On 23 July I headed to Peru to start a trip of a life time in South America. I can only give praise to World Expeditions and Tambo Treks for a well organised trip.
Side trip one: Amazon
Started in Lima Peru, after transfer to airport a 1.5 hour flight to the jungle town of Puerto Maldonado via Cusco then a river trip in a motorized canoe, three kilometre walk and a 2.5km row across Lake Sandoval to the Lodge. 34ºC 90% humidity. Was told Puerto Maldonado was a small jungle town I expected to see a village, population 40,000 airport about the same size as New Plymouth. The river we travelled up on the map looked like a creek i.e. a small tributary coming off a major Amazon tributary so I imagined it would be the size of the Whanganui where it runs through Wanganui, but it was double that width. Lake Sandoval is 2.5km long and doesn't even appear on most maps. During our first evening we went onto the Lake with torches looking for Cayman and listening to the sounds. A lovely still, starlit night.
Day two -- 5am Wake up call back on boats to circumnavigate half of lake viewing birds, bats etc. After lunch Jungle Trail walk for 2 hours to view Monkeys, Vegetation, Ants and Hummingbirds. In the evening another boat trip for second half of lake and view Spider Monkeys settling down for the night, watch spectacular sunset and see Mayflies by torch light and bats swooping on them. Also seen two Tarantulas.
Next day -- reverse travel to get back out to PM -- fly to Cusco -- arrived late afternoon.
Three days in cusco to climatise to 3320m (11,000'):
Day One -- Day to relax, catch up on emails, laundry, small walks etc.
Day Two -- Bus tour at 9am of Cusco, 4 ancient Inca sites, shopping in afternoon
Day Three -- Walking tour of trading markets and visiting Sun Temple.
Next day travel to Yuicay -- stop at Chinchero and Salt Plains (scared valley) on the way
Side trip two: Mollepata Trail
6am wake up call to travel 6 hours to start of trek. This was a scenic drive some of the drive was like going over Arthur's Pass in SI, then along a long river valley, over another hill similar to Rimutaka, along a bummy metal road with big drops to the side then along a narrow dirt track I would rather have walked, finally got to start of trek and walked the first 7km to first camp. Details as above next 8 days.
DAY 01 3000m to 3750m 7km easy
DAY 02 3750m to 4000m 9km moderate some up and downs
DAY 03 4000m -- 4870m pass -- 4200m 11 km hard
DAY 04 4200m -- 3200 8km easy gradual up and downs
DAY 06 3200m -- 3800m 9km moderate
DAY 07 3800m -- 4400m pass -- 3900m 9 km moderate -- hard
DAY 08 3900m -- 2800m 12km moderate (through scenic gorge)
DAY 09 2800m -- 2400m 11km moderate -- first 4km 700m ascent
7km to Machu Picchu
Mollepata Trail - A total of 76 kilometres, highest point 4870m. As a comparison, Inca Trail is 43 kilometres highest point 4200m
Next Day -- Full day tour of Machu Picchu then bus trip back to Cusco.
Next Day -- Visited Chinchero Markets
SIDE TRIP THREE -- LAKE TITICACA (BOLIVIA)
Area also known as Altiplano (high plain). Went to catch train early morning to Puno -- farmers protesting against tax increase had blocked the railway line so for our safety the train was cancelled and we were transported to Puno by road, arrived tried, after long hot day around 8:30 and had late tea. Road rough and got a flat tyre. 3320m -- 3850m.
Day Two -- fantastic, weather hot and sunny. Spent whole morning on a boat trip on Lake Titicaca visiting floating islands and Small Island School where the children sung for us in return for pencils etc, which we took with us. Got a push bike taxi from wharf to Puno Plaza square. (this was optional and 6 of the 13 did it). Visited an ancient Inca cemetery and farming family who welcome tourist (for a price).
Day Three -- Travelled from Puno to LaPaz. Made a stop a small market at Juli where they were trading live animals, fruit, veges etc with one another. Lunch at the lovely little Copacabana. We had a one kilometre water canal to cross at Tiquina. Stopped at first view of LaPaz at 4000m to take photos etc. Population - 2 million. Town square at 3800m.
Day Four -- City tour of LaPaz and Moon Valley (a spectacular mud and sand formation site). Free afternoon in city for shopping -- witnessed street protest by Miners wanting better conditions. Thousands blocked off the whole main part of the Avenue (six lanes of traffic for approx. 7 blocks). Facts on Bolivia -- 8 million population. 40% middle class to rich (10% of this 40% very rich). 60% Poor (40% of this 60% live on less than $1US per day) No welfare state in South America.
Next day -- Transfer to LaPaz airport for flight to Santiago, Chile for one night stay.
Next day -- City tour of Santiago in morning, walked several blocks with a couple from Brazil also on tour. Relaxed until 8pm before airport transfer to fly home.
All hotels throughout are comfortable and meals good. Had to watch water all the time. ie can only drink boiled or bottled water, even for brushing teeth. Most people (including me) got tummy upsets of some sort. Fortunately we were in Cusco during a day off when mine happened and other than the train trip disruption everything ran smoothly and to schedule. Heartbreak to see poverty and animals that would be SPCA cases here. A lot of poor charge money or accept food to have their photo taken.
In closing I would like to add that even though Peru hasn’t got the best reputation I personally had no problems and because of SARS and the war South America is a safer destination to visit at the mo.