Monday, May 6, 2024

Sacred Land of the Incas - Peru May 6-14, 2024

                                            Sacred Land of the Incas - Peru  May 6-14, 2024

I’m traveling to Peru for a land based Travel Adventure.  I’m traveling with the Dear Wife with the help of tour operator: Exoticca.  
May 6, 2024,   Monday-Day 1 / Travel Day

We began this Adventure with an afternoon flight on COPA Air from Tampa to Panama City Panama. Then an evening flight from PTY direct to Lima, the capital of Peru with a scheduled arrival at about 1:05 am early Tuesday. On the second late flight, we were upgraded (by bid) to Business Class. Nice. We were among the first off the plane and eventually (only 10 minutes) found our pick-up guide, Roberto. We checked into our hotel Ibis Lima Reducto Miraflores at just after 2:00 am. We were soon in our room on the 16th floor and sound asleepA very interesting travel day…tiring, but not stressful at all.

May 7, 2024  / Tuesday-Day 2  /  Lima
This is a scheduled travel/free-day in Lima but we arrived early so a long open day for us.  We woke at about 9:00 am and made it to Breakfast (included) before they closed at 10:00 am.  It was a nice buffet with Peruvian specialties.  Afterward we settled in and established WiFi and noticed the very urban sounds…something we are not used to hearing.  The room is small but adequate.  The location as we learned today is very good.  We started on a walkabout in the affluent  Miraflores area.  A lot of Art Deco period homes that gave way to modern apartments and businesses, but a very clean and safe area of Lima.  We went to Kennedy Park and adjacent areas, then walked to the seaside Malecon, urban Parks, and the old lighthouse and it was a bit foggy. You could watch the surfers though.  On the walk back to the hotel we stopped in La Cervecería with a great selections of local draft beers.  I found a nice Peruvian Pilsner.  They happened to be serving (we saw an order) a special of the day, Pasta with Pesto, the DWs favorite, so decided to eat there.  I ordered a Hamburger served with local cheese and Bacon (English style) that was excellent.  Stopped for beers and ended up with a great meal. We visited some great places along the way perhaps our favorite because of the Churros was Manolo Peru.  It was about 3:00 pm when we returned for rest and nap at the hotel. When we wok from our nap we realized that we were in for the day, but I had time to update this blog and get read some history of this area.  One of the parks we visited was Parco de 7 June so I looked up the date and discovered the Pacific War between Peru an Chile.  This area was the site of a battle and everything from the 19th century, other than the local Church was destroyed in 1881.   Explains the architecture of the areas redevelopment.  The 100,000 residents of the Miraflores area are the wealthiest in Peru.  Also why there are so many unique Shops, Art Centers, and Restaurants in the area.
May 8, 2024 / Wednesday-Day 3  /  Lima
We woke and went to breakfast at about 7:00 am as we met the Exottica Representative at 8:00 am. Since we are doing the additional Museo Larco option our Lima City Tour is in the afternoon…so we have a free morning. We did the 15-minute walk back to Manolo for Churros. We ordered to plate of 6 regular Churros with the Hot Chocolate dipping sauce and a vanilla and chocolate flavored. I also had a very good Leche Caliente…very hot and perfect with churros. We then went to visit the very large department store: Falabella Miraflores as it opened at 11:00 am.  All the employees line the entrance and clap and sing as the first guests arrive.  That was an unexpected and very nice greeting. After our return, we had an hour's rest. We met our 2:00 pm Lima tour and were taken to the old town of Lima passing interesting sites including Public Parks and the Indian Markets along the way.  We were dropped at Plaza Bolivar across from the Peruvian Congress Building and the Imposing Statue of Simon Boliver. We then walked several blocks on a pedestrian avenue with stores in historical buildings to the Lima main square: Plaza Mayor. This square is surrounded by the imposing Cathedral and Governed Palaces…very impressive. We then walked to the Basilica and Convent of Santo Domingo and toured the Museum, Courtyards, and Catacombs. We walked through Alameda Chabuca Granda and then reboarded our bus to the Museo Larco. This private museum is located in a very large Colonial Period House built on top of an old ruin. It is beautifully landscaped and all the rooms are modernized for the display of cultural artifacts from pre-Inca sites in Peru.  Very professional displays that tell the stories of these ancient peoples. I was very impressed (photo). It was 6:45 pm by the time we were dropped at our hotel so we went across the road and ate at Pastelería San Antonio (Pizza, Tamale, & Empanada) before retiring. It was a very busy day in Lima.
May 9, 2024 / Thursday-Day 4  /  Lima - Cuzco - Sacred Valley  
We woke early to check out, eat breakfast, and meet our airport bus to the Lima airport
. Boarding for our flight was a mess as locals (Indians) ignored people in a line. Our domestic carrier was Sky Air with the flight from Lima to Cusco leaving @ 12:15 and arriving before 2:00 pm.  There we were transported by bus on a two-hour drive to Urubamba through the Andes Highlands. The scenery was very nice but the conditions of the road and villages we passed were pitiful. Object rural poverty.  I think most on the bus were wondering what we had gotten ourselves into when we arrived, but just a short drive off the highway we found the mountain oasis of Hotel Agustos Urubamba.  A beautiful hotel on beautiful grounds surrounded by colorful landscaping and in the distance: mountains. Our very large clean and neat room had two queen beds.  Nice amenities including good WiFi too. At about 5:00ish we went to the very nice dining room with a great view for dinner. I had a Sirloin Steak, but the highlight was a large Green Salad as a starter. We retired after a walk in the garden. It was an effort to get here but well worth it in the end.
May 10, 2024  /  Friday-Day 5  /  Sacred Vally - Machu Picchu  
We slept very well
, the absolute quiet is so great compared to the urban sounds of Lima. Today is the big day and we started with an excellent Breakfast Buffet with small Pancakes, Omelette style Eggs, Potatoes & Onions, Fruit, Leche Caliente, and more. We have 2:00 pm entry tickets to Machu Picchu so we met our bus @ 9:45 am to take us to the Ollantaytambo Train Station. We then boarded the train to Machu Picchu passing beautiful views on the way to Machu Picchu station at Aguas Calientes. From there we boarded special buses that took us on the winding trail up to the entry arriving at about 2:00 pm. Our group of 31 was divided into three groups of 10 and assigned a local guide. Unlike in the past guests don’t explore on their own but take a guided tour, for the best IMHO as he explains what we are seeing. The tails and walkways are very difficult as UNESCO doesn’t allow changes or improvements. The first part is the most difficult as it’s all uphill.  I was the oldest, by far, but the guide paused many times to explain things so the pace was slow.  We were rewarded by the beautiful views (photo) once in that agricultural area of the MP. Fortunately, everything was downhill from thereWe we shown the various buildings and structures and their use in the within 15th century Inka community.  It is amazing and worthy of the designation in the 7 Wonders of the World. It was about 5:30 pm when we ended the tour. Then we repeat the entire process for the return. We did have an hour in Aguas Calientes before the train so we ate in a nice restaurant overlooking the Urubamba River. It was after 10:00 pm when we arrived back at the Hotel Agustos Urubamba. We were soon asleep after a very busy Machu Picchu day.
May 11, 2024,   Saturday-Day 6  / Sacred Valley - Cuzco   
We originally had an optional excursion today with a 7:00 am departure but changed it back to the regular tour schedule as we needed the rest
. Unfortunately, my phone woke me just after 6:00 am but that allowed me to stay in bed and have time to update this blog and still not have to get about early. I do admit that yesterday was very tiring for this old-timer. We enjoyed a very nice Breakfast Buffet in the Restaurant then packed to meet our Bus to Cusco at 11:00 am. We left our bags, as did the larger group, early this morning to be delivered by 2:00 pm. We arrived at the Agustos Cuzco Hotel just after noon and went to our assigned rooms. It’s an urban hotel not really to our liking…two-star at best. At 1:00 we took a taxi @ $S-10 ($2.50) on a 10-minute ride to the Plaza de Armas.  This is the largest plaza in Cusco anchored by the historic Cathedral of Cusco, the current Catholic Basilica, Restaurants, and shops in Colonial buildings (photo). It is a large beautiful and impressive Central Square, We toured the impressive Catedral del Cuzco and then decided to eat at Tunupa across the square. We had a table on the balcony overlooking the entire Plaza and mountains beyond. It was great to watch all the activities. I also had my first Pisco Sour, the cocktail of Peru. DW had a Vegetarian Salad and I had a nice Hamburger, they were good. Afterward, while DW shopped I had a nice pedicure and foot and leg massage…it was needed from yesterday's strenuous climb at Machu Picchu. We then shopped around the Plaza in various shops. We took a taxi back to the hotel and the group from the excursion was now there, that’s when we discovered that our bags from the previous hotel had not arrived.  Then several guests and myself with Airtags discovered that they were still in Urubamba.  Very poor WiFi in the hotel so no Big 12 Championship game to view tonight although I could follow by StatChat. DW waited in the Lobby/Bar with new friends until our luggage arrived at about 9:00 pm. A good day in Cusco.
May 12, 2024 / Sunday-Day 7 / Cuzco
I slept better than I thought I would with no air conditioning, then went down to a light breakfast at about 8:15 am. At about 9:30 we took a taxi into the old town. We discovered new interesting Plazas, new Churches & Convents, and more. At about 11:00 am we stopped at El Cuadro Restaurant located on Plaza Regocijo with a view of the fountain. We ordered guacamole and our waiter Alex was able to have Pico de Gallo prepared fresh for us. It was great and I also had my first Inka Kola. It was interesting to see the local Mothers walking in the Plazas today too, many in traditional Peruvian dress. We then walked across the Plaza de Armas to visit areas on the other side. We saw the original 15th-century Inca Temple walls that now supported the Basilica and Spanish Colonial structures. We stopped at Paddy’s, the world's highest genuine Irish Pub @ 11,500 feet. It was interesting and the WiFi was super fast.  Soon afterward we returned to the hotel for some rest and I updated this blog. At about 7:00 pm eleven of our group met and we went to Tunupa the very nice restaurant on the Plaza de Armas.  This was a Dinner and Folkloric Show. We had a choice of three different set menus, DW had a Vegetarian meal including excellent Pasta with Vegetables and I had the Lama Pepper Steak entree with Potatoes, a Salad starter, and Coconut Cake for dessert. The entertainment was a three-piece Peruvian Musical Group and four dancers (photo) . It was a nice 40+ minute presentation and I enjoyed it very much. We returned at about 10:30 pm and then retired to the room for needed sleep.

May 13, 2024 / Monday-Day 8 / Cuzco - Lima 
I slept fair, although cool outside I was too warm, perhaps the altitude or late meal. I went down for breakfast at about 7:15 am then packed and went to the lobby for 9:15 am airport pick-up.  At about 10:00 we discovered that our flight had been canceled by SKyAir.  After an hour of stress most were rebooked for an 8:20 flight, but we would have to be picked up at 3:15. We checked our bags and took a taxi back to Plaza de Armas. We stopped for pasties and a Coca-Cola at a coffee shop, then visited the Museo Machu Picchu Concha which was closed yesterday. We then did some shopping and ate again at El Cuadro Restaurant on Plaza Regocijo.  At about 2:15 pm we then returned to the hotel for our new shuttle. We were at the airport at about 4:00 and finally were checked in for our flight. Only a three-hour wait until boarding. I purchased some WiFi and posted three days on this blog. We were finally on our way and scored Exit Row seats. We landed in Lima at about 10:30 pm or the original time that were to be picked up. Going from Arrivals to Departures was easy as the airport is on one level. We checked in with Copa Airlines, checked our bags to Tampa, and went through security. We stopped for some KFC then we were at our departure gate at about 12:15 a.m
May 14, 2024, Tuesday-Day 9  /  Lima / Night on Board 
The time passed well we still had our WiFi from our previous visit here. At about 1:30 am they began early boarding for our flight to Panama. We are fortunate to have Business Class for both flightsWe landed in Panama at about 6:00 am and we had a three-hour layover but we spent that time in the Copa Club.  We recharged our iPhones, had a light breakfast, and a Coke. At about 9:00 we were off on the final flight to Tampa arriving at 1:00 pm. We were among the first off the plane, through Immigration, and to receive luggage, We had a Lyft ride within minutes and HOME at about 3:00 pm
 This adventure (and it is that) to Machu Picchu is an experience of a lifetime.  
Not an easy place to visit, but well worth it in the end.

Exottica, the Tour Operator
I was not as pleased with Exottica on this journey as in the past.  Most of the problems were actually due to their local agent Condor Travel. Exottica did what they usually do well: Tranfers, Air travel, Trains, etc. Not as pleased with accommodations.

Ibis Lima Reducto - Miraflores - 3.2***Stars
Staff-4. Location-3. Room-3. Food-3.  WiFi-3

Agustos Urubamba - Urubamba - 4.3****Stars
Staff-5. Location-4. Room-5. Food-5. WiFi-4

Agustos Cusco Hotel - Cusco - 2**Stars
Staff-4. Location-1. Room-1. Food-3. WiFi-1

Personal Observations about Peru

Peruvian people are very friendly and accommodating to visitors.

Be careful about adding ice cubes to carbonated beverages when over 11,500 elevations.

Altitude sickness is real.

The food is good.

The beer is very good.

The USD $ goes a long way ... 

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