When I asked my daughter what she wanted for her 6th grade graduation she immediately replied, “I want to go to the Galapagos to see all the animals Darwin saw before they go extinct.” Part of me was happy that my daughter was more interested in an experience than in having an Iphone for graduation but then a part of me was sad to think that we are now trying to see cultures, lands and animals before they no longer exist on this planet. (There have been 5 mass extinctions in Earth’s history and scientists believe we are now entering the 6th extinction or Anthropocene extinction.)
“Look at every path closely and deliberately, then ask ourselves this crucial question: Does this path have a heart? If it does, then the path is good. If it doesn’t, it is of no use.” Carlos Castenda (Peruvian born American best selling Author and Writer- 1925-1998
As we were going to be traveling to Ecuador (and Peru is right next door), I thought we could go to see Machu Picchu which was on my bucket list of places I’ve always wanted to go. So I worked with Karen Buono of Vacations 2 Paradise in San Diego to help set up flights, transfers, hotels and my husband, daughter, nephew and I left on LAN airlines from LA to Lima to Cusco (which sits at 11,200 feet!) on July 1st. We were met by Condor Travel agents and it took us about an hour and 20 minutes to get to Yucay in Sacred Valley of the Incas. The roads were well maintained but there are a lot of turns as you wind your way through the Andes mountain range. Yucay was an Incan center of agricultural production in this valley because of its fertile land, abundant water and vegetation, especially fruit trees and it’s mild climate. Although we thought it was a bit chilly for July. My daughter ended up buying a beautiful alpaca sweater because she didn’t pack a warm enough jacket. We stayed at a beautiful hotel called Sonesta Posadas del Inca. The grounds are just gorgeous and it’s no wonder many weddings are held here. They have a bakery/coffee shop, pizza restaurant, and creperie. We loved the pizza restaurant with fresh homemade pastas and pizzas and at night they had Peruvian live music. Every place we went you could have coca tea which is supposed to help with altitude sickness. I didn’t notice that it helped that much, but I did enjoy it.
***I highly recommend seeing a travel doctor before you go. I had to get a tetanus shot (they only last 5 years and I was due) and a typhoid shot. My husband had to get Hepatitis shots as well. She also gave us prescriptions for nausea and bacterial infections, because you never know what you might encounter. We knew that we were going to be at altitude most of the time in Peru so a few days before the trip and until we got to Machu Picchu, I had everyone put ChlorOxygen drops in their water twice a day and take a Siberian Ginseng capsule. I also made sure we all drank lots of water. I should have had us continue with the drops and capsules until we left Peru as my daughter got altitude sickness when we were going back to Cusco en route to Quito, Ecuador the next day. She had flulike symptoms and felt like she was going to throw up. Thank goodness for the nausea tablets (Ondansetron) that the travel doctor prescribed! She was fine when we landed in Quito and had no lasting symptoms and was able to enjoy the rest of the trip!
A car came to pick us up early in the morning to take us to Ollantaytambo station where we boarded the Vistadome train which followed the Urubamba River to Machu Picchu or Machupicchu Pueblo, also known as Aguas Calientes. In the distance, as we rumbled along listening to a tour guide, we could see hikers who were trekking along the Inca Trail. After the train we met our guide who would take us around Machu Picchu with a few other tourists. We got on a bus which wound it’s way up the side of the mountain to the entrance of the 15th century Inca citadel. While our guide was nice and informative, he talked A LOT and the kids wanted to run around and pet the llamas which can be found eating grass and walking through the site. When we had enough we got back on the bus and went back to Aquas Calientes and checked into our room at the Casa del Sol. This is a cute hotel situated right on the river near the train station. We walked up to the hot springs which were anything but hot and very crowded but we enjoyed walking through town, seeing the colorful shops and restaurants. We never had a bad meal in Peru…the food is fresh and so delicious, however we did not try the guinea pig or alpaca.
The next day, the concierge at the hotel told us we should go to Los Jardines de Mandor. She told us it was a 3 hour round trip hike to a beautiful waterfall so we decided we had to go. It was so worth it. We walked along the train tracks following the river towards St. Theresa. Looking up from the tracks once in a while and we could see the terraces of Machu Picchu. The kids put their feet in the water and there were a few people braving the cold water and standing in the waterfall, a few others were having a picnic lunch. I would definitely bring bug spray next time as there were a lot of mosquitos near the falls. We returned to the hotel, grabbed our bags and caught the train back to Sacred Valley where we stayed one more night before heading to Cusco. We were able to spend only a 1/2 day walking around this city which looks very European. The Spaniards conquered it in the 16th century and while they preserved the basic structure they built Baroque churches and palaces over the ruins of the Inca city. We stayed only 5 days in Peru and it flew by, I wish I could have stayed a few more days, but we had to get to Ecuador.