Little is heard of about Peru except Machu Picchu, but this trip showed me that there is so much more. The scenery is ever changing - from the coastal desert around Lima to the rugged Andes with Flamingo lakes and snow capped peaks. Outside the cities, life goes on unchanged from centuries ago. Farmers still plough with oxen and the traditional, colourful dress is worn.
- What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?
Nothing can prepare you for Machu Picchu. The setting is absolutely stunning with high peaks all around and I'll never forget the first sighting of the ruins.
But as I said there is so much more. The Uros islands on lake Titicaca were fascinating. As we approached we could see the reed canoes and the fish statues high above the islands. Listening to the the islanders describe how the islands were constructed and their way of life was fascinating and it was a strange experience walking around on the spongy surface - then seeing the solar panels which provided power for the TVs !
The Colca canyon was stunning too with huge expanses of terracing and the Condors at the Cruz del Condor. It was such a thrill to see them emerge from the valley and soar around us.
- What did you think of your group leader?
Our group leader was Juan Manuel Diaz and he was an absolute star. He was immensely knowledgeable about the Incas and the pre Inca civilisations which gave us an insight into what we were seeing at the various sights. But more than that, he was good company and had a great sense of humour.
He kept us to schedule - necessary on a trip such as this, advised us on how to combat the altitude sickness and took us to some very good restaurants.
- Do you have any advice for potential travellers?
Peru is a big country and you have to be prepared for some long days in the bus (up to 11 hours) and some early starts (6.30). This isn't the case every day, but there will be some. There are stops for sightseeing, meals, toilet stops etc. to break this up which helps. But to see this much in 2 weeks, there isn't a viable alternative.
The hotels we used were comfortable, friendly and had English style toilets. Some had pools.
Peru is not the place for gourmet food. The midday stop usually had a limited menu, although we rapidly decided that a sandwich would do anyway. In the evening better restaurants were available, specially in Cusco and Lima.
You may have a day or so not feeling your best when you get to Cusco. The altitude can result in headaches or stomach upsets and a shortness of breath. It does ease after a couple of days though.
- Is there anything else you would like to add?
You will see so much on this tour. Make sure you have a big memory card for your camera (1000 photos is very possible). If you can learn a bit of Spanish, that would be useful too but it's not essential.
The homestay is an experience - but well worth it. Although basic, it was very comfortable and our hosts were very friendly (this is where the Spanish would be useful).
All I can add really is that I would wholeheartedly recommend this holiday and also Exodus.