Questions & Answers with Svenne & Ingrid Sjöstedt
By Karin Schill
(04/06/2014) Svenne and Ingrid Sjöstedt love to travel. They have visited several countries in South America such as Venezuela, Brazil, Uruguay, Paraguay and Argentina previously. They have also travelled to other continents such as Africa, Asia and Northern America. In the spring of 2014 they travelled with Machete Tours to Peru and Ecuador. They went on the 15 day tour to Machu Picchu and Galapagos. This is what they think about the journey, the countries, people, animals and the travel agency Machete Tours.
1. Which places did you visit on your trip to Peru and Galapagos?
Svenne: We flew to Lima through Amsterdam and then onto Cuzco. We went on a city tour there with a group of tourists. We visited the sacred valley. The next day we took the train to Aguas Calientes, which is the closest city to Machu Picchu.
We spent the night in Aguas Calientes and travelled with bus up to Machu Picchu. There we walked around for a few hours with a private guide. He opened our eyes and made us aware of things we wouldn’t have thought of if we had walked by ourselves. Machu Picchu is an amazing place that is very well preserved. Then we took the bus back to Aguas Calientes and the train back to Cuzco.
The train journey was really pleasant, as it wasn’t a usual train. The food and drinks were free. They also had something we have never experienced before. The train had a mannequin who showed off clothes on the journey. If you liked what you saw you could buy clothes from Peru’s railroad!
Ingrid: It was a four hour train journey and we travelled in first class. I think that’s why it was a bit luxurious. The people who just use the train to go back and forth to work have more modest seats.
Svenne: We experienced the train journey as something very positive and it was included in our round trip. We flew from Cuzco to Lima again and changed flight there. We flew to Quito in Ecuador. There we stayed at a nice hotel and the next morning we flew to the Galapagos Islands. We went on a tour with taxi cars around Santa Cruz and had our first meeting with the giant turtles. It was amazing as we got so close to them. On Galapagos the closest you are allowed to walk to the animal for theirs and your safety is two meters. But the animals can of course walk closer than that to you and they did.
After we had taken a look at the turtles we went to the harbor where the catamaran was waiting for us. The ship had eight double cabins for tourists and we were 15 tourists on this journey. We were two Swedish families, and they were the first Swedes we met on the trip. It’s a funny feeling to meet other Swedes on the other side of the world. Otherwise most of the tourists were English. The cruise ship was nice but not very luxurious. It was comfortable and everything worked perfectly and the ship’s crew knew exactly what they were doing. Our meals were included in the trip and they served both soup and hot meals both for lunch and dinner. You had to pay extra for beer and wine though. The ship was equipped with two rubber boats that you travelled with to reach the shore, because the catamaran was too big to go into the islands and had to anchor a bit outside. Each day we visited the beaches.
We went on guided tours at places with a lot of animals. After two hours we returned to the boat. They gave us a cold drink up on our return, which was nice since it was quite warm. Then we changed into our swim wears and snorkel equipment and then we got to snorkel. It was an amazing experience to swim among the sea turtles and fishes. They were curious of us and we were curious of them but we both kept our distance.
Ingrid: I think it was an amazing experience to swim with the penguins and the water was hot too.
Svenne: It was about 24 degrees Celsius. In the afternoons they had a siesta and then we had planned to sunbath. But it wasn’t possible as it was too hot on the deck. After the siesta we went on a new outing with the rubber boats. We saw more animals. This trip was all about the animals. We saw sea lions and Iguanas. At some places there were sun chairs but we couldn’t use them as they were occupied by the sea lions. They were enjoying the sun in the sun chairs!
Back at the ship we had dinner together with the other tourists on the boat. It was a nice opportunity to socialize a little. But we went to bed early in the evenings as we had to get up early in the mornings.
Ingrid: We went up at 7 a.m. and left the boat at 8 a.m. So it wasn’t a very relaxing vacation.
Svenne: We stayed five days on the ship and the last morning we went up even earlier as we wanted to make an outing to the shores before catching our flight later that day. So we went to a shore where the large sea turtles lay their eggs during the nights. It was amazing to watch them. But we weren’t allowed to walk up to the holes where they had laid their eggs. It is important to keep your distance so you don’t disturb the animals.
Ingrid: You were right in the middle of the animals and you felt like you were a part of their flock. They liked us and were curious about us.
Svenne: Yes we even saw really big birds, like the blue footed booby. They sit there and look at you and are really up close. If I had reached out my hand I could have touched them.
We flew back to Quito where we stayed for a day and then we went home. The trip’s itinerary was hectic but you experience so much that it is totally worth it.
Ingrid: I found Panama hats in Quito because they are really made in Ecuador. You think they are made in Panama. But it’s a misconception that was created because the American President bought Panama hats and gave them to all the workers who dug the canal, to protect them from the sun.
Another thing that I was really impressed by was that all your guides had a higher education and had studied tourism at the University. They were really well educated. The trip taught us a lot about life in Peru. The view in Peru is very special too as the country is situated at such a high altitude.
Svenne: Especially Cuzco is located at a high altitude. When we arrived there our guide told us:
“You have a headache huh? You are supposed to have one.” He explained that it was normal due to the high altitude. He also recommended us to drink a lot of water and coca tea to cure altitude sickness.
2. What was most memorable about your trip?
Ingrid: It was to see the famous view of Machu Picchu with your own eyes. We had seen it on so many photos that it was amazing to finally experience the place in real life. The other highlight of the trip was to swim among the sea turtles and penguins in Galapagos. We also enjoyed listening to what the guides told us about the places history. Machu Picchu was from the 15th Century. It is also interesting to compare the development in your own country to the places you visit. We felt like coming to Peru was like returning to the society that Sweden had in the 1950s. It was peaceful and quiet. Nobody was stressed and there were a lot of nice people that had the time to stop and talk to you.
Then it was also fun with the potatoes since that’s a very special dish in South America. They grow 1000s of different kinds of potatoes in Peru and they differ in consistency and taste. They were so proud of their potatoes.
3. What did you think was the best thing about travelling with Machete Tours?
Ingrid: That everything on our trip was so incredibly well organized. There was nothing that went wrong. If you arrived at an airport there was always someone there to meet you. The staff was very disciplined and professional. They weren’t allowed to work with tourists without an education.
Svenne: The guides had college diplomas. A lot of the time we had our own personal guide who took care of just the two of us. They showed us around and took us on four hours city walks. It is better than just going around the city on a tourist bus. The guides adjusted their program to us. If we said: “we’ve seen enough churches now.” The guide said ok and brought us to a local market where we could try different kinds of fruits instead. The guides had great connections and were super.
Ingrid: It was like if we were travelling on our own but with extra service. What you normally look up yourselves when you go somewhere they had already taken care of for you.
4. How were you treated by the staff?
Svenne: We’ve had most contact with Sierra and he has been easy to deal with. It’s been positive.
Ingrid: When we found Machete Tours my husband had been burned by another company who were selling trips to Galapagos. We had bought a trip from them first but then that other company went bankrupt. So we turned to Machete Tours instead. We told them that we were skeptical to book another trip to Ecuador with a rather new company and they understood where we were coming from.
Svenne: We were skeptical after buying a trip from the company that went bankrupt and Machete Tours showed us great consideration. They weren’t so used with the Swedish market yet and didn’t realize that we wanted to pay our trip with our Mastercard. Because that was what had saved the 59 000 kr. that we had paid for the cancelled trip. The bank returned the money to us when the trip was cancelled. So when Machete Tours understood why we wanted to pay with our card they invested in card equipment for their main Swedish office. So we could pay our trip in the way we preferred to. That way our trip was covered by the insurance on the card.
5. Which impression did you get of Machete Tours?
Svenne: They’ve made a very positive impression. They have really been there for us and kept all their promises.
Ingrid: One of our demands was that after we’ve done the first payment we wanted our airline tickets sent to us immediately. So they realized we wanted the tickets fast and sent them straight over.
Svenne: It worked perfectly and we had the airline tickets in our hands a few days after we had purchased them. They were sent to us along with a nice itinerary that showed the day to day program. It looked great and the information in it was accurate with what we experienced when we arrived in Peru and Galapagos.
6. What should a Swedish person think about before travelling to Peru?
Ingrid: What most people find worrisome is the high altitude. So it’s important to visit your doctor for a health check before the trip. I learnt something exciting in Peru. You see my husband got a worse case of altitude sickness than I did and then I told someone that I had visited Tibet previously which is situated at an even higher altitude. So then they explained to me that my body remembered that I had been on a high altitude previously and therefore I was better equipped to handle the altitude difference than my husband.
Svenne: You need to be prepared of that it’s a very high altitude. So you should talk to your doctor before going there, especially if you have any heart disease.
Ingrid: You will notice the altitude difference. So you shouldn’t be scared if you are too tired to do things you normally do. It happens to everyone even if you are young.
Svenne: It is completely normal to be tired and have a headache when you are on such a high altitude.
Ingrid: When you are going to Galapagos in Ecuador you are in for a real nature adventure. So it is a good idea to read up on what kind of animals that you can see in the area. So you know what to expect. It is a really amazing experience.
Svenne: You can photograph the animals really up close. I must have taken 700 photos when I was there. It sounds like a lot but with new digital camera technique it really isn’t. It is a good idea to bring a real camera and not just your smart phone.
Ingrid: Yeah in Galapagos your smart phone is not working. So you are completely cut off from the world outside. No calls, text messages or e-mail gets through and the Internet is not working. It was great, that is what I call a real vacation!
Svenne: You also need to think of the differences in humidity. On the cruise ship they have air conditioning so the air is very damp. So when you walk into your cabin your camera gets all wet. The steam destroys your camera. So I had to disassemble the camera and put the pieces out to dry in the sun up on the deck. It was the first time that has ever happened to me. You don’t realize how moist the air will be before. So I can recommend other tourists to bring plastic bags, because if you put your cameras into a plastic bag before entering your cabin it won’t get moisture damaged.
7. How would you describe Peru?
Ingrid: It’s a green and beautiful country with high mountains.
Svenne: There were a lot of ancient Inca settlements around Cuzco.
Ingrid: It used to be the capital of the country so we were right in the heart of Peru.
Svenne: There is so much more in Peru that we would have liked to see. Like the Amazonas. We chose not to go there since we had already visited it in Venezuela. Peru is a country with a lot of mountains.
Ingrid: The air is really crisp and fresh. There are not a lot of pollutions.
8. How would you describe Ecuador?
Svenne: We can only speak about Galapagos and Quito as it’s the only places we’ve visited. There’s nothing wrong about Quito but it wasn’t the most fun place I’ve visited. There were some people in town that gave a rather bad impression. You were at risk of getting robbed if you walked around without your guide.
Ingrid: But it was really clean on the streets and on the sidewalks.
Svenne: They were great at sorting their garbage. On every block there were three big containers where you could throw different types of waste material and garbage. The containers were of stainless steel and were placed all over the city. They were aware of the environment in Peru too, but it wasn’t as obvious as in Ecuador.
9. Which cultural differences did you notice?
Ingrid: People in Peru were so friendly that it was obvious. There’s a lot of friendly people at other places too. But the people in Peru felt genuine. They didn’t treat the tourists like we were just a source of income.
Svenne: People stopped you on the streets and talked to you. They asked us where we were from and what it was like in our country. They really seemed interested to know. We were a little handicapped as we didn’t speak any Spanish. It was a bit of a shame. But a lot of peope speak good English.
Ingrid: You can get by fine without knowing the language.
Svenne: Body language is a really universal language.
10. Which differences did you notice between the two countries?
Ingrid: From what we experienced there are huge differences between the two countries. In Peru people were friendlier than in Ecuador. The landscape is also different. In Peru there are some huge mountains and like Svenne mentioned already there was more crime in Quito.
Svenne: Not that anything happened to us. We didn’t get robbed or anything.
Ingrid: The guide told us we were safe as long as he accompanied us. Because he knows exactly who the thieves are. But when we were walking by ourselves at night only a few streets were safe for tourists. But that we never experienced in Peru.
Still there is more crime in Venezuela than Ecuador, as when we visited that country we had to have an armed guard with us. That’s how big the difference can be between different countries in South America. I think it might be related to the unemployment rate. Because in none of the countries in South America do they have the dole like we do in Sweden.
11. Would you recommend others to travel with Machete Tours?
Svenne: Yes we would recommend Machete Tours to others.
Svenne: I have already talked to someone who is thinking about going to Peru last Friday and I can only say positive things about Machete Tours. We tell it like it is, that they are a travel agency that are just establishing themselves on the Swedish market. But that everything on our trip worked perfectly.
12. Do you have anything else to add?
Ingrid: It’s not so usual that Swedish people travel to these countries.
Svenne: We noticed that there was a Swedish family in Machu Picchu, as we heard them speak Sweden. But we didn’t speak to them. We did talk to tourists from other countries such as Brazil, USA and Australia.
Ingrid: It’s a good idea to read a bit about Peru before going there, so you know what to expect. But we got lots of information about the country when we were there.
Svenne: We did read quite a lot about Machu Picchu.
Ingrid: But I didn’t know anything about the Sacred Valley or the temple of the sun before. I guess you can chalk that up to lack of time to read more.
Svenne: It wasn’t that easy to find information about the countries either. The texts are often hard to read. We have a little book about Peru and one about Galapagos so I knew a little about the places we were going to.
Ingrid: Over all I’ve gotten a positive impression of Peru and Ecuador. But I don’t feel like I have to return to Quito any time soon.
Svenne: I would love to return to Cuzco some day.
Ingrid: I wish we could have stayed a bit longer in Peru though. It would have been fun to see the incredible Nazca lines and also visit Lake Titicaca.
Text By: Karin Schill.