A South American Journey to Peru and Ecuador

Machu Picchu.... Land of the Inca and the Galápagos Islands

Alan and Lila Letow

 

Machu Picchu Galápagos Sally Lightfoot Red Crab
 

           When we first started planning a visit to this region, we believed that we could readily fly here and make the necessary arrangements to visit Machu Picchu in Peru and the Galápagos Islands in Ecuador.  Well, maybe we could have done that, but the arrangements for this journey were much more complex than we had ever contemplated.  

            We then considered travel packages that we could arrange back home, with all internal flights, guides and tours being pre-selected.   Assisting us with this research were friends who also had an interest in visiting Peru and Ecuador.   As it turned out they decided to join us on this journey and George and Stephanie and Norbert and Rita shared these same experiences alongside Lila and me.  Once the travel arrangements were finalized, the realization of just how different this journey would be from others that we have undertaken would soon become apparent to us. 

            In the past packing for our travels was relatively easy….we would take clothes for our daily activities and some nice clothes for an evening meal.  But this time arrangements were different.   For example, we could not take our suitcase with us to either Machu Picchu or to the Galápagos Islands.  We had to pack a small duffle in our suitcase and then pack only those clothes that we would need in each of those venues in the duffle, leaving our big suitcase behind for a later retrieval. 

 

Galápagos Pelican Clouds Surround Machu Picchu

 

            Planning for this trip became very different and certainly required more care and thought to ensure that we would have what we needed to meet the environmental demands in each area.  Machu Picchu is located at or near an altitude of 10,000 feet, so weather could be cooler than in the Galápagos Islands, where rain and warmer climes would most likely be realized.   

            Our trip being set for March was at the cusp of the rainy season…so cooler temperatures and wet weather was what we planned for and expected.  But as our trip unfolded, it soon became evident that the weather conditions were nearly perfect…. The only rain we saw was at night and temperatures were sufficiently comfortable that we could wear any type of clothes-shorts, long pants or whatever. 

            With that said, the only other issue that caused major concern for almost everybody in our group, were stomach and digestive tract infections that either came from food, water, altitude or even from an infected food handler….but we were mostly all affected at one point in the trip or another…. and that sickness left its mark on our ability to eat at various times during the trip.   Certainly it was not catastrophic…everyone made all the major events, but some hikes or meals were lost by some to the bug……

 

Travel Schedule........

           Leaving from our home cities, all travelers in our group flew to Miami where we caught another flight directly to Lima, Peru.  After an early arrival, and some sightseeing, we left the following morning for Cuzco, once the Inca capital in Peru.   The altitude at Cuzco is 11,000 feet above sea level…..after some sight seeing events and lunch we soon left for the Sacred Valley where we were to spend an extra day visiting historic and ancient sights.   

            Then after a three hour train ride from the Urubamba region of Sacred Valley, we arrived at Machu Picchu, but we first had to take a bus up a steep dirt road from the train station ….two thousand feet up through multiple switchbacks to reach the site of the ancient Inca site, set high in the mountains of Machu Picchu at about 8,500 feet.  An overnight stay offered us a full afternoon and the following morning for multiple hikes and exploration of this most amazing place.

 

Train from Cuzco to Machu Picchu Machu Picchu Terraces

 

            A four hour train ride with bus trips at both ends of the train ride brought us back to Cuzco for a wonderful two night stay in this ancient Inca capital for a series of sightseeing events.  Then, with our Peru trip nearly completed, we flew back to Lima for a connecting flight to Quito, Ecuador to begin the second part of our journey. 

            With an overnight stay in Quito, before returning to the airport for our flights to the Galápagos Islands some five hundred miles off the west coast of Ecuador in the Pacific Ocean.   There we boarded a small boat to cruise the islands for five days using “panga boats” (also known as Zodiac boats) to bring us to shore for dry or wet landings twice on most days….. 

 

The Coral II - Galápagos Islands Panga Going to Shore in the Galapagos

 

             After our visit to the Galápagos Islands, we returned to Quito, for yet more sightseeing before heading back home via an overnight stay in Miami because of a late arrival.   Our travels on this trip were quite intensive….taking eleven airplane flights, two train trips, a ferry ride, panga rides, an untold number of bus trips and certainly many hikes and treks in each of the many venues of this trip.

 

The Statue of Madonna in Quite, Ecuador On the Equator in Quito, Ecuador

 

Lima and the Land of the Inca, Peru

Lima
  Cuzco
 Sacred Valley
Machu Picchu
(View these pages for additional information and pictures)

 

Machu Picchu Slideshow

 

           Cuzco, Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu are located in the Andean mountains.  It was in these areas that the Incas lived and ruled.   Inca actually is the name applied to the Emperor …he was the Inca, the ruler of the people.   There were a total of fourteen Incas or Gods…..and Cuzco was their capital.    

           Machu Picchu was built by the Incas in the late 1400’s and occupied in the 1500’s.  We were told that it was built over a thirty year period and then occupied for less than one hundred years.   Maybe Machu Picchu was intended for the security of the region, maybe as a place for the wealthy or even possibly even a religious retreat for some of the Andean people.   And the Sacred Valley, which stretches from the town of Pisac to the town of Ollantaytambo, was where they lived and farmed on terraces built on the mountain walls. 

          I could write much about the history of this most inspiring place on earth, but others have done so longer and better than I could ever accomplish so I will refer my readers to search the internet for the details I do not include here.   A search of the “Incas”, “Sacred Valley”, “Machu Picchu” and “Cuzco” will provide a wealth of research information.    

We accomplished much in Peru during our short stay...learning about the history and heritage of the Incas and for me Machu Picchu was a most exciting part of our visit.  It represented to me the strength and the architectural prowess of the Incas and the Andean people.  Certainly, Sacred Valley told us how the descendants of the Inca population live today and draw on methods and lifestyles of their ancestors.   Cuzco, the ancient city and the modern city of today has so much to offer those who want to learn about the Inca culture and there is never enough time to realize and understand everything.     

It is time for us to leave this region...home to the brightly clothed Quechuan people, to leave the vestiges of a civilization that continues to exist only because the people still hold dear to their history.  We tourists come and go, but the ancient remains of an Inca Empire continue to tell their story.  After completing this visit to Sacred Valley, Machu Picchu and Cuzco it is time to move on to our next place of interest…Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands.  

 

 

Cuzco's Plaza de Armas Lila and Alan at Machu Picchu
Machu Picchu Machu Picchu Upper Section
Street Scene in the Sacred Valley Town of Chincheros Panga View of Isabela Island in The Galapagos

 

Quito and the Galápagos Islands, Ecuador

Quito
Galapagos Islands
(View these pages for additional information and pictures)

 

Galapagos Islands Slideshow

 

           Flying back to Lima and then to Quito, we reach the capital city of Ecuador...the land of the equator.   Our stay in Quito is very short as we leave early the next morning for the, but we are scheduled to come back for a two day visit at the end of the week.    

            Quito is long narrow city of two million people, but though it is the capital it is not the largest city.....Guayaquil with three million people is located on the Ecuadorian coast and is the gateway to the very unique and incredible Galápagos Islands.   Our flights are on a small airline…flying old Boeing 727 and 737 aircraft.  But they are on time and the flights are without any problem whatsoever.   We arrive on the island of Baltra to begin our four day odyssey and it was all of what we had expected and even more. 

            Our time in the Galápagos Islands went by very rapidly as we sailed from island to island learning, seeing and experiencing things we may have never really thought existed.  The 7,000-9,000 hardy species that live in the Galápagos are among the most distinctive on Earth.  Some of the Galápagos' most famous native residents include its giant tortoises, 13 species of finches, the land and marine iguanas, lava lizard, Galápagos hawks, and the only penguin species to occur in the Northern Hemisphere.