PERU – A Destination of a Lifetime
The friendly Peruvians gave us a warm send-off from the stunning rural resort we enjoyed so much, We all wished we had a few more days to spend with our new friends.
We continued visiting the traditional village of Ollanyaytambo. Tourists flock here because its home to an extraordinary Inca fortress.
We came across 2 ladies and a child who had traveled to this town from the mountains for Market Day (once a week) in order to sell their handicrafts. They didn’t seem interested in selling us anything but they wanted to sing for us (I posted on Facebook)
When we arrived at the fortress we were fortunate because there were very few tourists. In high season there is often a 20 minute wait just to get through the gates of the site.
Many of my passengers climbed over 300 stone steps to the top of the fortress, where they got a spectacular view of the village.
A tourist market is conveniently located next to the fortress so we took some time to look around. I was most impressed with a man who was doing some very tedious bead work.
We then walked to the towns very small train station where we enjoyed lunch in an impressive restaurant by Wendy Weeks. My group took over the place. Lunch was so beautifully presented and delicious. Peru is now regarded as a well deserved culinary destination.
During lunch I enjoyed wonderful conversations with our 2 assistant guides from Cusco.
I asked about their Christmas customs. The extended family gathers on Christmas Eve and there is plenty to eat and drink. Businesses often give their employees a voucher so they can purchase a turkey for their Christmas Eve meal. This makes this meal extra special as most families will only taste turkey once a year.
A nativity scene is set up in every home – often elaborately done with mountains in the background. At midnight family members place a flamboyantly dressed baby Jesus doll in the nativity. The children then get to open their gifts.
At New Years it is a custom to eat 12 grapes – make a wish before eating each one.
After lunch we rode the 2nd most deluxe train to Machu Picchu, We are riding on the most exclusive one on our way back. The beautiful train featured domed cars. The scenery was spectacular as we traveled next to a rushing river.
When we arrived it was a short walk to our overnight 5 star resort complex located in the jungle.
The resort atmosphere was rustic – so Peruvian – we all loved it.
Dinner was in their dining room that offers sweeping views. There were so many things I wanted to try on the menu, the choice was difficult.
We were up early the following morning for breakfast in the same dining room. There were many choices including many healthy ones – the fresh fruit was so sweet, and the quinoa omelette was scrumptious. There was even bee pollen to give us energy for our Machu Picchu exploration.
After breakfast off we went to the Machu Picchu transfer station where we boarded coaches for the 30 min transfer to this world famous attraction.
Machu Picchu is the best known archeological site on the continent.
The weather was perfect – no rain and very warm.
When we arrived we needed to show our passports and tickets for entry. The trek then started and at times was challenging. Our 3 local guides encouraged us and soon we arrived at the picture postcard observation area where the view was beyond spectacular. No picture can do Machu Picchu justice – this is a bucket list travel destination for so many because it is truly breathtaking.
We spent a number of hours trekking around this marvelous site. There is no quick in and out route, Paths are organized in order to control the movement of tourists especially during the peak season. By early afternoon the sun beaming and was very hot so we were thankful that our entry was in the morning. No rain fell – how lucky for us – another perfect weather day.
A private shuttle bus brought us back into town for lunch – the buffet featured fresh salads and a variety of hot items. After our trek we were hungry.
A professional photographer took a group picture of us when we reached the Machu Picchu summit. During lunch the photographer arrived with the photographs so I gladly purchased them as a gift for my passengers. As I passed them out I told everyone how proud I was of them – the Machu Picchu trek is not an easy one but the reward of the trillion dollar view is SO worth the effort.
We had some relaxing time in town. Many went into the market to purchase souvenirs while others relaxed in the Hiram Bingham Train pre-departure lounge. I explored the village with some passengers and we saw colourful locals plus the busy sports field.
The Hiram Bingham Dinner Train is highly regarded World wide. The experience for this 2.5 hr excursion s a pricy one ($350 USD) but its awesome. Few groups include this exclusive train because its too expensive to add to their programs. Champagne flowed and there was entertainment while we waiting in the boarding lounge. On board a lively band performed in the club car where the atmosphere was very elegant. The 3 course meal was exquisite. For my main course I tried the Paiche – this mega size fish is a delicacy from the Amazon River – so delicious.
When we got off the train we were ushered into 3 deluxe Hiram Bingham vehicles. It then took an hour and 15 minutes for the driver to reach our hotel in Cusco.
That evening drive was an eye opener as we traveled through poorer residential areas. Most homes had just one main halogen light that was screwed into the ceiling but I did also notice a few big screen TVs. Homes are modestly decorated, A family picture on a wall is the focal point.
There were many of people on the Cusco streets – food vendors too, Tiny variety stores were open. Surprisingly the majority of the restaurants were pizzerias – one right after another.
Sadly there are dogs roaming everywhere – often in packs of 20 or more.
After breakfast we departed to a Cusco train station where we were ushered in a private entrance and boarded the exclusive Peru Rail Titicaca Train. The train cars are not quite as elaborate as Hiram Bingham but certainly this is was another high end train experience.
I really loved this journey because it took us by rural farm land and through small communities – farmers sit out in the fields with their livestock – they may just have 5 head of cattle. The locals are friendly and wave as the trains go by.
A terrific 3 piece band keep us entertained on boad plus there was a traditional local dancer from the mountains and even a fashion show of Alpaca wool clothing.
There was a 10 min stop at the journey’s highest elevation point – ladies were waiting with their handicraft.
I nabbed a deal – when I arrived back on the train a determined local vendor passed me two Alpaca wool scarves for only $10. TOTAL – on the train they are asking $90. for one.
The 3 course lunch they served was just excellent – attentive service too. Wonderful experience.
In the highest elevations there are no crops grown – so livestock is raised.we even spotted pink flamingos.
Surprisingly a number of people live in this remote region of Peru – a simple way of life.
The trains observation deck and lounge car offered plenty of fresh air and was the perfect spot for taking pictures.
When we started getting closer to Puno we noticed an increased population and along roads there were often one gas station after another but we very seldom saw a person filling their car with fuel – so bizarre. It was suggested that opening these facilities is a way of laundering drug money from neighboring Bolivia?
We passed a unique market unlike anything I ever seen in my travels – I’ll post some video to Facebook. The vendor were so close to the train tracks and even had their wares piled between the tracks.
There is only a couple trains that come down this line every week so its certainly an attraction for the locals when the train shows up. Children ran to see the train passing by,
During the train journey afternoon tea service they served a special blend with fresh lemongrass, orange, peppermint – so refreshing. The fancy sandwiches and treats that followed were scrumptious,
Starting at 530pm we watched farmers bringing their livestock from the pasture to their homes – many ladies with babies strapped to their backs were out helping.
We arrived in Puno at 630pm and checked into a quaint 4 star hotel. Punos sparkling city lights and the roaring fireplace in the dining room made for a relaxing evening. Even though we sat for most of the day on the train everyone was tired and we were ready for bed.
PLEASE NOTE – I understand there are some “rumors” spreading – unfortunately there was a medical issue on this tour and in turn I along with the “Travel With Bradley” team and local experts have been very professionally looking after this situation – sadly someone started a rumor that I was the ill person – this of course is not true. This journey has been a hectic one and I’ve managed to keep up with Facebook posts but Blog posts take many hours to compose while on the road so it has not been possible to get them out as frequently. Peru is an amazing destination that you really need to put on your adventure bucket list but best as part of a group like this one – my passengers have been constantly kindly telling me how much they are appreciating this “once in a lifetime” hand picked itinerary and my decades of tour experience which in turn helps to make their Peru experience a seamless one – Hope you are enjoying following these Peru blog posts – we wish you were here with us.