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Old 04-18-2013, 09:42 PM   #16
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I forgot to mention anything about the hotel in Lima, the Casa Andina Private Collection. Our room was a fairly standard room for any reasonably nice hotel. It was clean, comfortable and well maintained, but rather small and nothing particularly special. On the other hand, the room we had for the afternoon once we returned to Lima at the end of the trip was a very nice, large room, but we didn’t get to use that room for very long, since we flew home that evening. There is a lovely pool located on the 3rd floor. The fitness room overlooks the pool, so if you are so inclined, you can work out while your kids are in the pool and still be able to keep an eye on them. The hotel’s wifi was slow, but not the worst on this trip, and it was free. There is a bar in the lobby area, a quick service restaurant that has sandwiches, salads and pastries and a sit down restaurant, which also serves a breakfast buffet. We had dinner in the restaurant and the service was slow, but our server was very pleasant. There were several restaurants within easy walking distance. The neighborhood seemed safe enough, but the guides did warn us to be cautious when we ventured out of the hotel. I didn’t use it, but there was an ATM in hotel, which is convenient if you haven’t exchanged any money yet. I didn’t take any photos of the room, but if you go to the Casa Andina website you can see them. Our first room was a “traditional” and our second room was a “superior”. I did take a picture of this art work, which was fodder for a lot of juvenile jokes, which is too be expected since we were traveling with a lot of juveniles.



Day 2 – the day the tour really starts
We were instructed to have our luggage out by 6:30AM. We were scheduled to leave the hotel at 7:30 to catch our flight to Cusco. I put our bags out a little before 6:30 and then we went down for the breakfast buffet. Breakfast was kind of hectic and rushed. The hotel has a large buffet that appeared to have a very good selection. But since all 44 of us, plus the 4 ABD folks, showed up for breakfast around the same time, it was a bit crowded. I made the mistake of getting in line for the omelet station, which was slow. I didn’t really get to check out the rest of the selection on the buffet or enjoy my breakfast, since I felt rushed. We should have gone down earlier.

We all got on a big bus and were taken to the airport. The guides handed out our boarding passes and we all went through security and on to our gate. Then our flight was delayed. I got the feeling that this happens often. I believe the flight was delayed by a little more than an hour. Finally, we were loaded on to a shuttle that took us out to the plane sitting on the tarmac. DS and I tried our first Inca Cola during the flight. Not sure if DS had another during the trip, but it was the last one for me. It tastes a lot like bubble gum and it is too sweet for my taste. We were warned that the approach to Cusco was “interesting”, and it was a bit bumpy, but not too bad. At the airport in Cusco I encountered my first restroom where there was no toilet seat. There was toilet paper though, but it was outside of the stall, so you had to get what you needed and take it in with you. The restrooms took some getting used to. This is my advice: wherever you are, if there is a toilet with paper and a seat you should use it, even if you don’t need to. While we were waiting for the bus, I started feeling strange, but just a little. We all got on a bus for the ride to the Center for Traditional Textiles in Chinchero, which is at a slightly higher elevation than Cusco. They greeted us with lemonade that I believe was the best lemonade I’ve ever had. We were served an outdoor lunch of traditional Peruvian food – some good, some just okay – and wine for the adults. I was feeling a bit light-headed, so I had my first coca tea, but it didn’t seem to help at all, but it tasted okay. We were given a weaving demonstration, and an opportunity to buy some of the hand woven textiles. The women at the center make the yarn, dye it and weave everything by hand and it takes a couple of weeks just to make a ball of yarn. If these items were made in the US they would cost a billion dollars – well, maybe not that much, but they would be expensive. The kids dressed up in some ponchos, hats and other traditional Peruvian clothing. It was cute. I would post a photo, but I don’t think I should post photos of other people’s kids on the internet, so I’ll just post a photo of the ladies who work there, since there are already lots of photos of them on the internet anyway.



Every time I stood and moved around, I felt loopy, so I found a shady place to sit down and waited while everybody finished shopping. I heard a few other people say they were feeling the effects of the altitude too. We left Chinchero and drove to the Sol y Luna resort, which is at a lower elevation and I felt fine after that. I guess I adjusted, because I was not affected by the altitude at any point during the remainder of the trip, not even when we went back to Cusco or during the fairly strenuous hiking.

We arrived at Sol y Luna around dusk. The guides handed out our room keys and a member of the Sol y Luna staff showed us to our casita. He said we were lucky because we had received an upgrade. Our casita was huge. There is free wifi, but it is terribly slow.

Here are some photos.

The casita from the outside.
]

The entrance


We were told the fireplace and the music system were an upgrade.


And the bowl of fruit and tray of treats. Wish I had thought of taking a photo before we ate some of the sweets.



The awesome bathroom








Most of the rooms don't have TVs, but we had one. I was a bit disappointed because I thought it would be good for DS to do without a TV, but he didn't watch it anyway. I watched a little. They had more English speaking stations than in Lima. I was watching a news show one night from the bed, and there were captions on the bottom of the screen. I had to get out of bed and walk across the room to read them. They need a bigger TV or a smaller room.





Our patio


We got settled in and then we were off to the welcome dinner. I think the place where we met may be new or at least remodeled since one of the guides mentioned that it was a new restaurant. We didn’t eat in the restaurant, but met in the bar area, where we had some appetizers and a Pisco Sour. If you wanted a different drink, it was at your own expense. The kids had lemonade. I tasted of DS’s and, unlike the lemonade at lunch, I believe this was the worst lemonade I ever tasted. We had the usual introductions – one member of the family introduces the rest and tells everybody what they are most looking forward to. After that the guides introduced themselves and Mike handed out the Adventure Insider pins. At least half of the families on this trip were returning guests. We then moved outside for the Pachamanca.

Here is the menu:




Here is Chef Nacho and his assistants preparing the pit.




While dinner was cooking in the pit, we were entertained by the “Andean Gods Theater”. I love this sort of thing. Here is a snippet of video of the show. I got the heads of the little girls sitting in front of me, but the video isn't too bad. I hope you all can see it. The link worked the first time I click on it, but I just got a blank screen the second time, so let me know if it doesn't work.



I thought this meal was going to be awesome, but honestly IMO it wasn't very good, although some people seemed to like it . Except for the chicken, the meat was tough. The vegetables were dry and needed seasoning. There are desserts on the menu, but I don’t remember having any. Maybe I’ve just forgotten, because I didn’t eat a lot of dinner, so I can’t believe I skipped dessert! The good thing about this meal was that DS tried everything and even liked the Chimichurri sauce, which I was surprised that he even tasted, since it’s green. The entertainment and company was great, so I really enjoyed the dinner, even if the food was a bit disappointing.

We went back to the casita to get some rest. After seeing the weather forecast and reading about Sol y Luna I was afraid that our room was going to be cold at night. But actually it was too warm. I didn’t need those wool socks I packed to sleep in. I left the windows open every night and I still woke up during the night feeling hot. The high temps during the day were only in the 60s, but 60s felt warmer in Peru than it does at home. I checked the temperature one morning before we went out and it was 55, so I expected it to feel cool, but it didn’t. I don’t understand that, but I’m glad it wasn’t cold.

Last edited by Bobo912; 04-19-2013 at 06:18 AM.
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Old 04-18-2013, 10:01 PM   #17
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Oh, cool! Pics! That casita looks amazing! What a great room.

Glad the altitude issues didn't last. It still scares me a bit.

You can upload your video to photobucket, and then use the link it gives you. You'll end up with a large "thumbnail" in your report, and if people click it, it will take them to the video on photobucket, where it plays. (At least that's how it worked last time I did it!)

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Old 04-18-2013, 10:15 PM   #18
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Yeah, they gave you a special room! I don't recall treats in our room or fruits. That's a great plus!!!

I enjoyed the pachamanca, I mean the effort alone in preparing that one meal is astounding! I remember Chef Nacho. He is the body builder, right? I enjoyed Peruvian food - the quinoa soup, quinoa cereal and their ceviche!!! The thought of it makes my mouth water! Yum!!

Can't wait for the rest of your report, Bobo!!!
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Old 04-19-2013, 06:03 AM   #19
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Originally Posted by sayhello View Post
Oh, cool! Pics! That casita looks amazing! What a great room.

Glad the altitude issues didn't last. It still scares me a bit.

You can upload your video to photobucket, and then use the link it gives you. You'll end up with a large "thumbnail" in your report, and if people click it, it will take them to the video on photobucket, where it plays. (At least that's how it worked last time I did it!)

Sayhello
Thanks! I added the video.

Quote:
Yeah, they gave you a special room! I don't recall treats in our room or fruits. That's a great plus!!!

I enjoyed the pachamanca, I mean the effort alone in preparing that one meal is astounding! I remember Chef Nacho. He is the body builder, right? I enjoyed Peruvian food - the quinoa soup, quinoa cereal and their ceviche!!! The thought of it makes my mouth water! Yum!!

Can't wait for the rest of your report, Bobo!!!
Totally agree about the effort in preparing the meal. It was a show in itself. I think I had heard too much about how spectacular the food in Peru is prior to the trip and my expectations were too high. We did have some really good food. The food on the night when Chef Nacho did the cooking demonstration was great. I wish I had the recipes for the quinoa soup and the pumpkin soup they serve at the restaurant at Sol y Luna.
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Old 04-19-2013, 06:29 AM   #20
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Thank you so much for doing a TR! It will definitely help me (and I am sure others) prepare for the trip.

Out of curiosity: did you happen to see if there was anything special set aside for vegetarians? I am worried it will just be vegetables and wondering if I should bring some protein bars.

I am sorry to hear about your arrival issue. That is really scary!
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Old 04-19-2013, 09:57 AM   #21
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Thank you so much for doing a TR! It will definitely help me (and I am sure others) prepare for the trip.

Out of curiosity: did you happen to see if there was anything special set aside for vegetarians? I am worried it will just be vegetables and wondering if I should bring some protein bars.

I am sorry to hear about your arrival issue. That is really scary!
I don't recall seeing any alternative vegetarian entrée at the Pachamanca, but there were a ton of vegetables. We had several meals where we ordered from a fixed menu and there was always a vegetarian entrée. I ordered the vegetarian pasta the evening after our visit to Machu Picchu and it was simple, but delicious. There is an apple desert on the menu that evening that I highly recommend. It was the best dessert I had on the trip. The evening of the cooking demonstration, Chef Nacho prepared a potato dish, ceviche, and an alpaca stir fry. This was also the evening that we made our own pizza and they had a lot of veggie toppings. The pizza turned out to be very tasty. I believe all of the buffets had a vegetarian option.
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Old 04-19-2013, 06:52 PM   #22
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Day 3 – Rafting and Ruins

We started our day with the breakfast buffet at the Sol y Luna. They have a few hot items – French toast, bacon (not the delicious, smoky, crunchy kind we have at home), sausage, potatoes, another vegetable dish, tamales (corn meal steamed in a husk). You can also request eggs cooked to order. The buffet also has cheese, yogurt, cereal, fresh fruit, and pastries. The choices were okay, but we were there for 4 days and the buffet had exactly the same items every day. I got tired of the limp bacon and really just wanted oatmeal (none on the buffet) or cereal, but the only choices were Corn Flakes or Fruit Loops (or whatever the Peruvian equivalent is) and neither of those were very appealing to me. A little more variety would have been good, but having the fresh fruit every morning was very nice.

After breakfast we were off to the Urubamba for “whitewater” rafting. It was actually a float trip. There were no rapids. Our local guide was very pleasant and pointed out a lot of geographical and historical points of interest. The scenery was lovely as long as you kept your focus off in the distance. But up close, it’s not so nice. The river is very dirty. The shore is covered with trash. At one point we pulled up to the bank to wait for the other rafts and there was a dead dog lying just at eye level. Some of the rafts ahead of us were splashing each other, but everybody on our raft decided to stay back and not participate. I’m glad we didn’t. Several people were very sick the next day, and it wouldn’t surprise me at all if the nasty river water was the cause. Our raft trip was cut short, because the last part of the usual course was extremely rough (our local guide said class 5+ rapids) and it wasn’t safe. Maybe they usually have a better location to disembark, but the place where we got off the rafts was not ideal. There were two small tents for us to change in (one for men, one for women). They were set up in a small area where the weeds were knee high inside the tent. There was nothing to sit on or hold on to, so it was a bit of a challenge to change out of our wet clothes. Once we changed, there was a tent with some sweets, tea and hot chocolate. But the tent was much too small to accommodate our group. There was a long table lined with folding stools that were jammed so close together it nearly impossible to move. I got my tea and went outside. With so many people, it took quite a long time for everybody to change and take their turn getting a snack in the tent. The rest of us just stood around waiting. This was a theme throughout the trip and one of the reasons why I say this group was much too large. I think we weren’t able to do or see nearly as much because of the size of our group and, except for leaving the hotel first thing in the morning, we seemed to always be running a bit behind schedule.

Once everyone was dressed and fed, we loaded onto our busses for the ride to Ollantaylambo. For most of the trip, we had two smaller busses, rather than one big bus. The streets in the towns are too narrow to accommodate a big bus. We rode the same bus every day, but the adventure guides alternated each day, so their time was divided equally between the two groups. Harvey took us on a walking tour through the town. This was another occasion where the size of the group was a problem. In the narrow streets not everyone could follow closely enough to hear what Harvey was saying.

View of the ruins



Narrow street in Ollantaylambo



We had lunch in the garden at a restaurant in Ollantaylambo. The lunch was catered by Sol y Luna and was quite good.

The small garden where we had lunch



The kids looking at the Guinea Pigs that will eventually be somebody's dinner.




After lunch, we hiked up the steps of the ruins. There were quite a few steps and I was very relieved that I no longer had any issues dealing with the altitude.

View from the top



Some of our group hiking back down



Back at Sol y Luna it was Junior Adventurer’s movie night. There were a lot of 12 and 13 year-olds on the trip (including my DS), who were not technically junior adventurers, but they had the option of participating in the JA activities. Most of them chose to attend movie night, but I did see a few in the restaurant with their families. The kids were supposed to have their dinner and movie on the lawn, but there was another outdoor event at the hotel and there would have been too much noise for them to hear the movie, so they moved inside to the conference/game room. While the kids were having their evening, the adults had dinner in the main restaurant. We had a limited menu to choose from. I had some fantastic pumpkin soup and trout that was also really good. I asked for Panna Cotta for dessert, but they had run out. We had a mini version of the Panna Cotta at lunch earlier and it was delicious. I had chocolate truffles instead, which were good, but not as good as my first choice. The meals in the restaurant were consistently quite delicious.

I had a little time to relax in the room before I had to pick up DS at 8:30. You can probably guess what movie the kids watched. Next day…Machu Picchu!
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Old 04-19-2013, 07:20 PM   #23
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I was going to ak you about people getting sick after river rafting. A couple of people jumped in the water and one of them got extremely sick and was not well enough until the last day of the trip.

I wonder if they should limit the group size to this trip? Our group was 33 and it was a manageable size and not difficult to hear what the guide was saying.
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Old 04-19-2013, 07:29 PM   #24
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I was going to ak you about people getting sick after river rafting. A couple of people jumped in the water and one of them got extremely sick and was not well enough until the last day of the trip.

I wonder if they should limit the group size to this trip? Our group was 33 and it was a manageable size and not difficult to hear what the guide was saying.
I am a little worried about a big group on our Germany trip. So far it is 38 I believe. Last May we had 22 for London and Paris and it was perfect! We really bonded.
Then again, it is AbD. I'm sure it will be great! ;-).

Enjoying your report. Very detailed. Personally it isnt on my list, but i like reading about your adventure. Getting sick from the river rafting is scary! Glad you were ok!

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Old 04-19-2013, 07:47 PM   #25
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I am a little worried about a big group on our Germany trip. So far it is 38 I believe. Last May we had 22 for London and Paris and it was perfect! We really bonded.
Then again, it is AbD. I'm sure it will be great! ;-).

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I think it depends on the people in the group. Our ABD Greece group was also 44 but we all gelled together and everything flowed very smoothly. People were on time every time and it did not feel like it was a big group.
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Old 04-19-2013, 08:05 PM   #26
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I think it depends on the people in the group. Our ABD Greece group was also 44 but we all gelled together and everything flowed very smoothly. People were on time every time and it did not feel like it was a big group.
Thanks for the reassurance. ;-). We had such a wonderful time last year that I am almost afraid to expect the same! As a matter of fact, two of our fellow travelers are coming to visit tomorrow!

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Old 04-19-2013, 08:53 PM   #27
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Thanks for the reassurance. ;-). We had such a wonderful time last year that I am almost afraid to expect the same! As a matter of fact, two of our fellow travelers are coming to visit tomorrow!

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I think it depends a lot of the destination too. Peru is somewhat difficult to navigate. Some areas are lacking in modern conveniences. Restrooms, for instance, were a problem. Often there would be only one or two stalls and it takes a long time when you have that many people trying to use one or two toilets. ABD should probably limit the group size based on the destination. We had 44 on our trip and when I spoke to ABD a couple of months prior to the trip, they indicated that it was not fully booked and it remained on the website as if it were still available for booking, so there was the potential for more than 44. I'm not sure what they consider the maximum number of guests now, but the website no longer states that the maximum is 40. We still had a good vacation, but having a group that large changes the nature of the trip and the interaction between the guests with each other and with the guides.

Last edited by Bobo912; 04-19-2013 at 09:01 PM.
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Old 04-19-2013, 09:29 PM   #28
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Hi Bobo,

Thanks for writing a TR. I'm really enjoying your report and the photos. And I also appreciate your advice on what to bring.

How much did T-Mobile charge for using your Samsung in Peru? Was it considered international roaming?
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Old 04-19-2013, 09:33 PM   #29
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....but having a group that large changes the nature of the trip and the interaction between the guests with each other and with the guides.
I would imagine. It was a big deal for me to travel to Europe (I almost sent DH & DD18 without me!) I know I would be out of my element with those restroom accommodations. Lololol

I cherish the friendships we made with our guides and fellow guests.
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Old 04-19-2013, 09:38 PM   #30
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Hi Bobo,

Thanks for writing a TR. I'm really enjoying your report and the photos. And I also appreciate your advice on what to bring.

How much did T-Mobile charge for using your Samsung in Peru? Was it considered international roaming?
From what I read on the T-Mobile website it is considered international roaming. But I can't confirm that or what the charges were because I only used my phone from the hotels and since I was connected to their Wifi, the calls were free. I did notice that sometimes I was connected to the T-Mobile network. Mostly I left the phone turned off.

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