Monday, January 23, 2012

A few days in Lima, Peru with the crazy taxis!

Well lets just say Lima, Peru was an adventure. The most developed and largest of the cities I visited in Peru turned out to be the most dangerous in my opinion. I climbed all over the high mountain Inca ruins at Machu Picchu, Pisac and Ollantaytambo.

I took buses, trains and taxis in the Cuzco and the Sacred Valley. I flew 19 hours on six different airlines to get there. None of it was as truly life threatening as a single taxi ride in Lima.

You are taking your life into your own hands. There seem to be almost no traffic laws in Lima. Everyone just goes. We blew through red lights at 30 mph. Stop sign? What stop sign? We would navigate our way through intersections where all four directions were going even though there was a red light and a traffic cop! I estimate I spent about four hours in Lima taxis over the couple of days and in those four hours I saw six crashes. The average taxi had to have eight dents!

I saw traffic cops and I saw police officers all over the place. The traffic laws are just not enforced. It is chaos. We would sit in a turn lane waiting to make a left turn. As soon as we pulled into the turn lane two or three more taxis would move in after us. We would all be lined up in a row in the turn lane waiting to go. Then…..zooom it would be a race to see who could get to the single lane the fastest. Quite the hair raising experience!

Now don’t let this stop you from visiting Lima, Peru. It is a beautiful town right on the Pacific Ocean. Make sure to stay in the Miraflores district. It is clean and the safest area of town. The hotels there are wonderful and very reasonably priced for the level of comfort and amenities.

Peru travel tips -
1. The taxis are cheap and you can negotiate a price beforehand
2. Expect ALOT of traffic
3. Buckle up, it's an adventure!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Pisac - A Visit to the Pisac Market and the Inca Ruins

The Pisac market and the Inca ruins above Pisac are one of the highlights of the Sacred Valley and must be a stop on your Peru vacation. Since we were to arrive in Cuzco late morning on a Sunday our very first trek was to be to the famous Pisac market. The market is open daily, but it really thrives and is at its largest on Sundays. Locals from all over the Sacred Valley make the trip to sell their wares at the Pisac market on Sundays.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Visiting Huaca Pucllana in Lima Peru

For the final days of our Peru adventure we would wind down in Lima, Peru after exploring the the Sacred Valley, Cuzco and Machu Picchu. Little did we know the life threatening adventures the Lima taxi drivers would offer us. Truly the wildest driving experiences I have been a part of.

Anyway, for one afternoon we visited Huaca Pucllana which is only a short distance from the upscale Miraflores part of Lima and very near the beach. Huaca Pucllana is a massive sand and adobe brick ruin covering many acres. It is from Pre-Incan times and believed to have thrived between 500 and 700 AD.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Our visit to Ollantaytambo in the Sacred Valley of the Inca

One of the true highlights of the Sacred Valley is said to be Ollantaytambo. So the plan for day two was to rent a taxi for the day and head to the Sacred Valley of the Inca all day. Through our hotel we arranged an English speaking taxi who would take us all day. We were picked up at 8:30am and had plans to return at 5pm.

This is a wonderful way to see the Sacred Valley as you have your own personal tour guide basically. They’ll take you to all the important spots in the Valley and give you some history as well. The arrangement was for $110 US for the three of us. The taxi was very nice and we set out on our way at 8:30am sharp.

Our plan was to head to the very end of the Valley to Ollantaytambo and work our way back. This article will only deal with our stop in Ollantaytambo as it deserves an article all to itself. The rest of the Inca Valley stories will follow in coming days.

Ollantaytambo is just under a two hour drive from Cuzco and is at 2800 meters above sea level. The strategic location of Ollantaytambo connects directly with the Inca Road to Machu Picchu. At the time of the Spanish conquest of Peru it served as a stronghold for Manco Inca Yupanqui, leader of the Inca resistance.

The site truly is amazing. You drive through the very narrow streets of the small town and then emerge with the ruins towering above you on the mountainside.

You basically have the run of the place. It is a bit of a climb to the top, but not too bad at all. There are over 200 stairs on your way to the top. Don't be intimidated though as there is plenty to look at and take pictures of as you work your way up the ruins.

The stonework is simply wonderful and you’ll be left wondering how they transported the huge stone blocks from the opposite mountainside and across the Urubamba River. The quarry is visible across the river about two miles downstream.

At the top of Ollantaytambo is the unfinished Sun Temple with the major feature being the Wall of the Six Monoliths. These are six monstrous stones perfectly fit together that will leave you in awe.

Ollantaytambo is one of the better Inca ruins we visited in Peru. It is easy relatively to get to and you’ll have no problem making your way all around the ruins pretty easily. The views are fabulous as well as the stonework. Definitely a must stop on your tour of the Sacred Valley of the Inca.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Getting to Peru is not always the easiest thing

It all started off so innocently and with so much promise. New Years in Lima. Three flights to get there. Nothing to it right? Right. I live about two miles from DFW Airport so I hopped over and caught an 8am flight to Birmingham, Alabama. Caught a nap on the way and landed in Birmingham before I knew it. That’s where the adventure started.

About an hour before my scheduled flight to Miami I could sense trouble at the gate. A couple of people were shuffling around so I went up to check. Sure enough storm clouds on the horizon. The flight had been delayed three hours and forty minutes. Action Stations! That would make me miss the evening (and only) American Airlines flight to Peru. I hopped over to rebooking thinking “no worries, I have five hours to make it down there and it isn’t too far.”

Turns out the options weren’t so great on getting there. The first option AA gave me was to fly to up to Chicago, then to Los Angeles and finally to Peru on LAN Airlines. Yikes. No way. So the only other option was to jump over on Delta and head up to Atlanta before down to Miami. The trouble was I would not land in Miami until 6:07 and my Peru flight was 6:30. Very, very tight.

The Delta flights went swimmingly. No problems whatsoever and ontime. The issue was making my flight in Miami. We landed in Miami and docked in terminal H and I had to make it all the way over to terminal D. Off I ran as soon as I deplaned. Reading the signs as I ran with my backpack and small carryon. Well it turns out that the distance between terminals H and D is about a days journey. The Miami airport is anything but user friendly.

My legs burned and I was in a good sweat navigating in and out of all the travelers. Suddenly I came around a corner and BAM. Another security station I had to go through. Seriously? I had been through security in Dallas and also in Birmingham when I transferred to Delta. So I wait through the line and take off my belt and shoes. Empty my pockets and pass through the detector. Beep BEEP beep!

Huh? No way. I had already been through two detectors that day! I passed back and set it off again. And again. The guard said something below my knees was setting it off. Well it must have been my Nike socks because that’s all I had below my knees. They asked if I had any implants or surgeries. Nope.

I’m sure they were a bit suspicious as I was sweating and clearly flustered as I was in a hurry. Anyway, they called the big guy over to give me a full body pat down. Fine. No problem. Get it over with and let me try to catch the Peru flight!

Of course the inspection was clean, but there went ten minutes. At that point I figured I was done. Disaster. I sprinted to the gate only to see my plane pulling away from the gate. I pleaded with the AA employee at the gate, but to say he was rude and unconcerned would be an understatement. Nothing short of a total jerk.

So off to rebooking I plodded. Dripping sweat and dead tired after running a couple of miles lugging 25 pounds of gear. Luckily rebooking wasn’t far away and the line was short. I explained to the first AA employee how everything was messed up with the flight in Birmingham and how they had moved me to Delta to get here. Even then I couldn’t make the flight and I had to get to Lima, Peru to catch my morning flight to Cuzco.

She barely listened to the details and her response was to book me on a flight to Peru the next day. Yes the following afternoon. Basically 24 hours later. No way. I would miss the Cuzco flight and the whole first day trip to Pisac and the Inca Valley. Not an option at all. I told her “no good, find something else.”

She had no interest in doing anything further for me. So I asked for a supervisor or someone else that could help me. Luckily she passed me on to the wonderful AA lady next to her who turned out to be very helpful.

Unfortunately, I did have to stand there and listen to the same AA employee that was no help to me be extremely rude to two poor English women that came after me. Seems she just did not want to be of much assistance to anyone.

Thankfully I was moved on to someone much much better. The supervisor listened to my problems and set about helping me. She was concerned that my ticket was purchased using airline miles and that might hinder her possibilities to assist. To which I kindly made the point that the airline miles were earned by being a good AA customer. Flying many miles on their planes and using the AA credit card.

After a few minutes of typing and researching she found me a flight to Bogota, Columbia with a connection there that would get me to Lima a few minutes before my Cuzco flight. Fair enough, at least I would make it to Lima. Probably miss the morning flight to Cuzco, but I would have time to find arrangements there.

“Do it” I said. She made some phone calls and typed away. After a few minutes came the bad news. “Canceled” she said. What? “Canceled, the Bogota flight has been canceled.” Ugh now what? All credit to her she went right back to work. A few minutes later she had another option.

Fly all night to Santiago, Chile via LAN Airlines and then on to Peru via TACA Peru Airlines. Yikes. Santiago is far. I mean FAR. Way past Peru, but I had little option. At least it would get me to Peru. Game on. Let’s go. I only had an hour to get to LAN for the flight and the gate was on the other side of the airport. Did I mention how terrible the Miami Airport is? Well it is far and away the worst airport I have ever had the poor luck to visit.

Off I ran for LAN. Oh geez do I really have to go through security again? Yepp, again. Well I make it to LAN and hop on the flight to Santiago, Chile. The plane was only about 20% full so it turned out to be really nice. I had a row all to myself. Even though it was long and past my destination it was a delightful flight in truth.

The landing in Chile was beautiful with the towering Andes on my left. I had an hour to get over to TACA Peru Airlines and grab that flight on to Lima. Off I ran and, in case you were wondering, I did have to go through security. Yet again.

No worries. I found TACA and the right gate with 30 minutes to spare. Now could I make it to Lima in time to catch my 10am flight to Cuzco on Star Peru? The TACA flight was to land at 9:30. Maybe just maybe I would get one bit of luck.

It was a four hour flight up to Lima and we landed right on time. Let’s go! Thirty minutes to make the Star Peru flight. Boy how my optimism was to change. Lima is a nightmare. As Miami is big and unfriendly, Lima is small and ridiculously crowded. Lines, lines and Lines! Firstly I had to get through customs.

I pleaded my case that I was late and had another flight. The assistants were sympathetic and rushed me to the front where I met a really mean passport guard. I was second in line when about 10 stewardesses moved into line behind me. He proceeded to ignore me and start serving the ladies one by one. Each one he allowed to pass me got me madder and madder. Finally I said something which got me sent to the back of the line by the jerk.

Well that wouldn’t work for me so I went back to the assistant that helped me the first time. She rushed me to the front of another line and I zipped through. More time wasted though. Not going to make that flight. At least it was early though so I figured I could just catch another flight to Cuzco.

After making it through customs I was released into the main Lima airport area. People everywhere and LONG lines everywhere. I set about trying to find Star Peru to get my missed flight fixed. Five minutes and I found Star Peru. I did my best telling the poor girl at the window all my travel problems. Laying out every leg of my travels and how I needed to rebook to Cuzco. It was only 10am, but it turns out that was the last flight of the day for Star Peru to Cuzco. Ugh. She would gladly rebook me the next day. Nope. No good. I had to get to Cuzco. Another day and I would miss my whole Cuzco part of the trip.

“Ok. So now what?” Well let’s go to LAN since they are the South American partners of AA. I figured since the problems started with AA and that AA had booked every leg of my long journey they would help. The LAN line was huge! Like 40 people long. I explained my problems to one of the assistants and they zipped me to the front. (Did I mention LAN was wonderful? Well LAN was great every time I dealt with them).

At the window I laid out my numerous boarding passes to show my many flights and troubles getting there and that I had to get to Cuzco and that I felt AA/LAN were responsible. They needed to get me to Cuzco. The girl listened and ran off to get some help. I had my fingers crossed but once again I was greeted with bad news. LAN felt it was AA’s problem and that AA needed to deal with it. Truthfully, I agreed. Every leg of the journey had been booked by AA. She said to go see AA even though I saw no AA presence on my initial inspection of the ticketing area.

So off I set again looking for help. At information I was told AA did not open for hours as they did not have any flights until the evening in Lima. I was completely out of luck and in danger of missing the entire trip to the Sacred Valley of the Incas. I returned to LAN and explained the situation. They were unable to help. At that point I was stuck. My decision was to just purchase a ticket on LAN since they are AA partners. That way AA could fix it later since the entire debacle was AAs fault. $302 later I was on my way to Cuzco via LAN.

It was supposed to be an easy trip down. Three flights and eight hours. Instead it took me nineteen flight hours and seven flights on four different airlines. One delayed flight, two missed flights and two canceled flights. I missed my trip to the Sacred Valley and Pisac, but at least I made it to Cuzco and was able to begin my Peru trip with only a single missed day.

So you must be thinking…”Wow it must have ruined the whole trip.” Well no, not at all. Peru was wonderful once I got there. The stories of TexanTreks in Peru will be coming fast and furious over the coming days on this website. Pictures as well. So check back for the adventures in Peru!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Peru trip articles coming TexanTreks

Get ready fellow adventure travelers. TexanTreks has returned from a week in Peru and boy oh boy do we have some stories to tell! The trip from Dallas took 19 hours with 2 canceled flights, 2 missed flights and required four different airlines. Did I mention it was only supposed to take 3 flights all on American Airlines?

A wonderful day in Cuzco viewing the old churches and plazas. A full day in the Sacred Valley of the Inca with visits to Chinchera, Urubamba, Ollentaytambo and Pisac. Then on to Aguas Calientes and two days at the magical Machu Picchu. Finally two days on the Pacific coast in Lima surviving the crazy taxis.

It will take weeks to get all the articles we have planned written. Details of the trips along with the costs and travel details. So if you have ideas of visiting the beautiful country of Peru become a fan of TexanTreks!