Posted by: catamarantwooceans | March 12, 2017

The Peru Land Tour

6.3.17 – Monday – We arrived at Guayaquil airport two hours before our departure to Cuzco via Lima, Peru. Not having done the advance check-in we had to stand in a line so long we were in doubt whether we would make the flight at all. Luckily an agent came out calling the magic words:”Passengers to Lima” and took us to a secret side check-in booth. In Lima we had to wait for about four hours for our flight to Cuzco. This flight was interesting for me because of the destination airport’s elevation, 3300 meters, 10800 feet above mean sea level. This and the terrain surrounding the airport pose a challenging approach, which I eager to experience. Flying over the Andes, I was surprised by the many villages I saw below me. The Airbus 320 descended for landing, entering a valley for the downwind leg, lowering flaps and gear and then making a relatively steep turn to the final and the landing. It reminded me of landing in the old Hong Kong airport, where you descended towards a mountain and turning final at a very low altitude.

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                           Mountains rise above Cuzco

We took a taxi to our hotel, which is located a the historic center of town; the town is even higher than the airport at 3400 meters, 11200 feet, which may cause altitude sickness. The lady in reception gave us a briefing on the hotel and the town and one of the first things we did was to go to a pharmacy and buy altitude sickness pills called Sorojchi. I felt well but Gili was a bit dizzy and had some difficulty breathing; we both took the pills. At first glance – Cuzco (also spelt Cusco) is a modern town, with a lot of traffic filling the narrow streets, many ancient buildings and an interesting mélange of inhabitants. We’ll walk around town tomorrow, today is for acclimatizing.

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When it was time to go out for dinner we were surprised by a heavy shower, which made the way to the restaurant a wet affair. As we entered Chicha, the waiter brought an electrical fan heater for our wet and cold feet. Chicha is considered a very good restaurant. Looking at the menu the prices seemed very high until I remembered that they were in Soles, the local currency and not in U.S dollars; not a cheap one but the food was excellent.

7.3.17 – Tuesday – Today the first priority was to arrange all the necessary tickets for the Machu Picchu visit. First we had to go to the Ministry of Culture office to buy tourist tickets which would enable us to go into the different archeological sites in the Sacred Valley, those cost 47$ U.S per person. Then you need to buy an entry ticket to the Machu Picchu site; those are sold in another office and cost 39$ U.S each. Next, since the best and most beautiful way to get to Machu Picchu is by train, you go to the train station to buy the train tickets. This is the procedure: take a number from a special machine and wait to be called to the cashier’s window, there  – as in all the other offices – you show your passport, say at which day and at what time you want to go and the clerk issues the tickets. The cost is an unbelievable 158$ U.S for a return ticket from a town mid-way between Cuzco and Machu Picchu, a ride that takes 1 hour and 40 minutes. That was a bit of a shock but we were determined to go at all cost. I asked the clerk whether the price for a Peruvian would be the same. “No, a Peruvian would pay 10 soles” That’s about 3$!

Near the train station we found the San Pedro market, a huge and colorful place; we could have spent hours there.

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The local population is comprised by Latinos and Indians; the latter, especially the women, dress differently than the westernized Latinos and have long braids.

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They take their kids to town and we saw the one below sitting by himself on the sidewalk, seemingly happy with the ice-cone in his hand.

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After the tickets saga we roamed the streets of the old city, getting to a neighborhood named San Blas, where we also finished the day later having dinner at Pachapapa restaurant, another culinary summit of Peruvian cuisine.

8.3.17 – Wednesday – The hotel arranged a taxi that would take us to Ollantaytambo in the Sacred Valley of the Inca; the place had gotten rave reviews in blogs and cruisers reports who did land tours here and was also recommended by a good American friend of ours – the artist Cindy Kane. The ride was like what you would expect from a getaway car and in spite of a stop for a rocks slide we reached our hotel in an hour and forty minutes.

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First impressions: the town is very touristic and for a good reason; the views are simply breath taking! Our hotel, the Intitambo, was initially a disappointment, with water leaking from the shower room ceiling which necessitated changing rooms but later all became well. We went out to walk around and entered the town’s main attraction, the Inca ruins on the mountain side. We climbed the terraces one at a time, stopping to regain our breath – the site is at close to 9000 feet high!

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The site is very impressive, built of stones, some of which are really huge, without the use of mortar.

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We walked some more around town until rain and fatigue sent us back to the hotel. For dinner we went to a nearby restaurant and found ourselves to be the only patrons in a place that had tables for forty people and was set up in a manner befitting a wedding ceremony. I tried the grilled alpaca; the taste was bearable but the consistency of the meat was like that of rubber…

8.3.17 – Thursday – Today we did a tour by taxi of some of the Sacred Valley’s sites. Our driver, Luis, before showing us the ancient sites, pointed at a bizarre hotel located on a cliff, to which the guests have to climb.

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It’s called Natura Vive Skylodge – Google for more info. He then took us to see a “traditional textile factory” clearly aimed at the tourists but still interesting, especially the way they dye the alpaca wool using natural ingredients.

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The red is produced from a parasite on cacti. Next was the Chichonero site, where a church was built on the remains of an Inca compound. As everywhere the locals have their wares spread out for the tourists. This guy played a few instruments and succeeded in making us buy a flute for our daughter’s husband who is a wind instruments musician.

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The Inca terraces were built of very big stones and the way they did it, with just man power is a mystery.

Next was Maras, with the ancient Inca salt ponds, which are still in operation today. You can see water rich in minerals flowing through a conduit and led into ponds, where after evaporation the salt is collected.

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Next stop was Moray, where we saw some big circular depressions, made by the Incas, perhaps as a research project checking their effect on the temperature with a view to raising crops.

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The tour was a big success. Back at Ollantaytambo we tried comparing what we saw yesterday and today to other places we’ve been to and came to the conclusion that this part of Peru was unique, incomparable to other places. If you go to a cathedral in Spain or Germany, or visit waterfalls – there may differences between them but they are comparable. We visited Chichen Itza in Mexico and Tikal in Guatemala which are impressive sites but none of them have the grandeur that those in Peru have. Maybe the magnificent view of the mountains surrounding the valley does it.

To be continued!


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