Covington Vacation Advisors Pat Franks and Tracy Carr recently toured with Adventures by Disney for a luxurious introduction to the friendly culture of Peru and the mystery of the ancient Inca Empire.
Lima is the gateway airport for visits to Peru. Our overnight flight from JFK took about 7 hours, Lima is in Central time zone, so there’s no real jet lag. On an Adventures by Disney trip, the VIP treatment begins immediately upon arrival. We were met by local representatives and were transferred to the Miraflores Casa Andina in the heart of Lima where we met our guides for the trip. In the afternoon we toured Lima with our Virtuoso on-site, Lima Tours.
Our group was engrossed with the catacombs of the San Francisco Monastery. We wandered through room after creepy room of bones, skeletons and skulls. A special treat available only to Virtuoso guests was a visit to a private home, Casa Luna, where we met the owners and saw their incredible collection of Nativity scenes.
The second day we flew to Cusco, elevation 11,200 feet. It takes some adjustment to get used to the altitude but taking it slow, staying hydrated with plenty of water and a daily dose of cocoa tea kept any serious effects at bay. We visited the Center for Traditional Textiles and were impressed by demonstrations from the master weavers. They truly put their hearts into their creations, proudly tagging each piece with the artist’s name and photo. We had lunch there and got caught in an unusual golf-ball sized hail storm.
A word about Peruvian cuisine: Peruvians place the most emphasis on lunch with it being the largest meal and lasting a couple hours. They seem to have thousands of ways to serve potatoes and use every opportunity to do so! Ceviche, a seafood dish “cooked” by being marinated in citrus juices, is prevalent. Llama meat is tender dark meat, somewhat like venison, but not gamey. Guinea pig is a delicacy; however, we did not have any (thankfully, for Pat!). Adventures by Disney does not serve the traditional dish to anyone in a group if there are children present because the entire guinea pig, head and body, is presented and that could be a traumatic culture shock for young kids.
From Cusco, we continued on to the Sacred Valley where we spent four nights in the lovely Sol y Luna. 28 individual casitas are situated amidst colorful gardens teeming with birds and exotic flora. On-site activities include spa services, yoga and cooking classes, horseback riding and special children’s activities. A highlight was the Paso horse demonstration – a beautifully choreographed traditional dance between a man on horseback and a woman on the ground.
Excursions in the Sacred Valley included a visit to the ruins of Moray, the Salt Pans and a rafting trip on the Ollantaytambo River. Moray was an Inca agricultural area designed in huge concentric terraced circles. Hiking down the “flying steps” to get to the echo-reverberating center was quite a feat! The return back up was actually easier, but the altitude could easily sneak up on you making some hyperventilate with the exertion of the climb. Travel Maestro tip: Drink lots of water!
The Salt Pans have been mined by local families for over 500 years. We had the opportunity to get up close and put our hands in the pools. We all grinned like kids with our first mud pies when the salt caked to our fingers. On the half-day rafting trip, we rowed and floated down river through Class 1-5 rapids. A guide on each raft, wetsuits, helmets and life jackets were provided, as well as a lovely picnic lunch by the river.
At last the day to visit Machu Picchu arrived. This was to be the most special event of the trip. On the hour and a half train from the Sacred Valley, we each privately wondered if this popular World Heritage Site would meet our expectations and what this mystical place would say to us. We were certainly not disappointed. Looking out over the llamas grazing on the terraces carved by the ancient Incas, surrounded by green peaks and rolling mist, is simply awe-inspiring. While others wandered and explored the site, nine strangers made the strenuous hike to the Sun Gate together. A father and six year old son encouraging each other, others finding their own spiritual power. As we stood at the entrance, we felt like a family, bonded by the accomplishment and power of this magical place. Some shed a tear, some said a prayer, others just sat to absorb the energy, but all were affected by this mysterious wonder.
We were very impressed with the service provided by Adventures by Disney. Beyond the convenience of luggage transport (straight from airport to our hotel rooms) and supremely knowledgeable guides, they take a very personal interest in making each individual’s trip special. Members of our group experienced dining restrictions, lost and found items, illness on the road and personal emergencies that required travel home; all were handled seamlessly and with compassion. Adventures by Disney has excellent tours to other areas including Galapagos, Hawaii and Europe. Please contact Pat or Tracy to learn more about Peru and Adventures by Disney.