Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Inca Empire Cruise - Day 15 Lima to Cusco, Peru

Today we are in Lima, Peru, which marks the halfway point of the trip and it seems to be going by much too fast.  We are actually docked in Callao, which is the port of Lima.  We docked a little after 8:00 AM in a not very picturesque spot. The port is a heavily used industrial port so we are surrounded by cargo ships and stacks of containers.

Our trip to Machu Picchu doesn’t leave until 12:30 so we were able to have a leisurely morning.  We had our usual breakfast and went briefly ashore to check out the vendors who were setting up stands on the dock by the ship.  We returned to the room, did some last minute packing and then anxiously awaited our departure on our big adventure to Machu Picchu.

At 12:30 we met with the rest of our group to start our trip.  There are two groups going; the first is the Standard Tour and has about 60 people.  We chose the Superior Tour, mainly because the train ride to Machu Picchu is on the Hiram Bingham train. It is a luxury train and has been called the Orient Express of the Andes.  We also get a hotel upgrade in Cusco, get to spend more time in Machu Picchu at a less crowded time, a smaller group (26) and other upgraded amenities.  It cost quite a bit more than the standard tour so we’ll see if it is worth it.  Our group, which was named the red group, was the first to leave for the airport where we would fly to Cusco.  We would meet the other group (the green group) and all fly together to Cusco where we again separate into two groups.  Each group is accompanied by a ship crew member and a tour company guide from Lima Tours.  Our guide from the ship is Tony who is the very popular teacher of the digital workshops on board.  I'm sure we'll get to know Tony better by the end of our tour.

A view of Lima as we travel to the airport.

We got to the airport and although it was hectic, we got checked in, got through security and took our seats at the gate to wait for our flight.  We were about 15 minutes away from boarding when an announcement came saying our flight would be delayed by 30 minutes, not a big deal.  Shortly after that came a much worse announcement, our flight had been cancelled.  We all looked at each other and wondered whether that meant our tour, which was on a very tight schedule, would be cancelled or what would be happen.  The tour company guides and crew members started scrambling and amazingly got all of us booked on three flights leaving over the next couple of hours.  Val and I were fortunate to be put on the next flight out so by 4:00 we were on our way to Cusco, and in less than an hour we were seeing our first glimpse of the Andes from the plane.

We were supposed to have a tour of Cusco when we arrived, but because we arrived late we went straight to the hotel to check in.  In was drizzling as we drove through town, which we hoped was not a bad omen for tomorrow.  Cusco is at an altitude of over 11,000 feet so we were a little worried about the altitude sickness and the lower level of oxygen, but thankfully neither one seemed to be a problem.  Whether it was the pills we took to avoid altitude sickness or we just weren’t effected by altitude we’ll never know, but we felt fine.  You could definitely feel the lower oxygen levels, but aside from having to take an occasional deep breath and not exert yourself to much, it was not a problem.

The hotel we were staying at was the JW Marriot El Convento.  It was once a monastery and still had the original stone walls.  The main areas of the hotel were quite interesting and the fact that it was a Spanish monastery was obvious.  The Marriot was rated as a five star hotel and it was very, very nice.  We checked into the hotel around 7:00 PM and were told to meet for dinner at 7:30 which didn’t give us much time to get settled, but luckily we were told that not everyone from the later flights had arrived yet so dinner was delayed until 8:00.

The hotel lobby.

The hotel courtyard.
When we arrived at the hotel we were greeted with cups of hot coca tea.  As you may know, coca is the plant that cocaine is derived from.  In Peru chewing the coca leaves or making tea from them is common. Apparently there is only a minuscule amount of “active elements” when used this way.  Val tried the tea and said it was very good.  It does give you a “boost” so she didn’t drink enough to keep her awake.

Cusco is a very old city that dates back to the Incas and the 1400’s.  When the Spanish came in the 1500’s they destroyed many of the Inca buildings and temples because they considered them pagan.  And as a symbol of their superiority, they built their own buildings on the foundations of the destroyed Inca buildings.  Today you can still see the original Inca stone foundations with colonial buildings on top.

We all met in the lobby and walked about a block along narrow, cobblestone streets to the restaurant where we would have a buffet dinner of local cuisine.  Dinner was very good and we were entertained by dancers and Peruvian music while we ate.  It was a nice evening, but we were pretty tired as it had been a very full day so everyone was happy to go back to the hotel and get to bed as we had to be up early tomorrow for our trip to Machu Picchu.

The pictures below were all shot by Tony.

Our group at dinner.  Our guide, Gabriela, is at the left front.
We were entertained by Peruvian music and dances.

You can see there is a bottle of Inca Kola which didn't taste like cola at all. 
I thought it tasted a bit like bubblegum, but Val didn't think so.
It was a hectic day, but thanks to our guides, it had all worked out well in the end.  The only thing we really missed was our tour of Cusco and they said they would try to do that Tuesday morning before we left.  So here we were in Cusco, Peru and tomorrow we’ll be seeing Machu Picchu, very exciting!!!

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