Peru - August 24 to Sept 15
As always, I am so grateful for the reports, advice, and wealth of knowledge available
on this forum when I start my trip planning. I am so appreciative of the trip reports, and their resulting entertainment that I always try to submit my own.
2 East Coast Canadians...have loved travelling to several European destinations. Not foodies, mid-budget travellers. We love exploring, walking, and relaxing on our travels.
First time to Peru (as well as South America)
We had three weeks, but wanted to take our mind, with the wishful thinking that we will make it back to do a more thorough trip as well as hit the northern highlights that we missed completely.
After arrival to Lima:
3 nights - Ollantaytambo
3 nights - Cusco
3 nights - Puno & Isle Amantani
1 night - Yanque in Colca Canyon
3 nights - Arequipa
3 nights - Paracas
3 nights - Lima
(plus one overnight bus trip from Arequipa to Paracas)
Aug 24 (Halifax - Lima)
3am was not a pretty time to wake up, but since we barely even slept, it wasn't too hard to get up and ready for our travel day. Flight from Halifax to Toronto was fine, and had a short (2 hour) wait in TO before boarding the flight to San Salvadore. I was a little nervous about this as we had only an hour and ten minutes layover in San Salvadore. Not to worry - the flight was on time, and San Salvadore is a very small airport so finding our gate was a breeze.
We chatted with 2 couples from Toronto who were also heading to Peru...they were just as excited and anxious to get the trip started as we were. The flight landed in Lima, and we were off the plane and through customs in about 15 minutes...we were lucky to get the green light! Travelling with carry-on only was very helpful as well - we've done it several times now and I wouldn't think to go back to checking bags, at least on the way to our destination.
We chose to stay right at the airport hotel - Ramada Costa del Sol
It was our most expensive hotel of the entire 3 week trip, but the convenience of being right at the airport for the few short hours we had was worth the cost of the night. It was a decent hotel, and clean, but honestly was pretty basic. We did enjoy the complimentary pisco sour and lemonade provided; We sat for while in the bar, and tried to wind down a bit...Not a chance though, and after a far too short sleep...
Aug 25 (Lima to Ollantaytambo)
We woke at 4:30 for our 6:20 flight to Cusco. After a disappointing breakfast at the hotel (it
seemed they had just faced a huge rush of customers and we arrived just after everyone
left...little food left, and the place was a mess. I felt sorry for the wait staff - they looked
like they had worked 12 hours already and it was not even 5:30am!
A few minutes later and we were waiting at the gate for the flight to Cusco. It was foggy
outside (something I was expected for Lima), and no surprise our flight was delayed... 2.5 hours later and we took off. I was a little panicked as we had arranged through our hotel a driver to pick us up in Cusco and drive us to Ollantaytambo. I tried to connect to the wifi in the airport with my iphone and send a quick message about our delay. I'm still not sure the message actually went through, but regardless, when we landed in Cusco our driver was there holding a sign with our name...when you're tired beyond words after two nights of no sleep, and fairly ravenous it's the small things that get you through (or alternately set you off )
A quick note about Star Peru...we were very happy with the service on the flight. Although it was a very short flight, we had drinks and snacks, and very attentive flight attendants. The service was spectacular, and was a characteristic we would soon realize was the norm wherever we went in Peru.
After a fast drive from Cusco (which didn't seem promishing at first glance from the airport,
but we'll see), Remy our driver dropped us off at Hotel El Albergue
and had a lovely, warm wlecome. We briefly checked in and then were invited to enjoy a pot of fresh coca tea; it was a great wasy to shrug the last bit of stress off froma delayed flight.
We didn't bother unpacking - we wanted to get some walking done after what felt like 2 days of sitting on our butts! Camera in hand we headed to explore the Fortress ruins. Here we purchased the general boleto turistico as we had other sights in mind we wanted to see in Cusco. We had a small map from our hotel, and certainly didn't need it. Albergue is about a 10 minute walk to the main square...we turned left and saw where we wanted to go. On our way, we saw a small art store with some paintings - we wandered in and wandered out after purchasing a large, gorgeous, painting of a street scene in Ollantaytambo. (they wrapped and shipped it - we are now having the canvas stretched onto a frame - can't wait to see it!)
The walk up and around the ruins took a couple of hours, and although we didn't have a guide we really enjoyed the exercise and the outdoors. Before we started the walk though we each had a yummy BLT with guacamole from Hearts cafe (36 soles including drinks).
After the fortress ruins we walked back down to our hotel, and got cleaned up for our 7pm
reservations for dinner, at the restaurant in the hotel. After a little spider incident in the
shower (well, it was massive, but I am choosing not to relive it right now) we walked into a
cozy, candlelit room . The dinner that followed was spectacular - we enjoyed two pisco sours, a salad, a half portion of fettucini with mushrooms and veggies, alpaca steak, and wine (166 soles and very much worth the price). We slept so well (the food, the complete exhaustion, and then add wine) we ready for more the next day!
August 26 - Ollantaytambo
A great start to the day with breakfast at the hotel (included). Fresh eggs, fruit, toast, homemade jam...food in Peru so far was yummy!
We wanted to walk up Pinkuylluna, and although it was steep in parts (and I feared the coming down more than the walking up) it was a great little hike and a fabulous perspective on Ollantaytambo as great views of the fortress ruins. We had a few minutes spent chatting with a guy from Texas who was there for a healing mission with some acupuncturists and massge therapists. We took the opportunity (as this was really our last day in Ollantaytambo as the next day was reserved for Machu Picchu) to wander through the town itself beyond just the main square. We walked through all the tiny streets and got lost (in a good way)...there were lots of great examples of Inca door structures, which we enjoyed discovering. It was very quiet throughout the town, just locals going about their business, and lots of beautiful, happy children.
We made our way back to the hotel, and as we had more than worked up an appetite truly enjoyed the Pachamanca lunch that the hotel set up for us. We had the chance to visit the organic farm the hotel restaurant gets much of it produce from, as well as the farm where lots of animals are free to roam around...before they are transformed by the skilled chefs in the restaurant into a delicious meal! The Pachamanca lunch was delicous, as the vegetables and meats were cooked in the ground using rocks heated to a very high temperature. They had set up a beautiful table for us, and we had a great meal and were entertained by the chickens wandering around. We wished some of the workers would have joined us for the meal (as they did all the hard work the least they could do was enjoy it themselves). There was a ton of food, and we learned later that the staff always looked forward to Pachamanca lunch days as there were lots of yummy leftovers.
After a long lunch, we took a short walk, and then rested in our room.
Dinner (and we were surprising still able to eat dinner after the fabulous lunch) was delicous again - zucchini chicken and pepper mole steak - so good!
August 27 - Machu Picchu
Our train tickets to Aquas Callientes were super early (5:07am). We had purchased the entrance tickets for MP as well as the train tickets to AC a few months prior. The night before, while speaking with Sergio at the hotel, we realized that we really hadn't left our self with enough time at MP itself. Our return train in AC was scheduled for 2:30pm, and we would only have a few hours to explore. We took a quick run up to the place where they sold train tickets ( a few minutes from our hotel) before we went to dinner, and asked what options we had for a later train. There was one at 4:00pm that still had seats - it was Vistadome instead of Backpacker, but was only $17 difference in price so we took them.
Although we were up very early, we were still able to enjoy breakfast at the hotel before
walking out the door to catch our train. And, we were lucky enough to have lunches packed for us by the hotel...they came in handy and were tasty too!
The train took about 1.5 hours to get to Aguas Callientes, and although it was dark for the
first 45 minutes or so, the last part of the train ride treated us to some beautiful mountain
views. No wonder it took so long to discover Machu Picchu - it is really well hidden. We got off the train, and immediated headed to the right to get in line for the bus tickets - and yay - no line! We boarded the bus and a short 20 minutes later arrived at the entrance of Machu Picchu.
The bus ride up was less scary than I was expecting; not once did I feel like we would go
careening over the side of the mountain.By the time all was said and done, we started "officially" exploring at 7:15am - it was going to be a long day! There was a very heavy mist, but we refused to even utter the word rain. I did feel bad for those expecting a sunrise - it just wasn't in the cards for us that day. Looking back at photos, it is amazing to see the first photos we took compared to a couple hours later...the mist cleared and it was a beautiful sunny day. The photos with the mist are actually some of my favorites.
We had chosen not to get a guide for Machu Picchu - we had thought exploring on our own and taking our time would be better - but it was easy to get disoriented, and we didn't really have a "plan" for what we wanted to see in any order. I would recommened either getting a guide (arranging beforehand or getting one at the site) or doing enough research and to come armed with a good map.
We had purchased entrance tickets to Huayna Picchu for 10am, so we thoroughly used up our time exploring MP, and I think would have preferred a bit more time.
We found the entrance to Wayna Picchu easily, and at first it was just Mitch that got in line. Although I had prepared for the hike up, I had read some scary reviews prior to our trip and they started to come back to me during our walk around MP. Once Mitch was in line, I had a quick thought, "I will so regret if I don't do this". So I told myself I would go as far as I could and then just turn around...and in line I went.
Two minutes later after signing my name in a little book of visitors we were walking through some nice trails. At points it was tough (read=slightly painful) but I found the hike easier in actuality than what I had envisioned. I will say without a doubt it was not easy, and we took our time, so what takes a "normal"person 2 hours or less up and back took us three. But we went really slow,and stayed a long time, 30 mins, at the top, soaking in the views and pinching ourselves just a bit - we couldn't believe we were there. I loved it so much, and was so proud of myself for conquering the fear and just doing it. There were some on the hike that were determined to go up and down as fast as possible, but at no point did I feel in the way or that some one was breathing down my neck.
We were desparate for water so it was a quick pass through the areas we didn't see before the hike, before heading to the exit, and purchasing the most expensive water in Peru . We got on our bus, and had just a few minutes in Aguas Calientes before getting our train back - we were thankful we had changed our tickets the night before. After dragging our tired butts from the train station to our room )yes, it only took 30 seconds, but we were feeling the early morning and the hike. After short nap, we enjoyed our last fabulous meal at El Albergue.
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