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Old 08-14-2011, 08:15 PM   #1
WeLoveABD
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Peru: Land of Mysteries

I may add in some photos later (our group is organizing a shared file via a web site, and we are busy sorting through about 800 photos of our own to do a book on Shutterfly--we do that with each trip, and it is great to have a book readily at hand to look at photos and read commentary etc; we find that to be much better in the long run that having a mass of photos on a disk or in the computer). For now, I'll start with some basic tips, a brief summary of the trip day by day, and then a little story about our second adventure while on this trip!

TIPS:
1. First, at tip about tips: we brought dollars in advance (in envelopes) for our guides, rather than rely on ATM availability. Each room had a safe, and I always wrote a note and left it on the desk to make sure I emptied the safe before checking out of that hotel!
2. We purchased $300 in soles (about 700 soles)--and this was about right for us, but then we were not big shoppers in the various markets where you needed cash. Most places took US dollars as well--although often you might get change back in soles.
3. We used a credit card that wasn't used for any other purpose at home (we have auto payments on one of our cards, so we didn't want to take a chance on that card being stolen or part of a fraudulent use thus requiring all of our accounts to be changed). If you do use a credit card, more often than not the vendor would ask to see your passport (not a copy of it either).
4. It seemed that in most cases, food places added a 10 percent charge--a couple of times it wasn't clear so I added 10 percent as a tip and then kicked myself after to see the service charge show up on the final printout (but not the initial bill)--so better not to add a tip until after you get the final bill, and then leave it in cash (dollars or soles).
5. For the day of the river rafting, wear some sort of water shoe or water-proof and closed toe sandal--and carry a bag with regular shoes, socks and underware. At the raft place you'll have tents or other facilities to change in, and you are best off wearing just underware under the wet suit to be provided (along with a jacket, life vest and helmet)--when done, a towel will be provided and a place to change--put back on your clothing, dry underware, socks and shoes. They will give you a bag for wet stuff, or you can use the bag you brought. It was a lot of fun--my DD (10) said it was one of her favorite activities.
6. Definately bring copies of your passport and keep them separate from your passports; and keep your passports secure (if carrying, in a pouch around your neck and under your shirt).
7. I was surprised at how quickly I filled up my camera card--we brought laptops, so my DS loaded up the card from my camera onto his computer and I was able to clear it and filled it up again for the second half of the trip. Others brought additional cards--and they were readily available in stores near the Lima hotel and in Cusco (but not so much in the Sacred Valley, where you will visit Machu Picchu).
8. The outlets used regular plugs--but at higher voltage; these days, most camera chargers, computer chargers and phone chargers operate on both our lower voltage and the higher 220.


THE TRIP:

Overall, it was fantastic! My family rates it high on our list of ABD adventures. Our guides were Armando (from Florida--he's an actor when not doing trips!) and Ernesto (raised near Cusco, and very passionate about Peru and the Inca culture). It was a nice blend--Armando did a lot of the detailing, and made sure everything ran smoothly--and Ernesto provided us the cultural insights.

Day One: was a pre-day for us (we flew direct from LA to Lima, overnight and nonstop), arriving at 7:30 AM Lima time (2 hours later than Pacific time). We hunted for and found the ABD sign and happily made our way to the van. The drive from the airport to the Mira Flores district of Lima was a little depressing--lot of downtrodden neighborhoods etc. We arrived on Monday Aug 1--stores were opening late that day as people were still getting over the big celebrations from the prior week (election of a new President, celebration of Peru's independence,and the centennial on July 24 of the re-discovery of Machu Picchu by Hiram Bingham). The hotel has a nice pool, so we swam a bit and walked the neighborhood a bit. If you head down Larco Blvd toward the ocean--you will have a nice 20 to 30 min walk to a large cliffside mall (Larcomar); 10 mintes away is Parc Kennedy, which is encircled by lots of restaurants. I'd recommend going to the large grocery store nearby (ask the doormen for directions)--much cheaper for basic snacks, coffee, chocolates, Inka Cola (some say tasts like bubblegum, but I thought it was like cream soda).

Day 2: for lunch we tried the popular fast food chain Bembos, which was good--takes cash only though. Interesting varieties of burgers--with egg, other things. Nice intro to Peruvian food, sort of. We did a tour of Lima via a company called Viator, which in turn contracted with Lima tours. We did this all in advance and had a nice tour of the historic center (including the Catherdral and a nearby monestary with catacombs). I would not recommend doing this on your own via taxi--instead book something in advance or at the hotel. This is the day we officially meet our guides--in the AM--but otherwise do not interact formally with the group until the next day.

Day 3: early start--meet our group in the lobby and board busses for the Lima airport, flying to Cusco. Once there (after 1 hour flight)--you do feel the 11,200 foot altitude. My DW took altitude sickness pills in advance and seemed OK, I felt it but I think my drinking lots of water helped me through it without a problem. My DD seemed OK, but was sick later that night--and then was OK. A number of people had stomach aches or slight headaches--but best way to cope was to eat light, drink lots of water and maybe have aspirin on hand.

Lunch at a weaving place--very nice; and the demos were great. Lots to see--and things to buy if you like. Disney does take you to places that sell merchandise (like alpacha sweaters), but never pushes it. The places we go are first for the story--cultural aspects, etc--and they also try to get the kids involved (like in helping with a weaving demo).

The next four nights are at Sol y Luna in the Sacred Valley--beautiful grounds, and you are assigned your own round building--like a small house set in its own garden. TIP: we found the bathroom mirror to be far from where you stand--and no smaller mirrors closer--so it was hard to see shaving, putting in contacts. If you have those sort of needs, bring a small mirror with you!

We had a nice into meal--introductions to each other, to the food, to the culture and a show--and we were pleasantly surprised to find that one of our group members is the great-granddaughter of Hiram Bingham. Cool to have her and her son with us during the centennial year of the re-discovery of Machu Picchu by her great-grandfather.

Day 4: river rafting (great!!), and a walk around the multi-layered terraces created by the Inca people in Ollantaytambo. Lunch in the backyard of a nearby home/studio--and then to Sol y Luna for the late afternoon and evening (kid's movie night, parents have dinner at the hotel restaruant--provided, but using a limited menu).

Day 5: So much, so interesting--bused to Moray (circles going down, down down--argicultural experimenting by the Inca--fascinating walk to the lowest point); this was followed by a trip to the salt pans (priviately maintained squares of salt water, drying into salt--with very interesting water flows devised for each pan). Lunch at the hotel--and then an optional visit to a local pottery place. If you go on this trip, DO go to the pottery place--huge complex, animals on premises, reasonably priced and unique items and a artist family that runs the place who are dedicated to animal preservation and other causes. Dinner on your own at the hotel restaruant (again, provided, but with a limited menu--different than the night before and a good selection of Peruvian desserts).

Day 6: Machu Picchu. Grand. Glorious. Perfect weather. Train ride from Ollantaytambo to the MP area, then a bus ride up--a local guide (with us the day before as well) walked the group around in the AM, then lunch at the MP hotel, then options for the PM--walk up the Inca Trail with Armando, go with Ernesto and the guide for further exploration or go out on your own. The weather was perfect--and no bugs to speak of (we were close to the bug season but not quite there, so we were not bothered by gnats etc as we have read about in other trip reports). Fun evening at the hotel--food prep demos, and a demo on making Pisco Sours (I was selected to make one--but failed to shake the canister hard enough so that the egg whites in the mix did not foam up but rather dribbled out into my glass. Yuk. So much for my second career as a bartendar). (PS: ONE pisco sour is usually enough--maybe two...but avoid a third!)

Day 7: We check out of the hotel and start our drive to Cusco--stopping at a well-known sunday market in Pisac, where we go on the hunt for items for a white elephant exchange a couple of nights hence. Lots of fun, and I enjoyed the food market and its wild variety of food--especially potatoes (3,000 to 4,000 varieties grown in Peru, depending on who you talk to). Lunch in Cusco (Sara's)--and then the afternoon on your own to explore. We had a small group go to the cathedral mostly to see the Peru variation of the Last Supper (has a guinea pig on the table). We did dare to eat guinea pig at a restaruant the guides recommended (Ernesto called it in ahead for us--takes a couple hours to prepare). Very salty, gamey--but we did it!

Day 8: I had a rough night sleeping--due to the altitude, waking up to catch my breath. Others didn't seem to have that issue. Nothing an Inca Cola can't fix (others had Coca tea). Ernesto took us on a walking tour of Sacsayhuaman (hugh rock walls--hauled down from the hills--to make a large temple). He tied in much of what we had learned on the trip re the Inca culture and ways; and after we went to some caves nearby and then on a walk back to town--from there, an optional lunch ($10 each) at a residence in Cusco arranged by Ernesto--home cooking, tour of the home. That evening--optional tour of the Sun Temple musuem, then a fun dinner at the hotel with the white elephant exchange.

Day 9: flight to Lima, fantastic farewell lunch at a colonial mansion (all to ourselves)--with entertainment and other suprises. From there, walk of central Lima (but not entry into the Cathedral etc--so do plan to do that on your own), then to the hotel for our goodbyes (and giving of the tips to the guides--do that on your own as you say goodbye). Some flew out that evening--most were flying home the next day.

OVERALL: usual Disney attention to detail, and seamless travel with great guides. This trip was a little different as the whole group did not travel on one bus but (after Lima) was split into two groups for two smaller vans (due to the roads--large bus not practical). thus, the norm of the kids taking over the back of the bus didn't happen--we found in the past that when that did occur the adults were free to talk amongst themselves, and to have a little less worry re keeping their kids occupied. On the other hand, with the vans we all kept our same seats so no issues re jocking for position--and we did get to know our van-mates pretty well. But I felt a little disconnected to the folks in the other van.

The country of Peru is fascinating--the Inca history is but a 500 year period or so, but intriguing and mysterious as to the development of the Sapa Inca (chief), the leaders--who were real and who myth?--and why structures like Machu Picchu were built. Mix into that the violent history with the Spanish invaders, and wonderful fruits/vegetables grown in Peru, the variety of meats and other dishes. Highly recommended!

SECOND ADVENTURE

The day after the farewell lunch we had a full day in Lima before taking a very late night flight to LA. We booked an afternoon tour (Peruvian horse show), and headed out to Parc Kennedy for lunch. We had to check out of the hotel by 1, so we stored our bags--and had the laptops stored in a locked and secure location.

Went to lunch at a place called Rustica--very nice, and we had a table in a corner somewhat sheltered. My backpack was up against a wall next to my DW's chair, and our kids were on the other side looking in that direction. Well, you as you might have guessed by now...at the end of the meal, I noticed that the backpack was gone. Not much was in it, but for two things...my cell phone (not international, so really of no use) and three of our 4 passports. Yikes!! (Mine was in my pocket--I kept it there to show when using a credit card--the others were in a small case I placed in the backpack as we had checked out of the hotel). We never say anyone come near it--and I looked at it pretty regularly.

Security came over, the restaurant called the police--and swoosh the crazy second adventure began. We got a ride to the local Lima police station where we filed a report (and important! Got a certified copy of it)--the police were very nice, and helped us call the embassy (no one available at that time), then drove us to our hotel. The hotel Casa Andina was great--knew Disney used Lima Tours for local arrangements and called them; they called the Disney rep and then we started working with both. Lima Tours took the lead and secured a hotel room for that night (the Mira Flores one was booked, so we were transported to another hotel--very nice one); they took us to the airport (with luggage in tow) for an attempt to board our flight with my passport and copies of the other three, plus police report--but no go. Given security these days no passport means no entry onto a plane.

Lima Tours arranged for transport the next morning to the American Embassy, providing us with a translator to talk to the guards and to stand by while we went inside--and the Embassy folks were great, too--they arranged to have emergency passports (with photos) made that day. (a supervisor at the airport--for LAN airlines--had told us it could take 5 days). Lima Tours went with us to a LAN office to redo our flight for that night--and then got us back to the hotel, and then to the airport that night. Crazy 24 hours, but in the end it was a one day delay, and it could not have been done without the constant and very supportive help of Lima Tours (with Disney in the background).

I have since talked to the trip insurance folks (we got this via ABD)--looks good to recoup our losses, including the expense of replacing my cell phone and the cost of new passports, along with the additional hotel night, transportation costs and airfare penalities etc. Don't leave home without trip insurance!

So, we had two adventures--the second did not mar the great Peru trip; the second adventure showed us a police station, the Embassy--and we had one of our best family dinners ever the evening we left (after having new passports and air tickets in hand)--the sense of relief, and gratitude for all of the help provided by Lima Tours and Disney allowed us to just be crazy for that dinner. I'm oddly grateful for that, even though the initial horror of the theft was not fun.

Secure your passports! If you have a bag, secure it to the table or chair leg! Buy trip insurance!!

And that is the end of my tale of two adventures. Happy to answer questions!
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Old 08-15-2011, 10:25 AM   #2
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Oh, cool! I'm at work right now, so I may not have time to read this until later today. But I'm so glad to see you've done a report!

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Old 08-15-2011, 10:59 AM   #3
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Thanks for the update. We are going to Peru in 6 months, not with AbD as we are going into the Amazon, but I'm still interested in your experience. I can't do this AbD because I'm not going into that altitude (had bad experience in Tibet; don't want to repeat).

We are going to be flying LAN to/from LAX also. Can you tell me of your experience with that airline? How are the seats? Did you fly coach or first? How was that late night flight returning home?
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Old 08-15-2011, 04:58 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by Pakey View Post
Thanks for the update. We are going to Peru in 6 months, not with AbD as we are going into the Amazon, but I'm still interested in your experience. I can't do this AbD because I'm not going into that altitude (had bad experience in Tibet; don't want to repeat).

We are going to be flying LAN to/from LAX also. Can you tell me of your experience with that airline? How are the seats? Did you fly coach or first? How was that late night flight returning home?
LAN was fine--fairly easy in and out of LAX; food was OK but nothing to write (or twitter or email or Facebook) home about! We are coach all the way--although LAN partners with Alaska (and we did submit our Alaska frequent flyer numbers), we don't have enough for anything other than coach. Seats were OK--rows were 2, 3 and 2 across, and they had TV screens for movies (somewhat limited selection re current movies, TV shows). But since we did the overnight both ways were were more interested in sleeping than movie watching anyway. I liked doing the overnight--and it is only a two hour ahead difference (Pacific to Lima time), so I never felt jet lag--just a bit tired the first afternoon (which is why having the hotel pool was great); I don't sleep very well on public transit!

The international terminal in LAX is looking much better--most of the construction is done; pretty efficient customs (if I were you don't waste time getting off the plane and to customs--there were several planes emptying at the same time and the customs line grew long quickly). I was impressed by the shops at the Lima airport (where we had quite a bit of time to wait before boarding for a flight home--Disney gets you there about 2 to 3 hours before flight time; warning! they are checking carry on bags before getting on the plane, so don't go shopping and think you can board just minutes before take off!)

Hope that answers your questions!
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Old 08-15-2011, 06:40 PM   #5
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Thank you for all the info!

My sister & I are on the Sept.19 adult-only trip and your tips are great. I didn't even think about a grocery store for snacks. That's fantastic.
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Old 08-15-2011, 09:01 PM   #6
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Happy to help--feel free to ask any questions! By the by, just finished taking an ABD survey about the trip which they emailed to us a couple of days ago.
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Old 08-15-2011, 10:12 PM   #7
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I am glad the trip was great but what a way to end it. I usually have two copies of my passport plus I leave a copy home but after reading your experience I just took photos with my IPAD and my cell phone just to be on the safe side.
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Old 08-15-2011, 10:32 PM   #8
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Whoa! That *was* a second adventure, but I'm glad it ended well, and did not detract from your overall trip! (I'm a huge proponent of trip insurance! And thanks for the reminder about the color copies of my passport!)

Sounds like a fabulous trip! Please do add in some photos. I always love seeing photos!

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Old 08-15-2011, 10:33 PM   #9
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Glad things ended favorably! I would have been a wreck after that incident!! I did think theft was a big thing in Lima since there were security chains/straps for handbags attached on restaurant chairs. We ate at Cafe Cafe in Larcomar which served a decent ceviche and yummy paella and noted those on the chairs.
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Old 08-16-2011, 12:06 PM   #10
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Thanks for all the info. My husband and I are on the Sept 19 trip and can hardly wait.

see you there Dawnywog!
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Old 08-16-2011, 01:00 PM   #11
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Thanks for all the info. My husband and I are on the Sept 19 trip and can hardly wait.

see you there Dawnywog!
Welcome to the DISBoards, and the ABD forum!!! And ENJOY your trip!!!!

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Check out my Southwest Splendors Trip Report! (2008). 5 parts, full of pics & details & impressions!
My Taming the Last Frontier ABD Alaska Trip Report! (2009)! 7 parts, pictures, stories, & more impressions!
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NOW POSTING! My DIS Unplugged London/Paris/Disneyland Paris Trip Report! (2011)
Now posting my Greek Odyssey Trip Report (2013)

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Old 08-16-2011, 03:35 PM   #12
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Thanks for all the info. My husband and I are on the Sept 19 trip and can hardly wait.

see you there Dawnywog!
See you there! I can't believe how quickly September is coming. We're getting so excited.
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