Enchanting Peru


Spending the first part of our vacation in Ecuador, more precisely Quito, prepared us for our journeys in Cuzco, Sacred Valley of the Inkas, Machu Picchu and Lima.

Cuzco  –  We arrived in Cuzco on a high note – read of the experience here.  We stayed in the San Blas Barrio and settled in comfortably into our accommodations.  Conveniently located in front of our hostel was the San Blas Market where we found a variety of food stalls, fruit and vegetable vendors, and all-natural juice bars to choose from.

 

No sooner had we left the produce market and entered Plaza de Armas of Cuzco than we were approached by street vendors peddling their ware of clothing, handicrafts, art, jewelry and trinkets.  Every nook and cranny of this hillside town is geared towards the many tourists who leisurely roam the narrow streets and avenues in search of bargains and attractions.  Plaza de Armas of Cuzco was a beehive of activity.   In the landmark square are two baroque-styled buildings you cannot miss:  La Cathedral and Iglesia de la Compania de Jesus (Church of the Society of Christ).

 

Our number one priority after arriving in Cuzco was to arrange a next-day travel tour to the Sacred Valley of the Inkas.  Tip #1 Compare prices of tours before choosing to book with your hotel.  Shop around.  It is best to compare prices in a place where bargaining is an acceptable business practice and to stay within your budget limits.  Plaza de Armas de Cuzco was not short of options.  I am happy to report we settled on a tour within our budget and that fulfilled the must-see sites on our list.

With some direction, we found the office where we could purchase the entrance tickets into Machu Picchu.  The ticket office was the scene of the crime.  My sister and I got into a heated argument about which tickets to buy.  My sister (Overly Cautious) wanted to purchase a ticket for Machu Picchu, and yours truly (Radically Impulsive) a ticket for Wayna Picchu and Machu Picchu.  To my mind we came so very far it only made perfect sense to explore both places.  Lesson learned?  Certainly.  Tip #2 If traveling with a partner, decide beforehand the sites and attractions you want to visit together to avoid any conflict.   Even though the mansuetude afternoon was fractured by harsh words, we somehow managed to contritely spend the rest of the evening talking of how we could better handle situations in the future.

Sacred Valley of the Inkas

 

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To give a blow-by-blow account of the Sacred Valley of the Inkas tour would mean a few more postings (I can hear you sigh and say, enough already).  Suffice it then to say, the tour was phenomenal.  You must visit and see for yourself.  I will let the photos in the slide show speak for themselves.

Aguas Calientes  –  After spending a couple of days in Cuzco, we departed the Poroy station onboard PeruRail for Aguas Calientes, otherwise known as Machu Picchu Pueblo.  The three-hour journey was uneventful as we rambled along the scenic countryside, through rural communities, past flowing rivers, and at times, flank by mountainous terrain on either side.

 

After disembarking the train, we trudged with our bags uphill to our hostel.  Thankfully, our housing was not too far up the incline.  We were near to the main square, and within easy access to the plethora of restaurants, vendors, and handicraft shops. That same day we purchased bus tickets for the ride up the mountain to the ruins.  Machu Picchu Pueblo is a quaint town but there is not much to see or do there, except eat, relax or go to the hot springs for a therapeutic dip.  I discovered a map highlighting more than 20 stone sculptures around the town.  To pass the time I decided to use the map as a treasure hunt guide and photograph as many of the carvings as I could.  This activity took us some time to accomplish.

 

Machu Picchu and Wayna Picchu  –  Of all the talk about Machu Picchu, you would think that the revered site is within walking distance.  It is not.  Of course, hardcore hikers could probably make the trek in a couple of hours, but it took the bus approximately half hour winding up the mountainside to arrive at the gated entrance.  There we stood in line, excited and eager to enter the grounds.

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Machu Picchu – Entrance to MP (Traveltinerary)

Hikers to Wayna Picchu get an hour head-start so they have enough time to cover both ruins sites before the afternoon tourists arrive. Only 400 hundred persons are allowed to climb each day.  I was among that group.  Tip #3 It is best to train before your trip if you plan to incorporate strenuous activities such as mountain climbing on your itinerary.  Assured by the authorities that the average time to scale Wayna Picchu is approximately two hours roundtrip, I started out in high spirits on the steep climb.  As I got closer to the top, navigating the tiny steps upward necessitated crawling on my hands and knees.  At first the clouds were thick and obstructing, but as the temperature rose and the sun’s rays became stronger, the clouds dissipated, revealing the crown jewel below – Machu Picchu in all her splendor.  The view of the surrounding valley as far as the eye could see was also a bonus and was worth the trek.  I came, I saw, and I conquered was the feeling I had as I surveyed the view, inhaled the cool fresh air and soaked up the tranquil surroundings along with fellow-hikers.  The decision to climb Wayna Picchu was a good one.

 

Whoever said going downhill is easier that climbing uphill probably never climbed down the slopes of Wayna Picchu.  The descent was more tedious and strenuous than anticipated.  I was anxious to rejoin my sister (maybe it was guilt) seeing that I was running late on the time we were supposed to meet.  She had been patiently waiting for me so we could begin to explore Machu Picchu together.  Of course, she was well rested, but by now my feet and leg muscles were aching, and I felt as though I was walking on stumps.  However, this was our moment of truth and we were resolute on covering every inch of the ruins.   To cap off a day well spent, we splurged on a sumptuous meal, and tried to relax before catching the train back to Cuzco.

 

Weary and tired we boarded our train retracing our travel footprint back to Cuzco en-route to Lima.  Unlike our initial ride into Machu Picchu Pueblo, this time entertainment was provided in the form of a fashion show by Felipe, Nichy and Gabriel of PeruRail.  They showcased Peruvian wear as they strutted up and down the aisle sporting reversible scarves, hooded/collared sweaters and stylish jackets that were versatile, trendy and made from the very soft but expensive alpaca wool.

 

Lima  –  With just a four days left to expend on the itinerary we looked forward to discovering the cosmopolitan city of Lima and to see what it had to offer.  We were not disappointed.  On arrival at Jorge Chavez International Airport we negotiated the fare for our taxi ride and was quickly dispatched to the Jesus Maria district to our Airbnb residence. We spent much of our time scouting the areas in and around Plaza Mayor.  We witnessed: street mimes who would only move after receiving a monetary donation; musicians and locals dancing to the vibrant salsa beats; demonstrators marching in support of a cause; a formal Christmas event for society’s crème-de-la-crème hosted at the Governor’s Palace.  The last event which took place on the steps of the Cathedral was organized by the Catholic Church in support of the expected Papal visit early in 2018.

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Lima – Miraflores (Traveltinerary)

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Lima – Barranco Street Art (Traveltinerary)

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Lima – San Isidro (Traveltinerary)

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Lima – A view from Barranco to the city of Lima (Traveltinerary)

Our last to-do in Lima was a tour to the other districts.  Tip #4 – Ride the Hop-on-Hop-off bus as a last-minute option to capture sites you may have missed.   On the bus we visited the touristy areas of: Barranco, Chorillos, Miraflores, Lima Central, Pueblo Libre, San Isidro and San Miguel.  There is something worth discovering at every location.  The history is rich and interesting.  We did not experience one dull moment.  Hands-down, this has been one of the best vacations I have had irrespective of the arguments, differences of opinions, likes and dislikes.  My sister and I definitely agree that it was worth every penny, actually, every sol.  In-spite-of our character flaws, we continue to remain best friends, and each other’s biggest supporter.

My concluding post on this epic adventure will talk of: our observations of each country – good or bad, the budget – bust or win, and the gastronomy culture.   If you have experienced similar travel challenges with a family member, please share.  Comment in the box below.  Click the follow or like buttons if you enjoy these posts.  I look forward to hearing from you.  Thanks for reading.   Stay tuned.

More times,

Itinerary Planner

 

Par Excellence


Flying can be an ordeal at times, especially when you have a hectic itinerary to fulfill as I have on my Ecuador and Peru travels. I chose to fly with Avianca, and I am glad I did. Here are some reasons why.

Their service is world-class. As far as I have witnessed, they approach their jobs with a level of professionalism that is commendable. They handle customers respectfully and patiently. So far on each leg of my travel itinerary, I received patient attention, answers to my questions and helpful directions to where I wanted to go. What happened next is a testimony of an airline crew par excellence.

img_0880I recently celebrated a special day, you know, the kind of date that rolls around once a year, and what we call a birthday.  I boarded Avianca flight 807 bound for Cusco from Lima, Peru. Little did I know that my day would go in an unexpected direction. Captain Luis Palacin, First Officer Christian Crosby, Cabin Pursers Ursula Zegarra, James Ysimura and Claudia Gonzales all played a part in changing the course my day would take.

Captain Palacin directed his crew to invite me and my traveling companion to sit in row 1 of first class. I practically jumped out of my seat and ran up front. As soon as we sat down we were given our drinks (that’s a sure sign that you are in first class). I am sure other passengers may have wondered why we were taken to first class, but they would find out a little later in the flight.

img_0879The flight to Cusco from Lima is just a mere 55 minutes flying time. In less than an hour Cabin Pursers Zegarra, Ysimura and Gonzales, respectively, showered me with attention. Captain Palacin and First Officer Crosby may not have known this but I was already flying on cloud nine even while they were navigating the aircraft high over mountains that made up a part of the Andes Mountain range.

It is not often you will hear your name announced on the aircraft’s intercom by the captain wishing you a happy birthday on behalf of himself and his crew members. It is also not on every flight you will receive a cupcake with your birthdate and a note saying “Happy Birthday” from AV Crew 807. These sentiments were not lost on me. This team went above and beyond what I could ever have imagined for myself that day. It was not a part of my plan or theirs, I am sure, as we certainly did not know each other before then. However, upon learning that it was my birthday, they all jumped into action to ensure the little time I had in their presence would be memorable and lasting. Even fellow passengers joined in offering their wishes of a happy birthday to me as they exited the aircraft.

I am not shy about birthdays and have welcomed them each year since I do not relish the alternative. I want to thank God for blessing me in such a wonderful way and allowing my travels to cross the flight path of Avianca 807 crew members. May God bless, keep and watch over them on all their journeys.  I say thanks to them from the depths of my heart for making my day extra special. I want them to know, it will never be forgotten.

Blog followers and viewers, if you have had a similar experience on this airline or any other, please share in the comment section below. I like to read your comments, receive your likes or thumbs up, or you may select the follow button to be the first to know what I’m up to.  More of my travel experiences throughout Ecuador and Peru will be posted this month. Thanks for reading my blog.

Stay tuned.

Itinerary Planner

Travel Conniptions


A week from today, my travels to Ecuador and Peru will begin.  This will round out all travels for 2017 (see ‘Coming to a Place Near You’ page on http://www.traveltinerary.com) and I will be able to add them to the list of countries visited.  The itinerary planning and research for these destinations have been extensive having read everything I can on both countries.  After perusing other travelers comments and tips online, and talking with Ecuadorian friends, I had to concede (more like have a travel conniption) that I simply cannot do all the things I would like to do, or go to all the places I would like to visit within the allotted time-frame of my air ticket.  Consequently, I had to make some changes to my plans.  It would mean trimming the itinerary in a way that would afford me the most bang for my buck.   Hence, The Galápagos Islands would become the “fall guy” because of time constraints, but Machu Picchu would remain on the must-see list.

The terrain of Ecuador and Peru does not allow for easy over-land travel.  Internal flights are available but can be pricy for non-nationals.  To capitalize on multiple territories, I purchased an open-jaw ticket, which in this case, is heavily bundled with travel connections, but the price could not be beat.  Since I chose the low-priced ticket at the expense of much-needed travel time, flexing on the itinerary then became my next priority (see tips on ‘Itinerary Planning’ page).  Once committed to a budget, one has to be willing to alter plans, if necessary.  This is the way it works for budget travelers who do not want to break the bank, figuratively speaking or literally, but instead, wishes to enjoy as much of their destination as do their wealthy counterparts who spend heftier sums.  Currently my budget is on track and well below the allotted self-imposed spending limit of $1,500 per country.  I must interject here that this amount goes a long way in some parts of the world than in others.  More spending power is available to me on this trip than would be on a similar trip to Europe.  Still, if properly navigated, travels can be had within the budget you set.

“He who will not economize will have to agonize.” – Confucius

While I may forego The Galápagos Islands at this time, God willing, I hope I will get another opportunity to revisit Ecuador on a longer timetable.  The flight schedule as it stands below promises to be quite hectic.  To date, I have received one airline change to the ticket schedule since purchase. I hope there will be no further changes.

New York → Bogotá, Colombia
Bogotá, Colombia →Quito, Ecuador
Quito, Ecuador → Guayaquil, Ecuador
Guayaquil, Ecuador →Cuzco, Peru
Cuzco, Peru → Lima, Peru
Lima, Peru → New York

Following the pre-travel checklist posted last month has served to:  keep my plans on track, keep travel essentials in view and keep travel acuity of the region high.  Below are my last to-dos before I jet off to find the spot where I can stand on the GPS location – latitude: 0°, 00′, 00″ known as the middle of the world.

Week 4
Pack travel bag
Confirm flights
Check weather conditions
Give copies of itineraries to family members
Print boarding passes

Am I excited about the adventures ahead?  A resounding YES!  However, I do have a few reservations.  Will I acclimatize in time to accomplish all the hiking I would like to do?  Will my plans be sabotaged from altitude sickness?  Will I enjoy the food in either country as appetizing as they look?  I am no Bourdain or Zimmern, I draw the line on what goes into my body temple.  So, no guinea pig thanks (pun intended).  Will I feel safe walking around at night?  Only time will tell the answers to my questions.

To all my blog peeps in WordPress, LinkedIn, Google+, stay tuned as I bring you the most impactful experiences and scenic photo shots.  As always, I love to read your thoughts/recommendations on my post.  Please write your comment in the section below.  Shy?  You can select the buttons:  follow, like, thumbs-up, or email to convey your encouragement.

Keep it real all.

 

 

 

Ecuador and Peru Pre-travel Checklist


The countdown is on!

On my projected vacation page ‘coming to a place near you’, I have selected Ecuador and Peru as the destinations to close out my travels for 2017.  I am now 43 days away from fulfilling that plan.  I have chosen Ecuador specifically to visit the Galápagos Islands, and Peru to visit Machu Pichu and the Sacred Valley.   I can barely wait to see nature’s wonders in this part of the hemisphere.

I can feel the pressure building as I start to compile a checklist and gather all my must-haves to take with me.  So, to help me manage my anxiety and excitement I will follow a simple plan.  I’ll prioritize what I need to focus on each week as the departure date draws nearer.  Here is my checklist of all that I must complete prior to leaving.

Week 1

  1. Purchase round-trip airline tickets
  2. Plan budget for travel expenses, namely:  food, tours, entrance fees, etc.
  3. Research mandatory medical requirements, if any i.e immunizations
  4. Pre-purchase entry tickets for Galápagos Islands and Machu Pichu

Week 2

  1. Plan detailed daily itineraries for each country
  2. Research local transportation – bus, train, plane, donkey (Lol)
  3. Choose tour operators in both cities
  4. Book lodging (AirBnB/hotel)

Week 3

  1. Arrange for a house sitter
  2. Pay all bills coming due in my absence
  3. Shop for items (raincoat, bug spray, hat, light jacket/sweater, etc.)
  4. Gather maps, guide/reference books

Week 4

  1. Pack travel bag
  2. Confirm flights
  3. Check weather conditions
  4. Give copies of itineraries to family members
  5. Print boarding passes

Did I leave anything out that may be important to this trip?  Tell me if I did in the comment section, and I’ll let you know if it has been added to the list.