An unforgettable encounter with the land of the Incas

My name is Oliver. I’m from Toronto, Canada. I present my personal experience, which I hope will give some insights to those travelers who wanted to travel to Peru.

Back at school, I was good at history, and what fascinated me the most was South America, the Incas. For many years it became a dream to travel through these lands. However, after finishing all my studies, I am not sure what happened with the trip I dreamed. After graduation, I got married, I grew up my children, and I traveled anywhere in the world with my wife. But I left aside to travel to Peru.

Tasting my first encounter with Peru.

One day, I heard colleagues at work talking about their experience of Peruvian food at “Mira Toronto” restaurant. I raised an eyebrow, Peruvian food … Uhm? That’s interesting, so I asked the restaurant address to my colleagues.

Later, I checked TripAdvisor and visit their website to have an idea on the kind of dishes I could try. But everything was new to me. We have to go, Kelly! I told my wife, who nodded in a good way. The place seems very nice! Kelly commented when arriving at the restaurant, so my wife was pleased with the choice.

It was my first encounter with Peru (Here you can find more), and I was thrilled, and nothing better than a welcome drink, the ‘PiscoSour’. While presenting the drink, the waiter commented, “The Pisco is from Peru”. Of course, I thought (I didn’t know Chile tries to claim this fabulous drink as a registered trademark. The food was fantastic, from the classic ‘Ceviche’, ‘Grilled Calamares’, ‘Ribs’, Picarones’ Donuts’ and a chocolate bomb, a delicious treat.

I was sharing this fantastic time with Kelly, and I read a sign: “Welcome to Peru, land of the Incas”. A Machu Picchu travel come to my mind and that was it. The next day, I was looking for travel agencies to undertake my trip to Peru. Especially those that could provide local experience, comfort, etc. It was an arduous task to find the best guided tours to Machu Picchu, or the one equaling my expectations.

It was when I came across the name of the agency Machu Picchu Peru. I read about them, their equipment, experience, etc. Then, I contacted the tour operator to find out more about the Machu Picchu all-inclusive trip and made a reservation.

Traveling to Peru

I found out if you are traveling within Peru, airlines running the domestic flights such as LATAM would offer you a good discount if you also get their international flight all of it as one package.

I was leaving Toronto at 17:45 flying around 10 hours and arrive at 06:45 am to Lima. Overall it was a good flight and service.

An enthusiastic representative of the company welcomes us, at Lima airport and transfer us to Miraflores district in Lima.

My first impression in the morning was: Lima is a busy city. But once you reach the coastline, the ocean views will somehow charm you.

Miraflores a town that emerged from the ashes.

Our accommodation was super at one of the ‘Casa Andina premium’ in Miraflores. After setting in the hotel, my wife and myself went to explore, Miraflores town and the surroundings. Ramon will provide us with some advice so we can get the most of this leisure day.

We notice a restaurant down the beach named ‘Rosa Nautica’, Kelly was keen to get there. The Nautic Rose is an elegant restaurant with a great ocean view and an excellent menu. The food was delicious, and we highly recommend this place.

In 1879, Peru had a war with Chile, which lasted five years. The war was for the possession of saltpeter from the lands of southern Peru and Bolivia. In the last years of the battles, Chile won the war and with its troops arrived up to Lima. Chilean forces sabotage the spas of Chorrillos, Barranco and Miraflores. These districts were burned down because the aristocracy of the time used most of this district. When Ramon explained to us while we passed the pacific ocean somehow, I could recreate everything in my mind. After the war, Chile occupied for another three years Lima city until a peace treated was reached. Thus, you will notice in Lima city, monuments to their defeated heroes who defended the town until the end.

Years later Miraflores was rebuilt, and now is a point for tourists before visit Machu Picchu or other parts of Peru. The district can offer you excellent restaurants, great views from their marina, good shopping centers. Also, you will admire and witness the pyramid left by the very first settlers of ancient Peru. The Incas used it at some point as veneration place.

The old city and its monuments

Ramon took us to the old downtown, and to be honest, the more you get close, the traffic becomes surreal. Lima has a population of 10 million habitants.

Our transport left us nearby the Sheraton hotel, from there we started walking in direction to the old city center. I could imagine the splendor of this city years ago showing all its buildings at its best. The old town is a very colonial one.

I was impressed by the colonial buildings of the main squares, as well as the main cathedral. We observed the changing guards at the presidential palace. We went to eat nearby at the ‘Peru gourmet bar resto-bar’ they have an interesting menu of creole food. Afterward, at a walking distance ‘The Pisco Palace’ attract our taste for such fantastic drinks.

Ramon, our guide, show us some streets in this old city center. He explained to us the history behind those streets

On our way back to the hotel

We visit the Museo Larco a fantastic exhibition of Inca and pre Inca crafts and jewelry. This museum is an old colonial mansion which was built on top of pre-Inca construction. Inside there is an exclusive restaurant which would serve you extraordinary gourmet food.

Finally, we visited ‘Huaca Puccllana’ in the heart of Miraflores. For the Incas who dominated all these lands, these constructions were considered sacred by them. You cannot miss such an impressive building full of ancient past it was a preparation for Machu Picchu.

We were a bit lucky because August in Lima is winter time and humidity can be high. But in the mountain is sunny due to the dry season, and that’s where we were heading.

Our tips for Lima will be:

– Be open-minded, and easy your expectations on the local traffic.

– Get some local currency, especially if you want to get something from the local shops.

– Learn some Spanish words, gracias, por favor, permiso. In general, people are kind towards tourist and do smile, even more, when you said one of these words.

– Peruvians in general bargain when purchasing something so don’t be afraid of doing it..’ nada menos?’ ‘nothing less’.

– When trying some local food, be sure in asking if it is not too chili.

– Do try some local refreshment drink from the Peruvian Amazon region. ‘The Camu, Camu’ is perfect and healthy full of vitamin C.

– If you don’t speak the local dialect is better to walk around with a guide.

– Just take it easy on the ‘Pisco sour’ and don’t forget that ‘the real one is from Peru’.

The heart of the empire: Cusco.

Once you are arriving on the plane, you immediately notice Cusco green valley and mountains such a fantastic feeling.

We will be spending a few days in Cusco, and wanted to know the most of it without involving in a hard adventure.

After being transferred to our hotel, we got our briefing on the days ahead by our guided tour. My first impression of Cusco is a mix of cultures. You will notice the mixture of the architectonic colonial buildings, setting up on polish stones from Inca periods.

On the following day, our tour guide gave us a good explanation of the constructions around the city. They told us that during the Spanish conquest, most of the Inca Temples and buildings were destroyed and looted by the Spaniards. The Incas built Cusco in the shape of a Puma because they consider it sacred. Kelly and I were astonished by the form of Inca walls as we were walking on their stones streets. We visited the Temple of the Sun or ‘Koricancha’. Many people die defending what they consider was their vision of the world.

Is not all about the money!

The Inca and its descents were a very well organized culture. The value of money didn’t exist. It is fascinating to know that everyone plays a role within their Inca society. An example of this mastering is the 12 angle stone, fitted in perfect harmony with other stones to make a wall. You will be surprised by the engineering the ancient people have achieved on irrigation systems. Those are still working bringing water to Cusco city.

Asides of seeing all these Inca constructions, we visit colonial churches and museums. We went to San Blas Mirador to get a perfect view of the whole Cusco town and after getting a refreshment at a lovely resto-bar called ‘Limbus’ thanks to its magnificent views of the mountains and city, Kelly and myself we fall each other once again.

A Sacred Valley full of surprises

The following day, we travel to the Inca Sacred Valley, which I have to say is extremely beautiful, so we went to visit some villages, interact with the locals at the artisan open market. During the Inca period, the Sacred Valley was essential for its fertility and grown of corn to make ‘chicha’. The golden fermented crop, still relevant in the villages and you can try chicha so after a few of those brews you will feel happier.

The Sacred Valley is impressive for its Andean mountain range from which some rivers come from and giving life to most parts of all these valleys.

We also have an exciting time meeting locals at a location named ‘Chinchero’, a charming small village full of artisans and farmers. I found out that each town stamps their design on their hand made textile or artcraft. Thus, it will be not the same art from village to village.

At the end of our tour, we went to a place called ‘Ollantaytambo’, a village with an outstanding past because in situ exist an Inca temple carrying the same name as the village. Ollantaytambo fortress will make you think twice on the type of engineering the Incas used to bring up such huge stones. Kelly and I couldn’t comprehend how the Incas master such grade of achievement without getting any machinery aid. Fine wall stone made, water fountains, irrigations system, their architects were cautious in placing all of this polish stones in perfect order. The Incas wanted to preserve at all the times a harmony with nature so their buildings will not contrast with it.

Maras and Moray

After exploring Ollantaytambo, our guide takes us to ‘Maras’ and ‘Moray’ being the first an open salt field mine from which the locals are getting this element. The salt fields are beautiful scenery to watch as their white salt fields can reflect the blue Andean sky. Later on, we went nearby to Moray site which contains unusual Inca ruins, mostly consisting of several terraced circular depressions at approx 30 m (98 ft) deep. As with many other Inca sites, it also has an irrigation system. The first theory in place is that the circles were used as experimental farming because the temperature inside the circles is changing gradually from top to bottom.

As we were going back to our hotel in Cusco, my brain stuck on the process of assimilating all the information I witness during my trip. All I know, about this culture during my school-age it has been paid off, meanwhile traveling around this land. So far, I have been delighted with the organization and care I during my tour, and we are more than excited for the coming day.

A train journey for an encounter with my destiny

Today we were heading to a train station to embark to a train journey on our way to Machu Picchu.

Many Peruvian railroad lines owe their origins to contracts granted to United States entrepreneurs Henry Meiggs and W. R. Grace and Company, but the wild nature of Peru made expansion slow, and much of the surviving mileage is of twentieth-century origin. It was also challenging to operate, especially in the age of the steam locomotive. Once at the Poroy train station, it gave me the feeling I was in a kind of movie made back in the past century. I was very surprised by the comfortable carriages provided for this trip; they were fitted with large windows even on the part of the ceiling so that you can get panoramic views of the Inca Valley at all the time. The train journey was fantastic and service in the train superb, getting the most of the Andean landscapes around us.

Aguas Calientes

A few hours later we were getting to ‘Aguas Calientes’ town, and from there a bus will take us to the nearest spot before getting to the checkpoint control in Machu Picchu.

Personally, this was my final counter; Kelly looked at me all the times and knew how much this journey meant to me. We passed the control together, hand by hand and we walked a small trail bordering a mountain when all the sudden the first signs of stones being made by the Incas were showing off in front of us. We kept tiptoeing as I was feeling my wife hand taking mine.

The big mountain, Huayna Picchu was there as it was protecting the rest of the Inca construction, there are no words to describe such feeling. To absorb the moment because I knew it would be the last time admiring such notable legacy left in place.

Our guide shows us some Inca recent and explains to us the most he could about each section; there were rooms so perfectly constructed with windows facing the green valleys. There are some theories on the use of this royal grounds; one approach pointed it was a retreat place for the Inca and royal crown another one is that Machu Picchu occupied a special place in the “sacred landscape” of the Inca.

Machu Picchu is built at the top of a mountain that is almost entirely encircled by the Urubamba River, which the Inca named the Vilcamayo or Sacred River.

The Andean cosmology vision

The rising and setting of the sun, when viewed from specific locations within Machu Picchu, aligns neatly with religiously significant mountains during the solstices and equinoxes. The Inca believed the sun to be their divine ancestor. It’s an example of cosmology intertwining with a sacred landscape that is virtually unique in the Andes.

After the tour inside Machu Picchu, we have some time to wonder the site by ourselves, so we did the most we could during the free solo visit.

Finished our encounter with an ancient past left there to all of us, we sadly have to go back to take our train back to Ollantaytambo and Cusco city. In the way back, we engage with some travelers who also gave us their impressions about Machu Picchu. What if these people were left alone for another 100, 200 years?. Well, the answer is unknown.

All we know is that the Incas have another vision of the word a different one from occident cultures.

Thank you, Machu Picchu Peru.

Kelly and I got quizzed on the Amazonas, desserts as well as other regions of Peru. Indeed it is a beautiful country to travel with some many places to visit and perhaps next time we will come over with the rest of our family. We are grateful to the staff who made this trip a unique one, and it was an excellent choice to select Machu Picchu and made our dream come true. We have now full of stories to share with our loving ones back to our homeland.

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