Peru has become one of the most-coveted destinations to visit by our Contiki passengers. Guest blogger Roop Gill returned from her Peru adventure with Contiki, and she's here to share why South America isn't "wrong... it's just different!"
Guest Blog Post by Roop Gill, Contiki traveler
Before you leave your home country for South America, everyone will give you some fair warnings. My travel junkie friends who have been to South America mostly told me to prepare myself for two things – they said 1) it’s very different than anything else and 2) you’ll love it!
I recently got back from travelling around Peru with Contiki and yes, it was different than anywhere else I have ever been with Contiki, but at the same time, I totally loved it!
As soon as you meet your Contiki crew, you quickly realize that it’s not going to be anything like Euro-hopping. For starters, my Tour Manager wasn’t an Aussie dude (that’s a first for all the Contikis I have done). In fact, our lovely Tour Manager, Gaby, was a Peruvian from Cusco who spoke both Spanish and Quechua (the language spoken in many parts of the Andes). Having a Peruvian manager was a huge asset because not only could she translate and communicate for us, but she was also very passionate about sharing her culture with us.
From the coastal capital of Lima to the majestic Andes and the amazing Amazon, Peru has so much diversity to offer. If I started listing everything I loved about my trip, it would take forever, so instead I am going to tell you about my top five favourite moments.
First glimpse of Machu Picchu from the Sun Gate
The Inca Trail is a 14 km long hike that takes eight to nine hours to complete, depending on how fast you trek. For about seven of those hours, you are walking through lush mountains, checking out waterfalls, flora and fauna and stopping at Incan ruins. However, you don’t actually see your final destination, Machu Picchu, until you conquer 51 brutal steps leading to the Sun Gate. I was using up all my energy (and all my limbs) to get up to the Sun Gate and the cheers from the people at the top were only pushing me harder.
You know when people philosophize and say stuff like, “I will remember that particular moment all my life” and you roll your eyes and think to yourself, “yeah okay!” Well… when I got to the top of Sun Gate and saw Machu Picchu for the first time… I will remember that moment for my entire life.
Feeding the llamas
Most of us were dozing off in the coach when Gaby announced that we had a surprise stop. Tired and drowsy, we got off the bus, not knowing that we were in a llama and alpaca reservation/sanctuary. We were all given alfalfa to feed llamas, vicunas, alpacas and other adorable animals. I don’t even know why this was so cool! Probably because our entire trip we had been admiring these beautiful creatures from our coach windows and standing next to them, and feeding them from our own hands was simply awesome.
Singing and dancing with the locals on Taquile Island
The people of Peru are extremely nice and friendly. I can think of many instances to back this up, but a prime example of hospitality is the welcome we received when we arrived at Taquile Island in Lake Titicaca. A band greeted us where we were docked and kept playing until we reached the spot where we were having lunch. Some of us were pulled into the singing and dancing and the locals were excited to share their culture with us.
Dancing the night away in Cusco
Cusco is the heart of tourism in Peru, so naturally it’s great for shopping, eating and entertainment. After having a hearty dinner, there is only one thing you can do: dance the night away. With a blend of Latin tunes and popular mainstream songs, you won’t be able to get off the dance floor. And even if you tried, someone will probably pull you back on. The locals will also be happy to show you a move or two.
Condor spotting in the Colca Canyon
We went to the Colca Canyon on a lucky day. Gaby told us that her last group was able to see four condors soaring in the canyon and that was a great success. Well, we saw at least eight! The majestic birds were just gliding in the canyon and nobody could put their camera down or stop admiring their wingspan.
If you get a chance to go to South America, especially Peru, you should definitely do it. It’s a culturally rich experience, but super fun and adventurous at the same time. When you go, remember what our Tour Manager drilled into our brains: “It’s not wrong… it’s just different!”
About the Author: Roop is a Canadian journalist and blogger with a passion for seeing the world and a preference of doing so with Contiki. You can read about her other adventures and check out her travel photos on her blog, roopgill.com