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Praise for Peru – A report of my solo month in this amazing country

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Jul 10th, 2018, 09:18 PM
  #1
kja
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Praise for Peru – A report of my solo month in this amazing country

I was incredibly fortunate to have spent the month of May, 2018, in Peru, and wanted to share some of my experience with you – perhaps more than you would like, so feel free to skim!

My plan for this trip report is to
- provide a bit of context, offer some thanks to those of you who helped me plan this trip, and outline my final itinerary;
- summarize what I liked best and least about my experiences in Peru; and then
- offer a more detailed description of what I saw and did.
Questions are welcome at any time!

For those who don’t know me:
  • I’m a reasonably experienced solo independent female traveler.
  • This was my first trip to South America and my second south of the equator. (I’d been to Singapore and parts of Indonesia before.)
  • I plan my trips with an eye to maximizing the diversity of my experiences. My tastes are fairly eclectic, but not entirely indiscriminate: I typically enjoy art, architecture, archeological sites, museums, religious structures, parks and gardens, natural scenery, markets (for their atmosphere, not for shopping), picturesque villages, good food and wine, folk traditions, buildings of state or defense (e.g., palaces and fortresses), and the chance to see and experience other parts of the world.
  • I generally don’t seek opportunities to relax (relying on meals and time in transit for that). Instead, I hope to take full advantage of every moment I have on the road!
  • I’m not a shopper, but I do buy gifts for family and friends when abroad, preferrably as close to the end of my trip as possible.
  • I learned a bit of Spanish before my trip – not much, not well, and with a focus on civilities.
  • As a rule, I have preferred to visit places without guides, instead relying on what I have read to inform my experiences. Quite in contrast, I hired guides for many of the locations I visited in Peru, sometimes because it seemed that the easiest way to visit a set of sites was to take an organized and guided day trip, but in other cases because I wanted access to expertise – no matter how much I read in advance, there were so many places from so many different cultures and eras (if with overlapping features) that I was well aware in advance that my ideas were becoming very muddled.
  • This trip included my very first experience with an overnight tour – a two-day tour with one overnight stop, for which tour members had a choice of at least three different lodgings.
When planning this trip, I used multiple guidebooks, including, in alphabetical order:
  • Fodor’s;
  • Footprint (an edition that also included Bolivia and Ecuador);
  • Frommer’s;
  • Insight;
  • Lonely Planet;
  • Moon;
  • National Geographic; and
  • Rough Guide (unfortunately out-of-date).
Without doubt, the ones I found most useful were the guides from Moon and Lonely Planet.

I also used various on-line sources, and – with my sincere thanks – the input of my fellow Fodorites. You can find my Planning threads a these links:
Help! Travel times are wreaking havoc on my plans for Peru and Bolivia !
Please help me eat well in Peru!
Booking flights to/from and within a country
Preliminary thoughts -- Peru and a bit of Bolivia?
And those planning threads were very helpful! For example:

crellston &
mlgb:
My plans for this trip were infinitely better because of the generous and informative assistance that each of you offered -- many, many thanks! I suspect that you will see your footsteps throughout my journey, and if I erred when stepping off the track, that’s on me.

Bbult5:
In addition to your detailed comments about dining in Peru, I’m glad that you mentioned that Gaston’s Chicha restaurants are worth considering. I didn’t make it to the one in Cusco, but was glad to visit the one in Arequipa.

Bedar:
I’m grateful for your reminder about innoculation for yellow fever. I hadn’t thought that I would need it, but according to my physician, I did – and in the end, I’m glad to have gotten it now, as I believe the risks increase with age.

Christina &
Odin:
Thanks for responding to my question about booking flights! I ended up booking everything through LATAM, and although there were some strange moments that I think were probably related to code-shares, it all worked out.

sf7307:
I’m glad you drew my attention to the Museo Larco’s restaurant! Although I didn’t dine there, I enjoyed a very pleasant interlude there with a pisco sour.

xcountry:
Thanks for preparing me for the disneyesque features of a trip into Lake Titicaca. Bien hecho!

yestravel:
I definitely benefited from your encouragement to add time to the Sacred Valley, and am glad I chose to stay in Pisac for a couple of nights.

My final itinerary:
• Fly "straight" (with 2 stopovers, sigh) into Jaén; shared van to Chachapoyas. 1 night in Chachapoyas, then 2 nights in Leymebamba. Visit Kuelap en route back to Chachapoyas in time for overnight bus to…
• Chiclayo. 3 nights in Chiclayo, including day trips to various local destinations. Evening bus to…
• Trujillo. 3 nights in Trujillo, including day trips. Flight to …
• Lima. 4 nights in Lima, then mid-day flight to …
• Ayachucho. 3 nights in Ayacucho, with a day trip to the Wari site nearby. Flight to….
• Arequipa. 3 nights in Arequipa. Early bus tour to …
• Coporaque in Colca Canyon. 1 night in Coporaque, then continue the tour to…
• Puno. 2 nights in Puno, including a visit to the Uros Islands. Bus tour to Cusco and taxi to …
• Ollantaytambo; overnight in Ollantaytambo. Train to…
• Aguas Calientes. Afternoon visit to Machu Picchu. One night in AC, then train to Ollantaytambo and taxi to …
• Pisac. 2 nights in Pisac, and then a taxi through the Sacred Valley to….
• Cusco. 4 nights in Cusco, and then
• Return to the U.S
(I did not go into the Amazonian basin.)

Next up: What I liked best.

Last edited by kja; Jul 10th, 2018 at 09:24 PM.
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Jul 11th, 2018, 04:37 AM
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Looks like a very interesting itin. Looking forward to reading about it. Maybe one of these days I'll get back to Peru to explore themany places we didn't get to.
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Jul 11th, 2018, 06:30 AM
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I'll be following, of course!
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Jul 11th, 2018, 03:55 PM
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Wow! You covered quite a bit of ground. Looking forward to joining you for the journey.
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Jul 11th, 2018, 05:07 PM
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kja
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Its so nice to welcome you to my trip report!

@ yestravel: This itinerary worked well for me. I would have liked more time in Lima (but I’m OK with that, because it’s the easiest of these cities to revisit), and I could have trimmed by time in Cusco by a day (but maybe that’s just because the entire trip was, I think, a day too long); otherwise, I was pleased with the plan. And whether you actually go back or not, I hope you enjoy this vicarious journey.

@ mlgb: Thanks again! I look forward to hearing your thoughts on some of my experiences and some of the things that puzzled me along the way.

@ tripplanner001: I’m glad you’ve joined in! It was quite a bit of ground, but then it was month-long trip.


- - - - -

There was so much to treasure about my experiences in Peru! Here are some of the
things I liked best, in no particular order:


· The utterly fascinating range of pre-Columbian ruins and artifacts! I visited sites associated with the Chachapoyan, Sican, Moche, Chimú, Wari, Collahuan, Aymaran, Pukaran, and Incan cultures, not to mention Ventarrón, which substantially predates all of the others. I was struck by both the similarities (e.g., images of water, birds, and felines; incorporation of important features of the local landscape into the site and especially the ceremonial centers thereof) and the differences (e.g., stone or adobe, with or without pyramids), and was intrigued by the ways in which ceramics and metallurgy and textiles provided evidence of unique communities that traded with each other (if contemporaneous) or built on each other (if consecutive). What a rich heritage!

· The knowledge and patience of the many guides with whom I worked who let me take whatever time I wanted and tolerated my many, many questions and not only responded with kindness and forebearance, but even made it seem that they appreciated my interest. In virtually every case, I felt that I was interacting with a person who wanted to share things they loved, rather than someone I had hired for a purpose, or someone who was a temporary instructor to my transient student role.

· And kudos to the many museums that helped me begin to appreciate their artifacts, with displays to help me understand how items were created and the purposes to which they were put and the differences among the relics of differing times or places. And particular kudos to museum staff who never signaled the approach of closing time, and even made sure I stayed after the official closing times if that’s what it took for me to see a museum’s treasures.

· And the various museum staff and guards and hotel staff who not only called a taxi for me, but then wouldn’t leave until certain that I was in the right taxi and had been quoted a reasonable rate – so clearly above and beyond their duties!

· The astonishing variety of ecosystems that I saw! Granted, I planned my trip with an eye to that (albeit skipping the Amazon basin), but even so, I hadn’t appreciated just how diverse some of these settings would be, nor had I realized how different they would be from things I had experienced elsewhere. I was awed by the gentle and varied lushness of cloud forests; the barren harshness of coastal deserts; the otherwordly clarity and starkness of the altiplano, and in contrast, the contrasting fertility of the plains and terraces of the Sacred Valley (also high, but not as high as the altiplano); the volcanos around Arequipa and the Colca Canyon, and the surprisingly deep, narrow canyon itself; the pounding surf of the Pacific coast and the still reed-filled waters of Lake Titicaca; the deceptive speed of rivers carrying the runoff from Andean peaks and the dry landscapes of fractured and uplifted mesas peppered with caves rising up above river valleys and rice paddies….

· And the wondrous diversity of the flora and fauna supported by these various ecosystems! I saw glorious hummingbirds and spectacular condors and seabirds and parrots and hawks and “Incan chickens” (a black and white bird so named, I was told, because they were eaten by Incas before the introduction of chickens); … elegant vicuñas and charming baby alpacas and vast herds of llamas; … huge hopping rabits and a grazing chinchilla and batches of guinea pigs for sale in markets; … even a pair of lizards fighting for dominance! And the flowers – orchids and cantuta and precious tiny emerald-green plant among the volcanic craters near the Colca Canyon and fuchsias….

· And oh, the food! (Well, except for Central – more on that in the negatives column ). I benefitted greatly from Fodorites’ wisdom, but honestly, I don’t think I could have failed to eat well in this country of amazing tastes and flavors and multicultural influences! From the simplest (and extraordinarily) fresh fish to the most complicated of the courses at Maido or Astrid & Gaston, from regional specialties (like ceviche) through dishes known throughout the country (like aji de gallina); from the everyday (like bread straight from a horno) to the celebratory feast (like chiriuchi), I savored some amazing dishes! I found that I definitely like cuy, and I enjoyed alpaca so much that I’ve already identified ways to buy it for home consumption.

· Which reminds me of pisco sours. And colca sours.

· And it also makes me think of the markets, whether chaotic melanges of everything for legitimate sale or devoted specifically to artisans’ wares, they were always colorful and full of fascinating and beautiful items and, whether I was trying to bargain or just asking whether it would be OK to take a picture, filled with gracious and amiable vendors….

· And speaking of crafts … have I mentioned the textiles? What an amazing history of textile creation, with such diverse developments, many of which remain part of traditional life in some of the regions I visited. I had read that at the time of the Spanish conquest, high quality textiles were considered more valuable that gold or silver, and I can believe it! And the use of knots to record important information? Who knew that Madame Defarge was inadvertently building on quipo! (OK, not exactly….) Whether admiring textiles in museum display cases or touching items I considered buying, I was in awe of the artistry and craftsmenship.

· I was thrilled to see that many people in the highlands still wear traditional garb, and not for the possibility of earning a bit of money by posing for tourists (although a few youngsters did that), but because it is their way. And I don’t remember these people just for their apparel, but also for their dignity and grace, and the warmth and gentleness in their greetings, and the expressiveness of their faces – I didn’t need to understand Spanish to know something of the empathy conveyed in conversations taking place around me when on a combi or plaza.

· And various parades and festivals, some planned (Corpus Christi in Cusco), some entirely unexpected

· The plazas! They differed in grandeur and stone and aura, but they always had a cathedral that testified to Peru’s Colonial times, always with some other grand buildings, often (always?) with arcades around the edges, and always filled by people who seemed to be enjoying the public space,

· And have I mentioned the Colonial courtyard homes? Often with beautiful courtyards, some are now museums or banks or – thank goodness! – hotels or B&Bs. Often hidden from the streets, where one sees only long walls with a few enticing (and often beautiful) upper windows or balcanies, the courtyards often provide a delightful respite, with a fountain and plants and places to site in the sun or shade….

· Then there were the many ways in which churches and monasteries of the Colonial era found a way to incorporate Catholic and Incan and pre-Incan concepts into their iconography, and the fascinating juxtapositions that resulted – busts of bare-breasted women among somber paintings of saints; images of the Holy Family and other scenes from the Bible in which just about every adult has long, nearly black hair; paintings of Mary and other saintes in the “Escuela Cuzqueña” style, in which skirts are depicted in a way that represents mountains (which were sacred to the Incas)….

· And other aspects of Incan cosmology, like the “constellations” defined by dark spaces within the Milky Way -- and oh, some of those night skies were worth seeing no matter how cold the air!

· And just in case it isn’t already clear from these comments, a special and heartfelt word of praise to the many wonderful people with whom I intereacted along the way. I’ve been fortunate to have travelled to many places where people treated me with kindness and generosity, and even so, the people I met in Peru impressed me deeply with their helpfulness and patience and grace. I suspect that my memories of them will be among the most enduring memories I hold of this trip, and rightfully so!


Next up: What I liked least.

Last edited by kja; Jul 11th, 2018 at 05:22 PM.
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Jul 11th, 2018, 05:07 PM
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Can't wait to read more about your trip, we'll be in Peru in about a month. As you know we travel slower (by choice) and for shorter periods of time (not by choice). We'll have 1 week in Sacred Valley, Cusco, MP and 1 week in the Amazon area. So any tips you can share about the area we'll cover in the 1st week will be greatly appreciated. Any restaurant recommendations? Thanks.
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Jul 11th, 2018, 07:10 PM
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A great start and an interesting perpective. You really did pack a lot in to your time there.
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Jul 11th, 2018, 07:34 PM
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kja
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@ xyz99: Sorry that I probably won’t post on the Sacred Value, Cusco, or Machu Picchu before you leave, but we’ll see how the timing works out!

Some tips –

· Make sure you have reservations for your time at Machu Picchu itself. Buy your bus tickets to get from Agua Calientes to Machu Picchu as soon as you can conveniently do so, and be sure you have your MP ticket, your passport, and the same CC you used for any prior purchases on hand. Expect LONG lines.

· Upon leaving the train station at Aguas Calientes, be prepared to have to find your way through an extensive artisans’ market. I was glad that someone from my hotel met me to help me find my way out. And BTW, I was very pleased with the Panarama B&B!

· DO get a guide for Machu Picchu. (You can get one once at the gate.) Perhaps you know that I don’t usually recommend guides? For Machu Picchu, I am very, very glad that I chose to hire a guide!

· DO get a guide for the Ollantaytambo ruins. (Again, no need to make arrangements in advance.)

· I enjoyed the Sunday market and mass in Pisac; I believe some other Fodorites have been less enthusiastic.

· If you have any interest in museums, I thought the Museo de Arte Precolombino in Cusco extraordinary, even though some of its collections may be closed for now. I also thought the Museo Inka and Museo Histórico Regional well worth seeing.

· For an excellent pisco sour in one of the more bizarrely LOL places I’ve seen in recent years, consider the Fallen Angel in Cusco.

· Consider using the audio guide at the Cathedral in Cusco.

· DO bring a hat -- the sun is disturbingly bright and can burn you even though repeated applications of sunscreen.

· DO be sure to give yourselves time to acclimate to the altitude, and make sure you know what signs and symptoms to monitor.

· Be prepared for temperature extremes! Going when you are, you probably won’t encounter quite the same extremes that I did, but note that nights in the highlands (and Cusco is, quite decidedly, in the highlands!) can be exremely cold at night, even if T-shirt hot during the day.

· DO try to take a look at the night sky if you get a chance.

As for restaurants – consider Apu Inti in Aguas Calientes for a somewhat upscale meal (I thought the alpaca excellent) and perhaps Ulrike’s Café in Pisac for a much more casual taste of some traditional meals (like aji de gallina). Do NOT go to MIL.

Hope that helps! And if you have other specific questions, I will – of course – do my best to respond. You are in for a wonderful set of experiences!

Last edited by kja; Jul 11th, 2018 at 07:47 PM.
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Jul 11th, 2018, 07:47 PM
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I still have my tee shirt from Ulrikes Cafe-glad to hear it’s still around.
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Jul 11th, 2018, 08:16 PM
  #10
kja
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While posting and editing, even more posts.

@ xyz99: I forgot to recommend Niños Hotel Meloc in Cusco -- wonderful! I think I learned about it through crellston, and, to "speak of the devil"...

@ crellston: I was preparing another resonse as you posted! I’m very glad that you are reading along, and agree – I packed in a lot! You and others just made it sound so enticing! I’d love to know what makes you characterize my perspective as “interesting,” and trust that you will elaborate if you choose to do so….

@ yestravel: Isn’t Ulrike’s a gem? I definitely enjoyed that place for its food and its atmosphere and the low key way its staff responded to me.
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Jul 11th, 2018, 11:22 PM
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Pretty much Yes on everything you have said (especially about Peruvians).

Those Central-type restaurants aren't my thing but it will be interesting to read about it. All the more disappointing when it's so highly touted (and priced).

I agree with you on Pisac market, Sunday is a little different than other days, I believe, because of the Quechua Mass and the veg market, you see more villagers in traditional clothing there on personal business (not just with a baby sheep for photos).

Last edited by mlgb; Jul 11th, 2018 at 11:32 PM.
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Jul 12th, 2018, 07:41 AM
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Just found this and looking forward to more. You are certainly painting an attractive picture of a place already on my list.
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Jul 12th, 2018, 04:09 PM
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kja
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@ mlgb: I so enjoyed the Peruvians with whom I had the good fortune to interact! I’ll write more about the Pisac Sunday market and mass later; in the meantime, I can say that I definitely enjoyed them. As for Central, read on….

@ thursdaysd: I’m glad to see that you’ve started reading along! I thought Peru very attractive, and hope that you still think so after reading today’s post on what I liked least.

- - - - -


Despite the many wonderful and wonderfully memorable moments of my time in Peru, there were some down sides. Here are
the things I liked least:

· Perhaps first and foremost, I felt sooooo very decrepit! I began the trip with an unfortunate compliment of minor aches and pains, and though all were trivial, it seemed that as I healed from any one of them, I managed to replace it with something just a bit worse. None of that would have held me back – I’ve found a bit of bruising and battering to be par for the course when I travel, even in my earliest trips – but altitude added a whammy. I’m very fortunate, in that I did not experience actual altitude sickness, but even once a bit acclimated, I was never able to breathe well once above about 2,600 meters, and even small inclines became ridiculously challenging. I know I’m no longer a spring chicken, but I didn’t expect to feel like I was well into my dotage! And it wasn’t just that I struggled – I was surrounded by people fit enough to hike the Inca Trail (bless their hearts)! I must admit that I was greatly relieved to find that, upon my return home, I was actually able to breathe without difficulty, and climb stairs without a second thought, etc. (But to be clear, I thought Peru was worth every breathless, painful, exhausted moment!)

· Turning to the mundane – it is not easy to get to Peru from the D.C. area, and my travel days (to and from) were decidedly unpleasant. I’m glad I decided to push on from Lima to Jaén upon arrival – I would have been exhausted even if I had stayed in Lima; likewise for the return from Cusco. At least I had a bit of a respite at Lima’s airport on my inbound trip (because I visited the spa at the airport hotel). For the record, I hope I never have to route through Miami’s international airport again.

· Perhaps more to the point, my list of “least liked” elements also includes some inevitable aspects of traveling to Peru when I did – nights were cold, and the sunsets are early and rapid, and regional specialties are often only served at lunch. I was to come to understand that hats are mandatory in the highlands, but not de rigueur, as using a hat had nothing to do with etiquette or fashion, but rather because the sun was blazingly suited to producing a sunburn through any number of layers of sunscreen. (Yep, a lesson learned the hard way.)

· Despite Peru’s stunning natural scenery and beautiful city plazas, much of what I saw, particularly around cities, is decidedly not lovely. Roads that lead into Peru’s cities are often lined by mile after mile of buildings that look like slums. Several of my guides said that this phenomenon is a product of Peru’s tax structure, which imposes a substantially greater tax on “completed” residences than on those that are incomplete, thereby creating a strong incentive to leave the exterior of one’s property in disarray. I can attest that I saw a lot of crumbling adobe and pealing paint and dangling wires; whether I was seeing slums or areas where the rich live in the comfort of their interior spaces, I can’t say.

· But even if every one of those unlovely exteriors were to be made presentable, it wouldn’t address the miles and miles of plastic debris that line the roads around Chiclayo. One guide told me that the problem is known, but no politically acceptable solution has been found.

· There and in or around other cities, the lack of regulated taxis created confusing challenges for me. Perhaps I took the warnings I read in advance too much to heart.

· Speaking of transportation… I started this trip with a serious fear of being on a bus on twisty, turning mountain roads. Nothing prepared me for the apparently life-threatening risks involved in crossing absolutely flat roads in Chiclayo or Trujillo or Lima! The traffic on some of those roads was terrifying, whether in a vehicle or on foot.

· And if you are going to die, a nice glass of dry white wine might be in order, right? Not in Peru! OK, I did find a few – very few – places where I could get dry white wine, but doing so was almost as hard as breathing!

· I did get a small serving of dry white wine with one or two courses during my nightmarish evening at Central. Not worth it! What an awful experience. I thought a few dishes were tasty, but many were not; the tableware was, frankly, tacky; and the service was outrageously frenetic – and none of my three requests to slow the pace of delivery were honored. I had thought that the concept was inspired (at least until I realized that the traditional dish used in Cusco to celebrate Corpus Christi is based on a similar idea), and might never have considered indulging in high-end dining at Central’s price point if not for the concept…. (But having decided to dine at Central, I ended up deciding to dine at two of Lima’s other most acclaimed restaurants, and my experiences with them were much more positive.) And BTW, I promise to repeat the core of these complaints during the day-to-day portion of this trip report. You have been forwarned!

· Of course, disliking a meal is not the same as becoming sick from it. It was my mistake to eat cheese that hadn’t been cooked, and I paid the price. Take heed!

· Speaking of prices… I was confused when some establishments said that they could only charge my payments in US$, something that made me balk because, IME, being asked to pay in my currency usually means invoking dynamic currency exchange (DCC), which I prefer to avoid. From what I’ve learned since, I don’t think DCC was involved. Here’s a relevant thread:
Another Dynamic Currency Conversion (DCC) question

In summary, some of these negatives were not insubstantial for me: That there wasn’t a single day that I spent on this trip during which I truly felt well was the biggest downside, but some of that had nothing to do with Peru, and as already stated, I would certainly experience every one of those less-than-ideal moments again in exchange for the chance to see and experience that things that I loved about this trip. From my perspective, the pros easily outweighed the cons!

Next up, details of my experience, starting with: Day 0 – Getting There

Last edited by kja; Jul 12th, 2018 at 04:16 PM.
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Jul 12th, 2018, 04:24 PM
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Wow, kja, that's a lot of good stuff, thank you so much!

By now we have all hotel reservations, MP entry tickets, train tickets, etc. You say "Expect LONG lines." Is that at the bus? Or MP entrance itself? Considering that entry tickets are timed, how does that work with so many people trying to get in at the same time? Do they start letting you in earlier? Or you need to be early in line to enter on time? Did you hike to the Sun Gate? How long did it take you?

Yes, we are planning to see the Ollantaytambo ruins (noted: get a guide), and spend some time at the Pisac market. I love markets! Could you take pictures at the market? Merchandise only, or people too? Are you going to post some pictures, now that Fodor's supports it? Any photography tips?

We will only have 1 day in Cusco, and no plan yet. Definitely the cathedral and Sacsayhuaman, not sure what else we'll have time for. How much time did you need for the Museo de Arte Precolombino?

I had to google Fallen Angel in Cusco, LOL, it really looks bizarre. In a good way

Thanks for the tips on hat/sunscreen, altitude sickness (did you take Diamox?), layers for clothes. I heard Diamox is a diuretic and there are no bathrooms inside the MP ruins. How did you manage? And generally, were toilets available in Peru? Western style or not? Do we need to carry TP with us?

Thanks for the restaurant recommendations, I'll keep a list. "Do NOT go to MIL."? What's "MIL"?

I'll follow up your TR, I always enjoy them and wish we had the time and stamina to travel the way you do. You surely covered a lot on this trip. Thanks again.
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Jul 12th, 2018, 04:30 PM
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Don't you just hate it when those 80-year old ladies motor past you going up a slight incline? It was truly embarassing around L. Titicaca!
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Jul 12th, 2018, 04:49 PM
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At the Pisac market they are used to camera-toting tourists. It's polite to ask first, if you are taking a photo of someone's face. There are some situations where you might be asked to pay "1 sol" (unless there has been inflation). If you will be there on a Sunday, and are into photography, I highly recommend making your way over to the Chapel with a pocketful of sols (best time is around 10:30 am).

There are modern toilets in Peru. Always a good idea to have a pack of Kleenex just in case. There is a restroom outside the entrance of MP. IIRC, if you have the buffet lunch at the hotel, there is also a toilet inside.

For Cusco include Qoricancha in your itinerary also.

Re altitude... I have not taken Diamox myself..but I am not severely affected by the altitude. Diamox just speeds up the process of acclimatizing, it isn't some magic bullet. You can bring Advil to help with an altitude headache. Don't plan any major activity on Day1 when you first fly in to a higher altitude location. Take a taxi to your hotel, have someone else bring your luggage up to your room, rest for a few hours, and then walk around a little (slowly). I've been advised to not eat a big evening meal or drink alcohol at altitude. Drink about 2L of water a day to assist with the acclimitization process. Coca tea is nice although I don't know if it helps but I like it. Especially in Cusco and Puno, if you don't feel great, ask at reception for oxygen.

BTW I think you are more likely to get a stomach bug in the Amazon.

Use insect repellent at Machu Picchu!

If you take Diamox you can't take Pepto Bismol. Some research suggests that you can take a small dose every day it helps with preventing digestive issues. I try to avoid buffets and am careful not to touch my food if can't be sure my hands are clean. It's worked so far for me. Pack Immodium and get a scrip for Cipro (for severe cases). You can also buy Diamox or Cipro at Peruvian pharmacies (without a prescription the last time I tried) but bring the Pepto Tabs with you.

Last edited by mlgb; Jul 12th, 2018 at 04:59 PM.
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Jul 12th, 2018, 05:35 PM
  #17
 
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Great report Kja. I like reading what people didn’t like as those observations are reported too infrequently in many trip reports. As for altitude we had to plan our walks back to our hostel in Cuzco. Up the hill - rest. Up the steps - rest. Up the last set of steps crossing back and forth left to right to make each step a little easier. Arrive at hostel. Collapse.
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Jul 12th, 2018, 05:55 PM
  #18
 
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Even after 2 weeks at high altitude, we got to Cusco and had to rest going up the hill to our hotel. I was amazed.
i appreciate reading about the negative stuff and wish more people would do that in TRs. It’s helps to understand a country.
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Jul 12th, 2018, 06:20 PM
  #19
kja
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@ xyz99: I’m glad you thought my remarks helpful – and that you have enjoyed my other trip reports, too. To further clarify:

· The lines at Machu Picchu were for purchasing the bus tickets (you can buy round trip), waiting for the bus in each direction, and just a bit at the gate – but I don’t know what it would be liked if you arrived just exactly at the entry time.

· I did not hike to the Sun Gate.

· I never, ever, take pictures of people in markets without their permission – and for that matter, I don’t take pictures of their merchandise without permission. (Although not in Peru, I’ve encountered vendors elsewhere who became very upset at the idea that I might do so.) I don’t remember anyone at the Pisac market who denied me permssion to photograph their wares, although some notably averted their faces or moved away. As mlgb noted, some people might agree to be photographed – for a nominal fee. And in some markets – not the Pisac one, IIRC -- some vendors might ask you to take their pictures, posing for your camera.

· Sorry, but I’m not likely to post any photos -- I’m not that good with a camera, and since I just use an old point-and-shoot, my only advice is to make sure you don’t let rain or rock hit the lens. (I’ve done both. Like I said, I’m not that good with a camera. )

· I only spent about an hour at the Museo de Arte Precolombino, but then most of it was (unfortunately) closed when I was there.

· Fallen Angel was interesting, to say the least!

· I did take Diamox – on the recommendation of my travel physician. I think whether to do so (and what other medical precautions to take) are best decided in conjunction with a physician who knows you and your health. But as mlgb noted, if you do take Diamox, be sure you know what things (including over-the-counter medications) to avoid.

· I didn’t have difficulty finding Western bathrooms, although a packet of tissues was occasionally of great value. (I wouldn’t take a roll of TP – just some tissues.) BTW, some public toilets in Peru didn’t have the extra seat that ladies in the U.S. find customary (the one we all tell men to lower) but they were all Western toilets.

· MIL is a new restaurant in the Sacred Valley by the same chef who established Central. I didn't go -- I just can't recommend it after my experience at Central.

- - - - -

@ mlgb: “Don't you just hate it when those 80-year old ladies motor past you going up a slight incline?:” OMG, absolutely! Kudos to them, but seriously?!?

@ xcountry: OMG – IIRC, you and your family actually hiked the Inca Trail -- hats off!!! I, too, used those step-to-the-side moves, and hated knowing that I was barely able to move upward even so. Thank you so much for those empathic words! And as always, nice to know that you are reading along.

@ yestravel: Thanks for the additional affirmation that it wasn’t just me huffing and puffing my slow way uphill! And thanks, too, for joining xcountry in affirming the value of posting about the downsides of one’s experiences when traveling.

- - -

It's so nice to check in and find that people are following along and finding reason to comment -- thanks so much!

Last edited by kja; Jul 12th, 2018 at 06:38 PM.
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Jul 13th, 2018, 04:10 PM
  #20
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I would not normally devote an entire post to “getting there,” but this was a long segment of my trip – about 27 hours! -- and it involved some adventures and misadventures that might prove of interest, so here goes!

Day 0: Getting there – D.C. to Jaén

I think I’ve mentioned that getting to or from Peru was NOT a snap. There were no direct flights to Peru from the DC area, and all the internal flights I would need seemed to route through Lima. After carefully considering all my options, I decided to put all of my time in Lima in the middle of my trip, meaning that Lima would be yet another stop in each direction. That decision made for some very long journeys, but I still think it was the right choice for me – I would have found any of the possible two-leg journeys exhausting in any event, and adding yet another leg at each end simplified things in the middle.

Booking proved an unexpected challenge. I was working with LATAM and its code-share, American, but neither permitted online booking of flights involving Jaén, apparently because that airport was too new. No one at American was able to help. LATAM was only able to help once I reached an actual person and persuaded him to check again, and then again – oh, look at that, we have an aiport in Jaén! My final plan was to fly DC National to Miami to Lima to Jaén, from which I would take a pre-arranged van to Chachapoyas. For my return, I booked Cusco to Lima to Miami to DC National.

As I had feared, work proved particularly challenging in the days prior to my departure, and I only managed to pack and complete my work by sleeping not a wink the night before my departure. But that was OK – I had a long set of flights in economy seats, and had learned in the past that sleep deprivation can be beneficial if trying to sleep in steerage. That I wrenched a shoulder while pulling something out of storage didn’t help, but it could have been worse.

With minutes – and mental sharpness – both ticking away, I completed my packing. I remember standing by my open suitcase and debating which of two tops I should take if it gets really cold, a lightweight jacket or a zipped pullover. And then: OMG, I’m incapable of coherent ratiocination! Realizing that neither weighs much, and that decisions like that really should not be so difficult I finally just packed both. Doing so was one of the best decisions of my life, as I wore both simultaneously almost every morning and evening in the highlands -- AND I did so with multiple layers under both of them.

With that, I zipped my suitcase, put an on overblouse (why does my neck hurt? Oh, maybe I should take the hanger out ), and headed out the door just minutes after my target departure time.

Arriving at DC National in plenty of time, I tried to get my boarding pass using one of the machines there, but no luck – I had to stand in line for an agent. Kindle time! Once I reached the counter, check-in seemed to take a very long time, but eventually, the agent handed me my boarding passes and noted that my suitcase would be sent direcly to Atlanta. I had already started to step away when his words sank in: Atlanta? Yep. I had been routed from DC to Miami to Lima to Atlanta.

A very long while later, he handed me my boarding passes for DC to Miami and Miami to Lima; I would need to go to the LATAM counter in Lima to get my boarding pass to Jaén. But at least my suitcase would go straight through to Jaén. Life can be good! Indeed it can, but read on….

After sending my suitcase through screening and on its merry way, I honored my longstanding tradition of celebrating the start of a journey with a glass of wine before boarding, and then made it through a largely uneventful flight of a bit under 3 hours, much of which I spent dozing, before landing in Miami.

I hope to never discover whether it is possible for a major international airport to be less pleasant than Miami International. Both going to and coming from Peru, the gates I needed were quite literally as far apart as possible in that airport, and while it may have people-moving walkways, it turns out that they don’t make much of difference if they aren’t functioning. Of course, I didn’t know that the vast majority of those people-movers weren’t functioning until I was well on my way. I slowly plodded to the requisite gate, shifting my carry-on, which held all my electronics and so was a bit on the heavy side, from my already sore shoulder to my increasing sore other shoulder. Once there, I found a reasonably comfortable seat for a sandwich and beverage and took the opportunity to read.

My flight for Lima left Miami about 4 hours after my flight from DC had landed. I quickly settled in for a nap on this flight of not quite 6 hours.

Upon arriving in Lima, where I was scheduled for a layover of about 4 hours, I was told that I would have to claim and recheck my suitcase – the one so carefully described to me as checked on through. Whatever! As I watched every other person on my flight claim his/her luggage and leave the claim area, a very helpful English speaking staff-person approached: Had I not seen my suitcase? She scanned my luggage receipt and spoke with a few other agents and then directed me to a seat. Eventually, my luggage was “found” and I was able to re-check it on to Jaén.

I had heard positive things about Lima’s airport, and as I came to understand it – after multiple visits – I came to appreciate some of its merits. That said, I would not describe it as easy for an exhausted, disoriented person who speaks only limited Spanish. I found an ATM, and then walked around to make sure I knew the layout and get a sense of how long it would take me to get from place to place.

And then I went to the hotel attached to the airport, the Wyndham Costa del Sol, which I had read had a spa that one could pay to use, 24/7, even if not a guest. I found the spa rather easily, but it took a more substantial effort to find someone who actually worked there and could accept payment and give me access to a locker. Eventually, a woman pointed me to the sauna; I wanted the jacuzzi, which was empty; she nodded, and sure enough, by the time I showered (oh, a hot shower!) and changed into a bathing suit, the jacuzzi was ready and waiting for me. Oooh, that was nice.

Dragging myself out before falling asleep or drowning, I dressed and then returned to the airport, where I faced a seemingly endless line moving toward the ticket control gates. As was my experience every time I passed through Lima’s airport, this line moved very quickly, if never quickly enough to convince me that time wasn’t an issue. I soon cleared the various hurdles and reached a departure waiting area where I was able to buy coffee and access free wifi for a limited time. That wifi access proved to be invaluable, as I learned of the need to change my plans for my first day or so and was able to begin developing an alternative plan.

The flight for Jaén boarded more-or-less on time, but it then sat on the tarmac for a very long time. I’m glad to report that it did, eventually, take off from Lima, and we landed about 1.5 hours later in Jaén. En route, I could see (listed without regard to order) some very steep arid cliffs; some spectacular snow capped mountains; a huge river valley with waters brown enough to suggest silt; some lush green hills….

Upon claiming my suitcase, I easily spotted a man holding a sign with my name – as arranged with my hotel, a van was there to greet me. We waited a bit to pick up a few more people. The van carried a full load when we left for a drive to Chachapoyas that took, as I recall, about 5 hours, with a stop of about 45 minutes en route for people to eat. More about the ride later; for now, let me just say that it took about 27 hours to go from my door to my hotel in Chachapoyas. It could have been worse, but if you aren’t saying “ouch,” then you are heartless and cruel. (OK, that might be a BIT harsh….)

Next up: Day 1: Jaén to Chachapoyas

Last edited by kja; Jul 13th, 2018 at 04:18 PM.
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