP, and I had posted his name following that trip. Haven't been on this site for a few months, but just happened to check it and saw your posting. Brings back great memories.
VMcB.
vmcb is offline  
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