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Family trip report Peru: Inca trail, Sacred Valley, Cuzco, Lake Titicaca and Lima

Family trip report Peru: Inca trail, Sacred Valley, Cuzco, Lake Titicaca and Lima

Old Sep 27th, 2021, 07:01 AM
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Loving it, your daughters are precious in those blue "tutu" dresses.
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Old Sep 27th, 2021, 07:01 AM
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Wow! Thank you for the compliment! It means a lot coming from you! You have such a wonderful blog!
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Old Sep 27th, 2021, 07:03 AM
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@mlgb: Lol I had to fight with them to put these blue sweater dresses because the organza around the sleeve would itch them! I rolled the sleeves…
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Old Sep 28th, 2021, 05:52 AM
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If you feel inclined, I'd like to see the report of the rest of your trip, TJ!
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Old Sep 29th, 2021, 03:02 AM
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I am off tomorrow, I should be able to do another installment. We loved the Inca trail and Machu Picchu, but my husband’s highlight was lake titicaca and the homestay with a family.
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Old Sep 29th, 2021, 06:56 AM
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Looking forward to it.
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Old Sep 30th, 2021, 06:52 AM
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Day 10 Machu Picchu visit

By six am, we are boarding the bus in Aguas Calientes to visit Machu Picchu. Miguel our guide tells us that before covid the lines would snake around for blocks. The bus does many switchbacks before stopping in front of the Belmont hotel, at the entrance of Machu Picchu. Miguel tells us that the government would like to convert the hotel into a museum.

Today is as perfect as it can: blue skies, majestic ruins, and very little people. They are very serious about mask wearing and we got a stern warning when we lowered our masks briefly for a photo. We visit Machu Picchu slowly, listening to Miguel telling us about the Inca rulers, Hiram Bingham, and the temple of the sun. The Inca road system (and the Inca trail is only a small part of it) included a route to Machu Picchu. During our hike we encountered other trails, some of them not maintained and waiting to be rediscovered in the forest. The hike to Huayna Picchu was closed to my disappointment. Machu Picchu keeps a small group of llamas on the grounds.

In the afternoon, we check in the Inkaterra hotel for a well deserved break.

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Old Sep 30th, 2021, 07:02 AM
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Day 11Aguas Calientes

We wake up late for once and take advantage of the nature tour offered by the Inkaterra hotel, see the spectacle bears, and swim in the hot springs.

We take the train to Ollantaytambo. There is another team from Alpaca Expeditions who were on the 4D/3N Inca a day later than us and just came off the trail after visiting Machu Picchu this morning. They look worn out and are sleeping in their seats. I am once again very glad that we were able see Machu Picchu rested after a good night of sleep in a real bed and after a hot shower. Knowing myself, I wouldn’t have been able to enjoy Machu Picchu as much. And this was a site I wanted to enjoy slowly and throughly. From Ollantaytambo, we are transferred to Cuzco, reunited with the rest of our luggage and dropped off at the Ninos Meloc hotel. It is late by the time we check in, but the lovely staff keep the kitchen open and a wood fire going. Our room is spacious but cold. We do have a portable heater but the ceiling is high. With extra blankets we are fine.

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Old Sep 30th, 2021, 07:10 AM
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Day 12 Cuzco

We have a full day in Cuzco and we start out with a free walking tour of the city. It takes a while to find our tour guide because he is not wearing the colors of company (inkamilkyway.com) But we eventually find him and only one other person is doing the tour with us, a Russian spending a year in South America.

I love walking tour of the city. There is minimal work involve on my part except for making the children behave. We usually discover neat neighborhood on walking tours. We really enjoy the San Pedro market, tasting different fruits and nuts. We can even dig deeper in the history of the Incas and Pizzaro, Catholicism the religion of the conquerors versus the Inca gods.

After the tour we were all excited to visit the Inka museum, but to our disappointment it was closed because of covid. Hours were not updates on the website. Normally, our children love museums and had good experiences in the Acropolis museums (has a treasure hunt!) and several ones in Paris. Our consolation was to go to the museum of chocolate and have the children do their own chocolate creations.

Several baby llamas clean and decorated were paraded in the streets of Cuzco and of course my daughters needed to obligatory picture of a baby llama in their arms.

Overall our visit in Cuzco was too short. We needed more time to explore and do a few museums. It is a gorgeous city and we much preferred it to Lima.
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Old Sep 30th, 2021, 07:19 AM
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Day 13

Another early day departure. Our guide from All Ways Travel (titicacaperu.com) finds us just as we are finishing up breakfast. With no trains running, no direct flights, no Inka Express bus, our only option was a private transfer.

Our guide and driver had driven the distance from Puno to Cuzco the day before. Despite the long distance both are grateful for work. Our guide comes from Amantani island and at the beginning of the pandemic went to Puno to learn English. Once fluent he was hired and opened his first bank account. He provides us with an intimate detail of the islander life. Marriage for example is to join the community on the island with the right to vote and be elected. Living with your significant other and children is not the driving force for getting married. Christianity is also more remote and the Inca gods play a more important role. Our guide had been living with his significant other for nine years and had a son. He recently bought a house on Amantani and was wanted now to get married to be accepted in the community politics and have a say about the common projects around the island (like building a paved walking road).

Our van is very spacious, for at least 25 people but we are alone. It is very useful especially when the children want to sleep. The drive from Cuzco to Puno is 7 hours non stop but we have multiple stops following the same one done by the Inca express bus (the Sun Route). Frankly with all the stops and lunch break the day, the voyage went fast. We see the Andahuaylillas church (that didn’t impress us), the raqchi ruins (highly recommend as a stop), and stretch our legs at La Raya Pass (14,222 feet/4,335 meters). Our museum stop, Pucara is closed.

Driving at a high altitude on this plateau, we are privileged to observe the agricultural daily life. The traditional clothes are worn daily, not just during parades and national holidays like some countries. On Amantani and Taquile islands on lake Titicaca, we witness this as well. There is a lot of pride in ones clothes and it says from which village one comes from.

We checked in our hotel, the GHL hotel Lago Titicaca, our first modern hotel! It is warm, comfortable and the breakfast buffet splendid. Just don’t do laundry there: it is one of those places that charges per item instead per kilo like our cheap hotel in Aguas Calientes, the Inti Punctu. I ran in the same situation in Luang Prabang in Laos: the fancier the hotel, the more expensive the laundry is. And traveling with children and carry on only, we have a lot laundry to do when traveling.


It is time once again to sort out our luggage. We are only bringing one carry-on with us on the island. There are no cars on Amantani. Whatever we bring, we have to be able to carry. The rest of our luggage will stay at the hotel in Puno. We also bought fruits for our host family (no fruit trees are able to grow on the island because of the altitude) and bread from Cuzco, called pan chuta. My husband has also a backpack full of toys for the children of our host family.
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Old Sep 30th, 2021, 10:57 AM
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More great stuff. You are not alone in wishing you had longer in Cusco, many do, there is just so much to see and it is a great palce just to wander the streets and see what you find. We stayed at Nińos Meloc on our last visit and I too remember it being very cold! A great choice as they run a number of schools for underprivileged children from the revenues generated.
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Old Oct 1st, 2021, 06:28 PM
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I am looking forward to spending more time in Cuzco when I come back with my sister in law.
The Ninos hotel was mentioned a few times on this site and it did not disappoint.
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Old Oct 3rd, 2021, 01:46 PM
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Day 14 Floating Islands and Amantani island

Excited to be on the water, we leave behind Puno. Our little boat is very comfortable with an indoor area, a bathroom, and an upper desk. In the high reeds, we catch a glimpse of a pig. Lake Titicaca is a large freshwater lake but around the shores of Puno, it seems small, almost swampy.

We guess in the distance the remarkable Uros islands, made entirely of reeds. There are several primary schools interspersed amongst them. The Uros population is dwindling, and after witnessing the harshness of their daily lives, it is easy to understand. They are proud people our guide tells us, excellent fishermen, independent from the Incas as well as the current government. Lima’s influence seems so far away now.

Adults and children alike are fascinated by the Uros islands. And while some might call it touristy, it is a way of life I have never encountered before and I am very grateful to be able to walk on one of these reed islands and talk to its habitants. When you walk, you feel the softness of the ground undulate slightly under your feet. We listen closely as we are taught how the inhabitants build the reed islands and maintain them. Two to three Uru families live on one floating island, and the island has to be maintained with additional reeds every three weeks. An Uro man takes a bite from one of the reed roots to demonstrate their comestible value. And of course, my daughters want to imitate him immediately. It tastes a bit like celery.

The women of the island want to dress up our daughters in their traditional garments and our daughters are willing participants. Despite the social economic harshness that Covid brought on to their economic survival, we do not experience any hard sales. Products to buy are laid out. We bought a small toy boat made of reeds and a small purse. We boarded the traditional reed boat for a small ride. Our guide sets a fee for us; at the end, our navigator changes the price (not by a lot). I argue weakly and then let it go.

Back on our modern boat, we leave the floating islands behind and navigate towards what seems to be a never-ending ocean. My five years old has difficulty understanding that this indeed is a lake. Far away in the distance we can guess the outlines of Taquile and Amantani islands. Our captain is from Taquile island and we learn that his clothes and especially his hat have to be just right for him to be able to score a bride.

On Amantani island, we meet our “mama” , a stocky woman with a huge smile. She guides us to her house, climbing with agility up and up. Her house is lovely with a gorgeous flower garden. We are shown our rooms, and then congregate in the kitchen, the heart of the house. The kitchen is a low dark room that keeps the much-needed heat in; it is cold outside. We had requested to be hosted by a family with children. Two little shy heads peak around the corner. The Amantani little boys are 7 and 9 years old. The big sister is 15 and she is more self-assured. Since the pandemic with school online, she has to climb to the top of the mountain on Amantani island to get reception on her phone. Unfortunately, the phone battery doesn’t last all day, and she still ends up missing a good part of the curriculum despite her best efforts. She wants to become a physician and next year will have to live in Puno with family members to pursue her studies. I am delighted to encourage her further.

We are served a delicious lunch of a hearty soup and an omelet. The sheep are back from the field and there are two newborn lambs. They are adorable and we take turns picking them up. My five years old gets extremely attached to one and is determined to bring it back with us in Florida. After inquiring about the price, only 15 dollars, we did buy it. It is eating our grass in our backyard as I type this. Just kidding. I promise her that we can always come back.

My husband distributes the toys, but also school supplies to the children. The soccer ball is a huge hit. Soon all five children are playing volleyball with the soccer ball in the small courtyard. We also give our solar battery phone charger to the 15 years old for her online lessons on top of the mountain where there is reception. My husband thought he would need a solar battery charger on the Inca trail, but in the end we didn’t.

Our guide encourages us to hike up the mountain to Pachamama’s temple. Even though our daughters have climbed the Inca trail, they are tired and whiny. They do not want to climb. I end up climbing with my five-year-old on my back and alternating with the guide carrying her as well. He is from Amantani island and you can tell that he loves his island very much as he talks fondly of his life here. The path was recently paved in 2020; it is easy to follow. There are no cars on Amantani, but there are a few rare motorbikes. There are also no dogs, because our guide tells us, they would eat too much, and meat is reserved for festivals. The islanders are mostly vegetarians. The pandemic has not caused any deaths or severe illnesses, he adds, and honestly with the lack of testing ability, it is difficult to gage how much it is or was present on Amantani. Observing the islanders, I see that they are hardy and healthy people; healthier than the Uru plagued with rheumatisms from living on the water, and obesity especially for the women who don’t walk far on their small reed island. In contrast, the Amantani people walk and climb for miles every day. Our guide tells us he used to walk 7 miles to school at the age of 5-year-old on his own.

The sunset from the top of the mountain is beautiful, especially with the 360 panoramic views of the water. In the distance we guess Bolivia. With the night comes the low temperatures, and once again we put on our winter coats and wool hats. In the dark, we come back to our house for dinner. Our guide bid us goodbye. His house is on the other side of the island. Even for a hardened islander like him, it will still take him an hour to walk and hike to his house.

It is nice in the kitchen with the family around the table. The children are curious and ask a lot of questions. They speak Quechua amongst themselves and learned Spanish in school. I translate as best as I can for my husband and children.

There is electricity at the house and we briefly use it to change into our night clothes. The bathroom is in a separate building. If we don’t want to walk outside at night in the cold, a chamber pot is provided next to the bed. Plenty of blankets are given. The starry night is clear and full of constellations. The children are very happy to spend the night at the house. Falling asleep my eight-year-old says: “Those boys are so lucky to be living here.” My five-year-old answers: “I get to see my baby lamb again tomorrow. “
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Old Oct 4th, 2021, 08:56 AM
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Thank you for continuing your report.
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Old Oct 27th, 2021, 04:54 PM
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Day 15 Taquile Island

We wake up with the sunrise. With limited access to electricity, we went to bed not long after the sunset yesterday. There is something really nice about following the circadian rhythm so closely.

My five year old runs to the sheep pen and start carrying around her pet lamb everywhere. After breakfast, we say goodbye to our host family. It is worth noting that we pay our host family directly, not through All Ways Travel (there is a separate fee for the guide and the transport to the islands paid to All Ways travel). In the past some families on Amantani were not paid by the various travel agencies that brought them travelers. It is important to select the right one.

We leave on our boat once more, with the family waving goodbye. We are very close to Taquile Island, and soon we find ourselves climbing the vertical path on that island.

We watch traditional dances. Knitting is exclusively performed by males. Their economy is based on collectivism and on the Inca moral code of do not steal, do not lie, do not be lazy.

We return to Puno late afternoon and spend the night at the Sonesta Posadas del Inca. I had chosen it because it had it’s own llama herd. But the llamas are gone by the time we checked in and we liked the sister property GHL lago better where we spent our first night in Puno.

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Old Oct 27th, 2021, 05:08 PM
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Day 16 Back to Lima

Juliaca.

The city of ill reputation is where our airport is located. It is according to our driver, the contraband capital and largest source of cocaine smuggling. Through the relative safety of our car, we see the streets littered with garbage and crumbling concrete buildings.

The airport in contrast is modern, safe and empty.

Our hotel in Lima, the Faraona Grand hotel is located in Miraflores. We love our neighborhood but the room is cold and a bit dated. The reception is able to give us a tiny space heater. That night we dine at Astrid and Gastón. We are lucky that Astrid is visiting her restaurant. My 8 year old recognizes her from one of her portrait in the restaurant and she is so excited! Great food, great service. A fun night before our departure tomorrow!

Day 17

We have a easy day today. Our flight to the USA is a red eye and it not departing until 10:30pm. I booked the hotel for two nights, so we get to keep the room until it is time to leave to the airport that evening.

We walk a bit around miraflores. There is a street with photographs exposing events around the worlds. We are happy to see another side of Lima , not just from an airport hotel.

Flight is uneventful going home.
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Old Oct 29th, 2021, 01:40 AM
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What a fantastic trip! Thank you so much for the detailed trip report, it brought back a lot of memories of our travels in Peru. You did well to reach the top of the mountain on Taquile. I can recall my wife getting sick on that ascent despite having been at altitude in Cusco for several months.
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Old Oct 29th, 2021, 05:33 AM
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Thank you for reading and following my journey.
Writing it also allows me to reflect back. It was challenging at moments. Different than just going to France for a week (which we did later that summer, where I didn’t plan a thing except bicycle, drink wine and visit castles).
I am so glad we went. I miss the adventure, the surprises that come with exploring.
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Old Oct 29th, 2021, 09:13 AM
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Great memories, fantastic photos.
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Old Oct 30th, 2021, 03:02 AM
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Thank you for reading along!
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