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Winning any prize is wonderful and when the prize is a trip it’s even better, however when the trip is to Machu Picchu it is the best!
The flight with Lan Chile was good and comfortable and flying into Santiago and seeing the beautiful white capped Andes in the distance was so exciting!! Our final destination for this leg was Lima, so we boarded another flight, it was a lot of flying, but so worth it.
We were picked up from the airport and driven to the Casa Andina Private Collection Miraflores Hotel where we would be staying for the night. The traffic in Lima was horrendous and the drive took us over 90 minutes, but the hotel was good and its location in Lima is fabulous. The next day we had an early start and caught another flight to Puerto Maldonado, the gateway to the Peruvian Amazon.
I never ever imagined I would get to experience the Amazon, and it certainly was an experience! If Machu Picchu is your destination, you certainly need to consider going to the Amazon first, it is so easy to get to and well worth the stop over. It is only a 20km drive to Tambopata River Port, where we were given duffel bags to pack the barest essentials for our stay. Leaving our locked suitcases at headquarters, it was a 45 minute boat ride to the first of three rainforest lodges. Posada Amazons Lodge is a great place, they supply electricity only at certain times of the day a couple of hours in the morning and couple of hours in the evening, so a torch is a must and the best one is a head torch.
The next day we had an early start, but that was ok as we were all very excited for our adventure to Tres Chimbadas Oxbow Lake. You can either hike or go by boat, we went by boat and saw the most amazing family of giant river otters and plenty of other wildlife!!
We spend quite a few hours on a catamaran floating around the lake, it was so peaceful. We had to be really quiet not to disturb the otters and we were very lucky to get really close….it was so special.
We were given a fishing line, and just like the locals we fished for Piranhas. I was not lucky, apparently you have to be really quick and then again not too quick! Some of our group did catch a few, the Piranha is only a little fish…but you should see their teeth!!
Then we moved on to the second rainforest lodge, Refugio Amazonas. This is a newer property, but certainly my favourite. Although it has the same electricity restrictions, the layout of the lodge is great and the communal areas are much better than the other lodge we visited.
We stayed overnight at Refugio Lodge which was a four hour boat ride upriver from Puerto Maldonado and is ideal for a three night stop to experience the culture and nature of the Amazon and see the Macaws at their Claylick. Claylicks are exposed areas of clay where animals gather to eat or lick clay in order to increase absorption of minerals, just like we humans take pills!! We experienced a night walk and a boat trip where we went Caiman spotting! The guides were so passionate about their environment and so knowledgeable.
Top tip: Pack long pants and long sleeved shirts (I had my special hiking clothes made from bamboo), even though there were no (malaria) mosquitos, there were still lots of other little biting bugs and ordinary repellent was just not strong enough.
The following day after breakfast we had a 4 hour boat ride back to headquarters, where we repacked our suitcases with the ‘help’ of naughty monkeys before the 55 minute flight to Cusco. I managed to get the window seat and looked down on the Tambopata River as it meandered through the Amazon.
Nothing was planned for that afternoon in Cusco, as we needed to acclimatize to the altitude, and you really do need the time. I did get a bit of altitude sickness that night, nausea and a slight headache. I was very lucky it only lasted that evening as after a good night sleep and some electrolytes, the following day I felt terrific!!
We had to pack a light duffel bag for our 2 day trip to The Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu. The fertile Sacred Valley is home to many very important sites for the Incas, like the giant fortress at Ollantaytambo. We found the history of the Inca’s absolutely mind blowing. We had a great guide who knew how to make everything sound so fascinating, we all wanted to read further about it!
After our wonderful guided tour of the Sacred Valley, we stopped at the famous, colourful market in Pisac…it’s a must! We spend the night in the mountains at Casa Andina Private Collection Sacred Valley and after a very early breakfast, we headed to the Ollantaytambo train station to take the train to Aguas Calientas. The train ride is out of this world, beautiful mountainous scenery with snowcapped peaks, upon arrival in Aguas Calientas we boarded a shuttle bus to Machu Picchu.
This is the day, the reason why I came to Peru, we were getting closer, I couldn’t wait!!! It was so emotional to walk through the gates, up some steps, I was breathless…we came around the corner and there it was….
WOW …. WOW … WOW.
For the afternoon we had a choice, either return to Machu Picchu Village (aka Aguas Calientes) or go for a hike to the Sungate. Of course I did the hike with 3 other girls from our group, I was not going to let an opportunity pass to see more of Machu Picchu from every angle possible! It was a two hour hike there and back and the most incredible experience – if you have the opportunity it is a definite must do! I had such a fabulous day, full of wow’s, and managed to finish the day with a nice Pisco Sour on the terrace, listening to a local band. In Machu Picchu Village we stayed in a cozy contemporary hotel, El Mapi by Inkaterra.
The next day we had the morning to ourselves. We managed to get in another hike and do some quick shopping before heading out by train and then coach back to Cusco.
We were so lucky to spend the next 2 nights at the fabulous JW Marriott. We had a great tour of the fully renovated hotel, which originally was a very old monastery. They did an amazing job and left lots of old parts intact. We also inspected the Monasterio Hotel and Nazzarina Hotel. (pictured below) Both hotels are laden with artworks, which makes the hotels very unique, The Nazzarina Hotel is an all-suite hotel and both hotels have a system of fresh air pumping into the rooms to help with the altitude adjustments.
We visited the Wakapunka Boutique Hotel, which is a 3 star hotel, created out of an old renovated house, it is very quirky and centrally located, but only has 9 rooms.
In the afternoon we did a city tour, Cusco is an amazing city. Lots of houses are built on old Inca walls, which make a wonderful foundation. It is a lovely city to wander or just have a coffee or Pisco Sour in the main square and just people watch. We spent the next couple of days winding our way back home, overnight in Lima and then many hours in planes and at airports….but it did not matter….I was still on a high from Machu Picchu.
Peru, I know you still have so much more for me to see – I will be back…and next time I will bring my family so we can share this experience together.