We have just returned from an amazing trip to Peru and feel compelled to share this wonderful experience!
Day 1: Our holiday booked with HF Holidays, began at Lima airport where we met Efrain, our Peruvian guide, who would be with us for the next 15 days.
Efrain is the one on the left!
Day 2: After a brief overnight stop, and a short flight to Arequipa, we enjoyed a delicious lunch on the roof top of a local restaurant, and our first tasting of ‘Chicha Morada’ – a refreshing Peruvian fruit juice made from purple corn.
Rejuvenated, we walked around the wonderful marble Plaza de Armas, visited Juanita at the Ice Maiden Museum and then headed to the Santa Catalina Monastery – a photographers dream.
(Rooftop restaurant, Santa Catalina Monastery, Plaza de Armas, Santa Catalina Monastery, shopping arcade, evening sun at Santa Catalina Monastery)
Day Three – After a good night’s sleep our journey by comfortable mini bus, continued towards the Colca canyon. Regular stops along the route allowed us to ‘soak up’ and view the amazing scenery. A ‘boxed’ (packed) lunch – huge, deliciously fresh and tasty, meant we could stop at the less touristy parking stops. At one of these stops we had our first introduction to coca tea, considered effective in reducing the effects of altitude sickness (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3001837/ ). We spent two nights at the delightful Colca Lodge.
(Amazing scenery, delicious coca tea – a bargain at 8 sols (£1.92), and Peruvian flamingos!)
Day Four – An early start began with a 7.30am school dancing demonstration from the pupils of the local school in Chivay. They perform for the tourists in order to raise funds for their school – Peruvians are very entrepreneurial!
(School children dancing to raise funds for their school)
Arriving at Condor Cross, we found ourselves sharing the place with many other tour groups. Everyone wants to see a Condor in the flesh! After half an hour, I began to think our luck was down, and noticed that many tour buses began to leave. However our guide Efrain assured us that we would see Condors – we just needed to be patient. Almost as soon as the last tour bus left, a Condor appeared circling on the warm air currents. Just for a moment or two, we were all speechless! In total we witnessed the flying of eight of these magnificent birds.
(First sighting of a Condor, Condor Cross, Cacti and the ridiculous but vital sun hats)
Each morning we were reminded by our guides to wear hats (Yes, I know they look awful, but no one wants sunstroke!). In our day- packs we carried at least one litre of water, insect repellent, sun bloc and a fleece. It cools down as quickly as it warms up in this part of the world!
Our visit continued with a two hour walk along the rim of this dramatic gorge, where we saw more Condors before returning to Colca Lodge for a delicious bbq. We then had a choice, a walk to see Inca ruins or indulging ourselves in the hot springs or for those feeling energetic, the opportunity to do both!
Day Five – Another early start was soon forgotten as the journey provided new vistas and experiences along the way culminating with the burial chambers at Sillustani. Although partly destroyed now, the remains provide an insight into how the Pukara culture prepared their elite for the ‘next life’. The stone work is believed to have influenced the Inca stone masons.
(A myriad of colours;our local guide Mauricio modelling a knitted beret; a local ‘pop up’ market, and the burial site at Sillustani)
Day Six – We had high expectations of Lake Titicaca, and were not disappointed. We were given an excellent demonstration on how the ‘floating islands’ are constructed, and how life is lived. Four of us were shown inside a reed house and then given the opportunity to wear the local costume!
A boat journey took us to the pretty island of Taquile. All boys and men on the island learn to knit using five needles at one time. They can knit at the sametime as walking. After some serious walking exercise we reached our lunch time destination with an amazing view across the lake to Bolivia!
(Giving pencils to a local child; Knitting with 5 needles; fabulous views and fresh fish for lunch)
Day Seven– Described in the HF holidays brochure as the classic ‘Orient Express’, the 10 hour train journey from Puno to Cusco did not disappoint. As the train took us through various towns where markets were being held, stalls straddled the track, and the people waved. A moment of quite fell upon us a number of us watching the stall holders eek out an existence while we were travelling on. However, our visit was helping to sustain the tourist industry.
(The journey took us high up into the Andes reaching 4000m. By nightfall we had returned to Cusco)
Day 8 – took us up into the surrounding hills of Cusco and the stunning Inca sights of Tambo Machay and Sacsayhuaman (also known as’ sexywoman’). Unknown to us, the tables and canopy for our lunch were safely stored on the roof of or vehicle. The first we knew of this was when the guides used a step ladder to remove the items while we waited inside! We walked and explored finally returning to the drop off point to find the most delicious freshly cooked lunch awaiting!
(Inca sites in the Sacred Valley, and another of our fabulous lunches en route, and cooked to order)
Day 9 – At Pisac our group chose to explore the Inca ruins in preference to visiting the market. The views quality of stonework achieved by the Incas is remarkable.
(Beautiful scenery, wonderful textiles, learning about cochineal, and a ‘Happy Anniversary’ to our guide’s wife!)
Day 10 – our walking took us across the vast agricultural expanses that support this region. Efrain our guide stopped a farming family and requested that our group be given a demonstration of pulling a plough with Oxen. However, Efrain went a step further, and soon I was witnessing my husband trying to control the plough and two oxen whilst trying to achieve straight furrows! I had not laughed so much in years!
(Inca sights seen along our country walk, plus a stop for a bit of ploughing!)
After a lunch freshly prepared for us, the mini bus took us to the Salt pans. From a distance, one can be mistaken for thinking you are looking at cube shaped houses! However, on closer inspection this was only a visual anomaly. Providing a living for approximately 100 families, the pans are quite remarkable. The tourist walking around them requires careful navigation!
(The Maras-Moray walk and the salt pans)
Day 11 – The day I had mixed feelings about had finally arrived! I had been chewing leaves and drinking coca tea, increasing my fluid intake to almost three litres per day, but I was still concerned that I would not be able to reach the Sun Gate as the sun would be very hot. On several occasions I had already battled with the effects of the sun. The walk along the ‘Purification path of Inca royalty’, otherwise known as the ‘the Inca Trail’ was carefully paced, thanks to the knowledge and skill of our guides.
(Early morning start and the beginning of the Inca trail)
It took seven hours along an undulating footpath punctuated with regular stops for food and drink, plus a few steep flights of Inc a steps, all walked at a steady pace. However, the experience of reaching the Sun Gate, and looking down on Machu Picchu for the very first time, will remain with us forever.
Day 12 – This morning we returned to Machu Picchu for an extensive view of the ruins. We noticed that other people and their guides were listening to our guide Efrain. His knowledge and passion for his culture is without question. For us he made the ruins ‘come alive’ in our minds. After three and a half hours which flew by, a guide from a competitor came up to us and asked if we were part of Efrain’s party. He told us that our guide was not only the ‘best in Peru’, but in his view ’the world’ – we would totally agree. We congratulate HF on having such an outstanding guide.
Day 13 – for some of our group it was farewell as they headed back to the UK. However we had chosen the Amazon rainforest extension. We took a short flight from Cusco to Puerto Maldonaldo, and after a short transfer began our journey on a motorised canoe along the river. We ate our lunch on the journey!
(Lunch on board motorised canoe – leaves encasing rice with roasted vegetables, water and a banana – perfect!)
The next stage of the journey involved a 45 minute walk through the rainforest listening to the sound of Howler monkeys, and Macaws. On reaching our paddle canoe, all of us were joking about David Attenborough appearing from the under growth. None of us were prepared for the noisy display from the giant Otters just as the sun was setting!
Day 14 – After a good night’s sleep, a 5.30 am start to view the wildlife on the lake was a must! We were not disappointed seeing Squirrel monkeys, capuchin monkeys, and kaymen to name just a few. After a good breakfast some of us headed on foot into the forest to look at flora and fauna.
After so much activity, it was time to chill in the hummock! First come first served! As darkness began to fall we went Tarantula and snake hunting. Fortunately for most of us we did not find the elusive snake but we did find Mother Tarantula with her brood! I don’t think any of us suffered from nightmares! Anyway we were too busy sharing the highlights of our wonderful trip with our amazing guides. At every step of the holiday they were professional, gave encouragement, educated us, and ensured our safety on our second amazing and memorable Worldwide holiday with HF.
Day 15 – But all is not quite over – we had a return canoe journey this time with two guides paddling. Followed by our 45 minute walk through the rain forest and humming ‘I’m going on a bear hunt’ and being amazed by the ant troops that were out carrying leaves from one side of the path to the other! Our motor launch was waiting to whisk us back along the river to our mini bus. Our journey back to Gatwick was about to begin but not before we witnessed a public demonstration by the farmers against a lack of support from the government!
This holiday was everything we had hoped for and more. Action packed and an assault for the senses, witnessing spectacular achievements by the Incas, savouring mouth-watering fresh food, wonderful colours, meeting so many happy, friendly faces, making new friends, and all made the more enjoyable by our outstanding tour guides!
All that remains now is to decide where our next Worldwide HF holiday will be!