A week in Cuzco, Ollantaytambo, Sacred Valley, Aguas Callientes and Machu Picchu

Saturday, March 18, 2023
Our G Adventures group met in Lima My South American journey begins with 2 days in Lima

The tour really starts here, in Cuzco. Since the city sits at 3,400 metres above sea level, it takes time to acclimate so we took a nice slow tour of the city before going for dinner. where I thoroughly enjoyed a meal of alpaca and potatoes. No meal in Peru is complete without potatoes. They do have 3000+ varieties!

After that some of us went to watch a local soccer game. What fun! They take soccer (football) very seriously. Kids from the local high school go free and cheer on their team. They sure do a good job! They waved flags and sang songs and cheered throughout the whole game. There was a heavy police presence. Apparently if the home team loses fans can get very “angry”. I’m glad they won.

Sunday. Our guide, Julio (AKA JC), took us on a thorough tour of Cuzco. He’s obviously passionate about his country and it showed. The last stop was the market where we sampled all kinds of fruits. When we left there there was a parade going on. They have a lot of parades and celebrations so no matter when you come you’re bound to experience one.


We were on the road by 8 am with Javier who guided us to the Women’s weaving project which is a Planeterra initiative sponsored by G Adventures. On the way we stopped at a bbq place and tried some roast guinea pig (cuy) It’s stuffed with herbs and was really tasty. Next we viewed the Sacred Valley and a pottery project in Pisac. We ended the day in Ollyantaytambo, a unique village in that it’s still the original Inca town and still inhabited.


March 21. Tuesday

We were on the train by 7.30 am, headed to Aguas Callientes, otherwise known as Machu Picchu Pueblo. What a gorgeous ride!  It’s a panoramic train for good reason as you pass by Mount Veronica with it’s snow covered peaks and more of the Andes mountain range. Soon we were surrounded by jungle and I SOOO wanted to stop the train and take a good look at the bromeliads and orchids we passed.

20 minutes before town, we stopped to let 4 of our group off to do the one day hike to Machu Picchu.

Once in Aguas Callientes we walked to the Andina Machu Picchu where they kindly let us check in even though it was only 9.30 am.  

We spent the next while wandering the streets and getting to know the town before having lunch. Some of us walked to the butterfly conservatory which was really nice. Back at the hotel some opted to go to the hot springs but Julio and I decided to do the waterfall hike.  That as a delight! Of course it was up hill.   Waterfalls always are. The path was tough in spots but really enjoyable as it was all jungle and I finally got to see al the orchids and bromeliads up close.  Julio pointed out some interesting bugs too.
He went for a good swim in the pool but I got in just over my knees and that was enough for me. The water was COLD. Apparently he likes it that way. I felt like a wimpy Canadian. lol

Back at the hotel I showered and got cleaned up for dinner and we all met at Chullo’s restaurant. There we traded stories about our day.  All of us thoroughly enjoyed this little town. 


We had tickets to Machu Picchu for 7 am but the first bus didn’t go till 8 am. Tourism stil hasn’t recovered from the recent protests so they’re taking the early mornings to repair the roads.

Ana was our guide and she was fantastic. 15 years ago I hiked the Inca trail and spent several hours exploring the ruins after. This time I was more focused on the stie , rather than the high from accomplishing the trail. Things had changed too. There’s now a hotel there and strict rules on where to go and what path to take. I’m really glad I got to see it 15 years ago. I’m really glad they’re working hard to protect it though so the site will remain for future generations to enjoy. Machu Picchu is still spectacular and you really should go.

After lunch we boarded the train for Ollyantaytambo where we met our driver who tok us back to Cuzco


The alarm woke us up at 3.30 am and 10 of us were on a bus bound for Rainbow mountain by 4.15 am. At 6.30 ish we stopped at a restaurant at the base of the mountain for breakfast. Then the bus spent the next hour climbing the mountain. The road was built in 2018 giving tourists better access to the trail.

The hike starts at 4,600 meters and my goal was the lookout at 5,050 metres. The hike itself is not difficult but the altitude make it REALLY tough. Our guides were amazing. I found it really hard to walk slow but you really have to or feel the effects. It didn’t take long for the dizziness, shortness of breath and nausea to kick in. I tried all the potions. I chewed coca leaves, sucked on candies, and inhaled the magic potions. I was ready to quit, or at least hire a horse. Marco convinced me to keep going, slowly, slowly. A little while later again, I felt awful. A lady was selling coca and munya tea so I sat and drank one, Marco pointed out I could SEE the goal. That’s al it took and I carried on.
Once on top the clouds nicely parted long enough to se the magnificent views. Wow! It’s worth it! After spending probably a little too much time at that altitude we made our way back, still slowly

AT the base of the mountain we went to the same place for lunch where all the trekkers go. The food is good and plentiful. We were all exhausted and really hungry.


There was nothing on the agenda so after breakfast I just started walking. I had a few destinations in mind. First was the convent built on a foundation built by the Incas. It was interesting and has some very strange art about aliens. Seemed out of place in a catholic convent.

On I walked until I reached the San blas area where I wandered amongst the pretty streets, admiring the colonial buildings. Half way up a pretty set of stairs, I paused to catch my breath. The altitude makes stairs and hills very challenging. From a cafe a woman came out and said “You rest” and pulled me inside, parked me at a table with a gorgeous view and gave me the wifi code. There was no expectation to buy something. Wow! So I went to the counter and ordered coffee and cake.

I continued till I found the Sacsaywaman (affectionally known as SexyWoman) ruins. I was standing outside a small shop pondering my options when a woman came out. She explained that the ticket was for 4 ruins and they are far apart; too far to walk so she offered the services of her husband who would drive me. I thought about it. A lot. I’d noticed very few tourists in this area yet there were lots of shops. Recent protests had SERIOUSLY reduced tourism. These folks were obviously suffering. They weren’t badgering me, just waited for my decisions. So, I agreed. Didn’t even barter on the price 60 soles. Carlos took me first to the furthest ruin Tambomachay where I got out, bought my ticket, wandered about and came back to find him waiting in the parking lot. Next he took me to Qenqo and Pua Pucara and then our final stop at Sacsaywaman where he explained that I could walk out the other side and back down to Cuzco. With his bits of English and my bits of Spanish we figured it out.
In the end I probably could have done it cheaper with a tour but I really enjoyed wandering on my own, at my own pace. I’d seen so many ruins that I could just guess at what I was seeing and that was good enough for me.

Walking back to town I again saw the woman outside her shop. She thanked me profusely again. Later when the group was all talking about what we’d done, JC did not look happy with me so later I asked if there was a problem. He said what I’d done was kind of dangerous. I could have ben kidnapped. Yeah. I told him I DID think about that when chatting with the couple but I trust my own judgement and had only good vibes from them. Besides I feel like I got a great service and helped them out in these difficult times.

Today we were supposed to take a bus to Puno but due to the protests had to change our route. We were to fly directly to La Paz instead. Sounds simple but involved night flights. We left Cuzco on a 10 pm flight, then left Lima on a 3 am flight to arrive in La Paz shortly after 6 am. UGH.

Oh well. On to Bolivia!


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