This was to be my last long-haul trip before impending retirement on a pensioner’s pittance put paid to my cherished dreams of world travel. I chose Peru because of Machu Picchu, of course, but Peru is so much more than that. It’s a country of startling contrasts, from the desert regions of its coastline to the dizzying heights of the Andes.
- What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?
The highlights that will remain with me, apart from Machu Picchu – simply stunning and fulfilling all my expectations – include sandboarding the dunes at Ica, the hot springs of Agua Calientes, the floating islands of the Uros people on Lake Titicaca, the condors in the Colca Canyon and the convent of Santa Catalina in Arequipa. I wish now that I’d had time to read up about the Inca civilisation beforehand, in order the better to appreciate the many archaeological sites.
- What did you think of your group leader?
The tour was spectacularly well organised and our guide, Juan Manuel, deserves the highest recognition for his attention to detail, his professionalism, his energy, his genuine concern for our welfare and his sense of humour, particularly when it came to announcing yet another early morning start! Juan was calm and collected, even when dealing with minor crises and was always ready with advice and information, welcoming the constant questions fired at him with good humour.
- Do you have any advice for potential travellers?
I would be sorry for any traveller flying directly to Cusco from lower altitude, but the tour was designed to allow us to acclimatise slowly. If you follow the tour leader’s advice to the letter (especially when it comes to drinking the coca tea and eating those deceptive chocolate bars!) you may escape altitude sickness altogether, or get away with slight breathlessness after exerting yourself. You do need to be aware that it affects different people in different ways and you will probably not escape unscathed. But is it worth it!
- Is there anything else you would like to add?
Visiting just as Spring was taking a hold, it was amusing to see the Peruvians all wrapped up in their winter woollies still, whilst we travellers wore teeshirts (well, most of the time, we did have English-type driving rain in Puno and it was COLD at the highest point of 4,900 metres).
For anyone hesitating over whether to book this trip, I’d say don’t, just do it. Machu Picchu by train may be cheating a little, but it does give you time to see some of the other attractions of this wonderful country whilst you are there.