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Old 04-19-2013, 10:49 PM   #31
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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! ;-).

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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I agree with the others that it can really depend on the people and the trip. Most of my ABDs have been on the small side. 14 on Southwest Splendors, 15 on Alaska, and 28 on Knights & Lights. Those were all on the shoulder season. But we had 39 on the Med add-on, and I was worried about the size of the group. I really needn't have worried. The Guides handled the large group with great finesse, and I really did not notice any drop in the level of service. But everyone on the trip was obviously well-traveled, so there wasn't a lot of wrangling needed.

Oh, and Bobo912, the video worked just fine for me!

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Old 04-20-2013, 08:38 AM   #32
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I don't want to create the impression that the guests or the guides did anything wrong on our trip. We had a wonderful group of people, who were on time every morning. Most of them had already been on at least one ABD and many on multiple ABDs, so they knew the ropes. The guides did a great job and Peru is definitely a more challenging location than any of the others I've visited so far. There were just situations like the little changing tent on the raft trip that would have been sufficient for a smaller group, but just couldn't easily accommodate a group of our size. And at Moray, which I'm about to tell you about, there was one restroom and around 15 women and girls who needed to use it before we began our hike. It took a while. This restroom had no toilet paper or soap. Mike handed out packs of tissues and hand sanitizer. Yay, Mike!

Day 4 began with a visit to the ruins of Moray (yes I was mixed up - this isn't the Machu Picchu day). Moray is a very interesting and unusual place. This is what it looks like from the top. It's a long way down!



We paused on the way down and Harvey explained the quipu, the Incan system of writing. He had a quipu as a surprise for each of the kids.



The walk is equally challenging going down and up. You have to climb the ďflying stairsĒ, which are stones protruding from the wall. You can see them in the photo below. Some of them are separated by a good distance and unless youíre really tall, itís quite a stretch.



Climbing back up was quite tiring. I work out on an elliptical machine nearly every day, and I hike regularly on rocky, hilly trails, but climbing these steps was a bit of a strain on my legs. Apparently, there is a muscle in my thigh that I donít normally use, because it was quite sore the next day. Those of us who reached the top first, cheered on the ones who followed. If youíre planning on taking this trip, a few weeks working out on a stair stepper machine might be a good idea.

Next stop was the Salt Pans of Maras. This is another very interesting and unusual place. We walked down to the beginning of the trail through the salt pans, where Harvey told us about how they form and how the salt is harvested.



Then we had the option of hiking the trail through the salt pans back down to the Sacred Valley or taking the bus back down. I wish they hadnít mentioned that the hike was optional, because after all the climbing earlier in the day, I couldnít convince DS to go on the hike. It was downhill, so I donít think it would have been too bad. All three guides went with the hikers, so I didnít feel comfortable sending DS on the 45 minute bus ride by himself. This isnít like the Arches hike on SWS, where the bus option is just as good as the Delicate Arch hike. This is just a bus ride back down to the valley. The hike also takes around 45 minutes, so by the time we reached the end of the trail, we only waited a few minutes before the hikers showed up.

We were running late again and I think it was around 2:00 when we finally got back to Sol y Luna for lunch. Tables were set up on the lawn for us, but just as we arrived, it started raining and we quickly moved into the restaurant. Once again, we had a limited menu from which to order. This was another wonderful meal.

After lunch we had a free afternoon, but there was also an optional excursion to a pottery artistís studio. DS wasnít interested in the pottery studio and we hadnít had much time to spend in our awesome casita, so we decided to spend the rainy afternoon at the resort. I got a chance to soak my tired legs in that beautiful bathtub and sit on the patio and read a book. It was very relaxing. The people who visited the pottery studio seemed to really enjoy it as well.

That evening was the cooking demonstration and pizza making at Sol y Luna. We learned how to make a Pisco Sour and Chef Nacho demonstrated how to make some Peruvian sauces, ceviche, and alpaca stir fry. All of the dishes he prepared were delicious. During the cooking demonstration the kids were carving vegetables and making smoothies. Then they put on their chefís hats and aprons and started making pizzas. They had to roll out the dough, which was entertaining to watch. The adults got dough that was already rolled out, so we didnít have to work as hard. The pizzas were great. After a wonderful evening, we were off to bed, because we needed to be up early the next morning to catch the train to Machu Picchu!
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Old 04-20-2013, 10:50 AM   #33
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Great trip report so far!! I've always been interested in a cooking class in my travels, but, I travel with my DBF, who isn't interested. He would only be interested in eating the food afterwards lol

I'm curious, what did you think of the pisco sours?
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Old 04-20-2013, 11:07 AM   #34
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Great trip report so far!! I've always been interested in a cooking class in my travels, but, I travel with my DBF, who isn't interested. He would only be interested in eating the food afterwards lol
I'm curious, what did you think of the pisco sours?
I thought they pisco sours at Sol y Luna were good. I had more than one. They aren't actually sour. They told us that if we made them at home, they wouldn't be the same because they have a different variety of lime in Peru. Most of our produce comes from South America anyway, but maybe we don't import limes. They gave us the recipe, so I'm going to try it. The pisco sours we had at the farewell lunch were much different and were a lot like a margarita, without the salt.
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Old 04-20-2013, 11:18 AM   #35
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Great trip report so far!! I've always been interested in a cooking class in my travels, but, I travel with my DBF, who isn't interested. He would only be interested in eating the food afterwards lol

I'm curious, what did you think of the pisco sours?
I want to go on the Ireland trip strictly to make the scones. Lol. ;-)

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Old 04-20-2013, 12:01 PM   #36
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Thanks again for posting, Bobo! The grass is greener in Moray this time of the year. I remember the climb up after going down center. You would think the Incas, being short people would make the steps closer to each other but nope! The altitude does not help either. c:
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Old 04-20-2013, 12:46 PM   #37
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Hi Bobo, you mentioned trying the alpaca stir fry. How did it taste? (and please don't say it "tastes like chicken").
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Old 04-20-2013, 03:13 PM   #38
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Hi Bobo, you mentioned trying the alpaca stir fry. How did it taste? (and please don't say it "tastes like chicken").
LOL. It tastes more like beef. I asked my son and he said it tastes like tough steak. We had alpaca at a lot of our meals, prepared many different ways. The best thing about the stir fry wasn't the alpaca, it was the sauce. The sauce was fantastic. IMO, it would have been better with some other kind of meat.
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Old 04-20-2013, 10:56 PM   #39
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I thought they pisco sours at Sol y Luna were good. I had more than one. They aren't actually sour. They told us that if we made them at home, they wouldn't be the same because they have a different variety of lime in Peru. Most of our produce comes from South America anyway, but maybe we don't import limes. They gave us the recipe, so I'm going to try it. The pisco sours we had at the farewell lunch were much different and were a lot like a margarita, without the salt.
Ok, I thought all the ones we tried (Cusco, Lima, Ollantaytambo) tasted like margaritas made with Jose Cuervo. I never cared for regular margaritas, especially made with Cuervo.
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Old 04-22-2013, 02:22 PM   #40
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Day 5 Ė Machu Picchu

This was the day everybody was looking forward to and it didnít disappoint. We got an early start to the station to catch our train to Machu Picchu. The guides passed out our tickets, and after a short wait, we boarded the train. I donít get to do it often, but I enjoy traveling by train, and this trip was no exception. The seats were comfortable and roomy. We were served another breakfast. Itís been a few weeks now and I donít remember what it was, except that there was fresh fruit. Breakfast was served in a small basket and the food was in ceramic bowls, which is kind of nice compared to the plastic you get on a plane if youíre in coach. There is some nice scenery along the way. The Urubamba flows adjacent to the train tracks and there are some gigantic boulders and huge rapids. We arrived at the Aguas Calientes Train Station, where we had a short wait while everybody who felt the need used the restroom. It didnít take long, since this was a big, modern restroom, compared to the others we had seen. After a short walk through the town, we loaded onto the busses to take us to Machu Picchu. This is an interesting ride up a bumpy road with one hairpin turn after another. The road is narrow and runs along a cliff that drops off to the valley below. We met a nearly constant stream of busses coming down from Machu Picchu. Considering the route and traffic, the drivers went too fast, at least as far as I was concerned. I donít think I was the only one who was a bit apprehensive. But we made it safely to our destination, so no harm done. Finally, we rounded a curve and there was Machu Picchu! It was truly a breathtaking site. The driver stopped for a moment to let us take it in and then we continued up to the drop off area near the Sanctuary Lodge. It seemed to take a long time for the guides to pick up our tickets and for those who needed it to visit the restroom, but maybe it was just because I was anxious to go inside. I donít know what I expected, but a line with ticket takers wasnít it. You never see that part on the Travel Channel. Once inside though, that area isnít visible. For the first part of our visit, Harvey led the entire group on a guided tour. After that the kids went on a treasure hunt (the treasure was that dayís pin). Then everybody received a surprise, which I wonít spoil for those of you who are taking this trip.

Next we had lunch at the Sanctuary Lodge. This was a big buffet with a wide selection of Peruvian dishes. It was quite good. Lunch was in a large public dining room. It wasnít a private buffet just for us, like the others on this trip, but there was plenty of room for everybody. A trio of musicians played while we enjoyed our lunch.

After that, we split up into two groups, one that stayed in the lower part of the ruins for a tour with Rudy and the other group went up to the Guard House or continued on to the Moon Gate with Harvey. We decided to go with Harvey. The guard house is where you can get the quintessential tourist photo with the ruins and mountains in the background. If I could do this day over, I would take my photo at the Guard House and then go back down and spend some time exploring the ruins on my own. Unless you just really want to say youíve walked on the Inca Trail, there isnít that much to see by hiking up to the Moon Gate. It is a rough path, and it was wet, which made it a bit treacherous, so I spent most of the time looking at my feet rather than viewing the scenery. I slipped a few times, but didnít fall. There were a few people who fell, but luckily nobody was hurt. By the time we got back from the hike, it was nearly time to head back to the train station. I wish I had spent some time going through the ruins and taking some more photos. During the morning tour, it was hard to get good shots that didnít have somebodyís head or other body part in it. Still, it was a wonderful and amazing day and I thoroughly enjoyed it. You can find much better photos of Machu Picchu than those I took, so Iím not going to post many. But here are two to show you the difference in the view from the Guard House and the Moon Gate. It might help you decide if you want to make the trek.

The view from the Guard House


The view from the Moon Gate


The train that the ABD group usually takes back to Ollantaytambo was not running on this day, so we had to take a later train and got to spend some extra time at Machu Picchu (we knew this before we left the hotel that morning). After our day at the ruins, we took the bus back down the winding road to the town. We had a couple of hours to spend in town before it was time for our train. There is a market there, similar to the ones you will see throughout this trip, where you can shop for souvenirs and there are also several restaurants. I had some awesome hot chocolate. If you like hot chocolate, I recommend you try it, but be sure to add sugar before you taste it, because it's not sweetened.

Back at the train station, the guides, with the help of the JAís, handed out ice cream bars. Then we were back on the train for an entertaining ride back to Ollantaytambo. Our group was so large that we took up the entire car, except for 2 seats. The girls in our group got really loud on the ride back and I felt sorry for those 2 people who werenít part of our group. But I think they were good sports and we didnít get on their nerves too much. We had a really good group of kids. They got a little rowdy sometimes, but it was great to see them having such a good time. I think I will omit the details of what happens on the train ride, so there will still be some surprises for you folks who will be taking this trip soon.

Since we arrived late, the restaurant at Sol y Luna stayed open late just for us. We also had the option of getting room service, for those who needed to get their exhausted kids to bed. Since they donít normally offer room service, I was afraid it would be really slow and I was anxious to finish dinner and get some rest. I tried to convince DS to go to the restaurant, but he wanted to go back to the room, so we ordered room service. I was pleasantly surprised by how quickly they delivered our dinner. And it was another great meal. This day was definitely a highlight of the trip!
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Old 04-22-2013, 02:40 PM   #41
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Oh my gosh, you have no idea how much your TR is getting me excited for my trip

I am really nervous about the drive up to Machu Picchu. I really do not do well with heights (which I realize I will need to get used to on this trip). I think I will just make sure not to have a window seat!

Thanks for the tip on Moon Gate. That is something we will definitely think about.

Again, thanks so much for providing all these details. It is really helpful!
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Old 04-22-2013, 03:52 PM   #42
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That's interesting, the difference between the shots from the Guard House and the Moon Gate. I'd have to agree, given your description of the hike up to the Moon Gate, that the plan to go back down from the Guard House is probably a good idea, and one I'll remember if (when) I take this trip. Is it freaky that you were there and took that picture? I think it would be for me.

I'm a little confused by what you mean by "once inside". Is Machu Picchu fenced off? Or is that just figuratively for "on the grounds"? It's hard for me to picture Machu Picchu as "inside".

And I'm with you. I really like train travel, too. One of the things I enjoy about Alaska. It's definitely my favorite mode of travel.

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Old 04-22-2013, 04:36 PM   #43
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That's interesting, the difference between the shots from the Guard House and the Moon Gate. I'd have to agree, given your description of the hike up to the Moon Gate, that the plan to go back down from the Guard House is probably a good idea, and one I'll remember if (when) I take this trip. Is it freaky that you were there and took that picture? I think it would be for me.

I'm a little confused by what you mean by "once inside". Is Machu Picchu fenced off? Or is that just figuratively for "on the grounds"? It's hard for me to picture Machu Picchu as "inside".

And I'm with you. I really like train travel, too. One of the things I enjoy about Alaska. It's definitely my favorite mode of travel.

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Yes, it was totally surreal!

I've watched Samantha Brown visit Machu Picchu and I had the impression that you walk out the door of the Sanctuary Lodge and viola! - you're overlooking Machu Picchu. But it's not like that. You have to go through a gate and then walk down a path before you have a view of the ruins. From the vantage point outside the gate, we couldn't see any of the ruins. There isn't any fence though, so if you were capable of climbing the steep slopes you could find another way in. There are ticket takers at the gate and you have to show them your ticket and your passport to pass through. The entrance looks like this:

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Old 04-22-2013, 04:43 PM   #44
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Yep! I've *never* seen anyone on TV show an entrance like that when they've gone to Machu Picchu. I could see how that would be disorienting!

But you've been to Machu Picchu!



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Old 04-23-2013, 06:58 AM   #45
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It's the same at the Great Wall in China. You don't ever see the entrance gate with the ticket takers on TV. Once past that area, you take an aerial tram up to the wall. You only see people already up there!

Thanks for this trip report Bobo. I'm really enjoying it.
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