Overseas Adventure Travel
Machu Picchu and Galapagos
May 11 through May 28, 2022

 

Due to the length of the review, it is in five parts to help with the download time. The links to the other pages are at the top and bottom of each page.


Page 1:  Lima through Sacred Valley day 1
Page 2:  Sacred Valley day 2 through Machu Picchu day 2
Page 3:  Machu Picchu to Cusco for 2 days, Quito for 2 days
Page 4:  Quito day 3 through Galapagos day 2
Page 5:  Galapagos day 3 through Quito return to home

 

 

Preface

Machu Picchu has been at the top of my bucket list for many years.  I have wanted to see it in person for as long as I can remember.  Carol’s physical limitations prevented us from doing it.  She had told me to go on my own, but that wasn’t an option.  After she died, I still wanted to travel on my own.  With Overseas Adventure Travel, I could do tours on my own without having to pay an expensive single supplement.  Most cruise lines charge singles the same price for a cabin as it costs for two people.  The first trip I booked was this one, but for May 2020.  I had originally just thought I would do OAT’s Peru only tour, rather than this one with the Galapagos.  The Galapagos hadn’t been as high a priority destination as Machu Picchu.  I decided that I might as well do the Galapagos while relatively close by, since I would probably never get another chance.  I am so glad I did.

Of course, when the Covid lock down started in March 2020, all travel was cancelled.  I was so disappointed.  I met Cathy a few months later.  After a few months together, she decided that she wanted to go on this tour with me.  I was thrilled.  It is so much better to have someone to share an adventure with.  I added her on to the booking for May 2021.  Well, it was cancelled too, so we booked May 2022.  We held our breath as the date came closer.  We finally were able to see that OAT had started their tours to Peru and Ecuador in March 2022.  We were going to be able see Machu Picchu and the Galapagos in person!

 

Day 1 - Lima

The flight to Lima was very easy with it being a 6-hour non-stop from Miami.  The only challenge is getting to Miami from our home in Wellington, 60 miles away.   The drive is normally around an hour and a quarter, but to arrive 3 hours early for our 12:30 PM flight, we would have to drive at rush hour.  Never a pleasure, but we left early enough to reduce the stress of the heavy traffic.  We parked at the Royal Sonesta Hotel which is cheaper and more secure than some other airport parking options in Miami. 

After we landed in Lima, we met our van provided by OAT and left the airport at 5:40 PM.  It is normally a pretty quick trip to downtown Lima from the airport; but it was rush hour and a major road was shut down due to construction.  It took over an hour and I was so glad I wasn’t driving.  We were very pleased when we pulled up to our hotel for the next 3 nights, the Jose Antonio Lima Hotel.  It was a nice hotel in a great location. 

   

Our room was very comfortable with plenty of space and a large bathroom.

 

   

  

A friend who was doing a similar trip a week before us had warned us to bring tissues with us, since they aren’t provided in Peru’s hotels.  They also weren’t available in Ecuador.  We brought plenty.  Another thing that was interesting in the Peruvian hotels was that their plumbing systems have smaller sewer lines, so toilet paper had to be put into a container next to the toilet, rather than flushing it.  I had done this on last year’s Turkish gullet experience but hadn’t expected it in a hotel.   All I can say is that you get used to it and adapt.  We still thoroughly enjoyed the hotel even though it did get a bit noisy outside at times.

I had conversed with our OAT Trip Experience Leader, Kerry, before the trip to get restaurant recommendations for our first night there.  We chose to go to the Alfresco Restaurant, just across the street. 

   

I had made reservations ahead of time, but they weren’t necessary that night.  We had our first of many pisco sours for the trip.  We got very fond of them.

The dinner was outstanding!  I had the stuffed rocoto and Cathy had the first ceviche of the trip.  We both had delicious ceviche many times during the 17-day adventure. 

With Lima being in the central time zone and us eating late, we walked back to the hotel to get ready for bed right after dinner.  I had been a bit confused about the electricity outlets in Peru.  We were told that they used US plugs but at 220 volts.  This concerned me since I always bring a multi head adapter to have plenty of outlets/USB ports to charge everything.  I have one for 110 volts with a standard US plug and 220 volts with a two post European plug.   When we got to our room, I saw that the wall outlet could handle both US and European plugs, so I was able to use the European adapter. 

We had a printed schedule for the next day slipped under our door.  Kerry would do that for every day we were with her.  Very nice to have.

 

Day 2 – Lima

After a great night’s sleep, we had our included buffet breakfast at the hotel restaurant.  With our introduction meeting scheduled for 10:30 AM, we had plenty of morning leisure time.  There were a couple of other OAT groups at the hotel.  We would see some of their travelers all during the rest of our trip.  It was nice to compare experiences along the way.

In the lobby we got to meet Kerry Chirinos, our leader for the Peru part of the tour.  She was a very sweet and caring person who took very good care of us.  She also loved her country and shared so much great information about it.

At 10:30 we went to the meeting room and were able to meet the other folks in our group.  We couldn’t have asked for a more interesting and pleasant group of new friends to travel with.  We really lucked out.

   
Kathy & Bill                                                                       Michael & Karla

   
Carol                                                                        Barbara

   
Howard & Cheri                                                                   Ruth & Bruce

After everyone officially introduced themselves, Kerry put on a little slide show telling us about the Peru part of the trip.  We also checked off our menu selections for lunch on the sheets she provided.  When there was a provided lunch, there were normally 3 choices for an appetizer, 3 for the main course and a couple of dessert options.

We met at 12:10 PM to begin our walking tour of Lima’s Miraflores district.  This is the one of the nicest districts and where most of the tourist hotels and restaurants are.  Kerry showed us a good place to purchase Peruvian currency, Soles, for the rest of our visit in Peru.  The exchange rates were very good.  Our first stop was to the El Divan restaurant since it was lunch time.  As with all the restaurants that were included in our tour, this one also had very good food.

After lunch we explored the area seeing some lovely parks and buildings including the Church of the Miraculous Virgin and City Hall.

   

Many of the buildings have gorgeous murals on them.  Kerry told us that due to there being lots of graffiti on walls, a program was started to encourage murals to cover up the graffiti and discourage new graffiti.  It has made a difference.  The below mural was a real eye catcher.  We would see many more over the next couple days.

We walked through Park Kennedy, which is dedicated to President John Kennedy.

   

Around 3:00 PM, Kerry told us that our Miraflores tour was finished, and we now had free time to explore whatever we were interested in.  She made some recommendations of attractions that were close, like the Indian market.  Some went there and others did their own thing.  The one place I really wanted to visit and to show Cathy was the Park of Love.  I was surprised that it wasn’t on the official itinerary, so we had to go on our own.  It is in a gorgeous setting high above the Pacific Ocean.  It first caught my attention while researching Lima in that it has mosaic benches around the park very similar to those in Barcelona’s Park Guell, which both Cathy and I really enjoyed on our separate visits there.

It was about a ten-minute walk from the hotel to the park.  We passed by a statue of Mary surrounded by flowers in a different park along the ocean.  There are six miles of park along this ocean stretch.

As we continued our walk, we could look down the steep 260-foot cliffs to the ocean.  Just a breathtaking setting!

   

   

As we moved further in, we could see that the park I was heading for was over a bridge.  I could just get a glimpse of the massive Kiss statue in the distance.  It is hard to see in the below pic, but you get the idea of the size of the park.

After passing over the bridge, we were able to enter the Park of Love see the beautiful benches and a slight view of the Kiss statue.  This is the only park dedicated to love and is very popular on Valentine’s Day.

I had to try to get the best angle to capture the full statue.   It is quite large, 39 ft by 9 ft.  I read that the Miraflores mayor used to have longest kiss contests at the statue.  I also heard that couples sometimes try to recreate the position themselves for photos in front of the statue.  Cathy and I restrained ourselves and just took in the view of the statue.

   

We then went on to explore the benches.  They were gorgeous, just like Gaudi’s.  If Gaudi had been alive in 1993 when the park was established, he could have sued for copyright infringement.

   

   

   

The park also has the fences where couples seal their love with a lock attached to a fence. 

After leaving the park, we caught a whiff of something delicious as we passed over the bridge.  We saw a popular little restaurant called Beso Frances Creperie.  We couldn’t resist buying a Nutella crepe.  We split it.  It was so good!  I’m sure having just been in the Park of Love and the gorgeous view made it taste that much better.

   

Our friends, Josiane and Mark, who had told us about bringing tissues were at a different hotel.  I had conversed with Josiane since 2016 but had never met her.  Our two schedules were not providing a lot of common open time, since her tour ran much later than planned.  As we were walking back to our hotel, I got a text that they were back at their hotel, so we headed that way.  As we approached the hotel there were lots of people standing outside including Josiane.  I was very happy to finally meet her but was surprised that there were so many people standing around outside the hotel.  She told me that there had been an earthquake and they had to leave the hotel.  Since we had been walking, we didn’t feel a thing.  We later found out that it was a 5.5 that hit 24 miles away.  Those people in hotels or not walking felt it quite a bit.  We talked so much we forgot to take a photo together to put in the review.

We had to get back to the hotel for a quick group meeting in the bar.  We were going to have a class on how to make Pisco Sours.  Since that would normally mean samples, I was looking forward to it.  It was an entertaining class, and some purchased additional orders of the delicious beverage.

A group of us tried to decide on a place for dinner since we were on our own this night.  It was decided to go back to Alfresco, which was fine with us.  We had another enjoyable dinner.  We also had our first Peruvian beer of the trip, a Cusqueña.  We would have several more over the next week in Peru.

 

Day 3 - Lima

This would be a very full day of seeing the main tourist attractions of Lima and some other treats.  Along with Kerry, we also had a Lima tour guide, Sandra.  We really lucked out with her.  She was a real character and so informative and fun. 

Our first stop was the Chorrillos Fisherman’s Wharf.  It wasn’t a large market, but fascinating and very colorful with so many varieties of sea life.

   

Sandra told us about the market and some of the fish we were looking at.  A local fisherman also showed us some of his fish.

   

We walked out to the back side of the market to see the boats and fisherman bringing in their catch.

   

We also took our first group photo.  The day was starting out great!

After leaving the market, we headed to the Lima’s Barranco District.  It is called Lima’s Bohemian district.  It has more artwork on display in its 1.3 square miles than all the city’s other 1,031 square miles combined.  It is a very colorful neighborhood.

   

   

   

   

We walked all around taking in all the beauty, both manmade and natural.  It is quite a place.

As we continued our walk, we could see the Bridge of Sighs in the distance.  It was built in 1876 and rebuilt in 1883 after it was destroyed during the War of the Pacific in 1881.

There are many stories associated with this bridge.  Legend has it that when you first see the bridge, you will be granted one wish if you can cross its entire span without taking a breath.  Since it is only 144 feet long, it isn’t a difficult feat, but one that it seems most people can’t resist doing. 

Across from the bridge is a church with a very bad roof.  There is also a small park with nice statues.

   

And of course, there was more intriguing artwork to take in.

   

I was fascinated by the numerous unique homemade vehicles we saw while touring Lima.  This one was particularly interesting.

While walking through Barranco’s Municipal Park, we came to an unusual and captivating statue.  Sandra told us that it was made of cardboard.  We had to go up to it and look closely to verify that.  She said that it had been in the park for over a year.  Quite surprising that it survived that long.

   

We rejoined the bus to head to old town.  The ride there was interesting with lots to see.

We left the bus and began the walk down the lovely streets of old town Lima.  I was fascinated with the beautifully carved wooden balconies on many of the buildings.

   

   

   

   

We stopped to look at the massive Basilica and Convent of San Francisco.  It was built in 1672.  Unlike most churches we would see on this trip, we either didn’t have time to visit the interior on our own or the churches weren’t open when we were there.  For someone like me who loves to go into churches and take photos of the beauty, it was most disappointing.  I could have come back on my free time, but it would have been rather inconvenient.  The photos I have seen of this church’s interior looked quite nice and I’m sorry I missed seeing it.  On the plus side, I won’t have to go through a few hundred church photos to decide which ones to put in the review.

   

Close to the church was the Parque de la Muralla or Park of the Wall.  This is the remains of the wall that once protected Lima from invading pirates.  The remains of early 17th century homes are also on the property.

   

 It is also where we were having lunch at La Muralla Restaurant.  A rather nice setting.  Although we did get a view of the poorer area that covered the mountain across from the restaurant.  Kerry told us that the poorer neighborhoods in Peru were frequently on the mountains, since the wealthier people wanted to be closer to the cities where there were utilities and sewers available. 

   

This was a rather special lunch since one of our group, Ruth, would be celebrating her birthday with us.  Kerry had arranged for the restaurant to have a birthday cake for our dessert.  I think it was a nice surprise for Ruth.

After lunch we walked into old town enjoying the scenery.

   

   

Our main destination was the Plaza de Armas.  This square’s location was designated by Conquistador Francisco Pizarro in 1535.  It is a large plaza surrounded by gorgeous imposing buildings.  Many with the gorgeous wooden balconies.

   

   

   

   

People aren’t allowed to go into the center of the square due to potential protesting.  There were still some popular photo opps around the outside of the main square.

   

I also liked the statues of ladies in large dresses around the plaza.

   

We boarded the bus for our last destination of the day, the Larco Museum.  This museum showcases 5,000 years of Peruvian pre-Columbian history.  As we walked toward the entrance, we were blown away by all the flowers covering the building and walls.  We would see more of it when we left the main building after the tour.

   

   

Since we had been walking around old town for a while before getting to the museum, Sandra led the group to the rest rooms.  She pointed out the signs designating the men’s and lady’s rooms.  Rather cute!

   

The first object we walked to was an 8th century mummy of a 5 year old infant.

We also saw some skulls that demonstrated how brain surgery was performed.  Kind of scary to think that they could actually perform brain surgery over 2,000 years ago. 

There were many fascinating exhibits.  I will put in a few pics of my favorites.

   

   

   

   

An interesting feature of the museum is that they allow access to their storage rooms containing 30,000 carefully classified objects.

   

They also have a separate erotic art exhibit on a lower floor.  We didn’t get to it.

We left the building and headed to the gorgeous bougainvillea and flower displays all around the building.  Just spectacular!

   

   

We had thoroughly enjoyed our touring day and were looking forward to an early dinner so we could pack and get ready for our early morning flight to Cusco and drive to the Sacred Valley.  Josiane had told us that she had been told to go to a place close to our hotel called Manolo to get a dulce de leche churro.  Since we would have to find a place for dinner, we decided to go there first for our dessert.  It was a great recommendation.  Quite yummy.

   

 

We decided to continue down the street to see if we could find a place for a light dinner.  We found a good one, the Intro Cafè Bar.  We had a great conversation with our waiter, Jeremy.  He was interested to hear about the USA and he told us about what he wanted to do in life.  It was quite enjoyable to chat with him.  Cathy and I shared a delicious roasted tomato soup and outstanding spicy salami pizza.  It really hit the spot.

   

   

With us having to have our luggage out of the room by 6:00 in the morning, we got back to the hotel and packed everything up for the next adventure.

 

Day 4 - Sacred Valley

We woke up very early to get ready for the early bags out and drive to the airport at 7:00 AM.  We had our breakfast, got on the bus, and headed to the airport.  Everything went smoothly as expected.   Our flight to Cusco was about an hour and a half.  We had our first experience in a Latam Peru flight.  The plane itself was nice Airbus 320, but the seats were very close to the row in front, so both Cathy and I had our legs touching the seat in front of us.  Fortunately, the people in front of us were in our group and they didn’t put their seats back.  We would have this issue on every flight other than our flight to Lima and home from Quito where we had sprung for business class.

The flight itself provided some beautiful views of the Andes.  I couldn’t wait to be in a mountainous terrain.  Living in flat south Florida makes one yearn for mountains.

After landing in Cusco, we immediately got on a bus to head to the Sacred Valley.  The tour was planned to get us acclimated to the higher elevations by having our first days a bit lower.  Cusco is the highest elevation where we would be in a hotel at 11,152 ft.  Our hotel in the Sacred Valley in Urubamba would be at 9,420 ft.  It really did make a difference.

As we began our drive through Cusco, Kerry surprised us with some of her mother’s homemade tamales.  OMG did that hit the spot.  I wish she had brought more of them rather than the box lunch we had been given for lunch.  The box lunch was fine, but the tamales were really good.

We were surprised at how large a town Cusco was at around a half million people.  I had no idea it was that big. 

   

   

I have an app on my iPhone that shows the elevation.  I was surprised that the elevation increased to 11,749 before leaving Cusco.  The air was getting thin.  Below is a chart showing the O2 level at various altitudes.  The O2 level at city hall in Cusco is 65.5% of the O2 level we are used to.  So, one must pace their activity.

The traffic was also quite challenging. But we made it out and into the countryside.  It was much nicer than the city scenery. 

   

We stopped at the town of Chinchero.  I took a measurement, and we were at 12,700 ft.  When we were in Lima, I purchased some altitude sickness pills for this part of our journey, since I knew there was potential for bad headaches and other symptoms from lack of oxygen.  The pills were actually coca pills.  The same thing that cocaine is manufactured from.  While in Peru, the hotels had coca leaves in the lobby with hot water so we could make coca tea, which is a remedy for altitude sickness.  We were also shown to just put the dried leaves in our mouth and chew them like the locals do.  This helps them to get recharged and keep working.  I personally never felt anything from the pills, leaves or tea; but then again, I never did get any altitude sickness.  I did run out of breath when climbing stairs or exerting myself, but nothing serious.  I did watch my O2 levels on my Apple watch.  While at some of the higher elevations, particularly at night when sleeping my O2 went down to 86%, which is way too low.   Part of this was probably caused by my clogged sinuses at night.  I would wake up at times and have to breathe through my mouth to catch my breath while in Cusco.  But for the most part, not a big deal.

The reason we were in Chinchero was to learn about weaving.  It didn’t sound that exciting, but once there it was quite a treat. 

We all sat down in a room to watch the various demonstrations.  They showed us how they spun the raw fur into thread.  It is quite a manual process. 

   

   

They asked for volunteers to perform the various steps. What looked pretty easy to do, the spinning, turned out to be much more challenging than it looked.  Cathy was one of the volunteers.  She did get frustrated, but eventually did much better than I could do with the yarn.

 
They also showed some of their outfits as well as how they died the fur into the various colors they use.  It was fascinating to hear and see what they did to turn the fur into a brilliant color with natural ingredients.

   

Three more volunteers were shown how to do that task.  They followed directions dipping the fur into the various dyes the women had created.   It was fascinating to watch the fur quickly absorb the dye and become a pretty color.

The next step was to put the thread into a loom and create beautiful products.  I have seen this process in locations all over the world.  As many times as I have seen it, I still can’t figure out how they can possibly create a pattern that is so consistent a line at a time.

They then showed us the types of products and described the different qualities of wool they made.  Their alpaca and wool products were very nice.  Cathy saw a dining room table runner that she had to have.  We have been looking for one and this fit the bill perfectly.  It now looks great on our dining room table.

We continued our journey to the town of Urumbaba.  Along the way we stopped at a popular scenic overlook where there were some local vendors selling their wares.  The views were spectacular.

   

Everyone had to have their photos taken with the gorgeous background scenery.

The terraced fields were quite a site.  I can’t imagine how difficult it was to make those by hand.

We continued our journey admiring the rugged terrain through the bus windows.  I also can’t resist taking photos of snow-capped mountains. 

   

As we entered the town of Urumbaba, where we would be spending two nights in the Sacred Valley, it was surprising to see so many small tuk-tuk type vehicles that I had seen in Thailand and some other countries.  They are apparently a very popular inexpensive taxi system in the area. 

The bus turned down a very narrow road and stopped in front of a high wall with large doors.  When the doors opened, we were surprised that the bus could maneuver its way through them.  We drove a short distance, exited the bus, and began a walk down a long path to rooms we would be staying in.  We had arrived at the Villa Urumbaba.

As we got further into the large property, we could see that the rooms were spread out across the property and the grounds were quite lovely. 

   

   

We were given our room keys and told when we would be meeting for dinner.  We were anxious to get settled in after the full days traveling.  The room was comfy and clean with a skylight that would turn out to be quite a handy thing to have while we were there.

   

There was no air conditioning in the room, which was certainly not needed in this cooler environment.  The small portable radiator looking heater was quite helpful as the temperature did get quite cold during the night.  It didn’t make the room toasty but kept it from being too chilly.

After unpacking a bit, we wanted to check out the place.  The facility was quite nice.  There was comfortable seating in front of each room that allowed us to appreciate the lush environment we were in.

Our room was quite close to the office, bar and restaurant, which was a real plus in that the WiFi routers were in each of those locations.  In order to get a good enough signal, we would need to either sit just outside or go inside one of those venues.  The signal wasn’t great; but it was good enough to allow me to upload my photos to the Apple iCloud for backup.

We couldn’t believe how lush and gorgeous the grounds were.  The resident guard dog, Fang, moved around the grounds checking everything out.  She never bothered any of us; but she would periodically bark at something.  She had a very healthy strong voice.

We were able to get a quick pisco sour at the bar before the group met back up around 5:30 PM to go over the schedule and go to dinner.  We had no idea how special our dinner would be.  We took a short drive close by but not in walking distance.  We walked down a wooded path where we could see a large home.  When we walked in, we could see that this part of the house was set up as a restaurant for special events.  It was such a charming venue and the smell of something cooking on the large grill was really enticing our senses. 

   

The owner of the restaurant, Oskar, was quite a character.  He entertained us with fascinating information and joked with us at the same time.  He was quite a charming fellow.  When he was asked what he was cooking, he told us Cuy or guinea pig.  He was joking.  What he did have was some of the best roasted chicken we have ever had.  It was just an outstanding meal.

   

After dinner, he asked if we wanted to see his home.  We jumped at the opportunity.  The home was very nice and quite unique in that it was like visiting a museum.  He had so many Peruvian relics of pottery, chests and artwork.  I loved the wooden ceiling.

   

   

He pointed out two pieces of art on his wall and then showed us a book of sculpter/artist Victor Delphin, who had made the Kiss statue we had seen in Lima’s Love Park.  His two pieces were in the book.  He was very proud of them.

   

This dinner had been quite a special event and so unexpected.  We hated to have to say goodbye to Oskar knowing that we will never see him again. 

We returned to the hotel and prepared for the evening.  I could see the stars through the aforementioned skylight.  Not long after my head hit the pillow, the full moon also showed through the skylight shining on my face.  I was able to adjust my position and wasn’t quite as enamored by the skylight as I first thought I would be. 

 

 

 

© 2022 ThePreismans.com • All Rights Reserved