and Norbert’s Breathtaking...
EXPLORATION OF PERU
December 25, 2005 to January 6, 2006
It has been our dream
for years to visit the ruins of the magical Incan city of Machu Picchu,
and we finally have made it. Our usual method of visiting a foreign land
is to book the flight and land at the airport, Lonely Planet, Eyewitness
Travel Guide and other
travel books in hand
. We then either rent a car or find lodging and start to make plans on the
spot. To book anything two weeks in advance is "long-term planning", at
least in our way of doing things.
So when we decided in
September to finally visit Machu Picchu three months in the future it was
quite out of character and even more so when we also decided on a packaged
tour. We chose G.A.P. Adventures,
a Canadian company that boasted many different tours throughout the not-too-civilized
world. As the title suggests, G.A.P. caters to the backpack crowd and often
expects its tour-takers to do much walking.
We chose a tour that
included hiking the famous Inca Trail (3 1/2 days), Machu Picchu (1 day),
Amazon jungle (2 days), Cuzco (1 1/2 days) and Lima (2 days) for a total
of 10 fun-filled days. We were both in fabulous physical condition so the
Inca Trail did not seem to pose a worrisome challenge. But then unexpectedly
Donna sprained her ankle and Norbert developed an ingrown toenail and we
regretfully had to substitute for the hike three days in Cuzco and Aguas
Caliente, the town at the base of Machu Picchu.
We left from Newark
Airport on Christmas morning and that night we found ourselves at the Hotel Colonial in Lima. The following day, we took a
Lima full day tour
and that evening we met our tour-mates. The O'Keeffes, very Irish...
Conor and Freda and their children Eoin, Grainne and Ciaran
. The Brits, the boys from Bath who occasionally spoke a brand of English
that we could understand...James and Nick
The following morning
we were all off to
where, upon arriving in the early afternoon, we spent the rest of the
day acclimating to the 11,600 foot altitude. In the morning we were all
off on what Koko
, our guide, called the Inca Trail
, a tour through the Sacred Valley of the Incas along the Rio Urubamba with
some challenging climbing of ruins. It was quite do-able and it made us regret,
for the moment, that the sprained ankle and ingrown toenail had forced us
to pass up the Inca Trail. That night we stayed at
in the Sacred Valley.
After accompanying our
the next morning to the jumping-off
place for the Inca Trail (Actually km 82 on the train) we returned to
to enjoy the luxuries of the city while our companions were "roughing it"
in the wild. We then spent a day at Aguas Calientes
(hot waters) in anticipation of visiting Machu Picchu. Much to our surprise,
our tourmates had arrived from the trail, and we joined them that evening
for drinks and dinner as they regaled us with tales of rain, cold and spectacular
views. This was New Years Eve and James, Nick and Conor said that they would
be damned if they would let fatigue and being in a small town in the Andes
keep them from traditional wassailing. The rest of us allowed ourselves
to be damned and went to bed early.
We were up at 4:30 AM
to make the 5:30 bus trip
up the mountain to the Machu Picchu
site. The view of these ruins at 6 AM
, with the crisp mist scudding over the valley defies description. We spent
the better part of the day there and returned to Aguas Calientes for dinner
with our tourmates. The next day we returned to Cuzco for rest and sightseeing
and anticipation of the trip to the Amazon River.
Well, it was not exactly
the Amazon River but it was a tributary in the Amazon jungle. We flew to
and took a four hour "canoe" trip up the Rio Madre de Dios to the Rio Tambopata
arriving at the lodge at dusk
. After dinner we took our first walk listening to the music of the
and inhaling the fragrance of jungle flora. The group was up early in the
morning for a trip further up the river and a trek through the
. In the afternoon Donna and Norbert visited a true
. The main crops were bananas and corn, but they did not seem to be planted
in any orderly fashion, but placed at random at the farmer's whim.
We returned to
the next day for one last full day of touring. The flight back to the good
old US of A left at midnight so that by early the next afternoon we were
We had been warned from
all our reading that Peru was full of thugs
who were just waiting to murder, or at least, rob us. And we were also
told that during our sojourn in the jungle we could be infected with many
fatal or incurable tropical diseases
. I am pleased to report that by virtue of cowering in fear at the approach
of any stranger and getting innoculated for everything we avoided these pitfalls.
Warmup for Inca Trail
Tour of Lima