From Latin America

Inca Trail Trek Alternatives

Posted in Uncategorized by escapedtoperu on September 13, 2011

Read our blog entry on some alternative treks to Machu Picchu, sometimes there just isnt space on the Classic Inca Trail….

http://peru-tour-packages.com/peru-trekking/

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EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED

Posted in Uncategorized by escapedtoperu on February 25, 2011

Sometimes clichés really do say it best, and expect the unexpected does the job when trying to describe our Peru experience. When we booked our vacation with Escaped to Latin America we harbored the usual, reasonable expectations:  that our flights would be reserved properly—they were; the hotel staff wouldn’t be surprised to see us when we showed up—they weren’t; we would enjoy learning about a country we’d never visited before—we did; and the memory card on the camera would be chock full of amazing photos—it was. Having our expectations met is certainly notable but in the end, it was what we weren’t expecting that made our trip unforgettable.

 We didn’t expect our driver, Eduardo, to stay with us until we were safely checked in to our hotel, or wait in line with us the next day at the airport until he was satisfied we were properly checked in for our flight to Cusco and had waved us through security with paternal concern.

 We didn’t expect a personal meeting with Freddy, our Inca Trail guide, the night before our trek. He came to see us at our hotel, got to know each of us, made sure we were physically and mentally prepared for the trek, and patiently answered all of our questions.

 We didn’t expect to have Freddy anda bevy of porters all to ourselves, anticipating and attending to our every need for the entire trek; we didn’t expect every meal to be a multi-course extravaganza that was so delicious we asked our cook, Dimitri, if he would come home with us and be our personal chef (he politely declined); and we certainly didn’t expect to wake up every morning and have a steaming cup of coca tea handed to us before we got out of our sleeping bags.

 From the planning stages with Zara who catered to our every request and patiently customized our trip exactly the way we wanted it; the many tour guides like Philippe and Silvia who engagingly shared Peru’s cultural and historical delights with us; our nightly chats with Freddy, when we played cards, learned new ‘Quechuan words, and exchanged cultural anecdotes; to our exit team that handled last minute travel glitches with calm professionalism; our escape to Peru far exceeded our expectations.

 We thoroughly enjoyed the culture and people of Peru and anticipate more opportunities to travel in Latin America. When we do start planning that next adventure, the first item on our ‘to do’ list will be contact Escaped to Latin America; and we will definitely be expecting the unexpected.

Ten Things To Expect On The Inca Trail

Posted in Uncategorized by escapedtoperu on February 13, 2011

If you want to take a Peru vacation, you’re probably thinking of visiting the famous UNESCO World Heritage site of Machu Picchu. The most famous and popular way to get to Machu Picchu is on the Inca Trail, over 30 kilometres of winding paved path that is more than 500 years old.

So if you’re thinking about Inca Trail tours, what should you expect? Here are ten important things.

1) A waiting list
The Inca trail is so popular that most people must book 3 months in advance. If you’re thinking about booking, it’s also worth remembering that the trail is closed in February for maintenance.

2) Obligatory guides
Since 2000 the Peruvian Government has made it an official requirement to trek the Inca Trail with a guide. This means the only option is to do the trek as part of a tour.

3) Poor service for low prices
When choosing your tour operator for the Inca Trail, avoid the temptation to go as cheap as possible. You’ll find yourself in large groups of twenty people or more and there’s a high chance that the tour operator will treat their Peruvian staff badly.

4) Tipping porters and guides
Even if you choose a company that treats its workers well, cooks, guides and porters will still be relying on tips to get paid a decent wage for their work. Generally accepted rates are as follows:

If you are part of a group, each group member should allow:
• US$5 per person for the porters (ratio is 1 client: 1 porter)
• US$10 per person to the cook
• US$10 per person to the guide

However, if you are part of a very small group, you may consider increasing these amounts.
If you are on a privately escorted trip, you should allow:
• US$25 for the porters
• US$10 for the cook
• US$50 for the guide

5) Difficulty with Altitude
Coming straight up from Lima and getting stuck into the Inca Trail will leave even the fittest hiker gasping for air. With the 4200m “Dead Woman’s Pass” waiting for you on day two of the four day hike, try to allow for a couple of days in nearby Cusco to acclimatise to the altitude before setting off.

6) Crowds
Guides do their best to keep distance between groups on hiking days, but expect to see crowds in campsites. Inca Trail regulations permit 500 people on the trail per day (most of whom are expedition porters and staff) so if you wanted to be alone in the wilderness, there are probably better routes to choose from in Peru.

7) Lots of rules
Want to light a camp fire? Nope. Any chance of camping outside designated sites? Nope. Walking off the trail? Nope.

Expect a set of strict rules when walking the Inca trail – if you get frustrated try to remember that a lot of people use the Inca Trail and for good upkeep a strong set of rules are necessary. If you want a more flexible trek, there are plenty of options for hikes in the same region.

8) Steps
Up, down, up down…don’t expect an easy, flat road. Inca engineers took their climbs and drops pretty seriously, so trekkers will have the benefit of kilometer after kilometer of stone steps to negotiate the mountains.

9) Early mornings
If you’re not a morning person, don’t opt for the Inca Trail. Particularly on the last day for the approach to Machu Picchu; your guide will be trying to get your group a good position amongst the others for entry into the site which will result in a cheery 5.30am wake-up call.

10) Incredible views and the trip of a lifetime
Despite all the problems and challenges, you’ll be set for a wonderful experience which keeps trekkers coming back to the Inca trail, year after year. It’ll be a decision that you’ll never regret!

Have you trekked the Inca Trail? What were your experiences?

Author: Gary Sargent – Escaped to Peru / Escaped to Latin America

Peru Tours – 5 Unmissable Places To Include In Your Trip

Posted in Traditions and Culture, Uncategorized by escapedtoperu on February 13, 2011

If you’re planning a Peru vacation, there’s a couple of places that you really shouldn’t miss – especially if this is your first trip to Peru. Here are 5 place in Peru that you should include in your Peru tour plans.

1) Machu Picchu
Everyone has heard of the world famous UNESCO World Heritage site, and you’ve probably seen the picture of the impressive Inca ruins rising out of the cloud forest. No matter how many times you’ve seen the image, nothing compares to actually standing and looking down over the site. If you really want to go for the traditional Machu Picchu experience, try to book yourself onto the Inca Trail, a four day trek that follows a 500 year old Inca path and finishes at the site.

2) Amazon Jungle
Half of Peru is covered by the Amazon Rainforest which provides a home to the greatest concentration of animal and plant life on earth and incredible bio-diversity. The main areas that are visited by travelers are the Tambopata and Iquitos regions which can be reached relatively easily. The Peruvian Rainforest is a truely spectacular environment even if you are not a complete animal or bird enthusiast!

3) Nazca lines
Best seen from a light aircraft, the Nazca lines are a set of ancient drawings on the surface of a desert in southern Peru  that range from simple lines to complex images like monkeys and spiders. Some figures are more than 200m across, and archaeologists are still debating hotly as to the origin and purpose of these mysterious lines as they can only really be fully viewed while flying!

4) Lake Titicaca
This lake sits 3,811m above sea level and is the largest lake by volume of water in South America and is shared with Bolivia. Visitors can navigate the lake by small boat and visit the various islands dotted around it’s vast area, as well as paying a visit to the famous Uros floating reed islands made by the inhabitants who still to this day live and work on their self-constructed homes.

5) Colca Canyon
The second deepest canyon in the world (the deepest being the Cotahuasi next door), Colca Canyon offers visitors the opportunity for some spectacular hiking and other adventure and cultural activities. It’s also recognized as one of the best places to see the famous Andean condor, the largest land bird in the world with a wingspan of 3.2 metres.

Visiting all 5 sites
Depending on the time constraints of your vacation, it’s possible to visit all these sites as part of the same trip. However, to do this independently normally requires a lot of time to organize transport and travel between the different sites (many of which are hundreds of miles apart) let alone sort out logistics once you arrive. If you are planning on taking a Peru vacation where you have less than a couple of weeks to play with and want to see this top 5 it is generally advisable to book with a Peru tour operator.

Have you visited any of the sites mentioned above? What other spectacular places would you recommend for Peru vacations

Author: Gary Sargent – Escaped to Peru / Escaped to Latin America

Peru Tours – What To Bring On A Trek In Peru

Posted in Uncategorized by escapedtoperu on February 7, 2011

The last thing any trekkers wants is to carry more than necessary. This was never truer in Peru, where trekking routes can take hikers over 5000m. Here’s some advice learnt from years of taking treks in Peru to make sure you avoid those unwanted extra kilos in your pack, but still have all the essentials covered.

A useful trick – give your stuff to someone else!
If you choose to book your Peru vacation with a tour operator, you’ll be carrying a lot less! The operator will be able to provide you with either mules and arrieros (mule drivers), or on some routes porters, to carry supplies, tents, sleeping bags, water and mattresses. This shrinks the size of your pack from 20kg to a small day pack. When you’re tackling a high pass on the Inca Trail or pushing up towards Punta Union on the Santa Cruz trek, you’ll appreciate the reduction in weight. If you are grinding up the 5200m pass on the Ausangate circuit you will certainly not be wanting to carry a gram more than you need to!

If you’re travelling independently, most major towns close to trekking routes such as Cusco and Huaraz will have a range of local tour operators. They will be able to assist you in resources for your expedition such as mules, but be careful! Some local operators have a better reputation than others. Ask around town for the best operators, or book with an external operator who already has a good trusting relationship with a expedition provider.

What you need to carry
If you’re following the suggestion above, then all you need to worry about is your day pack. When you arrive in camp at the end of a long days trekking, everything will be set up for you. All you have to worry about is eating the hot meal prepared for you and collapsing into your sleeping bag. Here’s a list of things to include in your day pack and on your person, learnt after a few years of trial and error:

  1. Hiking Shoes
  2. A Hat and beanie to protect you from the sun and the cold
  3. Gloves and scarf for the nights
  4. Sun Block & Insect Repellent
  5. Some extra snacks (biscuits, energy bars, chocolate)
  6. A Rain Jacket or a Poncho
  7. Towel
  8. Swimsuit (recommend for routes involving hot springs)
  9. Long Pants
  10. Some cash in local currency
  11. T-shirts that you can layer
  12. Warm clothes, including jacket, fleece, sweaters and 4 pairs of socks
  13. Original passport – photocopies are not acceptable.
  14. Tips for porters, guides and cooks in separate envelopes
  15. Plastic bags to store your spare clothes
  16. Toilet Paper
  17. Flashlight (and batteries!)
  18. Pocket knife
  19. A Water Bottle & water purifying tablets
  20. A small personal medical kit

Are there any other preparations, or things that you advise bringing for a trek in Peru?

 

Author: Gary Sargent – Escaped to Peru / Escaped to Latin America

How To Prepare For Peru Trekking And The Inca Trail

Posted in Uncategorized by escapedtoperu on January 31, 2011

Peru is one of the best trekking destinations in the world, no question. The variety of treks on offer, complete with stunning scenery and wildlife make it a necessity for anyone with a love for the great outdoors and a spirit for adventure.

Here are a couple of important things to consider when planning Peru vacations with the intention of trekking.

Book popular routes well in advance
The classic example of this is the famous Inca trail, a spectacular 4 day trek that ends at the World Heritage site of Machu Picchu. Conservation rules permit 500 people per day on the trail, which works out to about 200 trekkers and 300 support staff. In the case of the Inca trail it isn’t possible to do the route without a guide, making booking through an agency essential. Due to the popularity and fame of this trek permits can sell out months in advance, particularly in high season.

There are a number of different treks on offer around Cuzco as alternatives to the Inca trail, which any good Peru tours operator should be able to point out. However if you’re dead set on reaching Machu Picchu by the re-known classic Inca Trail, try to reserve your space at least three months in advance or longer if planning on trekking in peak season. Remember that the trail is closed in February for maintenance.

Other Peru trekking routes are not as difficult for bookings, but it is still worth making your reservation as early as possible.

Acclimatise
Most trekking that you do in Peru will likely be at altitude. The most popular centers of Cuzco and Huaraz are both above 3,000m so rushing up from sea-level and hitting the trails straight away will make things harder than they should be. Allow for a couple of days to rest and acclimatize when you get to altitude and you’ll find yourself enjoying the experience a lot more.

Independent or Guided?
Apart from the example of the Inca Trail, you may have the option to do a guided trek or to go independently. Whichever option you choose depends on your desire to carry weight, ability to cook on the move and your navigation skills. Trekking groups work with porters or arrieros (mule drivers) to carry supplies, tents, sleeping bags and mattresses. This shrinks the size of your pack from 15-20kg to a small day pack. This saving in weight can make a big difference when at 4,000m! Additionally if you take a supported trek your tents may be put up for you and you will be provided with three meals a day and often afternoon tea, as well as purified drinking water. Finally how are your map reading and navigation skills? If you are trekking in remote areas you could be risking your life if you do not know how to navigate in the mountains – having a guide and crew who know the route removes this worry. They will also know the best alternatives in case of injury or illness whilst on a trek.

Carrying as little as possible
Your tour operator should provide the essential camping items listed above and transport them by porter or mule, which leaves you only to worry about the items in your day-pack. After a few years of trial and error, I suggest the following (some items you will obviously be wearing!):

  1. Long Pants
  2. Some cash in local currency
  3. T-shirts / shirts that you can layer
  4. Warm clothes, including thermals, fleece / sweater & spare socks
  5. A rain jacket or poncho
  6. Original passport – photocopies are not acceptable
  7. Plastic bags to store your spare clothes
  8. Toilet Paper
  9. Flashlight and batteries, pocket knife
  10. A water bottle & water purifying tablets
  11. Good hiking boots or shoes – well broken in
  12. A sun hat and a warm hat to protect you from the sun and the cold
  13. Gloves and scarf for cold nights
  14. Sun block & insect repellent
  15. Tips for porters, guides and cooks
  16. Some extra snacks (biscuits, energy bars, chocolate, sweets)
  17. Towel & wash kit
  18. Swimsuit (recommend for routes involving hot springs)
  19. A small personal medical kit

Are there any routes that you recommend for trekking in Peru? Are there any other preparations, or things that you advise bringing?

 

Author: Gary Sargent – Escaped to Peru / Escaped to Latin America

Stories from the Escape Artists – The Hall Family's Inca Adventures

Posted in Uncategorized by escapedtoperu on December 14, 2010

Altitude and children in Cusco!  A heady mix…

“It’s not altitude its attitude,” my youngest says, as he runs up the narrow streets with me out of breath lagging behind.  Both Him and his sister have been quite taken with the people and culture of the Andes. Their sheer excitement for adventure has made the trip varied and memorable for us all, particularly our stay at Machu Picchu.

It is as magical and captivating as I imagined, although my mental image never featured the steep terracing around the site with no barriers! Nonetheless the children were smart and cautious with a little encouragement from the grown ups.

On the second day at the site the children wanted desperately to walk to the Sun Gate steps, the entrance to the city from the Inca Trail. My son with boundless energy at 7 years led the way, followed closely by his 9-year-old sister. Towards the top of the trail many people passed us surprised to see the children let alone on this high path that clings to the mountain. It was only a matter of time when we realized why, the last section being precariously narrow with steep steps and a handrail!

“Stick to the wall and slow down!” I shouted, ever the voice of parental control.  Meanwhile under my breath it was a different story.  A constant muttering of, “Easy girl, you can do it” calmed my jangling nerves until we reached the top.

Our reward was a spectacular view and a gratifying sense of achievement, the children mesmerized whilst sitting on the edge of the high terrace and asking a million questions about this ancient city and civilization.  If only they took this much interest in history classes at school…

Travelling with a family can be a challenge at times, but the benefits that I know the kids will get from our experiences make the effort worthwhile.  I have to say that things would have been much harder without the assistance of Escaped to Latin America – they took care of all the logistics, leaving us to enjoy our vacation.