Out of the Ordinary: Travelling with Family in Peru
It’s exciting when close friends or family members want to come and visit us on our overland journey. They want a taste of our life – to share our day to day experiences. It’s not always easy to work out how best to do this in a limited time, but we have managed it twice before and now for a third time. My sister Bron, and her husband Bob, live on a narrow boat cruising the canals of England . This certainly gives them some understanding of the nomadic lifestyle.
When they told us in October that they would visit in January, the first thing we needed to work out was where we were likely to be at that time. Predicting our future movements is always a bit iffy for us but we finally worked out that we could possibly be in Cusco at that time. That was good for them because they had always wanted to visit Machu Picchu.
Once that decision was made, we set about planning how to make it all happen. Juergen suggested they fly into Cusco and out of Arequipa. This would give the opportunity to spend time in Cusco and the Sacred Valley of the Incas; travel to Puno and visit Lake Titicaca; and then on to Arequipa to experience the wonderful sites of this World Heritage city.
Our overland camper isn’t big enough to sleep 4 people – we wouldn’t have lasted 3 days, let alone 3 weeks if we’d tried. So all planning included the necessity of finding suitable overnight accommodation for Bron & Bob.
Here’s how it all worked out.
Pisac – Restaurante Doña Clorinda
In December, on the way to Cusco, we spent a couple of nights in Pisac, parked outside a restaurant. We decided to look around for a place to stay because Pisac (at 3000m) would be more comfortable than Cusco (at 3400m) for travellers flying into altitude they are not used to. It turned out that the restaurant also had guest rooms.
The day they arrived we headed directly to Pisac. Our first trip together in Berta was scenic but short – around 30Km. Bron and I sat in the camper; Bob up front in the cab. Everyone arrived feeling none the worse for the trip, and we settled in for 3 nights in Pisac.
We wandered around the city, shopped in the artisanal market and gave them the opportunity to experience a totally different culture up close. The Pisac ruin site was our first place on the Boleto Turístico del Cusco. This is a new idea since our 2008 visit to the Sacred Valley. For S/.130 you can visit 14 historic sites and museums in and around Cusco. It is valid for 10 days. [See our separate post about visiting the sights in the Sacred Valley .]
The hospitality at Doña Clorinda was wonderful and we had two dinners there that were excellent – home-cooked Peruvian specialities. Bron & Bob were of the opinion that this place would be hard to beat. The fact that we could stay in our camper, just outside the gate, made it very convenient.
Ollantaytambo – Hotel T’ika Wasi
We left Pisac, our guests well-rested and as acclimatised as was possible, to drive the almost 100Km to Ollantaytambo. This is the stepping off point for Machu Picchu. We had decided not to go again, and had arranged for Bron & Bob to go by train to Aguas Calientes. They would stay overnight and visit the ruin site very early the next morning, before returning to us later that day.
When we arrived in Ollantaytambo, we drove directly to the large parking lot, right on the edge of town. It is primarily for tourist and local buses, but anyone can park there. They also allow overlanders to stay there overnight. From there we walked towards the centre of town and found a hotel for Bron & Bob, less than 2 minutes from where we were parked. The Hotel T’ika Wasi is modern and comfortable; the staff are very friendly and Bron & Bob were able to leave their luggage there while they took the train to Machu Picchu the next day.
We were far from bored waiting for them in Ollantaytambo. By sheer coincidence we had arrived just in time for the annual Three Kings Festival. The streets were filled with colourfully dressed locals, who flock in from all around for this important celebration. There was music and dancing in the streets; holy figures carried in procession; and even a bullfight.
The Inca ruin site in Ollantaytambo is impressive, and the morning is the best time to visit – before the crowds arrive. It’s quite a climb to the top, but the rewards are worth it; walls with some of the biggest individual stones to be seen anywhere.
That afternoon we drove on to Urubamba – on our way back to Cusco.
Urubamba – Wayqey Lodge
Our plan was to stay 2 nights in this town, and visit the Archaeological Complex of Moray and the Salinera de Maras. But we all know about “the best laid plans…”
Bron and I had both woken that morning with the beginnings of a chest cold. We had managed to climb the Ollantaytambo site but, by the time we reached Urubamba, we were fading fast. We were very lucky to be directed to the Wayqey Lodge, because it became our home (and infirmary) for the next 5 days!
They had agreed to let us park the truck in their parking area and stay in it. Bron & Bob were given spacious accommodations, which included a downstairs kitchen/dining/living area and 2 bedrooms upstairs. When they realised we were both ill, they suggested I should also spend my time in the apartment ‘where it’s warm and there’s a TV’. Bob became the chief cook and sometimes nurse to us both, and Juergen was able to sleep undisturbed for the best part of 2 days in the camper when he also succumbed to the virus.
It was unfortunate to become ill during this limited time together, but we made the best of it. At least we were together.
Cusco – Niños Hotel
Although we were still recuperating, we decided it was time to leave our cocoon, and venture out into the world again, even on wobbly legs. On the way to Cusco we visited the agricultural site of Moray and Maras salt pans. We were happy not to have missed these impressive sites.
Then we stopped in the village of Chinchero and made a valiant effort to climb up to the archaeological site there. We took it very slowly and were pleased we actually made it. Moray and Chinchero are also included in the Boleto Turístico del Cusco. Unfortunately, we didn’t really get our money’s worth because this was the last of our 10 days validity.
The Niños Hotel (Children’s Hotel) is a convenient and comfortable place to stay, within walking distance of Plaza de Armas and other sights in the historic centre. It is in a lovely old building with an interior courtyard. All the profits from the hotel are fed into a foundation, created by the Dutch owner to care for street children in Cusco.
Originally we had planned to spend around 5 days in Cusco, but we reduced it to 3. We needed to get to Puno, and on to Arequipa. But we managed to see a lot in those few days. We walked slowly and rested often. The historic centre of Cusco is on the World Heritage list, and certainly earns its place there.
Sicuani – Hotel Wilkamayu
When we left Cusco we had reached the end of the second week of their 3 week visit. From there to Puno is almost 400Km. We simply cannot drive that distance in Berta in one day. Fortunately there are some towns along this route with hotels. We chose Sicuani because it’s probably the largest town, and it’s getting close to the halfway point.
We visited a couple of interesting historic sites on our way. Pikillaqta is the only pre-Inca site of any importance near Cusco, dating from 700-900AD. It was included in our expired Boleto Turístico del Cusco, but Juergen and Bob managed to get in to look at the site because the security guard seemed to be on a lunch break!
Raqchi is about 110Km from Cusco. It’s an Incan site with many different aspects: the Temple of Wiracocha, living quarters, and many large, circular stone structures believed to be storehouses. There is also a town square of the present town of Raqchi, which has a lovely stone church. The square is full of artisanal stalls selling all sorts of souvenirs for tourists.
The Hotel Wlikamayu was a brilliant find in Sicuani. We had almost given up on finding it when Juergen asked a moto-taxi driver. He then led us right to it – for a small fee. The hotel is lovely and it has a huge parking lot in the back where we could spend the night in Berta.
Puno – Hostal Casablanca
Another 250Km and we arrived in Puno. This hostal is about 20Km past Puno, but it offers facilities to overlanders as well as hotel rooms. It was another good solution for us. We only stayed 2 nights, giving us the day between to visit the floating islands.
Lake Titicaca is the highest navigable lake in the world and South America’s largest lake. But the main reason people visit is to experience the Uros Floating islands. They are made from reeds, which grow abundantly in the lake and are moored to sticks sunk into the bed in more shallow parts.
The islands that accept visitors are well organised for tourists, but that doesn’t stop the people from being welcoming and open. They share information on their life-style and activities, invite you into their homes and happily answer questions. Bob asked our host what happens if there is an argument among the people living together on an island. She explained, in Spanish, that they cut the island to set free the problem part and “hasta la vista, baby”. Due to her hand signals, there was no need for me to translate the answer! In return for their hospitality they really like you to buy some of their handcrafts – Bron was very happy to comply.
Yura – Hospedaje Juanita
From Puno to Arequipa is more than 300Km, with no possibility of a town large enough for a hotel along the way. This would be our longest drive on the trip with our guests. When we left Arequipa in December, we spent 3 days in Yura. This town is famous for its cement works, but also its thermal baths.
We knew there was a place for us to park and a small hotel just nearby, so we decided to make this our goal and drive the last 30Km into the city the next morning. The hotel wasn’t the most salubrious of the trip, but it was ok for the night and we were happy to have a refreshed driver to take us on our final leg of this journey.
Arequipa – Hostal Las Mercedes
The last 4 nights of their visit was spent in the lovely Hostal Las Mercedes. Bron & Bob were most impressed with their room and the helpful, friendly staff. This is also a place that has facilities for overlanders and it was our 3rd stay here.
Arequipa is the second largest city in Peru and probably the most beautiful . Its historic centre is extensive and many of the buildings are made from the locally quarried sillar stone – a white, porous, volcanic rock. It gives the city its nickname: La Ciudad Blanca (the white city). It is also on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
As well as just wandering around and enjoying the beautiful buildings, we visited the Monasteria de Santa Catalina, Museo Santuarios Andinos, Casa del Moral, and the Cathedral. We also went shopping. Bron and I had recently received a small inheritance from our mother and we decided to treat ourselves with a ‘present from mum’. Bron and I got beautiful jackets and Bob and Juergen both found pullovers – all from lovely soft alpaca wool. Thanks Mum!
We had a very unfortunate experience in that Bob’s bag with his camera and accessories was stolen. The most disappointing thing about it was the loss of all of his photos from our time together. But we all made the best we could of it, helping him find a new camera the same day – which he is very pleased with. We also gave him all the photos we had taken during the time. Thankfully, Bron also has some photos she took on her phone.
Despite this, everyone agreed that Arequipa made a beautiful ending to this incredible journey.
Bron and I got to spend a lot of time together – sometimes just being. We sat in the camper together on most of the drives, while Bob sat up front with Juergen.
We had no real problems finding suitable places for us to park and for them to get a room; even when we were sick, the perfect place manifested.
Bron & Bob got a good taste of what our life is like.
I suppose now we must get to England and check out what their life is like. I promise we won’t stay for more than 3 weeks!
So what did Bron and Bob think of our shared journey in Southern Peru?
Our long awaited catch up starting in Cusco Peru, more than lived up to expectation. Despite the shared illness and a little bit of altitude sickness, we filled our three short weeks with some amazing sights, easy travel, diverse and welcoming accommodation, delightful food, and lasting good memories. Yasha and Juergen showed us a beautiful part of Peru and were absolutely the best hosts. How lucky are we!?!?