SWIM WITH TURTLES. DINE WITH LLAMAS
Last February, Kelly Wise, and her husband, Rick, an oil industry executive, crossed a couple of items off their bucket list with a 3.5-week trip to the Galapagos Islands and Peru.
The seasoned Calgary travellers also recorded another first, sharing their journey with friends Sandy and Dave. They started their trip taking an intimate cruise, with Natural Habitat, from island to island in the Galapagos. In Peru the two couples visited the Sacred Valley, Ollantaytambo, Cusco, Arequipa, Colca Canyon and Cruz del Condor. But the highlight in Peru was their five-day hike along the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, the spectacular 15thC Inca site, located 2,430 meters above sea level.
DATE OF TRAVEL
NUMBER OF PEOPLE
SO, KELLY, WHAT DID YOU LOVE MOST ABOUT THE GALAPAGOS?
It’s hard to say. Every day had a special highlight. I guess it would have to be the snorkelling – we just saw so much. The turtles, dolphins, sea lions, seals, whales, tons of manta rays and cormorants diving into the water.
Each island had a different major species to see. For example one island would have thousands of blue-footed boobies, while the next would be the nesting site for thousands of marine iguanas.
It was always lovely coming back to our boat, Athala. It was small, beautiful, had spacious cabins and was intimate, with only 15 guests. The food was outstanding and the crew never stopped trying to make the trip fun.
WHAT WAS THE HIGHLIGHT IN PERU?
Hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. The way that Natasha organized it, we were with one of the last groups to hike up the trail. Normally people want to be at the front but in our position we had the trail to ourselves on the last two days, which was lovely.
Via Ferrata, Sacred Valley, Peru
We walked up these steps used by the Incas themselves hundreds of years ago, passing ruins on the way to Machu Picchu that are themselves spectacular. It was really cool. And our accommodation ranged from tents on the trail to the most beautiful small hotels set in amazing natural surroundings.
The hardest part was when we were hiking up 4,200 meters above sea level. We were short of breath and tired but made it. Which was great, because you can’t train for altitude sickness.
That’s the great thing about Natasha. She organizes a trip so it is challenging enough but not impossible. She tailors the trip for you according to your risk tolerance and level of physical fitness.
Since we were travelling with Sandy and Dave, she also sat down with them, to get to know them and what they wanted from the trip. She knows exactly what to ask. And everything was customized for us. I mean, Sandy and I have different risk levels. Natasha arranged things so that we both had activities suited to our risk levels. So everybody got what they wanted.
DID YOU HAVE ANY INTERESTING ENCOUNTERS WITH PERUVIAN PEOPLE?
I study Spanish and love South American culture and people. I got to practise my Spanish all the time; the Peruvian people are very lovely and accepting.
In the Sacred Valley, we saw some traditional weavers plying their craft. This one girl was telling us about her work and she asked us if we knew what this bone was, which she used for her weaving.
We didn’t know, so she said, “It’s from a tourist who didn’t buy one of my hats.” We all laughed, and then we did buy some hats and tapestries.
WHAT WAS YOUR MOST MEMORABLE MEAL?
That had to be in the Sacred Valley. We went to this restaurant in the middle of nowhere, called Parador de Moray. From the outside it looked like nothing but on the inside it was beautiful, with modern architecture. They put on a wonderful buffet just for us. There were lots of great dishes and some exotic ones. Rick tried the guinea pig. And all of us had llama, which is popular down there.
It was good but had a gamey taste. We didn’t ask for the recipe.