By Pam and Allen
May  was an exciting, challenging and memorable month... Allen and Pam returned from 2.5 weeks in Peru which included three days and lively nights with our FF Amigos Max and Lita in Lima! Lita was the
ED for the Lima Exchange we received in September of '07.
Our journey began with a quick overnight in Lima en route to Cuzco for a necessary three-day acclimation to the altitude. You can’t help but fall in love with Cuzco with all of its antiquity, tiny taxis and lovely people. We got a real workout climbing up and down Cuzco hills and touring around. Now for the challenge… on our 4th a.m. we met our group of 10 plus 2 guides at 4:45 a.m. to bus off to the trailhead to Machu Picchu!
The next four days included 26 miles of trekking up and down the Andean stoned and infrequently sanded steps which took us through ‘Dead Woman’s Pass’ at over 14,000’ and finally to ‘Sun Gate’
and our final steps down to Machu Picchu. We were lucky not to have the altitude symptoms some did but the lungs got more of a workout than they ever have in our lives!
Pam was ‘the elder’ of the group at 56.5 with Allen a close second (53.5) another Wisconsin couple at 50/49 with all others in their 20s/30s! Pam announced at the outset that she “may be the last to reach camp each day but she would finish.” Allen hung back with her along with Jose (one guide) and we completed each day with no mishaps.
The 18 Chaskis that muled gear, set up lovely camps, prepared tea time, cooked our gourmet meals, heated water for washing and drinking and in general took care of all of us were phenomenal!
They dismantled camp after we left each day, packed up & departed an hour behind us. Would pass us on the trail, arrive at our next camp, set up and stock all tents including the kitchen and dining tents and their own and still have tea time ready when we Trekkers arrived into camp each evening. Gourmet
lunches and dinners were the standard and even decorated with flowering veggies, unbelievable! These Chaskis most certainly have Inca genetics to do what they do!
Our guides Saul and Jose were exceptionally knowledgeable and entertaining (well OK, also cute as could be)!
Day 4 - After a 4:00 a.m. wake up call (well more like a whisper outside our tent followed by two cups of Coca Tea handed in) we arrived at Machu Picchu at 8:00 a.m. to clear skies, no fog and perfect views. We opted not to climb Wyna Picchu as we had been much higher already that day! It was a remarkable, beautiful and most interesting journey. We learned that the Incas were not the first to take these steps but they definitely followed this route during their Empire and the building of Machu Picchu and other
incredible sights we visited daily from the Inca Trail.
Allen’s comment once we first set foot on this remarkable site was “you know all of these tourists have just come up by bus and it’s like they are visiting Disney World, after our last four days of trekking we can ‘feel’ Machu Picchu”. That pretty much says it all. This journey will never be a memory; it is part of us now.
Most of our group followed MP with a night in Aguas Calientes for a soak in the hot springs and the most lively Dias De Madre Celebration ever! We were happy to know our wee hotel offered laundry service
as we still had three more days to live in the same few clothes we carried for the Trek. From there we trained back to Cuzco for an overnight and good byes to our fellow Trekkers.
The next a.m. we were off via Andean Explorer for a first class luxury train trip through Llama Ranch land and Adobe Villages to Puno on Lago Titicaca. Pisco Sours were served and the Andean Musical Group that played in the observation car kept us dancing. Our knees thanked us for the day of respite.
An overnight in Puno and then we traveled by boat on Lago Titicaca to the Uros "floating" Islands - remarkable!
Our destination was Remote Tequille' where we would spend a day and night with a native family in their rustic home.
Each home is provided a single solar panel which dimly lit the large dining room and never distracted from the panoramic view. We dined on freshly caught Truchas/soup/omelets/coca tea. Our room was powered by one candle!
It snowed that night for a short time so the four woolen/Llama blankets on our bed were necessary along with the native hats we purchased to stave off the cold (they really are warm). It was a different side of Peruvian
life on a beautiful tiered island of only agriculture and fishing with the newly introduced 'home stays' to include them in the tourist trade. We hiked a couple of miles to "La Playa" and then to the boat dock on the opposite side of the island when we departed. Would not have missed Tequille’.
We had heard about a transportation strike brewing and on our return to Puno it was full blown so we departed as soon as we could get a taxi to
Juliaca. We were intent on making our flight the next afternoon back to Lima. We had to wait until 7 p.m. to hopefully bypass any violence - not to be! Our driver dodged 'rock' road blocks and broken glass all the way to just the outskirts of Juliaca when we were confronted with a group of strikers that hurled huge rocks and stones, pelting the vehicle and breaking the windshield! We were amazed that our driver continued on especially when we encountered another
group approaching on the horizon; he pulled off to the side and turned off the lights waiting quietly. A van approached from behind with intentions of going forward but quickly turned around and headed back. Our driver then exited our taxi and apparently paid them some money, rushed back to our taxi and these guys actually directed him through the barricade and broken glass; we arrived at our hotel in Juliaca and tripled the taxi driver fare. He seemed very pleased so we hope it covers the cost of a new windshield and then some.
The next day we took a "tricycle" taxi to the small Juliaca airport and spent the better part of that day along with a couple dozen others that were also happy to be have arrived safely. There was a market
shop across the parking lot and about 8 women knitting outside so Pam joined them for some Spanglish conversation! Learned that they can make a pair of gloves or a scarf in one day but a sweater takes 5 days. They were very interested in learning about Pam and encouraged her that she could still have a ’bambino’ until they were informed of her age. Apparently they thought she was about 38. Pam told them they should hike the Inca Trail as it does amazing things for a woman; there was great
Our last three days we spent in the most lovely home of our Amigos Lita and Max in Lima. They could not have been more hospitable and along with
Fermina, their live in housekeeper/cook we were treated like King and Queen! Their son Alex and his girlfriend joined us on several occasions. Fermina's daughter Marita and her friend Stefanny were a joy and of course Arnie their Rottweiler. Visited the recently completed Water
Park (think Bellagio in Vegas X 12) - most incredible and has set a Guinness record! San Francisco Antique Church and catacombs, changing of the guards at the Presidential Palace, Folkloric show and dancing (don't miss it next trip) and so much more! Mira Flores has a shopping center hanging over the ocean with about 12 open air dining venues that puts the Galleria to shame.
Of course the food continued to be exceptional and we were treated to a diverse selection
with each one a bigger treat than the last. Our last evening Carmen (also an Ambassador last September) and her husband stopped in for a visit. She had just returned from a 90 day visit with her daughter in Chicago. It was so nice to visit with everyone and as we struggled with each other’s Spanglish we learned more about each other and laughed a lot.
We could have spent another week in Lima as there is more to see and do than most cities we have ever visited. It is colorful to be sure and the people throughout Peru are by far some of the friendliest we have every encountered. Tourism is their #1 industry so they even love Americans! They are expecting and anxiously waiting for DFF to visit.
Hope you have all enjoyed sharing this journey with us. See you soon.
Pam and Allen
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