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Trip Report: Peru, Archeology beyond the Incas

Trip Report: Peru, Archeology beyond the Incas

Old Oct 7th, 2009, 11:56 AM
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Trip Report: Peru, Archeology beyond the Incas

Before I dive into the details of the trip let me first thank the numerous people who have posted trip reports and questions here. They made my trip much richer than it otherwise would have been.

Most of my previous trips have been to Europe through organized package tours. As a single traveler I found I enjoy having the company and not having to worry about the logistics of a trip. However for Peru I found the options rather disappointing and rather over priced in my opinion, so I opted for finding a travel agent who would be willing to put together a trip seeing the sights I wanted to in my time frame (and budget).

After contacting many of the travel agencies here in the Forums, I decided on Peru Best Tours. They were willing to work with me incorporating all of the places I wanted to go, the time I had to travel and most importantly respected my budget. My travel consultant, Mike, was always there to answer my questions, tweak my itinerary, and cope with all of my detailed questions (When it comes to scheduling I tend to be a bit neurotic). One thing I really appreciated is that a representative from the agency met me at my hotel the first night and gave me a cell phone with their emergency number programmed in so I could contact the agency any time I needed them. They also called me several times throughout my trip to check in and see how things were going.

My trip departed Chicago, USA Sept 3, 2009 and lasted 17 days. It included a tour of the Ballista Islands off of Paracas, an over-flight of the Nazca Lines, Cusco and the Sacred Valley of the Incas, Machu Pichu, Chiclayo and the Tombs and Museum of the Lord of Sipan, Chan Chan and Trujillo, and finally back to Lima with a day trip out to Caral. While I may not have gotten to every major archeological site in the country, I certainly tried.

Basic Logistics

Sept 3 – ORD to MIA to LIM
Sept 4 – Lima to Nazca by bus stopping in Paracas for Ballista Island Tour
Sept 5 – Over flight of Nazca lines, bus back to Lima
Sept 6 – Fly to Cusco, rest of day at leisure
Sept 7 – Morning open, afternoon Cusco City tour
Sept 8 – Sacred Valley Tour
Sept 9 – Train to MP and tour
Sept 10- MP on my own – Train back to Cusco
Sept 11 - Fly to Chiclayo via Lima
Sept 12 – Tour Tombs of Sipan, Lord of Sipan Museum and Pyramids of Tucume
Sept 13 – Bus to Trujillo, Tour of Temple of the Moon
Sept 14 - Trujillo City tour, Tour Temple of the Rainbow, Chan Chan, and lunch at Huanchaco
Sept 15 – Free Day
Sept 16 - Fly Trujillo to Lima, Lima City tour
Sept 17 – Day trip to Caral
Sept 18 – Free Day
Sept 19 – LIM to MIA to ORD – and home

Lima – Hotel Ducado
Cusco – Taypikala
Aguas Calientes- Inti Punku
Chiclayo - Costa del Sol
Trujillo - Los Conquisatores Hotel

Internal Peru Flights: LAN
Internal Bus Companies: Cruz Del Sur and Empresa

There are the logistics, now on with the adventure.
Diane60030 is offline  
Old Oct 8th, 2009, 08:43 AM
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Hi Diane:
I'm enjoying the report, please continue when you get a chance. I'll bet I'll have specific questions, like how the bus rides were (I'm thinking of bussing between Arequipa and Puno or Cusco).
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Old Oct 8th, 2009, 10:34 AM
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While I am not by and stretch of the imagination Indian Jones, I do love ancient civilizations and their ruins so my primary motivation for traveling to Peru was to see as many of their ancient sites as possible.

I will apologize in advance; I do tend to digress about things that I find interesting, different or unique.

Day 1 ORD – MIA – LIM
It is always nice when flying is uneventful. Smooth flights from ORD to MIA and MIA to LIM. The only excitement was when they changed the gate in MIA and I had to walk the entire length of the D concourse to get to the E concourse. If you have not had the pleasure of the D concourse at MIA it is one extremely long (quarter mile maybe more?) hallway.

The flight from MIA to LIM is between 5.5 and 6 hours. Our flight crew was actually based out of Lima. Dinner was tasty, but I was glad that in all of my walking about MIA I had picked up a pizza from Pizza Hut, because the portions were diet sized.

My excitement was building as we were arriving into Lima. Unfortunately I had a seat over the wing so I couldn’t see out. I wanted to see the city lights! Oh well. We landed a little early, about 9:30 pm.

LIM has a reasonable layout so the walk to passport control wasn’t a long distance. If you are a visitor you’ll get a visa at the desk where they are stamping your passport. No cost, just a small piece of paper, about the size of a credit card, that you have to have to leave the country.

Right outside passport control is a duty free shop. I think that is the first time I’ve ever seen Barbie and Lays potato chips in Duty Free.

From there you move on to pick up your luggage. Fortunately for many of my fellow travelers they have free carts at the area so the huge box you checked and suit cases large enough to put a dishwasher in had some place to land. My suitcase was dwarfed by many of the bags coming around the line. I don’t think I’ve ever seen luggage that large before. Once you have your luggage you head through the customs check. You’ll push a button, green you go through, red you get searched. I had a green light and headed out in the Arrivals hall.

That is when I knew I had made a good decision on the travel agency. Part of my package was a driver at every transfer. So in a see of faces calling “Senora, Senora, Taxi, Taxi, Taxi”, all I had to do was look for the sign with my name. Seeing my name (albeit misspelled) was a relief. After a long travel day the last thing I really felt like doing was negotiating with a taxi and hoping he knew were he was going.

The fellow with the sign took my suit cases and we were off to the parking lot. It turns out he was the passenger collector and there was another guy who was the actual driver. My ride was a new silver minivan. I don’t usually have the luxury of being in the back seat so that was quite different for me.

The traffic and the roads in Lima were another reason I was so glad I had a transfer waiting. If you didn’t know where you were going, don’t count on a street sign to tell you where you are, and don’t count on a road going straight there. I don’t think a bowl of spaghetti has more twists than the roads of Lima and its suburbs.

Even late at night the drive from the airport to the hotel in Miraflores took 45 minutes. If you looked around the neighborhood it is largely residential. The driver took my bags out of the car and into the lobby of the hotel. They had my reservation all ready and a representative from the travel agency was there waiting for me. I was given a cell phone (with lessons on how to use it) with a charger, an itinerary and instructions on how to pick up my bus ticket the next morning.

The bellhop had my luggage up to my room before the desk clerk was through making a copy of my passport. I was in room 308. It was in the front section of the hotel. I will guess it was the original section. I had the impression that over time the building had purchased the building next door and expanded either that or there was some one who really liked puzzles who put that place together. At any rate, up I went, all stairs, no elevator.

My room was small. It had a full sized bed, one night stand, a small desk and chair. There was a refrigerator with a wardrobe closet over it. There was no way I could reach the hanging bar, but the bottom did make a good shelf. The bathroom wasn’t overly spacious, but most importantly had hot water quickly.

Digression Moment: One item that was very interesting to me was the windows. They are a pane of glass that swings on a pivot. No weather stripping. There is a constant gap. Also no matter the hotel, all of the bathrooms vent into a shaft (a few only had an outside window), this meant you could usually hear your fellow guests when they were in the bathroom (at least showering and singing)

Back on topic:

The plan was that I would be there one night, store my suitcase and head to Nazca overnight and be back the following day.

The bus departs at 4:00 am, so my pick up was at 3:30 am which mean the wake up call needed to be at 2:45 am. I’m a morning person, but that is a bit early even for me. I managed to get my luggage back down the stairs. (I probably woke the people in 203 up when it bumped into their wall, sorry about that) and ready to go.

And…. No driver. 3:45 no driver. Take out the cell phone. Answering machine. 4:00 the bus to Nazca is leaving some where in the city and I am still at my hotel. Call agency, answering machine. 4:30 call agency, answering machine. I am officially an unhappy camper. The desk clerk has pity on me and checks me back into my room so I can at least go back to sleep until the agency opens up. 6:00 am the agency calls. They don’t know why the driver didn’t show up, but they have a back up plan. Tomorrow would be a long day, but it is possible to do the Ballista Islands and Nazca all in one day and just get in very late to Lima. All adjustments at their expense. Since my main goal is the Nazca lines it sounds fine to me. So I end up with an extra day at the start of my trip in Lima.

A little more sleep and I head down for breakfast. It is what I’m calling a traditional Peruvian breakfast: rolls, jelly and / or butter, coffee or tea. You also have a choice of eggs, but I pass. I get my luggage out of storage and have the bell hop carry it back up the 3 flights of stairs and repack. A day pack will be going to Nazca instead of an overnight bag.

So now I am awake, fed, have my stuff arranged and I’ll still get to see the Nasca lines, just about 8 hours later than originally planned. Life is okay and I’m ready to explore the neighborhood. I stop at the front desk for a map and directions. Turns out I am 2 blocks from the Pacific Ocean and 4 blocks from the LocaMar mall. I had location and I didn’t even know it.

Map in hand I set out for the Pacific Ocean and the Mall. I’m not one for shopping, but I want an ATM to withdraw some Soles and the Mall has them. It is a nice walk down to the Ocean. Lima is actually on the cliffs above the sea so you don’t really go down to the Pacific, you go to the edge of the cliff and walk along that. You can go down to the beach below, but at that point I didn’t know where that was. Besides, it was overcast, rather damp and not a beach type of day so I took a few pictures and walked along the park to the Mall.

I’d see a lot of disparaging comments about the Mall on this site about how American it is and how there are so many chain restaurants, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. So they have a Chili’s, Tony Romas, McDonalds, Pizza Hut, Burger King, a KFC and Radio Shack. But after that it is Peru. Well it has a movie theater and a bowling alley, but those are the same pretty much all over the world. And never in my travels in the US have I seen a three tiered mall, dug into a cliff side. Even the food court has a view to die for.

There are multiple ATMS all over the mall. I used the ScotiaBank ATM because they didn’t charge a withdrawal fee. Their daily maximum withdrawal is 500 Soles.

So as long as I was at the Mall with these amazing views, I had to have lunch. I know a lot of people like to have the names of the place, but I honestly don’t remember. It is the restaurant on the bottom level right in the middle. You really can’t miss it. The view is just wow. Even though I was a little cold with the wind off the ocean the view and the ambiance was so worth it.

There menu selection is rather good sized. After all of the options I ended up with the appetizer of mixed brochettes. Now in the US that will get you toasted bread with cheese, tomato, basil and a drizzle of olive oil. In Peru I got 6, 6 inch kabobs of grilled meats. I had seen the picture in the menu, but wasn’t expecting the skewers to be 6 inches. I had a kabob of 1 shrimp, 2 beef, 2 chicken, and 1 pork (although it could have been alpaca). I couldn’t even come close to finishing my meal. This was my first lesson on eating out in Peru. At restaurants, your portions will be huge. Because meals in Peru are meant to be relished and eaten slowly I took my time. It is a different feeling when you know your waiter isn’t waiting for you to leave so they can seat their next customer.

After waddling up the stairs to the “ground” level of the Mall I realized I was in dire need of walking all of this food off. Miraflores is a very cosmopolitan area and is well policed so I was safe on pretty much any route I chose. I’m sure I could have found trouble if I had been looking for it. But I was looking for Parque Kennedy instead. The main street leading in to LocaMar will take you to the park it is just a bit of a walk.

Along the way I could really observe the old and the new. There are banks, and shops, and offices, and houses. There is modern architecture and colonial architecture (the KFC in the colonial building was a bit much for me). And people of every description. And casinos. Can’t forget the Casinos. I didn’t realize that Lima has a gaming industry. I wandered through their largest department store (reminded me of a small sized Macy’s), past the Inca market. In general I had a nice time exploring the area.

Several hours of walking and looking had settled my meal so it was time to head back to the hotel. All of the travel and interrupted sleep was catching up with me. On the way back to the hotel I stopped at a small market and bought several bottles of water (sin gas – no bubbles), some crackers and cheese. After that lunch there was no way I could squeeze in another huge meal.

After the early morning wake up call I was fading fast, besides that 2:45 am wake up call was going to happen again so by 8:30 I was tucked in to get a few good hours of sleep.

Tomorrow… Nazca or else!
Diane60030 is offline  
Old Oct 8th, 2009, 12:58 PM
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I'm really enjoying the start of your trip report. I'm in the very early stages of planning a trip to Peru for next June, so I'm definitely taking notes.
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Old Oct 14th, 2009, 09:53 AM
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Ring, ring, ring… This is the front desk with your wakeup call 2:45 am promptly. The good news about this morning is I don’t have to haul my luggage down the stairs to the lobby to store it. A shower, a few more crackers and my day pack and I are ready to go. This time, 3:30 am the driver is there! We are out and winding through the dark streets on our way to the bus station. So 25 minutes later we pull into this large building / bus terminal.

My directions for picking up my ticket were pretty straight forward. Go to the counter, give them my passport and pick up my ticket. Small problem, there is no one at the desk. But the board says the bus departs at 4:15 am. So I’ve got 25 minutes. There are people very calmly sitting in chairs waiting so I’m guessing that there must be a line that forms when the desk agent comes or some thing. The desk agent shows up about 4:00 am. Putters around a bit and must have done some thing because one of the men in the seats stands up goes to the counter and she gives him a ticket. Then there is someone else. Being utterly clueless, I walked up to the ticket counter and in my best Spanish (which is awful) asked if I was in the right place to pick up my ticket. She just looked at me and spoke English. She was a little annoyed, but asked for my passport, and looked some thing up. Then she helped another person who came up to the counter. And another. Looked some thing more up on the computer. Got one of the guys who was doing the security check for the bus to come over. --- This was making me a little worried – and finally said that I was in the system, my passport would get me on the bus, go get in line.

While I was standing there watching her I figured out there was actually a place to go pull a ticket from for the next in line (like at the deli counter) so basically I had just cut in front of a room full of people. I was so embarrassed. On my feedback form to the travel agency I recommended they update their instructions.

I obediently went and got in the line to board the bus. It is a bit like boarding a plane in the US only they do a manual visual search of your bag. I get to the guy checking people in and give him my passport, it isn’t the same guy who was told I was using my passport so we had to go find him and get him to vouch that I was supposed to get on with just my passport. Now I’m holding up the whole line behind me. (Is there a hole I can go hide in?) I’m finally told I’m in seat 19.

The bus is a huge double-decker. My seat is some where up top. So I get up the stair and then I have to figure where the seat numbers are (remember this is 4:10 in the morning) there is a very little lighted number on the wall which tells you the seat numbers. So happy I’ve found #19, I sit down. It is a large cushy leather seat which reclines. There is a pillow and blanket. The people in front of me are all ready reclined and sound asleep. My window mate has a seat and we are ready to pull out of the station. Before the safety video my window mate is snoring and we are rolling down the streets of Lima.

It takes me a few minutes to figure out how to recline my seat. But shortly I am slumbering as we head south to Paracas.

I am of the opinion that the worst way to wake some one up is to turn on the lights, but that is what they did about 7:00 am. We are an hour away from our destination. On the video monitor they play a travel commercial for several northern sites (one of which I was going to!) and an entertainment interview with the current most wonderful band. They serve a little breakfast and tea or coffee. Knowing my propensity for sea sickness. I keep my little breakfast and just put it in my pack. I’ll eat later. The tea is Liptons.

Now that the sun is up and my window mate has reluctantly opened the curtains I can see the countryside we are rolling through. It is sandy desert with small villages every little bit. Where there is irrigation there are little gardens, but mainly it is sand.

We turn off the Pan American highway and head toward the coast. This time of year Paracas is a bit of a ghost town. There are a few locals and the bus load of international tourists which arrive every few hours. The Peruvians who have summer homes down there won’t be arriving for another month or two.

The bus pulls down a dusty, rutted road and in to a compound. Slowly most of the traveler’s disembark. There is a row of people with signs to the left so I wander over. My name is there (I’m loving these signs) along with a few others. We are rounded up and herded across the street. Our boat tour operator has the compound directly across the street.

Most of the bus eventually ends up across the street with us, but we are divided by English and Spanish tour groups. Our speed boat seats about 40 people. After putting on a life jacket that was almost as big as I am, I’m ready to go. I have a seat next to the sea. The sea spray will help keep the queasies at bay. We slowly putter away from the dock through Paracas bay. Our guide gives us a little background about the bay, the village and the port.

As we approach the edge of the port you see a giant “Candelabra” carved into the mountain side. No one really knows why it is there or exactly when it was carved. Based on the erosion wear they think about 500-800 years ago. Depends on your theory of who carved it. UFOs or Conquistadors.

From there it is out to the open sea. The pilot (Captain?) kicks up the motor and we go flying across the waves. There are 3 other boats also heading out to the Ballista Islands at the same time.

If you enjoy geology the islands are fascinating. The erosion of the sea against the rock and of the acidity of the bird guano, has left some magnificent isles. Every free level surface of rock is covered with birds. At the base of the isles on little rocks sticking out of the sea, Sea Lions basks in the sun. I can’t keep track of the different types of birds until we get to the Humbolt penguins. There on the rock are at least six of the little guys. We slowly make our way around the main island. There is a large sandy beach where a herd of Sea Lions or maybe 2 males with their harems are sunning.

The islands are harvested for the guano every seven years. It provides jobs for the fertilizer industry and helps protect the islands from more erosion (at least from the droppings). My personal realization is when you have that much guano, if you are down wind, it stinks. It was a smell I’d never encountered before and hope to never meet again.

Once we’ve gone around the main island it is time to head back. The bus for Nazca leaves at 10:30 so they need to get their travelers back in time. Although I suspect they’d hold the bus. Bus schedules seem to bend to accommodate the tourists if need be in that area.

Happily back on dry land, it time to get ready to board the bus. For me it is time for my breakfast meal and some crackers. I have survived the boat without incident. Phew. Before we head back over to the bus compound, I hear my name called, it seems they now have bus tickets for me. This is much better than the passport, plus it has the seat number printed on it.

Several of my fellow boaters and I head across the street and board the bus for the next leg of our journey. We head south through Ica. The bus actually stops at a resort hotel and the main bus station in town. We pick up a few more travelers for Nazca. This time I have the whole seat to myself. The movie they were playing was the Bucket List (in Spanish with English subtitles). Then there was Science (in English with Spanish subtitles).

Our bus pulled into Nazca about 2:30 pm, a bit later than scheduled, but we were behind a semi truck and there wasn’t any place to pass him for miles and miles and miles. Nazca reminded me of an old west town. I wouldn’t have been too shocked to see tumbleweeds blowing across the road. Except tumble weeds require water and there isn’t any there.

The bus compound in Nazca looks more like a serious place, barbed wire at the top and two very serious looking men who quickly close the gate behind us. No one is allowed in the bus yard that doesn’t have a ticket so our rides are lined up along the chain link fence. This time my name is very small on a scrap of yellow paper. Two Canadian girls are also on his list so we head out to the car. Well maintained, but probably older than the girls I am traveling with.

It is a few minutes through town to the airport. After seeing the town, it is probably a good thing I didn’t end up in Nazca for the night. I think they roll up the sidewalks fairly early and there are only so many places a single woman would want to go.

The airport is designed for itty bitty planes. There are parking places for 12 planes. The terminal has 6 companies. Only 2 of which are open at a time. A place to pay your flight tax (20 soles, but has a very nice commemorative card), “security”, the flight tower, and the bathrooms. There are a few souvenir stands outside on the porch. I’m trying to remember and I’m not even sure the place had doors to close. It was more of an open hut design (well constructed, but definitely hut inspired).

The clock ticks by. We are waiting for the last passengers on our flight. I pick up a few post cards and a little pot. Finally at 3:10 the people arrive and we are headed to the tarmac. The pilot basically comes over and says, we’re ready, and leads you to security. Large bags are left at the airline desk (too much weight for the little plane). And out you go. Six steps down and out to the plane. I think my dinning room table is bigger than this plane.

About this time I am really wondering about my sanity. First a small boat, now a small plane. I really want to see those lines. Take off isn’t too bad. The first turn into the lines isn’t bad either, but the pilot takes the plane into a tight turn and takes one hand off the wheel to point out the window and the plane turns even tighter, that isn’t good. I made it through the first 8 figures before I had to stare at the horizon. Those tight turns were more than I could take. I missed the last three glyphs as I was staring out at the horizon. I was quite happy to be back on terra firma.

Our car had been replaced by a mini van going back. This one was at least 20 years newer than the car. I bought a nice bubble water from a vendor outside the bus station. After the tight turns, my stomach thought that was about the best thing in the world.

The bus left late. So our 4:30 departure was closer to 4:45. No big deal, except we picked up another semi headed out of the valley. The movie going north was Shallow Hal (in English, Spanish subtitles). Then we played bingo, listened to the jazz version of Michael Jackson’s greatest hits, stopped in Paracas, saw the same tour video and entertainment new blurb, had a strange little snack and drove through the night.

We finally pulled into the bus station in Lima at 11:15 pm. My driver was there waiting for me. In 20 minutes I was back to the hotel. Tomorrow is the flight to Cusco. Pick up is at 7:00 am. Wake up call at 5:45 am. I have to pack my suit cases for flying.
Diane60030 is offline  
Old Oct 21st, 2009, 07:04 PM
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Wow, that's quite a day trip! But good to know that Lima-Paracas-Nazca-Lima is doable in one day. Looking forward to the rest of your trip report.
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Old Oct 23rd, 2009, 09:57 PM
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I really enjoyed reading about your experience in Lima and Nazca... I hope you enjoyed the rest of the trip and look forward to the rest of the trip report!
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Old Nov 3rd, 2009, 10:04 AM
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Sorry for the long delay on getting to the next day. The job that pays for the travel adventures has required a great deal of my attention.

So when I last left. I was just tucked in from my long day down to Nazca. Just a few thoughts. If you are making the trip, take water and snacks with you. There really aren’t restaurants to stop at, and there was only one little cart selling drinks outside the Nazca bus terminal.

On to Cusco.

This time the alarm that woke me up was the one on the cell phone. I thought I should try to program that so if my next hotel wasn’t as diligent as this one I wouldn’t miss my pick up. Both the phone and the wake up call were spot on.

The driver was on time and I was on my way to the airport. Just a caveat, my home airport is Chicago - O’Hare so when I describe other airports that is my frame of reference. If you are from some place else you’ll have a different point of view.

All of my local flights are on LAN. Domestic is on one end of the airport and international is on the other end of the terminal. Between the two they are about the length of Terminal 2 at O’Hare.

To enter the domestic ticketing area you’ll need to have your passport and/ or your ticketing information out. There is a guard at the entry area verifying you are supposed to be in there.

There are three main sections. There is the electronic check in. You’ll need to have your reservation code for easiest check in. There is a kiosk where you can pay to have your luggage shrink wrapped. I would guess about 3-5% of the people had that done to their luggage. And then the ticketing desk where you checked in your luggage and they reconfirmed the boarding pass you got from the electronic check in. Please note they do tend to take their domestic weights to Cusco rather seriously (they will charge you extra for heavy luggage).

It took me a few minutes to translate the Spanish buttons on the electronic check in. My vocabulary doesn’t include reservation number. So I had to figure out what it wanted, and then dig my itinerary with my reservation code out of my carryon. That little hurdle taken care of my check in goes smoothly. The line to check your luggage is huge. It is out of the ropes and looping back and forth. I gather this isn’t uncommon. LAN has several people directing traffic at the ends and helping discombobulated tourists get to the right line. All of the counters are open and the line moves surprisingly swiftly.

Boarding pass and carry on in hand I head upstairs to pay my departure tax and find my gate. The escalators are to the right as you face the ticket counter. The airport has very good signage. It is a bit of walk down to the departure tax office. There are several restaurants, a food court, what looks like to be several high end shops (Alpaca and jewelry) and a couple of ATMs.

At the departure tax area there is another guard who checks your passport and boarding pass and points you in the right line. I didn’t realize it until I was heading home that both domestic and international use the same departure tax area, I was too busy just trying to get me where I was supposed to be. My departure tax was $4.83 US. My .17 was given back in soles.

From there you go through security. The same liquid restrictions apply. I did not have to take off my shoes, but they did want my hat and coat.

Then it is a long walk back to the domestic side of the airport, and of course my gate is just about the furthest one possible. I guess I needed exercise that morning. Since I couldn’t bring any water through security I bought a liter bottle at the gift shop. Most expensive water I’ve ever bought in my life. I could have bought 2 half liters for less. Watch out. Also make sure you are looking at the airport prices in the correct currency. They price in USD as well as Soles there.

The waiting area is spacious and there is a mix of travelers. Tourists, people going to visit their family and businessmen going home. They call our flight. Everyone lines up. Two lines. I’m not sure how they tell what line to be in so I got in the one on the right. Turns out there is a small notice at the bottom of the boarding sign telling you which rows are in which line. Guess who picked the wrong line and had to go to the back of the other line? That would be me. At least I didn’t hold up boarding like at the bus station.

The flight departs on time and goes smoothly. LAN serves a drink and a snack. The snacks on most of my flights was a piece of cake/bread (reminded me of banana bread) and bag of little crackers that had a slightly bacony after taste. Not what I expected, but quite acceptable.

I have an aisle seat so seeing the Andes out the window is out of the question. The flight is 40-50 minutes. The airport isn’t large so your walk to the luggage claim isn’t long. With the altitude it feels like you are walking to the end of the world.

The luggage claim is a circus. For the first time I felt like I was some place touristy. There were groups and guides all over the place. People picking up backpacks, huge pieces of luggage, a few with one suit case (like myself), all milling about. There are only 2 belts to pick up luggage from. The luggage carts pull up outside (you can see through the flaps) and start piling on the luggage. Then there is a mad lunge for the belts. I’ve got time and some where around the corner a driver waiting for me. I’m in no rush to be knocked over by a flying backpack, so I scoot over to the end. I can catch my suit case from there just fine. Oddly enough my luggage is one of the first ones off the plane (why can’t that happen at home?). So with suitcase in hand I begin the process of weaving through the mill of people, the gauntlet of “taxi, Senora”, and out to the hall where my sign will be.

Did I mention how much I love seeing that sign with my name? My guide is waiting for me and heads out to the parking lot. Fortunately she slows down after about ten steps. I wasn’t sure about having to acclimate, but I’m a believer now. Another minivan and driver are waiting for us. In we go. The drive from the airport to the city center takes about 20 minutes. Part of the road is under construction so it is a bit slower than usual.

Not really knowing what to expect my head is constantly swiveling around to look at everything. Buildings, advertisements, bus stops, mountains, train tracks, etc. As we get nearer to the city center the streets get narrower and narrower. I’ve been to Europe several times and these are skinny by those standards. The street the hotel is on is exactly one minivan wide with 2 small sidewalks on either side. If some one is coming one way you either wait, or decide who is going to back up and yield the right of way.

In our case there is another mini van in front of us with a group from the airport. Apparently if there are two vehicles then numbers rule. A car that thought he was coming down the road ended up backing up on to the other cross street and trying a different way down.

The hotel Taypikala is flush with the other buildings around it. No signs stick out. With the tight traffic I understand that. A truck would take anything that stick out right off the buildings.

The lobby is bright. They have a nice reception area. Two computers are available for guest’s use at $1 USD per hour. While I am checking in one of the staff brings me a hot cup of coca tea. It turns out my room is right off the lobby. I mean right there. There is a glass door leading to a glass enclosed hallway and my room is the very first one.

The room itself is nice and clean. My window overlooks the roof top next door. The hill is that step that my first floor window sees out over the second story roof. There is a build in wardrobe with 2 drawers, a table with two high back chairs, 2 full beds, and a nightstand. The bathroom is fair sized and has a full sized tub. According to the outlets 1 is 110V and the others are all 220V. In theory I should be able to charge my camera batteries. (Please note this was in theory, I could not get my recharger to work at this hotel).

I spent a little time unpacking, I thought about trying to take a nap as recommended, but some how taking a nap when you are supposed to be seeing a place just wasn’t right.

I stopped at the front desk and picked up a map. I am about 5 blocks from the Plaza de Armas. So map in hand I set out. 5 blocks is deceiving. Three of them are the shortest narrowest blocks, and two of them were probably worth of being called a block. If they hadn’t been slightly uphill it would have been nothing to walk.

As it was I kept stopping to take pictures. 1 ½ blocks away was Qorikancha (snap, snap), then another block was a “street” completely lined with Quecha (Inca) block walls (snap, snap). There Then there were several statues / fountains (snap) and into the Plaza de Armas (snap, snap, snap.)
It was about 1 pm by that time and my LAN snack was history. I’d heard a lot about the Inca Grill so I thought I’d try that for lunch. It was on the far side of the square from where I entered so I began to work my way around the sides. That is when all of the vendors realized there was a fresh tourist to sell to. I was offered paintings, carved gourds, jewelry of several varieties, tours, escorts, pictures of ladies in traditional dress with baby alpacas or llamas.

As I was nearing the Inca Grill I saw a different restaurant which had a yummy sounding set lunch. Pachacutec is about 2 doors down from the Inca Grill. My lunch consisted of a pickled beet and potato salad with sliced boiled egg on top, (I never would have thought that would be tasty but I loved it), soup (I’ll call it a minestrone, but not quite), and the best steak I think I’ve ever eaten (served with fried rice). Price including at Coke Zero. 16.50 soles. 4 of which was the coke. I never did make to the Inca Grill.

After a very filling lunch it was time to head back to the hotel. Now that nap was sounding like a good idea. Along the way I stopped at the market and picked up some water, more crackers, and some coffee for a gift.

Still full after my nap I walked around a couple of blocks, but when the sun goes down it cools off and is really DARK. Since I didn’t really know where I was I stopped at the local snack shop (across from the school) and picked up some fruit juice and a bag of potato chips. If I would have had a way to warm some thing up I’d have gotten some thing else.

Two quick blocks back to the hotel I tucked in with my snack. Spent some time on the computer letting friends and family know I arrived at the next city safe and sound. Then watched a little of the US Open (in Spanish) and turned in. Tomorrow morning would be the first day where I wouldn’t have to get up before the crack of dawn to be some place.
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Old Nov 3rd, 2009, 12:59 PM
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Welcome back, I've been enjoying your TR.
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Old Nov 4th, 2009, 03:42 PM
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I'm really enjoying your report & love all the details you're including! Looking forward to the rest...
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Old Nov 6th, 2009, 03:28 PM
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Ah Cusco. And no alarm clock.

It is time for a leisurely breakfast. The hotel has one of the larger buffets. It has a variety of fruits, breads, cereals, and eggs. Over the days there is either sausage or bacon each day. They also have a peculiar cheese roll up in a fried wanton wrapper. It might be yummy if it was fresh out of the fryer, but cold… not so much. There is tea, coffee and juice.

My city tour isn’t until the afternoon so I take a leisurely walk over to the Plaza del Armas for some more pictures. There are fewer people in the square about 9 am. There are fewer people, but it means all of the people who want to sell me things have no one else to talk to. My patience lasts about 30 minutes then I am looking to escape. I stop by the market and get some Soles from the ATM and a few more gifts for back home. I have some friends from Peru and they have a little shopping list for me to pick up. I drop my purchases off at the hotel and consult the map. I think I can find the Inca Museum and go through it in time to be back at the hotel.

The walk is back to the Plaza and up a side street. And I do mean UP. It is like climbing a stair case. By the time I make it the 1 ½ blocks I’m nearly ready to pass out. I live just above sea-level. 11,000+ feet is hard on the poor lungs.

The museum itself is a colonial mansion. It belonged to a former Admiral. There is something amusing about an Admiral having a house so far from the sea. I guess the guy had enough by the time he retired, or was assigned to Cusco. The museum is interesting. It walks you through the various cultures that lived in the area. It has a good collection of pottery, several good dioramas of the area, some mummies (high on the creepy icky side for me), some very nice paintings of the Inca rulers and a striking architectural staircase / ramp that I’m sure wasn’t original to the house. There is also an excellent turret which overlooks the plaza. I head back to the hotel.

My guide told me I had to be at the hotel for my tour at 1:15 so that cuts in to lunch time in Peru. Lunch usually starts at 1. There is a method to my grocery madness. All of those crackers make for a good snack when you don’t get to pick up some thing. Well I could have gone to McDonalds on the plaza (it is a new addition), but I’d rather have crackers and enjoy a good dinner.

My tour documents told me my tour started at 2:00 so I couldn’t figure out why I was supposed to be there at 1:15. At 1:45 I called the travel agency. They were as confused as I was. All city tours start at 2. They had no idea why the guide would have told me otherwise. But they do call her. She is standing at the door chatting with the guard. Complete oblivious to the fact that I’ve been there for 30 minutes. She hands me an envelope with a number of tickets. The tourist ticket for Cusco, Qorikancha, and the tickets for tomorrow’s all day tour.

She makes a call and here comes a young man in a suit with a list. My name is checked off and I am to follow him on foot to the meeting place. Which isn’t too back , but he has long legs and is used to the altitude and I have short legs and huff and puff at that speed. After a block he finally looks back and realizes I’m not keeping up. “Senora, we must hurry” This earned a glare from me. We are only going 2 blocks. If you want me there earlier start before the tour is supposed to leave. Grr.

He delivers me to the English speaking guide. I think there are 14 in our group. We are assembled from hotels all over Cusco. Most people have been bussed over, I’m the only one close enough to have walked. We are given a brief overview and into Qorikancha we go.

You have to use your imagination what it looked both at the time of the Inca and the height of the Spanish period. Most of the plaster work and stone work done by the Spaniards collapsed during three different earth quakes. There is a small patch of plaster with decoration in the corner which gives you some idea of what the Spaniards did. Over all most of the area is as restored as possible. We don’t actually know the names of the altar areas, but there are a number of them. The fine masonry of the Quecha people is evident. The real name of the people of the area when the Conquistadors came was the Quecha. Inca was then name of the noble class.

After Qorikancha, we move on to the Cathedral.

It is only four blocks, but we must walk 2 blocks the other way and take our tour bus. It does give us the opportunity to put down our day packs in a safe place. There is parade going on outside the Cathedral so it is difficult for the bus to get to. Our guides careful time line is thrown off. He has this down to a four hour art.

The church is typical baroque. Very ornate, very full. In the US we tend to keep our churches rather empty, but this one has as much area as possible covered with something, altars, paintings, carvings, statues, etc. The more the better. One of the more interesting parts of the tours is learning how the local artisans incorporated their culture into the decoration. I won’t spoil the surprise, but look for the local foods, symbols, and legends.

From there we have to walk to a neighboring square because of the parade. That really throws the guides time schedule off.

Now we are headed up to Sacsahyuaman. It is a fortress overlooking the city. Once again I won’t spoil your adventure there. If you have time, and the breath hike up to the top so you are overlooking the city. It is impressive. From there we move on to three other sites on the top of the mountain. We actually end up missing the last one Puca Pucara because the sun set. I knew Peru was close to the equator, but I didn’t realize what that meant. Sun rise moves between 5:50 am and 6:10 am and sunset between 5:50 pm and 6:10 pm. So when the sun is getting ready to set you have about 5 minutes and then it is pitch black.

Our guide lets a film student on board to sell her DVD of Cusco. It looks pretty good I buy one (I am very happy with it). The bus also votes to stop at an Alpaca factory for a lesson on how to tell the difference between real alpaca and acrylic. There is cocoa tea and bathrooms which I think is the tipping point in the vote. It was an interesting presentation. I did buy a tiny toy alpaca for a gift. Others spent much more.

We arrived back in the city about 7pm. Most of us are on the all day tour of the Sacred Valley the next day so we say our good-byes. I’m hungry. My crackers are long gone.

I head back to my favorite restaurant and order dinner. I start off with a house salad. This thing is huge and so good. There is lettuce, spinach, celery, cucumber, dried cranberries, candied walnuts, a great vinaigrette dressing, and goat cheese crumbles. Dinner is alpaca steak, mashed potatoes, yucca chips, and a green sauce. The menu was picked up before I could write down the name of the sauce. It was tasty, but the plain food was so good you really didn’t need it. And another huge portion. I gave up. I couldn’t finish either the salad or the alpaca. (which tastes like pork) As I was sitting there I thought all I needed for this to be a meal from home was Mom’s homemade gravy.

Overly full I walk back to the hotel. I have a lot of company on my walk. Three different people try to sell me paintings on the way home. They all have a story. My favorite was Pablo Picaso who’s brother was Leonardo di Vinci. I doubt he painting the paintings he was showing me, but he had a good spiel.

There must be an invisible line for the sales people. They never followed me pass the square at Qorikancha.

I must say I never felt unsafe while I was walking at night.

I’m back at the hotel about 8:30. Just enough time for a hot soak (I can’t pass up a good bath tub) and to get ready for tomorrow. Our bus leaves at 8 am so pick up is supposed to be at 7:45. We will see…..
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Old Dec 4th, 2009, 11:54 AM
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It is up early for the tour of the Sacred Valley of the Incas. I have the same buffet breakfast as the day before and am in the Lobby ready to go at 7:45. There is another couple in the Lobby waiting to be picked up. 7:50 a man in a suit appears and collects us all to head off to our tour.

We walk back by Qorikancha and head down the hill to the garden. This is the spot where the tour bus picked us up yesterday. The couple is picked up on one bus and the man looks at me and says “You wait here for silver bus” and takes off to go get people at other hotels. Okay, so most of the buses are silver. I know he radioed the bus to tell them I was standing at the door of the Qorikancha Museum, but none of the buses seem interested in stopping for me.

8:10 here comes a silver bus and in the front row I recognize the family from the previous day’s tour. I think this is my bus. I smile and wave and the bus pulls over. Yes, this is my bus. My name is on the roster. There are still more people to pick up, but I find a seat and settle in. We have four more stops and a stop outside a tour company office for a few minutes before we head off over the mountain at about 8:45.

The guide speaks very good English. We hear about the history of the Quecha and the interweaving of the cultures. Our first photo op is a scenic overview of the valley. The Urubamba river rushes below. The village of Pisac is across the valley from the stop. We will be going to the market. I was hoping we were going to the ruins, but that wasn’t the case. They are supposed to be the best in the valley. Oh well. There are a lot of other ruins. It gives me an excuse to go back.

As we wind our way into the Valley we stop at a small village. They have a small market for us to shop at. I’m impressed by the pair of bronze sculptures they have in the court yard. (Snap). I do a walk through of the stalls. I found a few little coin purses and a pendant to take home. They are very happy our bus has stopped. We get our first experience of waiting for one of the couples. They love to shop so time just flys by while they are looking. The rest of the people on the bus inform them that this is not acceptable and next time there will be a mutiny and they will be left behind. If all you want to do is shop get a taxi!

From there we head down the valley to Pisac. It is a Tuesday so the market is quite smaller. There are still five or six streets filled with vendors to sell to the tourists. We will be here for 60 minutes thanks to the couple’s tardiness at the other place. When they hear that the dismay is quite dramatic. Oh well. I find the gifts for my administrative staff, a couple pottery pieces for myself and some polished stones for a friend who loves rocks. There are many other packages bought. Alpaca sweaters, furs, purses, jewelry (lots of jewelry), blankets, statues, journals….. There is a lot of ways to spend your Soles.

Back on the bus we head off to lunch. Because we are all from different tour companies we are eating at three different places. The poor bus driver doesn’t get a lunch because as soon as he gets the last group dropped off he has to head back to pick up the first people. I am in the second group. It is a lovely setting. They have a spa on the property as well. It is a buffet style. The main dishes are forgettable, but the salads and desserts are lovely. We even have a friendly McCaw who is happy to preen for our pictures. They also have one of the cleanest bathrooms I found.

Back on the bus and heading for Ollantayambo. This is our only ruin stop of the day. By this time I’ve figured out the guide is more about the shopping than the ruins. We get to the site. He hustles us up the mountain side, walks us through three places at the top and tells us we have 30 minutes to see the rest of the site. We will be leaving promptly at 2:45. That doesn’t go over too well with many of us. He can’t leave if half the bus is still missing. So a little rushed I do get to see all of Ollantayambo. There is yet another market outside the doors of the site, but he must not have a deal with those vendors because this is the only place we are not encouraged to shop!

The road back out of Ollanta is under construction so leaving takes longer than normal and actually requires a few trips around various blocks to get us back to where we want to be. That was interesting. Because the bus is tall you could see over the walls of the houses into the gardens and see what life was really like.

Rather than retrace our steps through the Valley we head up the other road to Cusco. This one takes us across the top of the mountains back. There is a rainstorm blowing in. I manage to get some really great photos of the light across the Mountains. We stop at our last little village Chincheros. It is over 12,000 feet and everything is up. There are stairs up from the bus park. From the bus park to the fork in the “road”. And a ramp up to the main square. Where guess what. There is a market with more shopping. Allegedly we stopped to see the Inca walls, they just happen to be the walls of the market square. Hmmm. I don’t know about that. It is a pretty place but it is starting to rain and we are all shopped out so we head back to the bus. I think the guide is a little dismayed that his group doesn’t want to shop more. We are done. Either broke or tired.

We head back into Cusco. Several people are dropped off at their hotels on the way to the main square. We will all be dropped off at our original drop off point, but I get off at the main square. I am just going to have to walk back for dinner anyway.

Tonight I want a lighter dinner. I stopped at the Italian restuaurant next to the market. I was thinking pizza, but came away with a bowl of tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwich. Not quit the US versions. The tomato soup is a little more acidic and the cheese is a white chedder type cheese. The bread is good, but they melting point of the cheese is higher so your cheese isn’t melted. With water 20.5 Soles. Not a meal I would repeat.

I stopped at the market for a couple bottles of water and headed back to the hotel. Tomorrow is the early train to Machu Pichu and I need to pack for my overnight.
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Old Dec 4th, 2009, 04:19 PM
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Great report. Looking forward to more.
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Old Dec 6th, 2009, 08:14 AM
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Thanks for returning...I am going back to Peru in May so looking forward to the rest of the details. Shame about the shopping tour of the Sacred Valley, though. I would recommend to anyone to just take taxis or book a more customized tour, rather than a big bus tour.
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Old Dec 7th, 2009, 09:03 AM
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My pick up for the train is at 6:40 am. I quickly grab a bit to eat from the buffet. It isn’t supposed to open until 7 am, but they know that a number of their guests are headed out on the early train to MP so the bread and fruit is out. I check my luggage at the front desk and the guide and driver are ready to take me to the rail station.

Originally I thought my ticket was from Cusco to MP, but it is from Portroy (outside of Cusco) to MP. The 30 minute drive replaces over an hour on the train as it crawls up the steep side of the mountain. It is a big time saver. The minivan takes me to the station and the guide gives me my ticket. I am on a completely full backpacker train. In our car the seats are fixed two forward and two back facing each other. I don’t mind riding backwards. My seatmate was less happy. The seats are made for thin people. While I wouldn’t call myself thin, my seatmate certainly wasn’t and it was a very tight squeeze with us both sitting. Being short my pack went under my legs instead of the overhead rack. I couldn’t reach it up there and I wanted to be able to access it when I wanted. There is a cart that comes by with very expensive snacks and even a menu if you care to buy a meal. They also make a run right before MP with souvenirs. There is a bathroom in each car. And maybe not the cleanest, it is very spacious.

The train makes its way through the Sacred Valley. We stopped at most of the villages. There were usually people trying to see little dolls or some thing to the tourists through the windows. They didn’t get many buyers from our car. One of the things that struck me about the valley was how dry it was. I knew from pictures that MP is fairy tropical and the dryness of the valley certainly didn’t match that. Ollana is only 20 km from MP and still very dry. So as I was sitting on the train, I kept waiting for the changing of the scenery. There are three tunnels along the route. After each one the vegetation changes a little. After the last one it changes dramatically. You move from a fairly dry almost scrubby to more moist leaner greener trees, and by the time you get to MP you’ve completely changed your vegetation zone.

The train station at MP is chaos. Once outside the main building the porters from all of the hotels are there with their signs. Unlike other places where they put up people’s names, they have the name of the hotel and then a print out list of who they are picking luggage up for. My guy was the first one in line. So I was able to check my backpack very quickly and head for the bus. I followed a guide and his charges most of the way (they walked much faster than I could keep up with) so I missed the last turn for the road with the buses, but AC is a very small place. (For the record: You walk out through the market, over any one of the three bridges, as you walk over the bridge you should be able to see the busses off to the left. You’ll walk one block to the “main” street of AC and then down 3 or 4 blocks. Then you’ll be able to cut over to the road with the buses. The ticket office for the busses is along that street as well. Very close to what I’ll call the first bridge since it is the first bridge as you come into town from the railroad). I walked one block further before I turned and had to come back up ½ block. A very short detour. I had my bus ticket and MP ticket ready. Each bus holds 60 people. As soon as it is full or nearly so, off they go. I think I counted over 30 buses along the way.

So now on the bus it starts to make its way to MP. The first 10 minutes is along the valley floor. You pass a couple of camp grounds and a lodge / resort and then start to wind up the mountain. It is all switchbacks. If that type of thing bothers you make sure you have an aisle seat. There are only a few places where the buses can pass each other so they are in radio contact with each other so they go smoothly up and down the mountain.

Once at the entrance the bus turns around and lets you off. They will get in line to take the next group down. As you face the stair the Sanctuary Lodge is on the left and the entrance to the park is on the right. There is a snack shop and restrooms (the only ones available if you aren’t staying or eating at the lodge) so if you need to go. GO now.

My instructions say to wait for my guide the tour starts at 11:30. Not enough time to get a snack but still enough to be antsy. While I am waiting, here come some more people from the tours I’ve been on for the last 2 days. We are all on the same English speaking tour. Again. It is nice to see familiar faces. It means I’ll also have some people to take the occasional picture of me so I really can prove I was there. 

Our guide rounds us up. He is an Peruvian version of Indian Jones. Complete with fedora and hip pouch. His English is good. He is a little odd though. Some archeology, a lot of Quecha religious philosophy, a little Peruvian politics, a little save the rainforest, but spend your money, a little … odd. At the end of the tour he offered everyone a chaw of cocoa leaves. Only 2 men took him up on that offer. Other than the oddness, he did know the sight, the astronomical locations, and all the little things that make MP special.

Please note about MP, there is very little flat. If you have difficulty walking this is not a good place for you. There is one flat plaza in the middle, but to get to it you have to go up and down multiple sets of stairs.

Bring your bug repellant. I used Deep Woods off. Other than being a little pine scented (there are no pine tree) it worked well. I also sprayed the brim of my hat with it. It kept the gnats out of my face. And don’t forget the sun screen. Put it on before the bug spray. There were several women in my group who were very miserable between burn and bugs. This isn’t the place to try to tan.

Our tour took about 3.5 hours. I had made my arrangements so I could spend the night and come back the next day so I wasn’t manic about seeing more (by this time my legs were none to happy with me) or having to make an afternoon train. So I slowly climbed out of the park (yes, to exit you have to go up) and to the buses. My tummy was hungry and it was time to rest a bit along with hoards of other people. Waiting for the bus back down that afternoon was probably the longest wait of the entire trip. Maybe 30 minutes.

Back down to AC the next challenge is to find my hotel. From the internet I knew it was on the same side of the river as the train station, but exactly where. NOT a clue. Once I was over the bridge I knew it wasn’t in the market so I started skirting the market by the river. Fortunately I found a very nice tourist policeman and showed him my luggage check with the hotel name on it. He didn’t know where it was, but he had a directory listing of all the hotels (and there are quite a few), from that he could get me with in a block. Good enough for me. I was actually pretty close. About 4 blocks.

Fair warning on this hotel. It overlooks the train station. IT is right there. If there wasn’t a chain link fence you could walk right out on to the tracks. The train noise is substantial if you have a room facing the front of the building. Trains leave until 9:00 pm at night and the first one comes in at 5:25 am. (I think that is the ones with the supplies for the town) Even though it was noise (I had a room in the front) it was quite acceptable.

I had two twin beds with very soft and warm linens. A bathroom with a shower (no tub), a nightstand, small table and 2 chairs. There was a peg rack for hanging things up. So simple, but very clean.

I stopped at the front desk for a map. It was a bit early for dinner, but breakfast was a long time ago and you can only live on crackers for so long. It was time to eat.

I crossed the third bridge (which is the closest to the hotel) and headed down the main street. I got all the way to the main square looking at the various restaurants and other shops. As long as I was there I decided to buy my ticket for MP the next day. You must buy it there. They are not for sale at MP. Or so I am told. Then it was off to find the bus ticket office. They only take US$. $14 round trip. I saw several places where the foot trail down cut across the bus road. It is worth every penny to take the bus.

Now it is time to start back up the hill and make my dinner selection. I’m in the mood for Mexican. I stop at Keros Resauranta and Pizzera. I had Guacamole Nachos and Beef tacos (pinto beans, beef, zucchini, and tomatoes – just a little spicy). One thing that surprised me is that the guac was served with wonton chips instead of corn chips. I think it was that point I realized that with the exception of the salted corn kernels they serve like peanuts in a bar, I hadn’t seen corn on any menu.

So with a full stomach and rested legs it was time to finish the hike back up the hill to the hotel.

When I first was planning my trip to MP I thought I wanted to try to be early enough to go up WP. Not going to happen. If you want to do that hike your line for the bus will be starting at 4 am. The park doesn’t even open until 6 am (or sunrise) and you have to sprint to the office at the other end of the plateau to get tickets to go up. Instead I decided to do the Sun Gate. There is no limit and that is the view that you always see in National Geographic. I don’t have to rush out of the hotel in the morning. This is good.

So after the last train leaves, I am off to sleep. MP – I’ll see you again tomorrow.
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Old Dec 12th, 2009, 02:16 PM
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Hello Dianne,
I too am working with Mike at Peru Best Tours to put together a trip for 14D/13N in Peru. I'm thinking of going next Sept. or Oct. 2010. How was the weather in early September? I'm, mainly concerned as to how cold it is in Cusco and MP. I'd like to not have to bring a heavy coat along. Our trip will include 2 nights at a jungle lodge and leave off Nasca. But very similar to yours for most of it.
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Old Dec 15th, 2009, 08:02 AM
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I was there the first 2 weeks in September. It is early Spring at that time. It was cool at night and only had rain a couple of times while I was there. I took my fleece jacket (not bulky and makes a good pillow) and a couple of long sleeved shirts for when I was in Cusco. With the exception of when I was out in the evenings, I really quite comfortable in just shirt sleeves.
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Old Dec 15th, 2009, 10:03 AM
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Aguas Calientes

No trains to catch. I get to sleep in…. Not. The first train of the morning arrived at 5:25 am (which I would have probably slept through) but it blew its whistle to announce it’s arrival. That being directly across from the whistle, you could not miss it. I was just trying to decide if I was going to get up when the departure whistle sounded at 6:00. Better than an alarm clock.

The hotel had plenty of hot water for my shower and a large buffet breakfast. There are scrambled eggs, bacon (some of the best I’ve ever had), fruit, rolls, cereals, yogurt and coffee and tea. I check my backpack at the hotel. My train back to Cusco isn’t until 4:30 pm and I am not carrying it around all day.

I stop by a store on my way to the bus stop. Probably one of the more expensive Milky Way bars I’ve bought, but I wanted some thing sugary just in case I needed something quick hiking around MP. I also have 2 bottles of water in my purse.

At this time there isn’t a line. All of the people who wanted to go up to WP are well on their way. Us laggards at 8:00 are the lazy ones up the mountain. The bus has probably 20 people when we pull out. A number of them work at MP and are going up for their shift.

Having been there the day before gives me an advantage over some of my fellow travelers. While they are figuring out where they are going, I’m through the gate and headed for the trail leading to the Sun Gate.

From the first 200 yards to the last step, it is up, up, up, up, up. The trail is uneven, steep, and rocky. In most places the drop off on the outer edge is nearly vertical. Only the thick vegetation gives the illusion of a wall. You can hear the skittering in the brush of tiny wild animals. The occasional bird flies across the trail. There are three sets of ruins along the way. One has a stair case leading back into the jungle. I’m not sure where it leads, but I can tell you my legs were burning enough that my curiosity was held in check. There is another clearing with a ruin. Maybe this was a warehouse location, or rest stop. And the last location was a guard check point into the city. A few defenders could hold off an entire army. And the trail continues on, up, up, up, and more up. The pillars of the sun gate are in sight, but before you reach them and turn around and look at MP below you, you have one last obstacle to over come. You go down about 20 feet and then the last portion is large rough hewn stairs to climb. All along the way, I’ve passed climbers coming back down. Each is encouraging, your ¼ of the way, half way, ¾ of the way. You are nearly there, just look. To all of those people, “Thank you for the encouragement.” The guide books say the trail time is about 1 hr 15 minutes. I did the climb in 2 hours.

I walked over the crest and down about 100 feet on the other side to take a picture of the sign marking the Inca Trail. Then making that last climb back up to take in the view of the valley and the city. Even in ruins the site is inspiring. In my imagination I can see the thatch on the roofs and smoke coming from chimneys, I can hear music in the air and the laughter of children. This is the magical city of the Quecha. – This is one of those moments you remember for a lifetime.

The hike down is in some ways harder than going up. When the brush clears you want to look at the view, but to do so would break an ankle. Plus what you had to climb going up you then have to go back down. But going down is much easier on the lungs. (My legs are going to be really sore tomorrow). As I pass people coming up, I return the favor done for me, encouraging all and telling them with all sincerity, - it is worth it. Even if you only go 20 steps at a time and rest, it is worth it.

When I finally reach the city again I walk out to the overlook next to the overseers hut. This flat space has the pastures the llamas frequent. There are 20 of them on the site. They are tame and will oblige you for pictures and nose scratches. At least most of them will, when they are through being photogenic they take off across the terraces. They manage the 10 foot leaps with great ease.

From there I take some more photos of MP. And walk into the city the way the caravans of old did through the city gate at one of the highest points in the city. It is literally all down hill from there. The exit is down a 100-yard staircase (no handrails), it had started to lightly rain so footing was a bit treacherous. I was very careful. I’d rather sit on stair and have a wet behind, than a broken neck from a fall.

Even in the rain I hike around a quadrant of the city I didn’t get to see on the tour and head for the exit. My legs are like rubber, but I make that last climb out of MP to the buses. The rain has picked up and many are heading back to AC so there is a line. At this point standing still in a line is a wonderful thing.

My seat mate on the bus has just completed the Inca trail. She is tired and elated at the same time. The switch backs are a bit much for her and she is looking rather green, the best way to beat car sickness is with distraction. So we talk. Just as we are getting to AC, we discover that we actually live less than 10 miles from each other back in the US. Talk about a small world.

Once we disembark it is time for lunch. I select on of the many pizzerias along the main street in AC. I had a cheese and mushroom pizza. Didn’t realize that pizza doesn’t usually come with tomato sauce, not what I was expecting, but tasty none the less. There are several sets of musicians playing up and down the street. When one finishes the next one starts and everyone has a good time.

About 2 pm my legs have recovered so it is time to walk up the hill to the hotel and get my pack. I’ve done no shopping in MP so I want to go to the market before I go into the train station. I’ve got a list and this looks like a prime shopping opportunity. They are ready to sell and I’m ready to bargain. Because I’ve done some looking in Cusco, I’m aware of prices. So while it isn’t mean haggling, there is a little negotiation. In the end I have purses, a salt-cellar, playing cards, and a few other gifts and it is time for the train.

At 4:30 they load us on. My seatmate is much more congenial this time. She and her family have just completed the Inca trail and a night in AC. We had a nice discussion about the differences between traveling in Europe and Australia and the US. It made the time pass nicely.

We pull into Portoy about 8:30 pm. I think most tour companies pick up their people here. There is a mad exit from the train. I can easily spot my name and I am headed back to the city. The city lights at Cusco are very pretty, even if the football stadium is a bit glaring compared to the rest of the city.

Back at my hotel I get my luggage and settle in to my room. This one smaller and faces out over the street, but it is only for one night.

Tomorrow afternoon I fly out of Cusco and head to Chiclayo.
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Old Jan 25th, 2010, 01:04 PM
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Alas it is time to leave Cusco and the Incas.

My flight leaves today at 2:00 pm so my pick up is at 12:50, which leaves me the whole morning to finish up any last minute site seeing and shopping in Cusco. My tourist ticket from the tour is still good (it is good for a week) so I opt to go to the museum under the sun garden. It is very small and if you aren’t much for museums, good enough to get a feel of what the cultures artifacts were like. You climb out into the garden as you exit and you can wander the grounds. The grounds keepers were very helpful in pointing out where the exit was. For some reason I was challenged out to get out of the fenced in area. Maybe I should have had more tea with my breakfast.

That being done I head back toward the square. Now having been to MP I know what souvenirs I need and am on a mission. I bought a nifty leather purse and woven water bottle holder, several village figure magnets, a deck of MP playing cards (I figure this was as close to cool as I was going to get for a 12 year-old boy), and a MP guide in Spanish.

Then it was back to the hotel for the last minute packing and transport to the airport. It is a quick drive when you are not on pins and needles waiting to get going. At check in the clerk asks me if I am connecting internationally, I said no – which meant my bag was over weight. So I gave some of my magazines to my guide. The clerk wasn’t too happy, but I wasn’t going to pay money to take something I hadn’t had time to read in six months anyway.

Boarding (now that I know about the line at the bottom of the board) goes much smoother. Unfortunately Mother Nature has some different plans. Just a little 20 minute rain shower shuts down the airport for 90 minutes. That pushes the time I have in Lima to make my flight to Chiclayo, but I should be okay.

So finally air-born we have our 40 minute flight to Lima. Just about 15 minutes out you are treated to a odd sight. The valleys below start to fill with fog / mist. This is the same mist that envelops Lima most of the winter there. It is quite interesting to see from the air. If my camera had been handy I’d have liked to taken a picture.

Once on the ground I have to claim my suite case and get checked in for my flight. Oh, no, they changed the time on my flight to Chiclayo and didn’t tell me (or the travel agency) the flight is closed when I arrive at the ticket counter. (

Fortunately the guard is watching my puzzled expression at the check in kiosk and points me to the first class check in line. The clerk at the counter takes my passport, itinerary, from the travel agency and disappears to the back. About 10 minutes later she reappears and then has to find me in the computer. With her supervisor’s approval I am placed on the next plane arriving 4 hours later than my original flight. It is the next and last flight out to Chiclayo. I’m happy.

I check my luggage and head upstairs. The famous 4D restaurant and gelataria is calling my name.

I get to pick my booth so I settle into a table where I have a full view of the departure board. Just to make sure nothing else changes on my flight!

My menu is in Spanish. They have the English version, but I am trying to expand my horizons and I think I know what I am ordering – It is spaghetti so I can’t go too far wrong. I also have my first Pisco Sour. The Pisco Sour is the national drink of Peru. I’ve been told how they make it, and watched, but I don’t think in my wildest imagination I would have come up with something like that. Three sips and I can’t feel my toes. No kidding, this thing is strong. Wowie. Good thing I have three hours to waste.

While I am waiting I call my travel agent so they can tell the person picking me up about the time change. They are quite surprised they didn’t hear about the flight time change, but am very glad I am on the next flight. My guide and ride will be waiting.

One bowl of spaghetti, one pisco sour and one bowl of gelato later, I’m at the gate (boarding on the right side of the line) and on my way. The flight is uneventful.

I knew Chiclayo was smaller, but it has been many years since I deplaned via the staircase and on to the tarmac. It is a pleasant temperature. And I walk into the very small airport. Maybe there are four gates. There is one last flight back to Lima. Apparently the plane doesn’t stay overnight in Chiclayo.

My guide is there. Her English is stellar and she has a joyful attitude. It would seem I am a very special guest. Not only do I have the guide, but the driver and the head of the travel agency as well. They don’t get to many Americans here. Any probably even fewer short middle aged women, traveling by themselves!

My hotel is the Costa del Sol. It is a nice hotel. As I was reading through the literature it said it was part of the Radison chain. My guide made sure that I wasn’t going to go out. The area at night wasn’t good for a woman alone. I assured her I wasn’t going out. I was going to bed.

I will only be here two nights, but I want to repack after flying and make sure nothing I have in the suitcase leaked , so everything got taken out (dry thankfully) to air and get reshuffled. Joy of joys my battery charger worked here so my spent batteries got put in for the night.

After the afternoon excitement my adrenaline is wearing off and it is time to sleep. The Lord of Sipan awaits.
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Old Feb 17th, 2010, 11:53 AM
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This is a small city at the heart of the northern coast. You know it is small when you disembark the airplane and it has 4 gates, all reached from the tarmac. It has been awhile since I’ve been to an airport that small.

Breakfast is at the hotel restaurant, the Paprika. The food is good. It is a business hotel and the buffet has that feel. You have a 2nd floor view of the main street in Chiclayo.

My guide and car are right on-time. They are happy to see me. Having travelers in this part of Peru is rare. I turned down several travel agencies because they weren’t willing to put together this part of the itinerary. There are a limited number of tourist quality hotels, and not much of a night life, but for some one who wants to see the ancient cultures of the area it is quite nice.

Once in the car, I am in the back seat being chauffeured. This is so unusual for me, I’m not that formal. The town gives way to sugar cane crops. It is a work day so I see trucks, busses, and bicycles headed to the fields and factories. Five miles out of town the pavement becomes dirt, and the dirt becomes ruts. My poor chauffeur is going to have to wash his car.

There are a few hills in the distances. Some are made by nature some are made by man. Thousands of artifacts have come out of this area and still much of it lies officially unexcavated. Many local people in the past supported their families on the sale of old relics and other items.

We are now twisting through low hills and over an irrigated area. There is lush green gardens and trees. A contrast to the natural state of the land.

A new museum has recently been built on the site of the Tomb of the Lord of Sipan and there is a small tourist market across the square. Entrance to the museum is a few Soles. Most of the works in the museum (the expensive ones) are copies, but there are excellent examples from all of the cultures in the area dating back to 1000 BC. There are some hands on exhibits to keep the children engaged. My guide is excellent. It is like having an archeology professor whose expertise is in the local history and culture.

It takes easily an hour to go through the museum and we are moving at an easy speed. There is a lot of very interesting displays. Then it is over to the tourist market (my choice). I don’t end up buying anything. But the school kids who are here on a field trip are making up for it.

We get in the car and head back the way we came. About 300 yards we turn into the actual site of the tomb itself. If I’d have known it was this close I would have suggested we walk, but a walking Gringa would have been extraordinarily out of place.

The pyramid structures in the area are in many ways akin to their Egyptian counter parts. They served as the resting place for their Lords. However the structures also served the living as well with others being used to support government structures, courts, or other public buildings. They are made out of mud brick (adobe) and are created in layers so over time they grow. Each layer has the potential to hold the tombs of the Lord or other powerful people.

This pyramid structure has at current 12 tombs on different levels.

The area came to note back in the 1987 with the discovery of the first Lord’s tomb. There is quite a story to the discovery which I would suggest you might want to read, but in the end mankind came within 30 cm of loosing this tomb and its treasure to tomb robbers. And we are so fortunate that it didn’t happen. The Lord and his entourage are dated to 240 AD.

They have replicated the tombs artifacts and placed them as they were discovered. The painstaking nature of the archeology dig is very evident when you look at the tiny, minute little shell beads that were found in the 7 collars the Lord was buried with.

We walked the entire site to the tomb of the Oldest Lord of Sipan found so far. This gentleman predates the original Lord of Sipan by another 200 years. And this is not the oldest culture in the area. Funding is scare, but you can just imagine the potential of the area. When they call Peru the Egypt of the Americas they are well justified.

After the burial tomb it is time to head to Lambayeque and the museum which houses the entire collection of the Lord of Sipan (including his remains).

The museum takes up an entire block there is a 10+ foot high wall with an armed guard at the gate. They are well aware that this is a prime target for robbers and they are not going to willingly let this treasure be stolen. As an additional part of security no bags are allowed (there is a bag check where you must leave your camera as well) and no photography of any kind.

The building itself is designed to emulate the pyramid itself. You enter at the top and work your way down through 4 layers of Moche culture and artifacts. At this point I found out that my guide got her start in archeology at the tomb of Sipan and had worked her way up from gofer to actually having a degree in archeology. She knows everyone at all of the sites.

Back to the museum, it is probably the best museum I’ve ever seen. It tops the Anatolian Museum in Ankara in curation and Egyptian museum in quality. It is well done. It is worth going to northern Peru just for this museum. And the Lord himself is quite amazing.

After the museum it is time for lunch. I ate at a restaurant called the Pacific Point. I finally tried the Ceviche and fried yucca. The Ceviche pickled my tongue and my yucca fries (fritters?) took the sting back out. It was a good meal. It was a little akward sitting there alone among a restaurant crowded with familes. (and a little lonely).

An hour later my guide returned to pick me up and whisk me to our next site, Tucume. It is further north of Chiclayo. This site belongs to the Sican culture. It is more of a mystical healing site. Shamans still come to the site to perform ceremonies and to gather power for their arts. There are 26 pyramids on the site. Rather than being funeral spots, temples to the Moon and Sun were built on top.

It is an impressive site and when you hike up to the top of the natural hill, you can see Sipan and Butan Grande in the distance. I didn’t get to Butan Grande, but her tomb is supposed to be second to the Lord of Sipan. At the very tiny craft store I purchased a couple of gifts (one I ended up keeping) made by local artists. They were nice quality and not something I saw in Cusco.

Then it was back to the hotel. We stopped at a grocery for water, tomorrow would be a 3-4 hours ride to Trujillo (south) and water is a necessity.

After cleaning up it was down stairs for dinner. There was a banquet going on in the back room so it was rather spare service. I didn’t mind, I was in no rush. I was actually surprised how many women were at the hotel. Several tables where they were either having a girls night or a family gathering. I could see why. The food was once again delicious. And I had an amazing dessert – a custard filled chocolate egg. Just to die for.

It is time to go up stairs, a long travel day yesterday and the heat of today, plus it is an early pick up in the morning and packing must be done.

Tomorrow…. On to Trujillo.
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