Walking in the Inca’s footsteps in Peru
By Karin Schill
(26/11/2014) Mats and Suzanne Kilany travelled to Peru with Machete Tours in the end of September 2014. They went on a modified version of the classic tour, which included a walk on the Inca Trail. The Kilanys had long dreamt about walking on the famous trail and it also became the highlight of the journey to Peru. Earlier on the Kilanys have travelled to several other countries in Europe as well as to Thailand, Malaysia, Japan and the USA. But they had never before gone on such an organized tour.
1. How come you travelled to Peru?
Mats: We were sitting here at home in the sofa and discussing our vacation. We decided that we wanted to walk on the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu so we started to look at different trips that organized this. At this time you had a special offer that was actually better than all over offers.
So we stopped by for a visit at your Lund office. We mentioned that we wanted to walk on the Inca Trail and they said it was no problem to make our tour five days longer. So that’s why we chose to travel with Machete Tours.
2. Can you tell me some about the places you visited on the trip?
Yeah, we started in Lima where we had a guided tour with a local guide on four hours. He told us many stories about Lima’s history and Peru’s history in general. We also visited the gold museum, which was a fantastic experience. Our guide was great.
After that we travelled to Pisco where we went on a boat excursion to look at different birds, such as pelicans, gulls, seals, sea lions and a couple of penguins. It was nice.
Then we travelled to the Nazca lines. You can’t describe them in words. You have to experience them for yourself. We did from an airplane. It was a very nice guided tour there too and what we saw is hard to comprehend if you haven’t seen it with your own eyes. The people did a fantastic handiwork creating these formations. It is so well constructed and is meant to pay homage to the sun and the moon. It was something extraordinary and you don’t understand how they managed to create those lines in such ancient times!
We also went to see the gravesites out in the dessert. It wasn’t that nice but it was interesting to see how they had managed to preserve the mummies for several thousand years. Some mummies still had their hair and they still looked a little alive after all these years. Also to visit this place with a guide made it more interesting than it would have been otherwise.
After that we travelled to Arequipa and Colca Canyon. It was also a wonderful experience, just to travel there on these narrow roads was an experience in itself. Then arrive in that enormous valley. It was really beautiful. We were amazed by what we saw. Everyone stood at the condor lookout point hoping to see some birds and we actually saw some. In Arequipa we visited the Santa Catalina monastery, which was very beautiful.
Next our journey took us to Titicaca Lake. We spent two days there and stayed overnight at a local farmer family on the Amantani island. It was an amazing experience to see how they lived their lives. The guide was super and he really took care of us. He knew everything. Before arriving at the island we went to visit a family on the floating Uros Islands. Our guide and the president of the island told us how they made the islands out of sea weed. It was fascinating and very interesting. You got a good idea of what it was like to live out there. But I don’t understand how these people make a living. Still it was nice to learn that all children in Peru go to school. It is not a wealthy country but everyone gets to go to school.
Then we took the reed boat to another island where they had a restaurant and a store. The president of the island and another person rowed the boat. It was a “Mercedes”, which meant that it was a boat that was decorated and was only used for festive occasions. It’s amazing when they tell us about how they live and how things have developed on these islands. They build new ones when people get married. The way they live is so far from our way of life. They don’t have heat, electricity or water. So they have to work hard to survive all the time. After a guided tour of the island we were invited to have a look in their houses. They did all they could to persuade us to buy their handiwork, such as jewelry and tapestries. It is their way to gain money. They are very friendly and showed us great hospitality.
We travelled for a few hours from this island to Amantani Island where we stayed with a local family together with a French couple. Their standard of living is so different from ours as they didn’t have any electricity or water. But they showed us great hospitality. They had two children, one was ten and the other a year. The couple was around 35-40 years old but looked like they were pushing 50. Life had left its mark on them and especially all the time spent in the sun has made them age faster. The French couple knew Spanish so they helped us communicate with the family we were staying with.
We found out quite lots about their way of life and how they spent their days. Their main income came from growing potatoes. The Amantani Island was quite big. So they had to walk an hour to the fields where they were growing the potatoes in the morning and another hour to get home that night. They invited us to have lunch, dinner and breakfast with them. It was nothing fancy. The lunch consisted of soup, potatoes and cheese cake but it tasted good. After the lunch we walked up to the Pacha Papa, which was the highest mountain of the island. We looked at the view and visited the ruins of an ancient temple. Then they told us to walk around it three times since it meant happiness according to folk lore. So we did. Once we returned from our visit they served us dinner, which consisted of soup, potatoes an rice.
It was interesting to live with this family on their terms. We stayed in a guest room without electricity. So we had a candle lit on the room and that was our only source of heat and light. It was also an experience to enter their kitchen. The room didn’t have a single window and they cooked their food over a fireplace. The next day before we left we got some great pancakes for breakfast.
Their way of life is so different from ours. There were no police men on the island either. It feels so foreign to us. But it worked there since they had three Inca rules that everyone lived by. Their rules were:
1. You should not be lazy.
2. You should not steal.
3. You should be honest.
Their rules really seemed to work for them since everyone on the island worked really hard and the people were helpful and made sure that everyone got something to eat.
Our next stop was Cuzco. We went on another guided tour of the city and the staff took care of us. We went to many ancient Inca temples. What I remember from that was that at almost all places they had built a new Catholic church on top of the temples. Unfortunately the Spanish had ruined a lot of the original culture when they arrived.
After Cuzco it was finally time to walk the Inca Trail. There we had two wonderful guides, Paul and Marco. They were in charge of a group of 16 tourists who came from England, Australia, Canada, USA, Argentina and Colombia. It was a group with mixed ages. We had at least six staff members with us, who worked with carrying stuff. So I think in total we were about 25 people on the trek.
This was without a doubt the highlight of our trip. We began our trekking at 2800 meters height and walked uphill on these ancient trails. Walking there we got a sense of the people who had lived there before when we saw the carriers run uphill, carrying 50 kilos on their back. It was clear to us that people who lives in Peru are well adjusted to these roads and were familiar with the trails. We only walked a small portion on the Inca Trail, which was the last 50 km. to Machu Picchu.
It was great but I wouldn’t recommend this to anyone. The couple from Argentina, who were the oldest ones in the group, had it pretty tough but kept walking. Our guide Marco took good care of them during the entire trail. Many said that this was the hardest thing they had ever done. I think everyone can get through the Inca Trail but more or less well.
After Machu Picchu we went back to Lima and spent a day there where we enjoyed life before we went home. If you are to sum up our trip I would say that I have never before experienced such a cultural journey. Travelling in Peru I really understood how people have lived there for centuries and what history has brought with it. Both when it comes to the way the Incas and the Spanish people have lived there.
3. What was most memorable with the trip?
For us it was trekking on the Inca Trail, since that was what we wanted to do already when we started planning the trip at home. It feels like a huge achievement to have trekked on the Inca Trail. Suzanne had suffered from altitude sickness and a stomach bug earlier. But when we arrived at the Inca trail she felt better and we managed to walk it without any problems. We didn’t even get blisters on our feet. That we had to sleep in tents and couldn’t wash ourselves in the morning didn’t bother us. It was just a part of the experience. Sure we had to struggle to get to Machu Picchu and it was hard work. But the last day when we reached our goal it was all worth it.
The food they served during these days was fantastic and really good. Imagine how much they could cook with a simple gas cooker. The last night they gave us a cake, which was marvelous.
To trek on the Inca Trail, that experience, the nature, the feeling, I can’t put that experience into words. It was something so amazing that I almost got goose bumps all the time we walked there. The four days we trekked were very demanding. The trail was full of stone stairs and narrow paths that were hard to climb. But when we reached our camp site in the evenings our tents were already waiting for us. A lot of people thought it was hard to trek in a large group. It is sort of like skiing in the “Vasaloppet” or something. It demands that you are in good physical shape to make it. You have to factor in the height and the cold. Yet it was really beautiful.
The highest point of the trail was at the dead woman’s pass, which is located at 4235 m. We had to climb up almost 1000 meters that day. When we reached the top we just stood there. It was a special feeling. Then we walked downhill until the final night. Then we had 6 km left to walk that final morning. Since we wanted to be at Machu Picchu in time for the sunrise we went up at 3 a.m. They let tourists in at Machu Picchu from 5.30 in the morning so we got to sit and wait for an hour before we could enter. The last kilometers that we walked went into the Amazonas jungle and the nature changed from what we had experienced before. But we didn’t have time to enjoy it, as all we were focused on at that point was to get to Machu Picchu as fast as possible. When we finally made it and stood there overlooking the Machu Picchu some people in our group cried with joy that they had made it. It was a cloudy and foggy morning and then all of a sudden the clouds slipped away and Machu Picchu appeared right in front of our eyes. It was an incredible feeling. We felt such joy that words cannot do it justice.
4. What was the best part about travelling with Machete Tours?
That it was such a well organized trip. We both said that it was a great experience. The guided tours were interesting and gave us knowledge about the culture and history. Our program was very intensive. We had one day in Cuzco off but except for that we had things on our schedule all the time. It worked perfectly with all our transfers, guided tours and transportation. Nothing failed. It was such an intensive program but we were well taken care of didn’t lose any time on arranging our own transfers while in Peru.
We loved that we were able to make changes in the program and add things that were important to us. You were flexible and your staff made sure that we felt safe and cared for when we travelled in Peru. Everything worked. To know that there was someone waiting for you when you arrived at a new place was great. We didn’t have to make our own arrangements trying to find busses or guided tours. It felt a bit above the ordinary. It also felt safe to travel with Machete Tours.
5. How did the Machete Tour staff treat you?
They were always fantastic. We didn’t meet a single person who wasn’t nice on the entire journey. Everyone was good.
6. Which impression did you get of Machete Tours?
Machete Tours over all gave a very professional impression.
7. What should Swedish people think of before going to Peru?
The only thing you need to think of is that if you are going to walk the Inca Trail you need to be in good shape. You have to understand that you are not going on your average vacation where you spend all your time at the beach. This is something special. You can’t expect the same standard as at home and if you do, this is not the journey for you!
8. How would you describe Peru?
The Inca culture is very interesting, but also the country, people and nature are amazing and impressive. The country is enormous. It’s fascinating how the people who live there can survive at those heights. It is a history and a mystery in itself. That there are so many farms up in the hill slopes and people know exactly at which height they can grow potatoes, corn or wheat at. They really know how to use the natural resources of their country. The earth is full of minerals and it has created a lot of jobs for the population. The most interesting part about Peru is its history and legacy from the Inca culture. They used to be in control over a large area of land. Yet they strike me as a peaceful people. Peruvians are very nice people. They make travelling in Peru into a pleasant experience.
9. Which cultural differences did you notice?
Well the biggest difference is that they don’t have the same standard of living everywhere, as we are used to at home. People lead simpler lives where they weren’t as stressed as we are at home. They lead a more comfortable life in that sense. The people who worked within tourism were very service minded, even more so than we are in Sweden.
I was happy that most people in Peru seemed to know how to write and read. But when you travelled out in the desert and realized that there were people who were living out there in tin shacks without any water or power. I don’t know if they are bothered by their living situation. But it was hard to see, since it’s such a big cultural shock compared to at home. Some people in Peru have to work so hard for their survival.
Over all, Peru felt like a safe part of South America. I don’t think there is much crime, as we felt very safe travelling there.
10. Would you recommend others to travel with Machete Tours?
Yes of course I would. You offer a trip that is really good value for the money, where most everything is included. The staff at Machete Tours offered a professional service too. So we would definitely travel with Machete Tours again.
11. Do you have anything else to add?
Yes, out of all the trips I’ve made, I think that this one is the most special and it’s left a lasting impression on me.
Text By: Karin Schill