Off to Peru! Group travel to Machu Picchu

22 July 2012

With a break in my career, I took some time to myself and booked a trip to see one of the seven wonders of the world. Being a solo traveler in a non-English speaking country, I weighed my options of possible tour groups. It took 48 hours of skimming travel forums, weeding through hundreds of reviews, and a few nights' rest before I dialed STA's number and signed myself up for the 8-Day Machu Picchu Adventure tour with G Adventures. To be honest, I wasn't entirely confident in my decision, but I knew this was a trip I'd been considering for more than a year. I just had to do it.

Less than three weeks before boarding my flight, a close family friend made arrangements to join me. I was thrilled to have her come along for the ride. 

Upon arriving in Lima, our hotel transfer -- and hotel details for that matter -- were poorly coordinated on G Adventure's end. Only one of us had a transfer reserved and waiting for us, though both of us had prepaid for the peace of mind. And despite being assigned roommates, we had entirely different hotel reservations; we weren't even assigned to the same hotel! At 4:45 a.m., this wasn't exactly a conflict we wanted to handle. We ironed out the kinks and claimed a few couches in the lobby at Hotel Antigua before resigning for a few hours for a much-needed nap.

With new found energy, we strolled around Miraflores for a bit and thengreeted our G Adventures tour group for our orientation at our hotel that evening. Ten hours later, those same 16 people from orientation were on a flight to Cuzco to begin our Machu Picchu Adventure with our guide Marco.

Marco was an incredible guide with so much passion and appreciation for the Peruvian culture and history. It made each of us love the tales, history and sites even more. We loaded our little bus, strapped our luggage to the top and drove into town to see a few of the sites we'd been waiting to explore. Our mini city tour with Marco flew by with minimal time to stop at each of the sites. But it was just enough for us to get an idea of the city layout so we could revisit them later in the week.

The remainder of our tour days were chocked full of adventure. I still can't believe how much we squeezed into those few days. We drove through the Sacred Valley, visited the Pisac market, explored the Saqsaywaman archeological site, enjoyed lunch in Urubamba, and spent an evening in Ollaytantambo. Here, we visited the Sun Temple, which was once under the ownership of Incan Emperor Pachacuti. The views were absolutely beautiful and the tales of the Incas were of community and valor.

During one of the days in the Sacred Valley we visited the weaving village of Ccaccaccollo, which is part of the Plantera conservation effort led by G Adventures. The women in the village weave alpaca wool into novelties and then sell them to G Adventure tourists for a profit. The money is fed back into their communities to help them with their agriculture, livestock and other necessary professions. The women taught us about their technique, introduced us to their families and invited us to take part in the conservation project. So, I bought a big, comfy alpaca sweater to wear in my new Northwestern abode.

From Ollaytantambo, we took PeruRail to Aguas Calientes. The train ride was truly a highlight to this trip. The views were phenomenal! The train winds along the Urubamba River and leads you right into the cloud forest. The entire train is lined with windows, so you never miss the beauty. 

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