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Yes, I got the “frikkin horse” and I may have eaten a little dirt

Yes, I got the “frikkin horse” and I may have eaten a little dirt

Old Apr 1st, 2019, 11:14 AM
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Yes, I got the “frikkin horse” and I may have eaten a little dirt

A little background….. I decided to do this trip about a month before I left. I was traveling solo as DH was not able to get the time off work. With so little time to plan and not much knowledge about Peru, I decided to go with a company to help me. Normally I travel independently, and do not like to be part of a tour group. I went with Kuoda, a company that organizes private tours. My itinerary was a mix of a few days on my own in addition to days with a private guide. With a few back and forth emails, Kuoda organized a nice itinerary that worked with my budget.

The trip to Lima went smoothly and I enjoyed a day and a half in Lima on my own. I speak Spanish, so I hired a taxi driver to get me from place to place. While I was enjoying the sites in El Centro, they had a parade. It was fantastic with lots of colorful traditional clothes and music. For me, the highlight of Lima was Museo Larco. It is not that big, but they have some wonderful things. I especially liked the ceremonial headdresses, nose pieces, and ear adornments. Those Incas really knew how to accessorize.

Sacred Valley
From Lima, I flew to Cusco. My guide, Corina, picked me up at the airport and we drove through the Sacred Valley to Chinchero. There was some kind of local meeting taking place there. Corina said the women were wearing their “meeting hats”. The women looked like they were having a serious talk while the men were drinking beer and playing around a little with a soccer ball. I stayed two nights at Sonesta Posadas in Yucay. It is a very nice hotel with beautiful grounds. The restaurant was good too, although it was much more expensive than Lima.

The next day, we went to the ruins at Pumamarca. From the ruins, we went on about a two hour, mostly gentle downhill walk to Ollantaytambo. It was a perfect walk for stretching my legs while getting used to the altitude. Also, there was no one else on the trail, which was great. Everything was green and lovely, and Corina pointed out lots of flowers and birds.

In Ollantaytambo, we went to El Albergue for a traditional pachamanca. This is a meal cooked on hot rocks. They have an on site farm and a wonderfully enthusiastic chef explained everything as it was being done. Before I get into the cooking process, I would like to bring up the fact that I am a microbiologist. I worked in biotech for many years but now teach medical microbiology and immunology to undergraduates. OK, with that in mind…. There was a collection of very hot rocks in a hole in the ground. A variety of potatoes were put on a layer of hot rocks. The potatoes did not look completely clean, but maybe that is just how the skins look? The layering process continued: rocks/meat/ rocks/fresh herbs and fava beans/canvas sheet/dirt. After about 25 minutes of cooking, the layers were taken apart and the food was on the table along with some excellent sauces. The meat was all cooked through. I was a little worried about the not so clean looking potatoes because they said they just eat the skin and all. Everything smelled and looked so good that I did. It was an absolutely fantastic meal eaten in a lovely spot next to the garden. I highly recommend it.

After stuffing myself at lunch, we walked around Ollaytambo ruins. Corina explained pre-Inca and Inca construction and the theories on the purposes of the different building. The ruins are truly impressive. In the town, we went into an example of a traditional old style house that included a little heard of guinea pigs running around. I know Americans have them as pets and Peruvians eat them, but I think they are just kind of creepy. I don’t want to pet them or eat them.

Corina also took me to the everyday market where the locals get their food. It was amazing to see all the varieties of fresh potatoes, carrots, beans, etc.

Machu Picchu
The next day, we went by train to Aguas Calientes then on to Machu Picchu. I was pleased to find that lines for the bus were only 5-10 minutes since I read it can get busy. We had an afternoon entry, so we had lunch at Sanctuary Lodge first. The food was good, but I really did not like atmosphere. It had a crowded, elbow to elbow cafeteria feel to it. I would have preferred to sit on a rock someplace less crowded and eat a sandwich. What can I say about Machu Picchu? Everywhere you look, there is something amazing. Corina used to work there and knows the place inside out. She was a wonderful guide. We walked around until about 4 pm. Before I went, some friends told me that Machu Picchu would be extremely crowded. I am happy to say that was not my experience. There were people, but not a big crowd. There was plenty of room to sit in a quiet spot for a few minutes and take in the feel of the place. That night I stayed in El Mapi and had my first Pisco sour and a great dinner. I liked the hotel quite a bit. It was nice without being too formal.

Machu Picchu Mountain
This was one of the highlights of the trip for me. When I read about the hike before my trip, there were many reviews about how strenuous it is. On the plus side, I am pretty fit and an experience hiker, including higher altitudes (up to about 11,000 ft anyway). On the not so plus side I am 55 and live at sea level. We set a reasonable pace, and I had a wonderful time. There is something I love about “earning” an amazing view, and the views at the top are really something. You can see Machu Picchu with towering green mountains all around. The trail was not too crowded, and it only rained a little at the very end. I thought I would be sore the next day due to all the stairs and my middle-aged knees, but I was not. The only part that was sore was my butt where I fell and landed on an unfortunately pointy rock. I have a truly impressive bruise that I cannot even show anyone beside DH. (He was suitably impressed.) After a big delicious lunch, we took the train to Ollantaytambo and then a car to Cusco. I got to the hotel at 8:30pm and I was TIRED.

I spent the day in Cusco seeing some of the sites. I especially liked Koricancha (Temple of the Sun). I enjoyed trying to image the sun temple walls covered in gold and the moon room walls covered in silver. That must have been a sight. I had a great lunch at Cicciolinos. I also liked the Museo Textiles. It is small, but it has some great old photos of traditional dress for weddings.

Vinicuna (Rainbow Mountain).
I lost track of how many times I changed my mind back and forth on this. Before I left on my trip, I read conflicting reviews. Some people had a miserable time. Others said it was the highlight of the trip. Fodorite mlgb very helpfully posted a link that suggested just “get the frikkin” for the ride most of the way up. The day before, I felt nauseous all day and could not eat much. In the end, I decided to take some pepto, take some Gatoraide along and go for it. So glad I did! We started out at 5:30 am and got there in under 3 hours. The scenery on the drive was lovely. I took some pictures of emerald green pasture with alpacas and snow covered peaks in the background. The sky was clear and it had snowed the night before. Corina was so excited to see the mountains all covered with snow. The trail was slippery due to mud and snow, but not to the point that it was scary. I did see some people hiking in sneakers, which was insane. You definitely good boots for this hike. Even with my hiking boots, I did a little slipping and sliding on the steep, snowy parts. When we started, there were cars in the parking lot, but not that many. We hired a couple of horses for 50 soles each and were on our way. When we got to the last, steep part of the trail, we got off and walked slowly. The view from the top was one of the prettiest I have ever seen, and I have backpacked and hiked in a lot of beautiful places. There were giant snow covered peaks all around. The sun had melted the snow off most of the “rainbow” part of the mountain, so we could see the stripes of colors in the soil. Because we had taken the horses, we go to the summit ahead of the crowds. By the time we left the top, it was getting really crowded. I do think they are going to have to limit the number people using the trail in order to preserve the beauty of the place. The hike back down was lovely.

I think I could have done the whole hike without the horse, but I know I would not have enjoyed the day as much. Overall, it was a wonderful experience. I spent the whole time marvelling at the beauty and feeling lucky to be in such an amazing place.

The inside of my hotel room in Cusco
The next day, I started off with the intention of seeing the Inca museum. I was really looking forward to it, but I did not get very far. Once I started walking around I felt dizzy and weak. I kept having to sit down. One drawback to traveling alone is that passing out in the street would be VERY bad. Rather than risk making it worse, I went back to the hotel to rest until my 4 pm flight to Lima then home. I am so disappointed about not getting to that museum. I purposely saved it for the last day. I want someone to post and tell me that it isn’t that great (but I bet it is).

The end
What a great trip! I keep pulling up my photographs, flipping through them, and thinking about the places I saw. The travel company, Kuoda, was wonderful to work with and Corina was a fantastic guide. I know I could have done the planning on my own and spent a lot less, but with my limited time to plan this worked out perfectly. This was one of my favorite trips ever.
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Old Apr 2nd, 2019, 10:09 AM
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Old Apr 3rd, 2019, 02:03 PM
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Would love to see some photos! To add them, just click the little "picture" button in the edit tool bar!
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Old Apr 3rd, 2019, 03:44 PM
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Old Apr 3rd, 2019, 09:39 PM
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Wow - great pics!
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Old Apr 4th, 2019, 09:18 AM
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Great report and stunning photos. Thank you.
Any photos of the Rainbow Mountain?
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Old Apr 4th, 2019, 11:31 AM
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Thanks. Unfortunately, my photos of rainbow mountain do not do it justice. The colors were more intense in person. I am not much of a photographer. I just point my phone at things and hope for the best : )

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Old Apr 5th, 2019, 02:49 PM
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Sounds like a great trip and the frikkin horse sounds like a good move.
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