Thank you, John. It truly was among the best travel experiences Dan and I have ever had. We loved Peru, our group, and didn’t want to leave. 🙂 Thank you so much! We hope to travel with you again someday.
This trip to Peru was easily our best vacation experience. Everyday was jam packed with new experiences, it felt like 2-weeks instead of 8 days. Day four – running the Inca trail for 45 minutes through the cloud forest at sun rise is an experience I won’t forget. Thanks for putting together such a fantastic trip, everything went very smoothly despite how chaotic Peru seemed to be 🙂
John was a great host and guide on our recent trip to Peru where we hiked up and down the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. The entire experience was planned by John perfectly to accommodate our entire group, our individual interests and abilities and provide a great adventure for all. It’s so much more fun when your guide is also having a great time and John certainly seems to enjoy what he does and has a true interest in the people he takes along with him. This is the second adventure I have gone on with Arizona Hiking Adventures and I look forward to more in the future.
October 10, 2015 Arizona Hiking Adventures’ (AHA) trip to Peru began smoothly with an on-time arrival into Cusco International Airport. Our private driver met our group in the terminal and transported us through the chaotic city traffic to the Unaytambo Hotel. This boutique lodging was a former Inca Palace, situated opposite Qorikancha, (Temple of the Sun), the most important sacred temple of Tawantinsuyo and is situated in the historic center of the city, surrounded by magnificent pre-hispanic and colonial buildings. We had a few hours to settle into our rooms and catch up on some rest from the overnight flight before our 2pm pickup for a city tour of Cusco.
The city tour began at the Inca archaeological site of Sacsaywaman. Located about 2 km northeast of Cusco. Archeologists believe the core of the site dates back to the 13th century, which makes it one of the oldest Inca sites in Peru. However, they also believe that the site was occupied starting in the 10th century, and that some sections were actually built by pre-Inca civilizations in the 11th century. The fortress-like site covers an area of about 2300 hectares, and is located on top of a hill overlooking the city. Next stop on the tour was the Inca Museum in downtown Cusco. Museo Inka is a state owned museum run and managed by Cusco’s San Antonio Abad University. Located on the small road that links Plaza de Armas to Plazoleta Nazarenas, the museum is ideally set in a huge colonial mansion. There are 24 exhibition rooms to view, each dedicated to different periods of the Inca and Spanish history of Peru. This museum is a superb introduction to the Inca culture. Through ceramics, textiles, mummies, jewelry, and reportedly the world’s largest collection of wooden drinking vessels the exhibits walk visitors through Incan history from pre-Inca civilizations to post-conquest life. Also on display are temporary exhibitions of ceramics, musical instruments, carved mate gourds, and textiles. Female weavers can often be seen in the courtyard. Our last stop today was at the religious complex of Coricanacha in the Inca capital at Cusco contained the Temple of the Sun, which was not only the most sacred site or huaca in the Inca religion but was considered the very center of the Inca world.
Day 1 of our South American journey concluded with a wonderful dinner, where our group of 9 adventurers enjoyed a meal at the traditional Peruvian restaurant Deva.
October 11, 2015 Cusco Cycling picked our group up this morning at 8am to begin our Sacred Valley bike ride. Prior to leaving Cusco we needed to exchange our US dollars for Peruvian sols, which we did in a street deal through our van window. We arrived by van into the bustling colonial town of Pisac where we spent a couple of hours shopping in the open-air street market, featuring handicrafts and a farmers market. Here is where we mounted our mountain bikes and headed downhill alongside the Urubamba River. Over the next 20 miles we travelled on seldom used back roads through farm fields and small villages until we reached the town of Urubamba where we stopped for lunch. After a hearty Andean lunch with a couple of oversized beers, we took the van to the town of Maras where we again mounted our bikes for a thrilling downhill single-track trail ride into the Moray salt pans. Since pre-Inca times, salt has been obtained here as the salt water (from a sub-terranean current nearby) evaporates in the sun, leaving only the salt as a result. The salt mines traditionally have been available to any person wishing to harvest salt. The owners of the salt ponds must be members of the community, and families that are new to the community wishing to propitiate a salt pond get the one farthest from the community. The size of the salt pond assigned to a family depends on the family’s size.
Day 2 of our South American journey concluded with a wonderful dinner, where our group of 9 adventurers enjoyed a meal at the vegetarian-inspired restaurant organic Greens.
October 12, 2015 This morning we met our Inca Trail guide, Bryon, and assistant guide, Marujha, as they met our group in the courtyard of our hotel for an introduction and briefing on our upcoming 4 day trek. After lunch we packed our bags and checked out from Unaytambo and began our 2-hour ride to the Porter’s Village, stopping along the way to pick up supplies for donations to the villagers. Upon our arrival we stopped in at a villager’s home, Marujha’s parents, where we toured the home and sampled Peruvian potatoes, toasted corn kernels and lima beans. Next stop, the farmer’s fields where we assisted in the planting of corn and lima bean seeds as well as took a turn at plowing the fields behind a couple of bulls. After a drink of Chicha, corn beer, we made our way to the library where the village children awaited. Here we played soccer, sang and danced before we said our goodbye’s and headed to our porter’s home for dinner. After dinner, again the smiling children, dancing and singing into the night, greeted us. This Porter Village visit is a wonderful experience in which we truly get an appreciation for the authentic local side of Peruvian life.
October 13, 2015 An early morning wakeup followed by a hearty Andean Village breakfast leads our group back to the van for a ride to the town of Ollantaytambo where we will stage our gear and meet our porters that will support our group over the next 4 days. With gear secure and backpacks loaded we make our way to the entry point at mile 82 for the Inca Trail. Day 1 is relatively easy as we hike as a group covering 7 miles over a 5-hour period. We will gain around 1600ft ending day 1 at an altitude of 9842ft. Along the way we stop in at the first archaeological center of Patallacta, where we appreciate the impressive landscapes, flora and fauna. This site will begin the story of the importance of the Sacred Valley in the context of the Incas history.
October 14, 2015 Today is considered our personal challenge day. It consists of two summits an altitude gain of 3100ft and a distance of 9.5 miles. Our first pass of Warmiwanusca is known as the world’s highest cloud forest and the toughest part of our journey. Many condors typically fly through this region, although today we were not able to see them. Our group of 9 did wonderfully well, reaching camp 2 well before darkness and in time for a late lunch, relaxation and a few games of cards.
October 15, 2015 60% of all Inca trail hikers consider day 2 the most difficult day of trek while the other 40% select day 3 as the hardest. Day 3 consists of 5,000 steps with over 3,000 of them being downhill. We cover 9.5 miles over 8 hours with an altitude loss of over 3,300 ft. Today we trek as a group and the trek is all about getting through the second pass of Runkuraccay. Along the way we take a break at an Incan ruin called Runku Ragay, an astrological site that was a checkpoint for couriers heading to Machu Picchu. After this site and the second pass we get to a larger Inca site, Sayacmarca (Town on a Steep Place). This site carries many stories and a few mysteries. It is roofless and overgrown, but the walls are strong and the shape of the fortress is clear. Interestingly here we witness the marvels of ancient engineering as the stone aqueduct is visible which carried waters to the farmlands. Next, through a tunnel, then over the third pass leads us to the next Inca site of Phuyupatamarca (cloud level town). Here we will see where the Incas bathed before reaching Machu Picchu, and understand why. Lastly we will spend our night at the Winaywayna Inca site (forever young).
October 16, 2015 A 230am wakeup call will guarantee us 1st position in a line up of over 250 that wish to enter the last gate of the Inca Trail into Machu Picchu. After an enjoyable 30-minute run we begin to climb a narrow flight of stone steps, which leads to the Sun Gate. After 3 1/2 days of trekking, we will watch the sun rise through the doorway gate of the sun and take in the first views of Machu Picchu. Next we descend into Machu Picchu for our 2 hr privately guided tour. The Sanctuary of Machu Picchu is among the greatest artistic, architectural and land use achievements anywhere and the most significant tangible legacy of the Inca civilization. Approximately 200 structures make up this outstanding religious, ceremonial, astronomical and agricultural centre. They are set on a steep ridge, crisscrossed by stone terraces. The city is divided into a lower and upper part, separating the farming from residential areas, with a large square between the two. To this day, many of Machu Picchu’s mysteries remain unresolved; including the exact role it may have played. We opted not to use our permit to climb 1180ft up Huayna Picchu as the rain began to fall and the terrain became slippery. Next we take the bus into Aguas Calientes for a late celebratory lunch and then board the expedition train back to Cusco.
October 17, 2015 Today is our last day to enjoy the sights and sounds of Cusco. El Señor de los Milagros festival filled the streets with music and festivities as the locals celebrated this annual religious event. Some of our group enjoyed a cooking demonstration in the Chocolate Museum while others strolled through the Plaza De Armas visiting with the local artisans. Our flights departed Cusco in the early evening to Lima where we transferred to our “red eye” for our travel back to the USA.