This review is Part I of my nine weeks in South America and like all my Group Travel reviews it’s about the nuts and bolts. There are plenty of blogs that have exquisite photos and details of each step of a trip. I like to focus more on the who, what, where, how and when. I also don’t make any assumptions that you’ve read my other posts so each one stands on its own merits. So here goes……
How can you not want to go to Peru? Home of the majestic Machu Picchu, the floating islands of Uros on the expansive Lake Titicaca, the endearing alpacas or the generously friendly and colourfully dressed locals. Peru had been on my hit list for many years and really wondered if I was ever going to get there.
Then in mid-2017, I made the momentous decision to spend as much time as I could in South America knowing there was a long list of things I just had to see. So after crawling over the Intrepid Travel website and with the help of Fiona from The Adventure Store in Prahran, we mapped out a nine-week itinerary that proved to be awesome with the start of the trip being Peru.
A few months later in December 2017 I excitedly settled into my Latam Airlines seat heading to Lima via Santiago. Yep – one long leg across the Pacific to the other side of the world.
An early evening arrival into Lima and an airport transfer meant I was tucked into my room at a reasonable hour ready to shower, grab a bite to eat and adjust to the time zone. I had one day to myself before meeting my fellow travelling companions the following evening at our orientation gathering.
The next day I arose feeling very little jetlag and so decided to spend the day on my own exploring Lima, orienting myself to the coast, the markets, the shopping mall and the attractions. The warm, sticky weather was relentless and forced me to try a local chilled beer to wash away the humidity. Ho Hum – that is life.
Our Orientation Meeting was due at 6 pm that evening and we all met in the cosy front foyer of our hotel to get to know each other and briefed by our guide, Frank. Everyone was eager that out Intrepid Travel Peru Encompassed Original Style trip had started. From my point of view, I was wondering who I would be sharing a room with and fortunately for me, I snared a room to myself because there were mostly couples. I don’t mind sharing but it’s also nice to have your own space.
A little side note here that I actually booked a trip called Ultimate Peru, Argentina & Brazil which is one trip but no one from my group did that entire trip. They all signed up for the Peru Encompassed trip and that’s what I’ll write about here. There will be a separate trip on the Argentina and Brazil leg called Argentina & Brazil Adventure.
Those first initial meetings are exciting but nerve-wracking. You just never know who’s going to be part of the group. Will people be loud, noisy, rude, pig-headed, quiet, can’t speak English, smelly? Not that it matters in the long run but if there are too many clashes of personalities styles it can impact on the trip experience. Everyone was on time and we all looked at each other wondering how this little ‘hotch-potch’ of internationals would get along for the next three weeks. If I’d known what I was in store with my group, I wouldn’t have been so cautious.
Intrepid has a few different styles of trips – Basix, Original or Comfort and I’ve done each one of them, often more than once. As someone who has spent many, many years camping, the Basic more than accommodates my needs so a Comfort trip for me is luxury. This trip Original trip was successful for two reasons – the Intrepid Guide – Frank and the group who turned out to be the best I’ve ever had the pleasure of travelling with. In fact, we are all still in touch one year on and many of my travelling companions I’ve now visited in their own countries.
On this trip, my fellow travellers were a mix of nationalities from the USA, China (living in the UK), Poland (living in Switzerland), German (living in Switzerland) Australians and British. Some had booked the trip well in advance, others had made a last minute decision to jump on board. Some wanted to bag Machu Picchu, others wanted to visit Lake Titicaca. For me, it was the Nazca Lines that lured me to Peru but yes, some of the big name attractions were a bonus.
On this trip I took my ‘minimal impact’ philosophy to a whole new level by bringing my own:
- Frank Green water bottle
- Frank Green coffee cup
- Tupperware collapsable bowl and lid
- Bamboo straw
- Cotton napkin
- Reusable bag
As I’ve said in previous blog posts, Intrepid has an excellent policy on how to be respectful to people, to the culture, and to the environment. Once again, where possible a large 20L water container was put in our minibus so we could fill our bottles daily from this rather than 10 people buying 10 individual bottles every day.
What I particularly loved about this trip was that it was an easing into South America without too much culture shock. Frank organised everything for us such as optional tours, special places to eat, orientations in new towns or site seeing somewhere off the beaten track. If someone wanted to see a particular site if he didn’t know about it, would do the research for them. But at all times, he would bring attention to any hazards, dangers or even manage the expectations of people who perhaps read an overzealous online post.
As a group, we also set up a WhatsApp group and this proved to be invaluable. Frank would always keep us verbally informed of; what time to get up, what time we are leaving, what we needed to bring etc. but he’d also follow that up with a WhatsApp message saying the same thing. That worked well for those that don’t always take in all the information aurally.
The photo above is some of the group who went out on a dune buggy and did some sand surfing which you can view here.
Now for some nuts and bolts about the Peru Encompassed trip.
The following was provided:
- 20 breakfasts
- 7 lunches
- 6 dinners
Breakfasts ranged from a la carte feasts to simple fruit, yoghurt, tea/coffee. All dietaries were well catered and we would occasionally grab a few items from a local supermarket to supplement our culinary desires. If we had an early morning departure, we’d get a packed breakfast to have ‘on the go’.
This is how it’s explained online and is pretty accurate.
Camping (with basic facilities – this is if you take the Inca Trail option) (3 nights), Homestay (2 nights), Hotel (13 nights), Jungle Lodge (2 nights)
As a solo traveller, I was fortunate enough to have my own room and I nearly always had a queen size bed, occasionally a double. A couple of times there were two beds in the room. They were clean and comfortable. Plenty of linen and pillows. Televisions were in every room but there wasn’t a lot of English speaking channels – even CNN didn’t pop up on the dial.
The accommodation was around 2 – 4 star but mostly it was clean, quiet and basic. Some of the places where quite authentic, funky, freaky in the decor but always clean. WiFi was hit and miss and like many places around the World, usually works best in the foyer. Rarely was I able to surf the net at night in my room.
Most of the hotels were fairly centrally located. Not always but mostly. It meant a bit of walking but frankly, when you’re sitting on a bus for a while, I don’t mind meandering through the back streets of a town to the main square. Walking along the streets gives you an idea of the township and the people plus the bonus of some long overdue exercise. Also, not being too close to the action meant the rooms were quieter and that’s a big plus for me. Certainly, they were all close to public transport for those of us who are happy to jump on a bus, train or hail a taxi.
All rooms had their own ensuite with shower, toilet and hand basin. Basic toiletries supplied were soap and shampoo. Rarely a hairdryer. Can’t remember seeing a bath in any of my rooms but then I’m not much of a bath girl. Doors had locks (although I do take my own small, lightweight doorstop just in case). As I said before, most rooms had televisions, but they were the old ‘fat’ style and was rarely able to find or watch any shows in English. However, it is always interesting to watch the American tv sitcom Friends in Spanish. A few places had a pool and it was nice to take a dip as relief from the humidity. Once we were up near Cusco – we didn’t need pools, we needed heaters.
If you’re sharing a room with someone of the same sex, there isn’t an extra charge. I was fortunate to have my own room with no extra cost because there were 3 couples, 2 girlfriends and then a single man (who paid for a single supplement) and me. I don’t mind sharing and will write about that room sharing experience on my Mexico Unplugged trip soon. If you like to sleep in, worry about your snoring (or someone else’s, like to party or even if you think you might get sick, then I’d go with a single supplement.
Plane, Taxi, Public Bus, Private Vehicle, Canoe, Longboat, Ferry, Train with options of a dune buggy, donkey rides, tuk-tuk and taxis. Count on a little bit of everything although mostly you are in a bus.
Here is a video of our tuk-tuk jaunt from the hotel in Puno to the wharf. It was a complete surprise to all of us when our guide Frank said ‘I’ve organised your chauffeurs and they are waiting out the front’, and we went outside to find 6 tuk-tuks lined up with six local drivers with big smiles on their faces. Just the most brilliant treat and a memory I’ll never forget. You can view it here.
- Chauchilla Cemetery Tour
- Colca Canyon Tour 3d/2n
- Colca Canyon -Guided tour
- Lake Titicaca – Boat tour & Homestay
- Cusco – Orientation Walk
- Cusco – Chocolate Museum Visit & Hot Chocolate
- Amazon Jungle – Activities as mentioned in trip notes
I won’t go into detail about every place we visited as it would be writing for days but here are some of the places and things we did that were highlights for me and I’ve put up pictures in no particular order of importance.
As with most trips, I organise a transfer from the airport at the start and end of a trip which my travel agent took care of for a minimal fee. It’s always nice to arrive in an unknown country and have someone meet you and introduce you to their country. However, I do acknowledge it can be cheaper to make your own arrangements upon arrival.
Travel Insurance was with Covermore for the entire nine weeks I was away. I`ve used Covermore on all my trips and have found them to be competitive on price.
Also a big thank you to the best guide I`ve ever had the pleasure of travelling with – Frank, a local Peruvian, resides in Cusco and someone knows how to bring a group together. Frank started out from the get-go letting us know we were now ~a family~ and from that point on, we were. He always kept his cool, got to know everyone on the trip, was quick to troubleshoot if required (we rocked up to a hotel to find it was closed and within five minutes organised our accommodation nearby elsewhere at a higher standard) and his knowledge of Peru was outstanding.
I rate Peru Encompassed
out of 5
Everyday facts for your trip to Peru
Language: Spanish is the principal language. Quechua, Aymara and other indigenous languages also have official status.
Religion: Roman Catholic (90%)
Currency: Nuevo Sol (PEN)
Powerplugs and sockets: Type A and C. Click here to view images
Country calling code: +51
Local time: = UTC -5h
Capital City: Lima