If you have the urge to visit a foreign land but are getting older and hate jet-lag as much as I do, you may want to consider South America!
My 29-year-old daughter and I spent a week in Peru’s Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu this past July. The weather was perfect; clear and not too hot thanks to the high altitude (over 10,000 ft in many spots). Accommodations were clean and pleasant in Cusco, Ollyantambo, where we especially liked and Agua Caliente, right outside of Machu Picchu. Food was also enjoyable and very reasonably priced. We did a few casual hikes up around Inca ruins and one from up at around 14,000 feet that we had no business attempting! I had purchased a hiking book on the area on Amazon and I showed a good-sounding hike to a local adventure shop with a young guy from Baltimore so language was not an issue (although my daughter’s Spanish is passable). I wanted us to be driven way up this pass and then hike across a region on a defined trail and over to another road where I wanted to arrange a pickup. It looked to be about a four hour hike which was plenty for my lousy back and my three months pregnant daughter. Well, the kid from Baltimore explained that there were two significant steep uphill sections to the trail and instead suggested we be dropped off up towards the top of the pass, hike up and around a mountain and then head almost entirely downhill through a valley which spews out to the road. Our driver would meet us there three hours later. Who could argue with this plan so off we went! The sky was a deep blue and as we got up higher we saw grazing alpacas and beautiful snow covered Andean peaks. The driver even showed us where the trail rejoined the road which seemed awfully far from where he ultimately dropped us off, but I had great comfort knowing the trail was mostly downhill. We were led up to the trail, whose name escapes me but it was right next to snowcapped Mount Veronica. Trouble came out of nowhere as we turned on the trail and ended up on a Northside exposure with little sun but plenty of icy snow. Instead of it taking us three hours to get down, it was closer to five harrowing hours, first slipping, sliding and grabbing either rocks or brush on the side of the trail and then getting below the snowline but wondering if we were even on the right track down. During these six hours we saw one farmer down in the valley, which is a verdant green; too bad he spoke neither Spanish or English, only a local Chitchian dialect. Miraculously we saw our driver’s car still waiting for us after walking for twenty minutes out of the valley! We both agreed that as beautiful as Machu Picchu was two days later, our Andean hiking trip will be talked about by both of us for years to come! Of course the kid from Maryland was surprised to hear there was still so much snow on the trail.
One last comment: spend as little time as possible in Lima and only in the Mira Flores area. There is some decent shopping there and a couple of great restaurants. Folks from Lima are very proud of their cuisine and well they should be!
In October, Paul Morris who heads up our accountants program and I spent a week in Brazil; he’ll fill you in on that worthwhile trip in his blog!
I hope those that enjoy travelling spend a good amount of time doing so during 2016!