Meet Pat & Mac who are both retired and living the wandering dream. Just last month they took a trip to a destination on their bucket list, Machu Picchu and sent us this chronicle of their journey. Follow along as they reach high elevations, walk through ancient catacombs, and enjoy a bucket list vacation curated by Globus Tours.
Day 1 – Boston – Lima, Peru
The first day was a travel day from Boston to Miami to Lima, Peru, arriving after 5:30 pm. We retrieved our luggage, cleared customs, and waited a few minutes outside the terminal for our Globus host with our ride to the hotel. As it was Sunday night, we were the last pick-up of the day and the ride to the hotel was 45 minutes. Our room was very impressive with a modern design and very new. Since it was dark and we were a little tired, we utilized the lobby restaurant. Tomorrow's adventures begin with a 5:15 am wake-up call.
Day 2 – Lima, Peru to Cuzco, Peru – Sea level to 11,000 feet above sea level
Monday morning, we left our packed suitcases outside our door by 5:30 am and found our way to the 6 o'clock breakfast which consisted of fruit, bread, pastries, eggs, and bacon with coffee and a selection of juices - papaya, pineapple, beet, and a green-colored juice that wasn’t identified.
We met our Globus guide, Enrique, in the lobby by 6:45 am. The luggage for the twenty-four passengers of the tour were loaded onto the bus, and we departed on time at 7:00 am.
Today we are flying from Lima to Cusco, about 1 hour and 10 minutes with the flight leaving at 9:50 am. We will be traveling from sea level to 11,000 feet. The approach to Cusco was bumpy with a few roller-coaster stomach flips caused by mountain winds. We were advised to drink a lot of bottled water and take things slowly at this altitude.
The group collected our luggage and walked across busy airport roads to meet our bus in a parking lot. The weather was sunny and in the 70’s. Our plan today is to drive over the Andes at a 13,000-foot pass and descend to the 8,000-foot level to a place known as the Sacred Valley to the ancient Incas. Sacred because it was near their holy capital of Cusco.
Along the way, we stopped for a lunch buffet in a colonial Spanish hacienda. The Spanish built the hacienda atop of Inca ruins. The menu was typical Peruvian cuisine, with several different varieties of potatoes, beef and vegetables, stuffed chicken role, potato casserole stuffed with tuna, quinoa, and rice. Dessert was a passion fruit Jell-O on top of a mousse.
The bus ride continued to our next destination, a Llama and alpaca farm where we got to feed them alfalfa. The animals must have been hungry before we arrived because they hustled over and crowded around to reach the hands full of food that were extended to them.
Our next stop was to the village of Pisac for some shopping. The guide brought us to a silver shop for a narrated demonstration of silver jewelry making. Then we walked thru some vendor alleys and returned to the rendezvous location in the Market Square.
The final stop for the day is our hotel, La Casona de Yucay. This was a beautiful colonial-style hotel with double courtyards and large, expertly landscaped yard. For dinner, we had pizza and drinks outdoors with a view of the surrounding mountains.
Tomorrow is another early day. Off to Machu Picchu!
Day 3 - Machu Picchu
Today we will cross off an item on our bucket list – a visit to Machu Picchu. Our guide, Enrique, had everything timed to the minute. Wake-up call at 5:15 am, place luggage outside your door by 5:45 am, breakfast and on the bus by 6:30 am, 7:45 am catch the train to Machu Picchu at Ollantaytambo station, 9:15 am arrive at Machu Picchu Pueblo to catch the bus to the Incan site, 10:00 am start tour, end tour at 1:00 pm, catch the bus back to Pueblo, lunch on our own, catch 4:22 pm train back to Ollantaytambo station, and finally, 6:10 pm get on bus for 2 1/2 hour ride to the Cusco hotel.
Everything went like clockwork and our tour group was great at staying together and on schedule. The initial view of Machu Picchu is amazing and took our breath away. We took many pictures of the architectural marvel of this royal and sacred retreat at 8,000-foot elevation, deep in the canyons of the Andes. Construction and habitation occurred between 1450-1534. The Spanish never knew of this place, so Machu Picchu remained purely Incan. Not sure why it was abandoned (possibly European diseases) and forgotten until discovered in 1911 by Hiram Bingham.
The stone masonry is so precise, no mortar was needed. Each block fit perfectly. No more than six hundred people lived there. Our National Park ranger guide provided explanations and knowledgeable commentary throughout the tour. Because this is a UNESCO Heritage Site, there are limits to the number of daily visitors, 2,200 foreigners and 2,200 Peruvians. There are whispers that the site could be closed to visitors sometime in the future.
The unexpected thrill of the day was the 30-minute bus ride from the Pueblo up to Machu Picchu. It was a 3,000-foot climb on a narrow dirt road with constant switchbacks and adrenaline-inspiring views over the edge. We repeated this trip on the way back as we descended back to the base camp.
The rest of the day consisted of the return train ride of twenty-seven miles and 1 1/2 hours along the Urubamba River and the bus ride up to Cusco at 11,000-foot elevation. We arrived at the Sonesta Hotel around 9:00 pm and slept very well that night.
Day 4 – Touring Incan Sites
Today’s touring started at a reasonable 9:00 am. We visited ancient Incan sites, one of which was a religious ceremonial site called Sacsayhuaman (to help us remember how to pronounce this Incan word, our guide told us to just say ‘sexy woman’).
There were only 14 Incan rulers, until the Spaniards changed their history. The area rests on a hilltop overlooking Cusco, which was the Incan ruler’s capital city.
It had a mild year-round climate great for crops. Also, the Incas were very attuned to their natural environment and worshipped the puma (which symbolized power or the earth), the condor (which symbolized the sky), and the snake (which symbolized wisdom or the underworld). In fact, ancient Cusco was laid out to be in the shape of a puma.
Sacsayhuaman is another superb example of Incan masonry skills. The stones came from a quarry two miles away. Every rock/boulder was shaped to fit precisely to the next stone without any mortar. The pictures clearly show this marvel, regardless of the size.
There were more vertical structures, which the Spanish removed to use in churches and palaces down in Cusco, leaving the largest and heaviest to remain in Machu Picchu.
The next stop was at a ceremonial burial site, Quenqo, which means maze. An appropriate name since you need to walk through a cave to see the burial altar.
We then took a break for a few hours, before a group dinner at a fine restaurant off the Market Square.
Day 5 – Tour of Cusco
Today is a more relaxing day with an optional morning walking tour of Cusco.
We had a fine buffet breakfast in the Sonesta Hotel restaurant. Our group met in the lobby at 9:00 am to start the walking tour. Our Globus guide led us on a leisurely walk on Ave de Sol, slightly uphill toward the Market Square, also known as Plaza de Armas. Our bodies reminded us that we are at an 11,000-foot elevation and any exertion takes more effort than we are accustomed to.
Halfway, we had a rest stop across from the Dominican Convent, where the guide explained the history of the convent, which was built upon an Incan Temple site. Spanish architects came to appreciate the quality of Incan stone construction and their ability to remain standing during earthquakes. This is why today we see Incan stone foundations under Spanish buildings.
Our first visit was to the Incan temples within the convent, called Qoricancha (or Qorikancha). The guide was extremely knowledgeable on the Incan history of the temple. The original stone walls are solidly standing with an intentional inclination of 13 degrees, representing 13 degrees from the equator for Cusco's location. This is indicative of the knowledge and worship of the Sun. In the temple,
there were crystals embedded in the stone walls which cast a rainbow when the sun shone upon them. It was an amazing sight. We continued around the columnar courtyard to an exit at the elevated gardens and noticed outlined in the grass, there were religious Incan symbols - condor, puma, and snake which were the Incan symbols for sky, earth, and underworld.
When we left the convent, the guide took us through narrow alleys and backstreets which led us back to the Market Square - Plaza de Armas - where we visited the Cusco Cathedral, a typical Spanish-style building with ornate gold leaf altars and carvings. The guide explained key features of the tour, especially the enormous number of old religious paintings of Peter Paul Rubens.
The tour ended at the Market Square at noon, and we had free time until the evening farewell dinner in the hotel restaurant. Pat and I walked back to hotel, had a light snack, and went shopping across the street at an artisan market.
The evening dinner was a buffet followed by dancing and entertainment featuring Incan costumed dancers. Pat liked the Pisco Sour, a drink used in the evening’s toast. After eating too much again, we went back to our room to pack for our return to Lima in the morning.
Day 6 – Cusco - Lima
Another early morning travel day is in our future. Wake-up call at 6:15 am, place luggage outside door by 7:15 am and be on the bus at 7:45 am. This was all clearly printed on our daily calendar provided by Globus. Somehow between luggage and boarding the bus, we ate a quick breakfast in the hotel restaurant.
The bus took us to the Cusco airport for our 10:15 am flight to Lima with arrival at 11:40 am. All our flights were full regardless of where we were going, either in Peru or the U.S.
General observation of Peru...driving is a hazardous sport. The roadways seemed small for the volume of vehicles traveling them. Driving here is not for the faint of heart.
From the Lima Airport, we took a bus to the old colonial historical section. The local guide informed us that traffic and crowds were to be expected, since today was the beginning of a long weekend religious holiday, the Lord of the Miracles Festival. The streets were closed for processions and vendors selling food were everywhere among the purple and white holiday decorations.
The bus dropped us off at the edge of old town and walked along several streets toward the central plaza, passing several classic style buildings and homes. In the plaza, the local guide described the buildings around the plaza, the Royal Palace, the Cathedral, and others in that area. The Palace was unapproachable with crowd control metal barriers in the street, armed guards behind them with riot shields, and a tall iron picket fence around the perimeter of the Palace grounds with more guards at the door. These guards are ceremonial and have changing of the guard ceremonies.
We had some free time in the plaza before taking off for Pat's long anticipated highlight of the day - the catacombs under the San Francisco Monastery (Museo Convento San Francisco y Catacumbas). Outside, there was a lengthy line of people, many with flower bouquets, waiting to enter the church.
The guide warned those in our group who may be claustrophobic to consider whether or not to proceed. Pat and I were up front right behind her. Warning...watch your head, some passages are low. The basement has brick construction and low arched ceilings with occasional side rooms. At the appropriate places there were pits, shelves, rooms, and display cases, partially illuminated and containing old bones and skulls. The bones were arranged with the largest bones on top and smaller ones underneath. Which would explain why we kept seeing rows of femur bones tightly stacked, whether in shallow pits, side shelves, or glass cases. While touring, I had a passing thought, is it a coincidence that we are here on Halloween weekend?
We got back to the same bus location for our ride back to the hotel, in the upscale Miraflores district of Lima, on the Pacific waterfront. We checked in at The Pullman, which was the same Lima hotel we had the first day.
After freshening up in our room, we took a walk toward the ocean in search of a place for dinner. It was a cool misty walk which reminded us of what we heard from the guide today, that Lima has 70 percent overcast days because of the cool ocean current. I guess that would be comparable to Seattle, without the rain.
We found a place for dinner, the kind of place that Pat would recognize, be able to pronounce, and enjoy...KFC.
Day 7. Lima - Boston
Today our wake-up call was at 4:00 am in preparation for the bus transport at 4:30 am to Lima Airport. We picked up a box breakfast from the lobby as we boarded the bus. It was a ham and cheese sandwich, yogurt, apple, and bottled water.
We had a couple of hours waiting in the airport for our 8:00 am flight to Dallas. In Dallas, we retrieved our luggage, went thru customs, dropped off our baggage, and proceeded to the gate for our return to Boston, arriving at 10:00 pm. We knew we were home when our lovely daughter, met us with a smile and kiss..
Pat & Mac’s Wanderer Recommendation:
Globus is a wonderful choice when looking into planning a trip. Great service, a well-planned itinerary, and excellent communication throughout our travels allowed us to focus on the trip and enjoy ourselves. When we saw that Globus offered a reasonably priced trip to Machu Picchu including airfare from Boston, we jumped on it.
This was the second trip we have taken with Globus, and it did not disappoint. The attention to detail, from the selected hotels and places to stay, scheduled tours, knowledgeable tour guides, and even the planning that goes into the meals was meticulous. We will look forward to traveling with Globus again in the future.
Find out more here about booking your next vacation with Globus.
By Pat & Mac