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Trip Report 40th Birthday Trip: Inca Trail, Machu Picchu, Amazon

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For my 40th birthday, I decided I needed a challenge, as well as an unforgettable adventure. A group of 8 of us (4 couples in our late 30s/early 40s) booked a 2-week trip to Peru to hike the 4-day Inca Trail to Machu Picchu and see some of the Peruvian Amazon region. We used Kuoda, a South American-based travel agent. We worked with our agent from Kuoda, Celine, for a year and she was excellent in helping us to craft a wonderful itinerary. I’ll outline our days in detail below. Sorry about the length!

Friday, September 8
We left Wilmington, NC and made a stop in Atlanta before boarding our flight to Lima. We were surprised it was only a 6.5 hour flight! We arrived in Lima at 11:30pm (time was one hour earlier than EST). A Kuoda representative was there waiting for us after we cleared customs and walked us (literally) across the street to the Wyndham Costa del Sol airport hotel. It wasn’t the greatest hotel, but it was just fine and we had an early flight in the morning so it was the obvious choice for a quick stay.

Saturday, September 9
We had a good night’s sleep and met early for our flight to Cusco. The Kuoda rep was waiting in the lobby and walked us back over, making sure we had our tickets and were able to get checked in and through security. After a quick one-hour flight, we landed in Cusco. We were met by another Kuoda rep, Jason and he introduced us to our guide for the next several days, Santiago, or as he affectionately became known to us, Santi. They took us to lunch at a wonderful restaurant, Cicciolina. We had our first Pisco Sour, which everyone loved and we all enjoyed our meals immensely. I had my first (and only) taste of guinea pig (or Cuy) which was good…tasted like dark meat chicken…just lots of little bones…too much work for me!). We had a great and laid back time.

After our great lunch, Santi and our driver for the next few days, Fausto, took us for a quick tour to the “white Jesus” statue overlooking the city for a great view. Then we took a scenic route into the Sacred Valley, where we would be staying for the next three days to acclimate to the altitude. We stopped off at the Awanakancha Living Museum, where we got to see and feed llamas, alpacas and vicuñas, and got a little tutorial on the differences between them. There were also local women weaving tapestries, and we learned how they dye the wool. We arrived at our hotel, the Belmond Rio Sagrado, just outside of the town of Urubamba, at dusk and we checked into our lovely rooms. We had a delicious dinner at the hotel and hit the sack to rest up for the next day’s activities.

Sunday, September 10
We woke to finally get a great view of our hotel…it was beautiful! It was right on the bank of the river in the shadow of mountain. There were lovely flowers everywhere and we watched exotic varieties of hummingbirds suck the nectar for the patio of our suite. We had a great included breakfast at the hotel, complete with coca tea to help with the altitude. Coming from sea level in NC, we definitely were feeling the altitude. I had been training with cardio and body weight exercises, so I was feeling fit for our trek, but going up two flights of stairs at the hotel about killed me! Yikes!

Santi and Fausto picked us up after breakfast and we headed to Ollaytaytambo, an Incan city with wonderful ruins. We walked up on the ruins, some light training for the trail. They were really beautiful and we got an introduction to the amazing Incan stonework. Santi gave us great info and detail about the lives of the Incans and subsequent conquering by the Spaniards.

We then headed back to the hotel to pick up our last two friends to arrive (their flights had been messed up because of Hurricane Irma) and we went to lunch at a wonderful little farm, overlooking the valley, Huayocari. I had a wonderful causa, which is a traditional dish of layered mashed potatoes, avocado and meat, in this case a chicken salad-type mixture. It was terrific. And of course we washed it down with a Pisco Sour and a Cusqueña beer.

After we were sated, we drove over to Pisac where they have wonderful ruins and beautiful Incan terraces. We hiked up to the top as a little more “practice” for the trek. We decided to do the hike instead of hitting up the famous market. Santi told us the types of things they sell there are available all over, especially back in Cusco where we would be after the trek. We snoozed on the hour ride back to the hotel and then got dressed and took a cab into town (Urubamba). We had dinner at Tres Keros, which was a fun little rustic place with great food. After a fun night, we headed back to the hotel for a good night’s sleep.

Monday, September 11
Santi and Fausto picked us up again and we made the short drive to Moray. This is a cool Incan area of circular terraces they used as a sort of laboratory for growing different crops at different elevations. It was really interesting and neat. We hiked around a little bit and then went to lunch. Santi took us to an organic farm in nearby Maras that opens their home to tourists for lunch. It was a beautiful house with a gorgeous view and the food, most of which they grow right there, was delicious! Tatiana Mujica was the owner of the house and the chef, and the food was fresh, healthy and fabulous.

After lunch, we visited the saltpans of Maras (salernas Maras). This place was so cool. I have never seen a place like this…there were little pools of salt along the whole side of a mountain. They farm regular salt and mineral-enriched pink salt there. We hiked all along the side of it and it was an awesome sight. After about an hour hike, we headed back to the hotel for some down time. Santi briefed us for about an hour about our Inca Trail hike that we would be embarking on the next morning. We then had some rest and time for the hot tub and pisco sours and then went into town for a wonderful dinner at El Huacatay. There was a beautiful outdoor patio with a heater for the chilly night. I had an alpaca lasagna which different and out of this world. I highly recommend this place if you are in Urubamba. Early to bed for a big day ahead!

Tuesday, September 12
Wake up call at 5:00 came early, but we were excited for our adventure on the Inca Trail. We headed to Ollaytaytambo, the meeting area for all the porters and we walked around a little bit while the members of our trail outfitter, Apumayo, did some last minute supply shopping. We met our trail guide from Apumayo, Jeremy, along with our assistant guide, Marco, and bought and last minute things we needed (including bags of coca!). We were surprised to find out that we had a crew of about 50 people, including us, that included our guide, two co-guides (Santi was coming with us as a co-guide), a chef, assistant chef, waiter, 2 masseuses and 32 porters! We had no idea this was such a production (kind of embarrassing, actually)! Then we were ready to roll! We checked in at the first checkpoint and had to give passports, and show our tickets. We had two members of our group that had been up all night with stomach issues, so Jeremy and Santi arranged two local people with motorcycles to take them to the first rest area so they could get a quick nap and try and recover a bit before the rest of the day’s hike (the motorcycles could not go any further than that on the trail). The first day wasn’t too bad. There were some rolling hills (“Peruvian flat”, as they like to call it, which isn’t really flat at all!). We made it to Llactapata, a site of beautiful ruins. We then stopped for lunch at Hatunchaca…our team had done a great job setting up chairs to relax in, with a dining tent and fully set table, along with a toilet tent set up. We had a delicious lunch they prepared in their cook tent with all supplies being carried in by the porters. Amazing. The last three or so hours was a steady uphill so we were happy to get to the first campsite later that afternoon just past Wayllabamba at Capulichayoc. When we got there, our Apumayo team had camp all set up…each of us had a tent with an air mattress with flannel sheets and a thick down comforter and a bedside table with some toiletries and little chocolates! Wow. They also had two shower tents set up and we took turns getting quick, hot showers. Then, whoever wanted them got massages from our two masseuses in a tent where they had two massage tables set up with soothing music. It was amazing after a long day of hiking and sore muscles. We had “tea time” with snacks and drinks when we first arrived and then dinner was served at 7:30. We were exhausted and after a great dinner we all went to bed by 8:30 or so as it was pitch black, cold and we had an early start time for the morning with the most difficult hike day ahead of us!

Wednesday, September 13
In the morning, we were all awakened by Marco bringing us coca tea or coffee, and we packed up and met for breakfast before heading out on the hardest day of the trek. The weather was sunny and nice and we started a steady, steep uphill for about 3 hours. At some points some of us were taking 50 steps, then breath and water, repeating this over and over. It was TOUGH! But finally we made it to the pass of Warmi Wañusca…or Dead Woman’s pass. Named for the shape of the mountain, not the outcome of getting there…it sure felt like the latter! But the work to get there was worth it…the views were out of this world. What a feeling of accomplishment. However, the elation was short-lived, as we realized we had to hike DOWN the other side. After a short time, we stopped for some sandwiches and tea. ‘Then two hours of hiking down rocky steep boulders made for some tired people and sore knees. Thank goodness for the sturdy boots and hiking poles. At the bottom of the mountain Marco was waiting for us with congratulatory Cusqueñas at the entrance to our campsite, and were we ready to rest! Even after that downhill hike we were in the clouds, but as the sun was setting, it began to clear and we had a wonderful view from our campsite! We were beat, but we had another great meal by our chefs and then slept like rocks!

Thursday, September 14
This morning we were back in the clouds and a light drizzle had started. Today we had a lot of ups and downs, but nothing as intense as the day before. Unfortunately it was cloudy and rainy the whole day, so awesome views that I know where there were not visible, which was on one hand a bummer, but on the other hand, I am scared of heights, so it probably made this portion of the trail a little easier on me, as there were no obvious steep drop offs to be seen! We went to the Sayaqmarka ruins, which were shrouded in clouds, and gave them a mystical look, which was really cool. After that we walked silently through one of the most beautiful sections of the trail, a cloud forest with gorgeous flora and fauna. It was very special. We did a decent uphill climb to get to our third and last campsite at Phuyupatamarka. Again, we were in the clouds so the spectacular view was not so spectacular. However, we did get a brief break in the clouds for an amazing view of Mount Machu Picchu. It was cold here and after dinner it started raining with some light snow mixed in! The crew served us pisco sours and champagne to celebrate our last night on the trail, and after dinner and drinks, we made it a very early night. It rained all night. I was hopeful it would clear out by the morning.

Friday, September 15
We work early to ‘hopefully’ get a view of the sunrise over tops of the clouds…but no deal…was still rainy and cloudy. BUMMER! We started out on our last day with our final goal ahead of us. We had a rough 3-hour STEEP hike down huge slippery rocks/”steps” in the rain. Not going to lie…moral was low at that point. We finally got to the final checkpoint before Machu Picchu and the gate was locked! We had to wait and then finally our guide had to run back to Wiñay Wayna to get the warden. That was even more deflating as we were exhausted, cold, wet and ready to be DONE! We finally got the door unlocked and we did the last 1.5 hour stretch up to the Sun Gate (IntiPunku). We had to scale a VERY steep set of stairs to get there but once we did we got our first view of Machu Picchu! It was very cloudy and gray—still raining. But we got some breaks in the clouds for some beautiful views. After being on the trail with hardly any people for 4 days, it was a little deflating to see all the people both at the Sun Gate and down in Machu Picchu. We were all tired, wet and mentally at our limits. After we took some photos, we headed down to Machu Picchu, still another 30- to 45-minute walk! We got down and there were people in colorful rain ponchos everywhere. It was a little overwhelming after the solitude of the trail. We had reservations at the lunch buffet inside the Sanctuary hotel. I was expecting more a quiet dining room, but it was kind of crazy and crowded, but we found a quiet table in the back and the food was actually quite good. We toasted being done inhaled lots of food and sipped on water, wine and pisco sours. That got us mentally reset and we were ready to walk around MP with Jeremy. I think because of the rain, the people that had swarmed there in the morning had left, and it had turned quiet and not crowded at all! He gave us some interesting information on a lot of the main parts of MP. And as we were walking around, the sun came out! We even saw a rainbow! It was amazing and words and photos cannot describe how beautiful and magical it was there. The small clouds hanging around at eye level in the surrounding mountains were beyond imagination. It was a view and an adventure I will never forget.

After our time walking around MP, we got on one of the buses that are constantly running (the line wasn’t long, as people had left because of the rain) down the extremely steep switchback road down to Agua Calientes, the town at the base of MP. We retrieved our duffels that the porters had taken down and went to the train station and boarded our VistaDome Train for the 3-hour trip back to Cusco. The train was interesting, as they served us a piece of pizza and did a really strange “show” with a goat mascot and fashion show. With enough wine and pisco, we had a good time and then finally got to Cusco. Santi and Fausto met us with the van and took us into Cusco, where we checked into our hotel, Casa Cartegena, a cute little boutique hotel…where I took probably the best shower I have ever had! I have also never enjoyed a warm, comfortable bed as much as I did that night!!

Saturday, September 16
We slept in the morning and got an excellent breakfast at the hotel, served by very nice staff. Santi met us in the lobby and we headed out for a day tour of Cusco. We walked through this quaint Incan city. We saw more of the incredible stonework that makes up the buildings and streets. We toured the Cathedral built by the Spanish, which was really interesting. Afterwards, we went up to Sacsayhuaman (we kept thinking he was saying ‘sexy woman’), which is an Incan stronghold that consists of some HUGE boulders that are so hard to imagine how a people with no real equipment cut them so precisely and piled them up. It was neat to see.

We went back to the hotel and then walked over to the Marcelo Batata Cooking School for a Peruvian cooking class. This was an awesome time…José, who taught the class was amazing. He gave us a fun lesson on Peruvian culture, history and food. We enjoyed 4 different awesome appetizers from the adjacent 2 restaurants, and then learned to cook Peruvian ceviche, tasted several Piscos and made Pisco sours, and then made a Peruvian lomo saltado, a sort of stir fry made of beef or in this case, alpaca. The whole thing was really fun and we learned a lot from José. I highly recommend doing this class!

That night we walked around the city and wound up at the Republica del Pisco where we had some great drinks and really nice appetizers. Late night my husband and our friend went in search of street food, or more specifically beef heart, but struck out. They ended up finding a super local bar and hung out with some Quechuan guys…they had a blast and memorable evening.

Sunday, September 17
Today we had a totally free morning to explore the city before getting our flight back to Lima. I wandered the cool streets and went up to the Sans Blas neighborhood, which is an artsy neighborhood that has really cool, quiet streets. I went to the church there and up to the balcony, which had a nice view of the city. There was a huge parade in the main city square so I went and watched the people marching by. I bought some nice baby alpaca scarves as gifts and just strolled around taking in the sights. I really like Cusco…it is a great city. I met some of our friends at La Bodega 138 for lunch…it was a cute little wood-fired pizza place that was a nice break from Peruvian cuisine. They even had American football on tv!

We then met Jason at the hotel and he and Fusto took us to the airport and we bid adios to Cusco…or so we thought. They ended up cancelling our Latam flight. They told us to exit back out to check-in to reschedule it. This is where having a local travel agent is worth its weight in gold. The lines were HUGE and weren’t moving at all. We called Jason and he immediately came back to the airport. He was working his phone, talking to Latam and our Lima hotel. All flights that night were full so after about an hour of waiting (meanwhile we had not moved an inch in line), Jason had us confirmed on the morning flight and had our Belmond hotel in Lima agree for us to cancel there and stay at the Belmond in Cusco. It was the best possible outcome of the situation…we were only staying overnight in Lima before flying back out to Iquitos, so in hindsight, this would have been a better plan in the first place…if only we didn’t have to waste 4 hours in the airport to arrive at that! Bonus night in Cusco!

We checked into the Belmond Monasterio, and old monastery, which was turned into a really lovely hotel and we all got these great two level suites! The service was great…I just wish we had more time there! We got one last meal in Cusco, so we chose one of the restaurants adjacent to our cooking class that provided two of the appetizers we loved, Uchu Peruvian Steakhouse. They had a great wine list and they brought out your entrée on a hot stone so you could let your meat cook to the temp you wanted it. It was a great last meal in Cusco!

Monday, September 18
We woke early and back to the airport it was! This time things went off without a hitch…we got to Lima and went directly to our plane for Iquitos. 1.5 hours later we landed in the city of Iquitos in the Amazonas region of Peru. Going from 11,000 feet and crisp weather was a big change, because it is very low altitude here and tropical…it was about 90 degrees when we landed! We met our driver and our naturalist guide, Rudy, for the Delphin I, the boat we would be on for the next 4 days. We boarded the Delphin’s van and started the 1.5 hour trip to Nauta, where the boat was docked. We were giving a nice boxed lunch to eat on the way, which was a really nice touch!

We arrived to the Delphin’s riverside welcome area which was a beautiful open-air room, where we were offered a refreshing fresh fruit drink by our bartender for the next 4 days, Isaac. We filled out the required forms and then got on the skiff for the short ride over to the Delphin. The boat was beautiful. It had only 4 staterooms, so the boat was just for us. We found out that there were 14 staff for the 8 of us. We are so spoiled! The staterooms were amazing…my husband and I were in the “Delphin” which was on the bottom level and it had a beautiful terrace with a small “plunge pool”. The room was gorgeous…I loved everything about the décor. The top level of the boat was open air. There were cozy couches and a beautiful, well-stocked bar with Isaac standing by to serve us. They had some delicious appetizers up there for us while they went over safety procedures and activities we would be doing. We found out that we would mostly be on the upper Amazon basin, on the actual river of Marañon, exploring the Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve, which is a huge reserve framed by the Marañon, Ucayali and Amazon rivers. Because they wanted us to at least see the actual Amazon, that evening we took out the skiff to the mouth of where the Amazon actually starts. They came in the second skiff and served us champagne and snacks and we watched the birds fly over as the sun set. It was very cool. That night we had a lovely meal made by the wonderful chef on the boat. What a fun time!

Tuesday, September 19th
We rose early and set out on the skiff from 6am-7am for some bird/animal watching. The birds in particular are very active at this time and we saw tons of varieties. The boat provided binoculars to each room…that was a nice touch. We returned back to the boat and had a lovely breakfast with many local options and eggs any way we wanted. Then we headed out for a several hour jungle walk. We took the skiff to the shore and met a local man who would be helping us look for wildlife. Within the first several minutes he had found a gigantic bird-eating tarantula and brought it over on a big leaf for us to look at. Then right after, he found a baby anaconda in a small stream! When my friend said she wanted to hold it, he plucked it carefully out of the stream and let her! Then we released it into a tree. Wow! Over the next few hours we saw many types of birds, ants, a mama sloth with a baby, a little monkey, a poison dart frog and the coolest trees ever. Then, as we went off trail to avoid some other people that were on there as well, we happened upon a huge red-tailed boa constrictor. It surprised even our guide and he jumped and looked frightened. You know that is time to back away when your guide looks scared! We gave it a wide berth and felt glad no one stepped on him! Successful day in the jungle, to say the least!

We went back to the Delphin and had a nice lunch, and headed over to a little tributary where the famous pink dolphins swim. We got out the paddleboards and those that wanted paddled around with the dolphins jumping all around. It was an amazing experience. Rudy told us it was safe to swim because we were in “blackwater”. My husband and one other brave soul in the group actually got in. They kept getting nipped by little fish Jeremy told us were Hatchet fish though, so a few minutes was enough for them! The pink dolphins were amazing…they were a very bright pink, almost orange. They hung out with many gray dolphins as well. It was awesome just sitting there on the board, watching them. An experience I will never ever forget! Afterwards, we took the skiff over to a little town and got to take a look around. The poverty they live in was amazing. In this hot, buggy environment, most houses didn’t even have windows, but the boys were happy playing soccer in a field with sticks set up as goals, and the girls were in a shoddily built classroom learning a dance for a festival, and everyone was having a good time. They sure could teach us a lot about American excess!

After that, we went down to a little area where they pulled over and pulled out some bamboo fishing poles. They had chunks of steak and we fished for pirañas. It wasn’t long after we put the rod in that they ferociously started biting. I think we all had caught one within 10 minutes. All those little sharp teeth…wow! We threw them back in and left them to their business.

It was time to head back, but the Delphin staff had a little surprise for us. They passed by the boat and took us to a little sandbar where they had a whole happy hour set up, and our cabin steward, Wilson, was playing the guitar and singing some wonderful music. They had fresh coconuts to sip and cold wine and beer and snacks with tiki torches to keep the bugs at bay, as we watched the sun go down. It was a fun little party.

When we got back to the boat, it was “movie night”. They played an hour program on the Amazon at the upstairs bar that was really interesting. Unfortunately the bugs were AWFUL…there were thousands of them on the glowing TV screen! Ick. We ended the evening with a wonderful dinner and bed!

Wednesday, September 20
This morning we set out for a jungle walk and to do the hanging bridges. We landed on the riverbank, but then took some catamaran canoes through a lake to get to another portion of the jungle. We walked through the jungle looking at all the beautiful flora. The fauna today was mostly several species of cool ants, birds and butterflies. We walked within the top of the canopy on the swinging bridges for a cool vantage point of the jungle. We were hoping for some monkey sightings, but didn’t happen today. Still, it was a cool experience, if not a little bit scary! We headed back in the canoes and our awesome Delphin crew had set up the coolest breakfast for us on a dock in the lake. It was beautifully done. Always some sort of special surprise with them!

After our walk, we went back to the boat for a little free time and then took a short skiff ride over to a hut where we met a local shaman. She told us (through Rudy) about the herbs she uses and did a little “good luck” prayer ritual for us. It was neat to see. Rudy told us almost no one in the area uses Western medicine. So interesting. After, we went back to the boat. They had ready for us a demonstration on making ceviche by the chef, which was great to see how he did it, as all recipes are a little bit different. Then Isaac led us in another Pisco Sour demonstration, which was fun. Lunch was served after. After wine at lunch and the Pisco sours, I was sleepy and retired for a nap. The rest of the gang kept the party going and attended the fresh fruit presentation. After that it was time to go back out. We took the skiff over to another tributary and got in kayaks. We paddled down and looked at the lovely scenery and lots of cool birds for about 45 minutes. We then got back in the skiff and as it got dark, Rudy got the spotlight out and started scanning the banks for wildlife. We saw many baby caiman, bats and birds. At one point he had the skiff driver pull to the side of the river in the pitch black and he got out of the boat and plucked a baby caiman off the bank. He brought it into the boat and let us all see and touch it. It was really awesome. We made our way back, enjoying the night sights, sounds and stars. It was a pretty great last evening.

We had a special dinner with a birthday cake at the end for our friend. Then Wilson, Rudy and Isaac did another musical performance that was awesome and so much fun. Another great day!

Thursday, September 21
Our last morning we woke as usual and got in the skiff for a quick trip to see the giant lily pads. It was really pretty and they looked beautiful with the sun coming up. It was a nice and quick last excursion. We headed back to the Delphin for the last time and packed up our bags and had our breakfast. Then we boarded the skiff for the 30-second last trip to shore and said goodbye to our wonderful Delphin staff (except for Rudy who would be escorting us to the airport). We started in on the 1.5-trip back from Nauta to Iquitos. Right outside of Iquitos, we stopped at the Amazon Rescue Center and saw some of the great animals they are rescuing. Compared to the US, it is pretty shabby, but they are doing what they can there with the resources they have.

Then it was a quick drive to the airport and we said goodbye to Rudy and boarded our flight back to Lima. He provided us all boxed lunches to eat while we waited for our flight, which was great. We were met in Lima by yet another Kuoda person, and driven the 45 minutes (in awful rush hour traffic) to the neighborhood of Miaraflores where we checked in to the Belmond Miraflores Park Hotel. We had some time to chill out, have a couple of drinks and apps in the hotel before our dinner reservation at Central.

We walked over to Central, the “World’s 4th Best Restaurant”. We booked this 3 months in advance to assure we got a table. We had a group of 8 and because they only had tables for up to 6, we booked 2 separate tables. Two of us had to book separately because we were told they would not accommodate large parties broken up. From the get-go I was a little annoyed at the pretention, but we were excited to try it out, especially after seeing the episode of “Chef’s Table” featuring it and the chef, Virgilio Martínez Véliz. We all got the “Elevations” 17-Course meal. 2 of our group got the vegetarian versions.

We started off on this experience, girls at one table, guys at another (and btw they would not sit us next to each other--they put us a table apart). The courses started coming, slowly, but surely. At one point in the Chef’s Table show, the commentator described some of the courses/food as “uncomfortable”. I felt like most of the courses could be described as that. In fact I didn’t really “enjoy” any of them. Yes, they were phenomenally presented (almost to the detriment of the actual food) and the ingredients were insanely unique, but I didn’t actually ‘like’ much of it! Does that make a top restaurant? I guess? Maybe it was the end of a long 2 weeks and I just wasn’t in to it. Maybe I was exhausted–we started at 8 and I made my husband leave with me at 11:45, before the final 17th course, because I couldn’t hold my eyes open any longer. Maybe I didn’t love most of the drinks in the pairings. I don’t know…I just didn’t love it. I have been to wonderful restaurants all over the world. This was the highest ranked out of the ones we have been to…but I didn’t even grab a business card to put on my “wall of fame” of favorite restaurants at my house back home. It was kind of a bummer, but, it was a definite experience and I am (sort of?) glad we did it.

Friday, September 22
This morning we could actually SLEEP IN! I almost never get to do this, but when I cracked my eyes it was 10am! We hung out in our nice hotel room, drinking coffee and reading, which is a big luxury as a mom of two young boys! Our friends extended their hotel room a night, as our flight wasn’t until 1 am and they wanted to a place to change later and to keep their luggage there. We brought our luggage to their room and the Kuoda tour guide picked us up at noon for a tour of Lima. Now, we were all completely not into this tour as we were just tired and ready to go home! But we figured, we may not be in Lima again, so we would go and do it. She took us to the Museo Raphael Larco Herrero. This is a beautiful little museum that has a quaint restaurant that we really enjoyed! There are beautiful flowers and plants everywhere. The museum features artifacts from Peruvian pre-Columbian history, which was very interesting. We then went to the old square and to the Cathedral and took a quick look around and saw Pizarro’s tomb.

The city of Lima itself was unimpressive and I was surprised at how run-down it was. And the TRAFFIC. I have never seen traffic like this before. It made me want to return back to my small town in NC ASAP. I was done. Again, glad we saw a little bit of Lima, but didn’t need to see any more! We went back to the hotel and walked over to the mall on the cliff in Miraflores and had an ok meal at some Italian place just to get dinner out of the way. We probably should have gone to another restaurant really highlighting some of the great Peruvian gastronomy we had heard about…but we were done. We then headed off to the airport and then HOME!

What an incredible two weeks. The history, culture and people of Peru were wonderful, and it will be a trip I never forget!

Some general notes:
Peru’s sewage system country-wide is not good, so you have to throw your toilet paper in the trash cans every place you go, even in nicer hotels.

Bring lots of money for tips, especially on a trip like ours where we were tipping guides, drivers, porters, etc. Find out beforehand how much you need for the trail trek if you do it…they like American dollars and it boiled down to about $400 per couple because our group was so large…we had to scramble two days before to get that amount of money out of ATMs, etc. Same with our Amazon cruise and all our Kuoda helpers.

Everything is SUPER casual in Peru. Most people wear outdoorsy clothes (Patagonia, North Face, etc.) to even dinners…especially in Sacred Valley and Cusco. The only time we dressed up was for Central in Lima, and that wasn’t even super fancy.

If you do the trail, layering is KEY. It gets COLD at night and usually warms in the day to where you are hot from exertion. Definitely bring adequate rain gear and a cheap poncho, which is easy to throw over and protects your pack.

There is lots of animal (and human!) excrement on the trail. Make sure you have a cover for your Camelbak sippy thing and or antibacterial wipes/hand gel.

The toilets/showers they do have on random stops on the trail usually cost you about 1 Sol, so have lots of change available. They are also NASTY with no toilet paper. Bring your own and ladies, bring a P-style (look it up).

If you take photos of any locals, they kind of expect 1 Sol.

Certain parts of the mountains and the Amazon are very buggy! Make sure you have your bug spray/deet!

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