I read reviews before we went saying that this isn't a holiday, more a travel experience. I agree! There are lots of early starts and long days but in order to complete the packed itinerary it is necessary. Its a bit of a whirlwind but in many ways it is that that makes this trip so good. A country of real contrasts and lovely people.
- What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?
Inspirational 'moment' isn't perhaps the right phrase but 'experience' is. There were a lot to pick from but for us the top experience was undoubtedly doing the Moonstone trail. Getting into the wilds of the Andes was fantastic as was the real sense of satisfaction of reaching the top point of the trek - having puffed and gasped our way there! The magnificent solitude of camp 2, in a bowl, surrounded my mountains and the snow covered face of Mt Veronica catching the early morning sun was quite magical as was looking down into a cloud filled Sacred Valley with the sun just catching the tops at the start of the last day.
Watching the Condors soar along the Colca Canyon also takes some beating. Visiting the Uros on the floating islands of Lake Titicaca and being the only Europeans in a local market outside Puno were also pretty special and you can't help but be impressed by the scale and skill of the Inca settlements and engineering projects. Add to that the complete contrast of the jungle and there are a real collection of 'top times'.
- What did you think of your group leader?
Bobby was our group leader for most of the trip (but because we opted for the Moonstone trail we had a second leader/guide for that element). Bobby was a real enthusiast about his country; clearly a man of great passion, pride and knowlwdge about its history and culture and someone with a tremendous sense of humour. He seemed to have boundless energy and he worked very hard to keep the programme zipping along.
During the Moonstone trek we were in hands of Elias. I was hugely impressed by his knowledge, care, consideration and enthusiasm. At times we found the altitude on the trek a bit of a challenge but Elias had simple and effective solutions and was genuinely pleased for us when we achieved our goals. Not only a knowlegable and highly effective guide but a real entertainer too with an inexhaustable collection of jokes, magic tricks and card games. Can't speak highly enough of him.
- Do you have any advice for potential travellers?
Check all the details before you go - and if trekking make sure your kitbag arrives. Be prepared for early starts and long days. If you do the Moonstone trail its worth considering a down jacket as it does get cold at night at the higher altitudes (camp 2 is at 4,300m). Be prepared to 'go with the flow' and make the most of whatever happens. Don't be put off by Lima - cloudy and drab, almost everywhere else is a lot brighter!
- Is there anything else you would like to add?
Peru is a fantastic place to visit and so make the most of it. The itinerary works well. Gradually increasing in altitude is a really good idea but it doesn't stop a lot of people feeling the effects of altitude (mainly headaches).
One of the real surprises was the quality of the food whilst treking - it was amazingly good, especially when everything has to be carried and the cook (complete with whites and a chefs hat!) has to work in a very cramped space with limited equipment - some of the meals we had would not have been out of place in a restaurant.
The one regret is that we didn't get to see much of Machu Pichu because the weather blocked out a lot of it (low cloud and lashing rain) - but then its all part of the experience and is a good reality check.