If you want to go somewhere, where you can still find unspoiled places, then South America is a place to go. Personally having been to Venezuela and Argentina it was time to do something a bit different and Machu Picchu, Peru fit the bill. But make no mistake, this is not a simple trip and you should be in good to moderately good health if you want to go yourself. The areas you need to be concerned with are breathing in Cuzco and General Rock Walking in Machu Picchu. Cuzco (Cusco) is the launching point for the trip to Aguas Calientes and then Machu Picchu. When you arrive in Cuzco from LIMA you will be going from Sea Level to more than 13000 feet in under two hours. For those that don’t hike you will notice that you may become very uncomfortable and have trouble breathing. If you have trouble breathing and you are staying at Torre Dorada (I will be writing a review on this lodging choice), and you should be staying here if you are not looking for Five Star, you can ask for some oxygen – the oxygen is free but there is a charge for the mask as it cannot be used again of course. As far as stone steps to walk up to the watch tower or to the sundial you will climb stone steps, and both are must do’s. Note: it is very easy think of the steps on the Alpine trail, Mt. Washington, as something similar. NOTE: I met a 70 year young woman on the train, from Canada, that did both with no problem.
So, on this trip it was a night in Lima by the Olive Park and then a very early morning flight to Cuzco the next AM. I should say I flew Star Peru to Cuzco. When landing a few cups of Coca tea I was fine, however, I heard stories of how some people were not so fine, I met one woman that was sick for one day from the air, so if you are unsure plan a couple days in Cuzco so you can adjust. The city Cuzco was the Inca capitol and it was fun to walk around and see the sights. I loaded photos on both Facebook and publicly available Shutterfly (yonaitis.shutterfly.com). Planning was not great as there was maintenance being done on the train tracks so it was a longer bus drive to where I met the train for Machu Picchu. For those with breathing difficulties you will notice that as you get closer to the train you will begin to breathe better as you need to descent to reach macho Picchu, it is around a couple thousand feet lower. As a pilot flying around at 10000 feet unpressurized was common so for me being there was like walking around at sea level.
When we, I went with my niece Ashley, got off the train (VistaDome) it was a short walk to our Hotel, Gringo Bills. It was a fine hotel, I had a suite and a nicer view of a mountain (well several). After a short break it was time to buy the tickets and head up to Machu Picchu. Some tips: You can buy the tickets right there and you will need to buy both the entrance fee and the bus ticket to get to the site there, however, you can hold back on the tour and hire a tour guide when you get there for 25-30 dollars (But have Soles currency as it is easier). If you like cutesy little things then you can have a Machu Picchu stamp put in your passport for “fun?”. Your ticket has a nice stamp that says you did it as a nice souvenir.
When you are in the complex you get the feeling that you are somehow lucky to see something that has been hidden for so long and recently found. It is the 100 year anniversary of the finding of the site. If you used a tour guide try to shut him off for a bit and just observe the view/magic of the site. If I were you I would not expect the tour guide to get everything right and I would recommend you get this audiobook title: The Modern Scholar: The Incas: Inside an American Empire, http://www.audible.com/pd?asin=B0036ISPN2 as it provides great background for this trip. Also remember you can climb up to the top of the iconic mountain, about two hours up and then two hours down – hiking tip, do it in the AM. Now, as far as how long to stay in town: I remember stories of how people stay in Venice Italy for an average of one day and for Machu Picchu the number drops even lower to three hours!!! Do not stay for three hours and go back, it is too much for one day and why miss out on the town below the site! After the Cuzco and Machu Picchu trip it was time to head back to Lima. I flew Star Peru both ways and while it was not uneventful it was fine. On the way to Cuzco there was an aborted takeoff and our excellent pilot got us stopped and back to the gate safely, however, both ways had multiple hour delays.
The hotel in Lima was nice, I think for $125 or so I had a three room suite that was bigger than most of my apartments when I was in college. There was a nice night tour and then a stop for dinner and native dance displays. I have long since stopped liking stuff like this but I did this for my niece and she seemed to really enjoy it. For once it was a sleep in and then a final day at Plaza Mayor. It was great fun to not be bound by a tour guide of any sort (preferred method). There was time to see many sites and we ended up getting lunch by the ocean at the Larcomar Mall and Tony Romas for a burger and then to the Larcomar’s Havanna Café for and espresso to purchase tasty snacks for everyone back home.
After this last stop we still had over 4 hours before we had to be at the airport so I came up with a fun Idea. I paid a taxi to take us to the beach for photos, too see the sites, and to let Ashley walk out on the beach and put her foot in the Pacific Ocean for the first time ever. Sounds like a good Idea, right? We had the best cab driver – for the equivalent of 15 dollars he kept stopping at more places for pictures. Then we headed back to the hotel. Well, Lima is a traffic jam, and when we were stopped in traffic for all of a couple minutes a young kid grabbed Ashley’s door and opened it and grabbed onto her purse a short struggle followed that had me leaping over Ashley grabbing the kids arm and yelling a bit and none of what I said can be repeated here, the kid let go and ran off and no one was hurt. So a failed mugging of sorts, note to all, it was a registered and approved cab from restaurant and in retrospect the door was not locked as we kept jumping in and out! I must also say I was pretty impressed with my niece, the girl was not fazed and did not lose her purse. So Lima was some firsts for Ashley:
- First view of Pacific Ocean
- First Steps in Pacific Ocean
- First mugging, albeit failed, but isn’t that the perfect outcome if you have a mugging
Unfortunately I had several work calls and other stuff but then again how do you pay for trips like this unless via work 🙂