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Posts tagged ‘g adventures’

hobbling around machu picchu…

machu picchu before sunrise

machu picchu before sunrise

It was hardly how I had envisioned my first visit to Machu Picchu.  When one is trapped on a tiny balcony behind a heavy wooden door worried about hypothermia, one tends to kick at the door rather hard trying to be heard.  That might work well in steel toe boots.  Unfortunately, while my Sketcher running shoes are brilliant for travel, they are super lightweight because they are mostly made of mesh…

So my toes looked like a battered housewife the entire time I was in Machu Picchu and I couldn’t take a step without pain.  At least the mesh was stretchy so I had to wince to put them on but the mesh stretched over my swollen toes.  The silver lining 🙂

I did indulge in a debate with myself regarding the day one game plan, especially since I had the luxury of three days at Machu Picchu.  I had already signed up for a 4am wakeup call and 5:30am start before I realized how swollen and bruised my toes would be…  I decided I needed to pretend I was a professional athlete and just suck it up.

Had my toes been in proper health, I could have likely seen it all in the five hours or so allotted by my g adventures tour so I would definitely recommend the independent tour if budget is more limited.

My guide had forgotten his ID so I took the bus from Aquas Caliente to Machu Picchu alone but it is an easy trip and there are lots of other tourists to follow.  It is not a bus trip for the timid – all switchbacks on narrow mountain roads where the drivers almost stop so that they can pass.  But the scenery is stunning – especially in the wee hours of the morning before the sun has woken up.

the bus from aquas caliente to machu picchu

the bus from aquas caliente to machu picchu

sunrise at machu picchu

sunrise at machu picchu

The big highlight of the first day was watching the sun rise.  Wagner, my guide, positioned me in the optimal spot.  My photography skills are not really up to shooting directly into the sun but it was spectacular to witness.

Since I had two more days to experience Machu Picchu I headed back to Aquas Caliente early and discovered a wonderful French bakery.  Then it was back on the train to Ollantaytambo where Enrique collected me.

I felt bad because I didn’t see him at first and was worried I had been left to my own devices again.  But David had told me Enrique was collecting me and they were both so amazing at their jobs it seemed unlikely…

The trip back to Cusco took quite a while so I sat in the front and we chatted while he told me more about Peru, his family and stopped or slowed down so that I could try and get photos.  Connecting with locals makes all travel journeys so much more rewarding.

The official end of the tour struck the same note.  I had left a bag at the hotel and it was already in my room!  Then I went to the restaurant where I had my first meal in Cusco – Tupananchis.  The food was excellent and they had promised me a free drink if I came back.  I was very impressed that they remembered and the food was just as excellent the second time.


Establishing connections – and becoming part of the fabric of a place – is one of the greatest pleasures of travel.  That theme will continue to be explored as we discover Machu Picchu from new perspectives…

I didn’t realize I’d signed up for the amazing race! ;)

I really wanted to love g adventures.  It’s run by a youngish Canadian entrepreneur.  When he started it, he WAS young and it ran on a shoestring…

I first heard about it via an Intrepid Travel newsletter advertising Bruce’s trips to South America.  So I always thought when I finally went to Peru, it would be with the Great Adventure People.

Well, there has definitely been an emphasis on the word “adventure” 😉

Before I left Canada everyone kept asking me what I was going to be doing and if it was ‘’a tour”.  The g adventures materials were pretty vague so I kept telling everyone I wasn’t sure – and keeping me on my toes and adding an air of mystery to my itinerary was part of the plan I guess…

It works when everything goes right!  In general it’s all worked out fine and David and Enrique are the rock stars of g adventures so they won me over and I DO recommend g adventures.  Their strength is tours so that is likely the best route.  I met some tour participants on a train late in my journey and they were very keen and felt totally protected.

I DID say I wanted “Independent Style” travel.  I didn’t realize just HOW independent I was going to have to be.  Of course, the fact that they kept getting my name wrong in Lima might have alerted me to their less than stellar abilities.  Calling me Maria is not a way to get things off on the right foot.  I appreciate it might only seem like a letter to you but it’s a totally different name and not one that I answer to… and people all over the world love my real name… so substituting a more pedestrian one is not the way to score brownie points…

I am reading my notes as I write this into the computer now that I have finally scored an internet connection and I see I wrote it in Aquas Calientes while waiting for the train where Enrique would pick me in Ollantaytambo and drive me to Cuzco.  I wrote… I feel that I will end the trip with a bang.  And that I DO really know my way around the tourist circuit in Peru now 😉  Both statements still hold true…

So, to start at the beginning… it was an auspicious one… I cleared customs easily and a friendly lady named Pamela (who thought MY name was Maria) was holding a g adventures sign.  And I knew the name of the hotel just in case…

Then things started to get strange. I was put on a tourist bus, Pamela and I the only passengers.  She didn’t sit near me and after a few minutes I noticed she’d jumped off the bus and was standing in the street.  Hopefully the driver knew where to take me!

It’s always best to stay calm until there actually IS a problem and he dropped me off at the hotel on my information sheet and I began my recognisance of Miraflores.  I went to Parque Kennedy cause that’s all I knew but it was obviously the tourist ghetto of Lima so I knew I needed to be more intrepid.  (But I did have a delicious churro so highly recommend that!)

My grandmother’s favourite saying was “god gave you a mouth for a reason.  Just ask if you need help.”  So the next morning I took her advice as I was supposedly going to Puno the next day but had nada for details on that excursion.

The hotel staff (Antiquas Miraflores) were great.  It took some time but we finally managed to find someone representing g adventures who spoke English.  Someone was going to meet me at the hotel at 6pm to go over the details.  Good thing I didn’t need any advice on what to do in Lima.- but at least I should make the flight – at whatever mysterious time it was departing…

I waited on a bench at the entrance to the hotel (to be obvious) for 15 minutes but no g adventures person.  Finally talked to Miro who apparently dropped by at 5pm (seriously, dude?) and had left me a note.  He could come again after his class but I said I needed to find dinner and supposedly someone was meeting me at 7:30am the next morning to get me on the plane at the airport so it all sounded under control.

Thank god at least Miro had left a number and he picked up the phone.  Not that I appreciate unnecessary telephone calls at exorbitant roaming rates and I’m still not too clear on how to make a call from my brand new Blackberry.

But I was pretty desperate as I was stranded at the airport with no info as to which airline or flight I was booked on!  I talked Miro through the solution and managed to connect with Renzo at counter 14.  I only had to lug my bags from counter 54 to counter 14…

flying thru the andes for the first time...

flying thru the andes for the first time…

But I got on the flight!  And everyone is very friendly so you can’t really get mad.  I decided it was the Spanish way – paternalistic, vague on details and bad at precise times.  The Germans are my people – but the Latins are charming 😉

And Veronica in Puno was outstanding.  Finally, information, tickets.  She even checked in with me to make sure I was ready to get on the Andean Explorer.  Edgar Adventures in Puno.  Highly recommended.

But the guys in Cuzco are trying.  It was all going brilliantly until I showed up in Aquas Calientes and there was no g adventures sign.  But at least they had told me the hotels once I got to Cuzco so the guy from Andina and I figured out we belonged together 🙂

But then I sat in the hotel lobby for over an hour as other tourists met their guides and planned their day at Machu Picchu.  Again the hotel staff were great and finally made contact for me with someone willing to take me to Machu Picchu.  Luckily David had already briefed me on what to take so I just needed a meet time.

And Wagner – my replacement guide, not sure what happened to Marcellino… did show up just after 5:30am.  He forgot his pass so I had to go up alone but he found me before I got into Machu Picchu so all was good.  But thank god I wasn’t looking for my g adventures guide to rescue me from the balcony at the Andina Luxury!  That story to follow…

I like the g adventures style of travel.  David says they have a good reputation in Peru and hire lots of local staff and do some community projects.  All the actual activities were excellent.  I DO recommend them.  You just need to decide how comfortable you are travelling alone.  Apparently I am not the guinea pig for the Independent Travel option… but I am not entirely convinced 😉  <calling myself a guinea pig extra funny…>


My impression is that they are an excellent choice if you are doing a tour in Peru.  And they did make all my arrangements.  And I met David and Enrique – they were incredible and you will hear more about them in future posts.  g adventures is very lucky to have them on the team!

It was really fun traipsing around Peru largely by myself.  You just have to pretend you are on the amazing race and making your own way to the next pit stop to figure out the details of your next adventure 😉

p.s. adventures – and photos – to follow!  Stay tuned….

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