Dami Sobo Smith: We all know traveling can get super expensive but you can make the most of it by combining a business trip with pleasure. Our guest nomad seized the opportunity during her work trip to Lima, Peru and visited one of the most mysterious places in the world. Read all about her quick dash to Machu Picchu. Instagram : @ifgodbefomi
There are some places in the world you absolutely know you want to visit, but you’re not quite sure how or where to fit it on your list of places to go since that list is already…. yea, long! So when opportunities like a work trip to Peru come about, you update that list and take Machu Picchu (MP) high up to number 1! Yayy work!
Since I was taking only a few days after business concluded in Lima to sneak up to MP, I had limited time to do MP. From my research it looked like I needed a good 4 tour days ( and 2 travel days) to really experience it all (by experience it all I mean do a trek up to MP), and I only had 3 days to spare, 2 of which would be used for travel ! I was still determined, and finally my dear old reliable and dependable friend, Tripadvisor, solved my problem by offering a 1 day tour of MP. Yayy aviator.com
Here is what my itinerary looked like:
Lima – Cusco: Friday afternoon
You need to get to Cusco the night before your tour because the tour leaves 6am in the morning. I left Lima on Friday afternoon so I could spend some time in Cusco. While Cusco is something of a transit point up to MP, it is itself an awesome vacation spot. It’s a lovely little town with lots of culture, friendly people and yummy food. Cusco is high up in the mountains, about 11,000 ft, and what I found from my research was that altitude sickness was real up there! And oh boy it was! When I landed, I was totally fine but any small exertion of myself (lifting my suitcase and brisk walk out of the airport for example) will leave you gasping for air (the air is so thin up there and so it is harder to breath). Most hotels around here have oxygen stations!!! They also give you this tea called coca tea which helps with altitude sickness. Coca leaves are from the same plant used to make cocaine! I like to believe it helped a lot 🙂
Cusco – Machu Picchu: Saturday all day
With my organized tour, I was picked up from my hotel at 6am in the morning, after my morning cup of Coca :). After picking up a few more tourists we headed up towards a smaller town called Poroy to catch the 7.30am train. It took about 20 minutes to get up to Poroy and about 3hrs 30 minutes to get up to MP.
Yes, a long ride but very scenic I must say. Something very interesting I noticed was that the little rural communities we went past had electricity and social utilities (community parks with basketball courts, football pitches, etc). Peru has gotten their tourism act together and even local communities are benefiting! Nigeria where are you ooh?
Back to the long train ride….once we got up to MP station, we had another 30 minutes up a steep mountain to the entrance of MP. I hadn’t realized there were hotels up near the MP station. If I had longer, I would most definitely have stayed one night up there :(. When I got up to MP, before seeing the ruins, I remember thinking how amazing God is, and high up in the mountains almost touching the sky, I felt closer to God! It was breathtaking and with each glance, it felt like worship to God!!! There is a river that originates from the Amazon in Brazil and runs through into the MP surroundings…it is amazingly beautiful!
The weather was awesome..fall like weather so it helped with the climbing. But remember the altitude sickness I told you about? Yea well, this time you have to exert yourself because you are climbing, so it was hard to breathe. No jokes, after climbing like 30 steps, you have to take a rest! You feel like you’re having an asthma attack because there isn’t enough air in your lungs!! By the time you get up, and see the MP ruins, you are still not prepared for how extraordinary it is! We also had a great tour guide who gave my small group detailed history and context of the Inca civilization.
One definite highlight from the MP visit was getting to hang out with llamas. You had llamas just chilling, and strolling all around the site. Llamas were very important animals to the Incas so they like to keep a feel of the old times by having them chill around and hang with the tourists. Many selfies were taken with llamas, we couldn’t get enough of them!
When you are leaving MP, you can pass by a table where you can get your “one of a kind” souvenir stamp on your passport.
Sunday: Cusco – Lima
I spent the time before my flight checking out Cusco (Friday I had been too tired to really check it all out). I brunched in San Blas, shopped around Plaza de Armas (its cheaper to buy your souvenirs in Cusco than MP in my opinion), got a massage (I had read about how cheap the massages were…nothing ‘unique’ just cheap). It was a great time, and I had a blast.I also met my alpaca friend while roaming the Cusco streets. I had always thought alpacas and llamas were the same animals and alpaca was just the local name for the llama. Oh how different they are…alpacas are soft and cuddly looking.
Since Cusco gets a lot of tourists passing through, you find lots of locals showcasing the culture in the hopes of getting a few coins for pictures. Here are two ladies who ‘hustled me’ (imagine hustling a Lagosian!). I was distracted by the goat swaddled in the ladies front, and so I took a few pics.
When I was done with my happy snapping, the one on the right (peep her ganster face, I should have suspected!!) told me I had to pay 10 soles (USD3)…really??? The downtown area is all situated around Plaza de Armas.
Planning a trip to Machu Picchu, here are a few useful tips:
- Language barrier (be prepared): I spoke no Spanish asides from the “hello” , “thank you”, “my name is…” and “where is the bathroom”. I did expect more people in Cusco to speak more English (only because its such a high tourist destination – they receive over 1 million guests a year!) but I was able to communicate and get by just fine with broken English/French and lots of sign language 🙂
- Visa requirements : Nigerian passport holders require a visa to visit Peru. Unfortunately, there is no consulate in Nigeria so you need to send your passport to their consular office in Ghana. The processing of the passport was quite quick – took 1 day (caveat, it was a business visa so a tourist visa could possibly take longer)
- International flights: Flight options are long! Scratch that…..very long. You first need to fly into Lima, and then take a flight from Lima to Cusco. Easiest options from Lagos to Lima are to go through Paris, London or the US so you obviously need to get an American, UK or Schengen Visa (transit or otherwise). On average , flight time including layover is 24-26 hours. I went through the US.
- Local flights: There are a few airlines that fly between Lima and Cusco. My preference airlines were TACA and Avianca since they had affiliations with international airlines I was comfortable with. The flight time between Lima and Cusco is about 90 minutes. Note, the Peruvian airlines are surprisingly punctual with their check in process, so they close their check-in 1 hour to flight time!
- Hotels: I stayed at a small hotel that was rated very highly on Tripadvisor called Hotel Unumizu Cusco. It was a clean and functional hotel, and staff was very friendly. I liked, although the area was a bit far from the middle of tourist town called Plaza de Armas. I would recommend looking for a boutique hotel in an area called San Blas. This is the artsy part of town with loads of cute little cafes, craft shops and cobble street roads!
- Feeding: Feeding in Lima and Cusco was quite affordable compared to Lagos!! A nice meal in a $$$ restaurant will set you back $30-$50 (including drinks). You can most definitely find cheaper places with good food. There are loads of backpackers with little money to dish out and loads of places catering yummy food to them. I am all about experiencing food cultures during my travels. The food in Peru is absolutely amazing, so make sure you drop some pounds to put them right back on!! One very interesting (but scary looking) dish I tried is the guinea pig….try it!
- Peruvians love ceviche which is a popular dish in the coastal regions of Latin America. Ceviche is raw shrimp in citrus and spices. Its quite yummy. Make sure you find a popular place that serves ceviche. Also, make sure you try their signature alcoholic cocktail – pisco sour, please note that it packs quite the punch!!
Sadly, the timing was too short so I’ll advice having at least 5 clear days (2 days go into travel time) for this trip. If I had more time, I would have done the 1 or 2 day hike up to MP with the Inca trail. I hear there is a hot spring somewhere along the trail :). After getting up there, I would have spent a day in a nice hotel near the MP train station and then headed back down with the train to Cusco (no hike back down thank you). Because of the language barrier, I would still have opted for the organized tour…usually I like to schedule out my own trips but its hard to get it all right when you cant speak the language.