Our recent travel to Peru was nothing if not adventurous, for the lack of a better word. The group of 11 friends faced high and lows from the start to finish. Due to the size of the group, the travel itinerary was done with great assistance from a travel agent. For the most parts, the trip was well-organized and thorough; we had fun exploring the magical Peru within the time allocation. However, the anomalies we faced along the way made the trip non-typical and rather extraordinary.
Take our flight to Lima from SFO, for example. Oh man, this was a first for us. Our 8:15pm flight with American Airlines from SFO to LAX was straight forward, but the plane was then stuck on the runway along with two other planes in front of ours. The terminal was shut down due to a “computer glitch”, a status that was then updated to “false security breach”. The shutdown lasted for about an hour, but when the terminal was re-opened, one of the planes in front of us apparently turned off its engine (God knows how long that plane had been waiting) and could not restart. It took another 15 minutes to get it off of the runway and our plane to be rerouted to a new terminal gate.
We safely emerged from the plane and it’s time for us to chase our connecting flight with LAN at Tom Bradley International Terminal. We’re out of the woods, right? Wrong. We couldn’t get into our next flight since we had no boarding passes and our checked-in luggage would not make it with only 10 minutes before scheduled take-off time. Worse, they didn’t even know where our luggage was. After several back-and-forth talks between American Airlines and LAN as well as a fair share of late night drama, we finally managed to rebook a new flight for the next day. Huge thank you AA representatives for helping the 15 – 20 stranded Lima-bound travelers; no thanks to LAN counter people who just wanted to give us late night exercise. However, to be fair, after much arguments and frustration unleashed, LAN reps finally relented to check our luggage and brought them to us…close to 2am on November 23.
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Fast forward to 8 hours later, and we’re back in LAX, checked in and ready to roll this time. Pictured above is the airplane we took to get to Lima. The flight itself was wonderful; the in-flight LAN crew was really friendly and engaging, and the in-flight entertainment was nice. A complete 180 from the LAN counter folks. With that, we’re off to Lima, arriving there close to midnight and missing all of the day’s activities. The group was then back to Lima airport again (below is a picture I took during the ride back to the airport) several hours later to board yet another plane to Cuzco. That’s when our real adventure began.
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Well, actually not yet, because as we were queueing at the LAN ticket counter, we noticed one group member was missing. We finished our check-in, and then spread out to look for this guy. Half an hour passed without any good news, and a mild panic set in, especially since an announcement was made to call him to our group. We tried the announcement for the second time and sure enough, he finally showed up. Apparently he was waiting for the rest of us in front of the security check point! He did still need to check in though, so the group breathed a collective sigh of relief when all’s set and we’re ready to go. NOW the real adventure began.
Since we covered several different places, I will list the location highlights, their summary, and what’s good, bad, and ugly (if any) for each places during our Peru travel. If one day you get to go to Peru yourself, I hope you will experience all the goods and avoid all the unpleasant ones (including smooth flights). But then again, it’s our challenges that make our life interesting, no?
Sacred Valley Tour (Cuzco to Ollantaytambo)
Having missed any meaningful activities in Lima (except for a super late-night ceviche dinner at Miraflores and 2.5 hours of sleep), the the Peru travel adventure began with Sacred Valley tour in Cuzco. We made customary stops at a local textile complex that showed us how alpaca wool is dyed, spun, and weaved into scarves, blankets, and other goods with gorgeous, colorful patterns. Those patterns are passed down from mothers to their daughters, and seeing the weaving process just gave a whole new level of appreciation whenever I see the colorful Peruvian fabrics.
The view along the way was so calming and mesmerizing, I just couldn’t stop enjoying and taking it all in. When we’re going downhill to Ollantaytambo, the view was just breath taking. Ollantaytambo was also a very cool place to visit. In a way, it’s like our “warm up” to our hikes for the following 2 days, and it showed a grand, nearly-finished resting place that the Inca people built before it was “trashed” by the Spanish. Hmm.
Good: amazing view throughout the Sacred Valley tour, great Ollantaytambo hotel beds, plus llamas sighting at the hotel complex in the morning after!
Bad: one person got an altitude sickness.
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Aguas Calientes and Machu Picchu
We boarded a tourist train from Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes for our next destination, Machu Picchu. Once in Aguas Calientes, we got our luggage checked into (what’s apparently) the top-rated hotel in Aguas Calientes while we met our guide and did a 25-minute bus ride to Machu Picchu. We enjoyed our day at Machu Picchu that day, and we hiked Huayna Picchu, as well enjoying a Aguas Calientes a little bit the day after.
Good Awesome: MACHU PICCHU and Huayna Picchu!!! See the post for more Machu Picchu / Huayna Picchu pictures.
Good: Aguas Calientes is such a cute city to take a stroll in.
Bad: another group member got the bottom of his foot accidentally cut by a glass shard at the hotel’s hot water tub. Plus, at least a couple people could not sleep at night due to spider sighting or a dead cockroach in the sink of their hotel rooms.
Ugly: grilled cuy (guinea pig) lunch; not only they were overpriced, but nobody in our group liked it. I would NEVER eat cuy again in my life.
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Tourist Bus from Cuzco to Puno
We didn’t get to spend that much time in Cuzco, unfortunately, but we did have a nice grilled meat dinner when we spent our night there. The following morning, with Wonder Peru Expedition, we “tasted” bits of Andahuaylillas, Raqchi, La Raya, and Pukara before finally arriving in Puno.
Good: the stops at Andahuaylillas (St. Peter church), Raqchi (aquaduct ruins), and Pukara (pyramid ruins) were informative and nice, plus La Raya has both good view and good deals (if you haggle).
Bad: more people got altitude sickness symptoms, people just sleep in the bus in-between stops. It’s nice to catch up some sleep, but it felt like we’re not doing much and instead let more weariness set into our bodies.
Ugly: On our way to Puno, we passed a city named Juliaca. There was a protest going on in Juliaca that was supposedly done in the morning. But the bus came within sight of the remaining, rather violent protesters who then proceeded to throw rocks to our bus. The bus took a little bit of beatings a the back (some startled passengers started to go towards the front of the bus before quickly settled down again) and did a hasty U-turn and sped away to look for another way to Puno. After 1 hour, the bus escaped Juliaca safely and the tour guide finally talked again to reassure us that “we’re safe.” So our lives were in danger, then? We reached Puno 1.25 hour later than scheduled.
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Lake Titicaca Tour (and Puno)
Our day in Puno was spent with Lake Titicaca day tour, in which we enjoyed the floating islands of the Uros community and visited the beautiful Taquile Island. Later that night, we spent the night in Puno.
Good: The Uros community‘s way of life is just too amazing for words and we’re just glad to help support their livelihood with us being there.
Bad: dispassionate tour guide, some people still had altitude sickness symptomps
Ugly: Bag got stollen during our Puno dinner, read the whole story of Thanksgiving Nightmare in Puno if you’d like.
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At this point, I was feeling depressed (you’d understand why if you read the story) and I went home feeling very, very uneasy. And of course one more thing had to happen. One piece of luggage apparently did not make it to SFO on-time, so one group member had to wait close to midnight to receive his luggage delivery (at his home, fortunately). Go figure. Anyway, the story finally had a good ending, even though it was unnerving and definitely not the ending we expected to have. Nevertheless, everybody in the group was back safe and sound. And actually Chris had considerable fun exploring Lima when he was “stranded” there :) So here’s a bit about his “bonus stage”, as I called it.
BONUS STAGE! Lima
The solo traveler explored the colonial city in two days, and it’s a city of many historical importance. Barranco, Main Plaza, Miraflores, the Lima Cathedral, Church of La Merced, Convent of San Francisco, and Huaca Pucllana were sights to behold and experience, not also to mention it’s a good city to purchase your souvenirs. Since he’s traveling alone, the pictures he took have more depth and rather off-the-beaten-tourist-path vibes.
Good: a cozy place to live in while stranded, knowing enough Spanish to haggle prices with vendors and taxi drivers, and evidence of great Lima experience that made me almost jealous!
Bad: not knowing that many Spanish language capability, rather hard to truly enjoy Lima when your status was still in a limbo.
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Will we go to Peru again? Maybe not, simply because there are just so many more places in the world to visit. Just ask my friends over at Jack and Jill Travel, who have been SERIOUSLY bitten with the travel bug. These two are the genuine world travelers. While we won’t catch up to their exploration areas for any foreseeable future, I sincerely think life is too short to be spent in just one place in the large world. Plus, the destructive effects of global warming make the need for traveling even more urgent, especially for places that will be hit the worst the soonest.
All things said and done, this Peru adventure has been fun, and I hope you enjoy reading this post! And if you’d like to see the pictures in its entirety, here’s the link of the Peru Travel album below:
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Until next time,