Cusco, Machu Picchu, Lima, Easter Island and Santiago

Discussion in 'Trip Reports' started by Slow_Mustang, Sep 11, 2012.  |  Print Topic

  1. Slow_Mustang
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    Slow_Mustang Silver Member

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    Following in the footsteps of many travelers before us, we too made reservations with LAN for a South American trip by dipping into our BA Avios stash before their devaluation last year. Our first stay was at Cusco.

    Cusco Cathedral in the town square
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    Every Saturday and Sunday, they hold an open air market for the arts and crafts, hand made by the local population
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    An Inca baby safely tucked away
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    Our Hotel Andean Wings courtyard serves as the breakfast/dining area
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    Sacsayhuaman Ruins
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  2. Slow_Mustang
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    Our decision to let a travel agency handle all reservations and transportation for the Cusco and Machu Picchu part of the trip made things less hectic for us. In Cusco, they operate sub-compact cars as taxis and have a flat rate of 5 Sols for a ride within the central part of the city. There are quite a few reasonably priced restaurants around the central town square area and the food is fresh. The staff at our hotel was extremely polite and helpful. Altitude sickness is for real for many of us visitors and it is advisable to have some medication on hand to fight the altitude sickness. After two days in Cusco, we went to see the Maras salt flats, and then on to the ruins of Ollantaytambo. At the end of the day, another hotel near Ollantaytambo awaited our arrival for an overnight stay.

    Maras Salt Flats - salt water coming out at the base of a mountain is channeled into the flats where water evaporates leaving the salt for harvesting
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    Maras Salt Flats
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    Ollantaytambo Ruins
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    Ollantaytambo Ruins
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    Town of Ollantaytambo
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  3. LXJenkins
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    Excellent photos. Peru has been on my "must do" list for ages!
     
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  4. spgExplorer

    spgExplorer Active Member

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    Sounds like a great trip! I spent 4 days in Ollantaytambo in May, definitely one of my favorite travel memories.
     
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  5. Slow_Mustang
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    Ollantaytambo is the gateway to the Machu Picchu Inca trail. They bring people in buses and drive them some distance in the forest past the town where the four day hike on the Inca trail begins. Having to walk all day and then sleep in cold tents does not seem like fun at my age. But it must be quite enjoyable for some, as I did see and talk to young people planning on this hike. Here are some more pictures from our hotel near Ollantaytambo,

    The Hotel
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    The hotel lobby overlooking the hotel grounds
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    Flowers in the hotel grounds
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    Are you talking to me? - Llama grazing on the hotel grounds
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    Another view of the hotel
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  6. Slow_Mustang
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    The next day we took a train from the Ollantaytambo station to the Machu Picchu Pueblo

    The town center
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    View from the bridge connecting the train station to the pueblo
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    A restaurant in the pueblo
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    Map of the area posted in the train
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    A train leaving the pueblo for onward journey
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  7. Slow_Mustang
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    From the Pueblo a bus brought us up to the hotel, located just outside the entrance to Machu Picchu. This is an all inclusive hotel with meals and wine/beer/bottled water included in the price. Since the checkout time is 10 AM, they have a day room where guests can rest before their departure for the day. The day room is furnished with couches, a table, TV, hot water dispenser for making tea, and has two bathrooms and showers attached to it. The hotel grounds, though small in size, are tastefully done with small waterfalls and an Orchid trail (did not see many orchids on the short walk). A hot jacuzzi awaits the weary guests after their hikes. Although the dining area is quite spacious, reservations are requested, as are they for the use of the jacuzzi. The mini bar in the room is stocked with soft drinks, water and snacks. The meals and the wine at the hotel restaurant were very good. The hotel also runs another restaurant on the side for the visitors/non-guests.

    The Lodge
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    Top view of the lodge
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    Dining area
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    Hotel grounds
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    Monogrammed bedspread and pillow covers
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  8. Slow_Mustang
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    At last the crown jewel - Machu Picchu!

    Machu Picchu shrouded in light fog under cloudy skies
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    Another look
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    The infamous Guard House
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    The Phoenix
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    Wayna Picchu - A steep mountain climb which gives you a commanding view of Machu Picchu, has a controlled entry point for a limited number of people every day and reservations have to be made (with an extra entrance fee) beforehand to gain access.
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    Although most people walk around by themselves, having a guide does help in getting a better understanding of the nuances of the architecture and the different divisions of the complex. It truly is an impressive city that the Incas built.
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  9. IDGflygirl
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    Great pics, Slow_Mustang!:cool:
     
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  10. Slow_Mustang
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    Thank you LXJenkins, spgExplorer and IDGflygirl for your comments.

    - SM
     
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  11. Slow_Mustang
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    After the excitement of the Machu ruins and the Lodge, we came back down to the Machu Picchu Pueblo and took an afternoon train to Cusco. The fare for the locals is about four dollars, whereas the tourists have to pay about eighty dollars for the same ride. After the snack was served, the train crew consisting of young people conducted a fashion show, walking up and down the aisle with local made (no, not Chinese made for a change) sweaters, jackets, scarfs and some other items up for sale. Not sure who sponsors that. At Cusco there were lots of taxi drivers available for the ride to the city even at 8 PM, but we had ours waiting as part of the travel agency package. Another night at the Andean Wings and we were ready for our flight to Lima, except that the flight showed as cancelled on the LAN website. The hotel staff tried to help us by trying to book us for the next flight over the phone, but there was no confirmation of that to be had over the phone. For some positive results, we were advised to show up at the airport, which we did. The check-in agent put us on the next flight out and we bade goodby to Cusco and to the high altitude, which I never quite got used to even after being in that area for 5 nights. At the Lima airport there were a number of taxi drivers for the black taxis (as opposed to the other street taxis) with a fixed rate of 60 Sols to the San Isidro Westin. It was good to be back at sea level.

    The downtown's Plaza de Armas has some historical buildings and many reasonably priced restaurants in the streets surrounding the square. About half a mile from this area is the China Town with no Chinese people in sight. A visit to the Circuito Magico del Agua, Miraflores and some archeological sites in the city rounded up the Lima stay for us. The local taxis should always be taken from outside of the hotel for better prices, as should the return destination be given as the street and the district, instead of the hotel. The fares are negotiable and from Westin we paid about 10 Sols for a ride to downtown (that would be Palacio de Gubierno, if you want to show them that you are not a dumb tourist and know the area), to Miraflores Mall and to the Circuito Magico. For coming back to the hotel, it was always to Las Begonias in San Isidro and when we got close to the destination, would we tell them to drop us at the hotel. Taxis from the hotel or bound for the hotel seem to double up the fare, not that it is hurts too much. Westin hotel, with points and cash, was quite nice with two restaurants and free WiFi in the bar area.

    All dressed up in Lima for a religious holiday
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    A pyrmaid shaped fountain at Circuito Magico del Agua. This should be visited during the evening hours after dark to enjoy the dancing waters. Many taxis were available at night outside the park for the return ride and the ones at the back of the line are more willing to negotiate.
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    The old lighthouse along the coast at Miraflores. The waters of the Pacific Ocean there connected me back to my hometown.
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    Street sign for China Town. Don't look for any Chinese people here.
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    Special sewage covers marking over 150 years of Chinese existence in the area.
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    After recovering in Lima from a hectic pace of the previous few days, we took a cab to the airport late in the evening for our early morning flight to Easter Island. The LAN business class lounge at Lima airport was a bit crowded and had some generic snacks available.
     
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  12. Slow_Mustang
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    A late night meal with some good wine helped me sleep for about 4 hours on the LAN lie flat bed on the flight to Easter Island. We landed bright and early and purchased our park entrance tickets for $50 apiece. The immigration line was very slow but once outside, we quickly got transported to our Kaimana Inn hotel by the owner. The hotel rooms were more like cabins, but that is the way life is on this undeveloped island. Major chain hotels have been purposely kept out to ensure a laid back ambience. The owner lives on the property and is a very pleasant person. He does not nickle and dime you for early check in or late check out, as long as rooms are available. We were given a room at arrival early in the morning, and again on the departure day, the flight was delayed by about 7 hours, and we had the room for the whole day without any extra charge. He also owns a restaurant located close by on the main street. There are two ATM machines on the island and the one facing the ocean wanted to charge me a service fee of 3000 pesos for withdrawal, which I declined. The other one is open 24/7 and dispenses cash without any service charge. The island roosters are woefully ignorant about the need to stay quite except at dawn. The dogs are not aggressive at all and start walking with you on the street, hoping that you will eat some food somewhere along the line and share it with them.

    After some rest and lunch, we took a cab to visit the nearby Rano Kau volcano. Next day was a full day tour of the island conducted by our inn owner, who (although is a mainlander) happened to be quite knowledgeable about the history of the island. He conducts tours only for his inn guests and charges $60 per person for up to seven people in his van; there were only five of us for our tour. A ship shows up once a month with all the supplies from the mainland.

    The Rano Kau volcano
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    The Moais which were restored with help from the Japanese Govt.
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    Unfinished Moai - this one seems to have been at the end of the assembly line before they quite carving any more Moais. It is almost fully carved on the side of a mountain, but was not detached from the rock for shipment.
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    The magnetic rock - It must have been a meteor that fell into the ocean close to the beach and over time got rounded off. Some people believe it to be a divine source of energy and place their hands with open palms and foreheads on the rock to get some spiritual energy.
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    The hotel lounge - nice place to relax and have a cup of coffee/tea during the day. In the morning breakfast is served on a table sitting on one side of the open area.
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    Easter Island is an unusual place with its natural charm and unpaved, undeveloped side streets. It is a far cry from the well populated and glitzy Hawaiin Islands. With everything coming from the mainland, food is somewhat expensive with an average lunch running to $15-$25 and dinner to $35-$50. I did see some restaurants which had a special meal of ceviche/fish curry and rice with a glass of juice for about $12, available for lunch or dinner. To avoid disappointment/complaining, one must look at the menu and note the prices before sitting down. Bringing any uncooked food (fruits/vegetables/nuts) to the island is prohibited and there is a threat of $170 fine, although I did not see any dogs sniffing the bags and the X-ray machine is at best questionable for food detection. I guess families with children would be able to bring in cookies/crackers/granola bars/other processed snacks without any problem.
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  13. Slow_Mustang
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    Due to the delayed flight from Easter Island, we checked in to the Cristobal Towers Hotel, Santiago at 4 AM. Next day, the concierge, an older gentleman was very helpful and talked to us about the city, options/cost of transportation and various tours available. The downtown area was vibrant with lots of people but sorely lacking in any architecture.

    Cerro San Cristobal - A big mound in the middle of the city is normally accessible by a funicular, which unfortunately was closed due to maintenance. To their credit, a free bus service was being offered. From the bus stop, it is another 100 or so steps before you get to the statue at the top.
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    A view of the city from the hill - There is no breeze during the winter months and the city being bounded by two mountain ranges, is usually drowning in smog.
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    A ski resort in the nearby Andes Mountains - It is a favorite place with the Brazilian tourists as they don't get much snow in their country.
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    The Casillero del Diablo celler for aging wine at the Concho y Toro winery
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    Wine, ready to be tasted
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    And, it was time to return home and restart the normal life, whatever that means!
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  14. daemon14

    daemon14 Gold Member

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    Awesome! What's the weather like at IPC during the southern winter?
     
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  15. milestoburn
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    NICE>>
     
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  16. Drobik

    Drobik Gold Member

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    Great pictures! I was just in Machu Picchu last month and had a wonderful time! Sadly didn't make it to Easter Island though.
     
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  17. Slow_Mustang
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    We were there in the first week of Sep. The days were very pleasant but it got a bit nippy during the evenings, not very cold, just a light jacket was needed to feel comfortable.
     
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  18. Slow_Mustang
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    General Observations and Notes:

    Arriving in Lima from LAX at midnight and having to wait at the airport for the first flight out next morning to Cusco, coupled with the high altitude of Cusco upon arrival, puts lot of stress on a senior’s system. I would spend the night at some nearby Lima airport hotel and continue on to Cusco the next day.

    Bigger hotels and some of the pharmacies in Cusco have Oxygen cylinders handy for people who get too loopy with the altitude. It is best to give it a day or two before doing much walking.

    You need to bring your passport with you for entrance to the Machu Picchu park. On the left side before the entrance, there is a table set up for you to stamp your passport with the Machu Picchu stamp.

    Having Ollantay as the home base for a couple of nights for the MP in one of the choices. There is transportation available for the short distance from the town to the Ollantay train station.

    There are other chain hotels too in Lima, but Westin, San Isidro is centrally located half way between downtown and Miraflores. Tottus grocery store on Las Begonias, down the street from Westin has all the personal use items that you forgot to bring or ran out of or had to leave with the TSA.

    As has been pointed out in other TRs, you skip the $160/person reciprocity fee by entering Chile via Easter Island. Also the Park Entrance ticket can be purchased at the airport before clearing customs for $50; else you pay $60 at the park entrance. I believe it is good for 5 days from the day of first use (gets stamped at the entrance to various parks).

    On a Sunday night during the off season, only one restaurant seemed to be open for dinner at Easter Island.

    The Easter Island airport runway was expanded by the US Govt. to serve as a backup for space shuttle landing, if needed. It is about a mile long.

    The Santiago day trip billed as the Andes Mountain trip by the tour companies is actually a trip to a couple of ski resorts in the Andes. Brazilians love to get a feel of the snow, something they don’t see in their own country. The tour companies stop over at a rental place in the city for jackets, gloves, shoes, plastic snow slides and more. Each item costs 7000 pesos to rent. One could skip this trip altogether, or not rent anything if you don’t intend to walk around in mud or snow. A hoodie or a light jacket is all that was needed in early Sep. to take in the scenery. Peak of winter would be somewhat colder, but for North Americans, unless you want to stay in a lodge for few days to ski, it is just another trip to the mountains.

    I have noticed some typos and wrong choice of words at a couple of places. I wish I could edit them to make the TR reading more pleasant. But for some reason, editing erases the pictures and they have to be reloaded, which makes simple editing impossible. So, we are stuck with minor language issues in the TR.
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  19. Slow_Mustang
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    Some more pictures....

    Huaca Pucllana archeological site in Miraflores, Lima. Depiction of an early Inca making bricks by hand. All tours are escorted and English language tours are conducted at regular intervals.
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    Mr. and Mrs. Llama performing their lawn mowing duties at Mach Picchu
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    Cuy, an oversized guinea pig, is a favorite dinner item among the residents of Cusco. There are a couple of restaurants that take 24 hour advance orders for cuy dinners. What people there like is also reflected as the main item in this last supper painting.
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    This long winding bench decorated with broken tiles in a beach park at Miraflores, Lima looks awfully like Gaudi's creation in Barcelona.
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    Inca Kola, the national soft drink of Peru is 60% owned by Coca Cola. Not very pleasing in color, is lightly carbonated and quite sweet in taste.
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  20. pcarol

    pcarol Silver Member

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  21. pcarol

    pcarol Silver Member

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    Awesome pictures:)
     
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  22. Euan
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    Great report and lovely pictures. We're doing a 3 week trip next year to Peru and I can't wait.
     
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  23. milchap
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    Outstanding report.
    Thanks/
     
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  24. gallivant

    gallivant Silver Member

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    We leave Saturday for Peru so it was great to read your trip report. We'll bring our passports to be stamped at MP.
     
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  25. Slow_Mustang
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    And they are needed for gaining entrance into the MP complex too!
     
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