Peru – January 22 – Jan 29, 2017
After a long day of traveling from the Galapagos to Peru (3 planes and a 2-hour car trip, and Thom suffering all the previous night with traveller’s tummy and bummy….lol), we landed in Cusco and then traveled by van arriving in the Sacred Valley at the Arwana Hotel and were delivered to a beautiful suite (or so we thought), unpacked and settled in. The property was gorgeous, but our suite was fraught with issues from minor to major (no heat, no toiletries, burned out light bulbs, broken safe, running toilet that eventually would not flush) - Meester Thom finally lost it at 10:30 PM when there were 3 men in our suite “fixing” the problems – NOT - still no ‘flushy’ - we had the hotel move us to another suite (a down-grade) late that night. We must say the hotel management, and Goway Travel, Toronto, bent over backward to compensate – comped everything.
Things improved from there – the next day we went to Ollantaytambo, (O-yan-tay-tambo) located in the Sacred Valley of the Incas, and toured the ruins - Spectacular large granite formations that were moved downhill from the mountains across the river, and then uphill to their current location. An amazing feat and a sight to behold, as the large granite pieces all fit together perfectly, without any mortar. They certainly beat Lego to the punch.
Ollantaytambo is also the most common starting point for the four-day, 3-night, hiking and camping tour known as the Inca Trail. Or, alternatively you can be lazy, like the Vincents, and take a luxury train ride (Hiram Bingham) to Aguas Calientes (Pueblo Machupicchu) and a bus to the site of the ancient Inca ruins of Machu Picchu. Sure beats all that walking and wasted heartbeats. The wine and the meal on the train was super, and we needed the strength, as we thought that we would be hiking the trail with all those young bucks. We checked into Belmond Sanctuary Lodge, the only hotel located adjacent to Machu Picchu citadel entrance. Funny that the PR Manager for the hotel was on our bus trip to the Lodge and sought us out, telling us that they had heard we had a challenging experience with the hotel in the Sacred Valley and that they would certainly look after us well at the Lodge…..and so they did….service and food and of course wine were excellent.
That afternoon our terrific guide, Olga, toured us through the Inca city of Machu Picchu – It was overwhelming, standing in the midst of huge stone formations, monuments carved by people, long ago, without the benefit of modern tools/machinery - massive stone walls built so intricately that they have endured centuries without the aid of mortar, cement or crazy glue….lol…. The remains of a complicated aqueduct, terraced gardens, intriguing buildings that play on astrological alignments, the placement of sacrificial alters and panoramic views, suggest a people with advanced agricultural skills and a sophisticated knowledge of astronomy.
Machu Picchu is surrounded by a granite wall – an impregnable fortress – that could only be entered by one main gate. Inside is a maze of a thousand “ruined” houses, temples, palaces and staircases, all hewn from granite and dominated by a great sundial. The people who lived here simply vanished into the Andes, abandoning a city that had taken generations to build. Where did they go & why? Disease? MacDonalds? Whatever the cause, the city was abandoned to the elements and only rediscovered by Hiram Bingham in 1911/12 with the help of local indigenous farmers.
Words cannot describe our experience – we hope our photos give you some small appreciation of this sacred and unique place. And we lucked out on the weather, having a 10 minute sprinkle over the two days…..
Months in advance, we had booked the climb of Huayna Picchu (Wayna Picchu) for the following day as only a limited number of people are allowed on it each day. There was some trepidation on Kari’s part and grim determination on stubborn Thom’s part, gimpy knee and all. We had a time slot to be at the second gate between 7– 8 AM, I know sounds like a horse race; our start was complicated by someone bringing their camera but leaving the camera battery back in our hotel room – no names mentioned but lots of *@!!**@#**!!
BUT WE MADE THE TIME SLOT AND WE MADE IT TO THE TOP – HIGH FIVE! Kari has no sense of humour…..
Don’t think we’ve ever had a more difficult climb/hike and would recommend it to anyone with lots of life insurance. Someone commented when we came back through the gate….looking at Thom….well if he did it then we should be able to….which Thom replied with something that sounded like ‘piss off’…..
Huayna Picchu is the towering mountain behind the actual site of Machu Picchu and from a distance looks impossible to climb….and they are almost right. The Incas did cut some steps (if you could call them steps) out of the rocks and as we wound our way around the side of the mountain we could see Machu Picchu from different angles. Some trail structures, on Huayna Picchu, are almost glued to the mountainside with a sheer drop of a couple of hundred meters on the other side. The views, during the climb and from the top of Huayna Picchu, are breathtaking and highlights the magnitude of the site of Machu Picchu. As Thom said, he couldn’t imagine people bringing up rocks into this environment to build, and we were just climbing their steps…..
That accomplished, we embarked on the next leg - the bus, train and another 2-hour car ride - arriving in Cusco late evening. Fabulous 5 Star Preferred Hotel, helped with the late arrival. The next day we toured the sites of Cusco and the surrounding area, visiting more archeological sites showcasing Incan architecture and culture as well as the Spanish conquest and subsequent influences. Great touring with Thom as he is followed around the Cathedral by detectives making sure that he would not take any photos…..ah….but he got a few. Had a fabulous dinner at the City Main Square with a great Malbec wine.
Then the next day, we had a 1.5 hour flight to Lima, the capital city of Peru, located on the Pacific. We stayed at a Relais et Chateau – Hotel B- which we read about in ‘Cruise and Travel Lifestyles’, a Canadian magazine owned by a friend of ours Vanessa Lee. Fab-u-lous. In the same magazine, Astrid y Gaston was touted as the best restaurant in South America. Our hotel helped us snag a reservation there and we
were not disappointed – Thom loved his Sea Urchin appetizer – seriously, he did. What a fabulous meal and we tried some excellent Peruvian wine. A wonderful dining experience.
Our final day in Lima involved a ½ day tour to the Pachacamac Temple - another archeological site. These temple ruins lie about 30 km. south of Lima and overlook the Pacific Ocean.
Kari elected to stay at the hotel and have a massage – Thom went on the Tour with a guide all by himself, and won’t admit he should have had a massage also. It all pales after Machu Picchu.
Tomorrow it’s a 3.5 hour flight to Santiago, Chile.