After months of going with the flow, deciding about the next destination on the spot and making as well as changing plans in an instant, it was time for a new chapter. The one planned part of our big trip: A visit from the Adventurous Aunt (A.A.) and the Marvelous Mother (in law) (M.M).
While some might see this as an unwelcome rearrangement of the happy-go-lucky freedom, I was counting the days until their arrival. Not because I was in need of a more structured lifestyle but because I miss my family (and friends). The one single downside about being on a world trip, is that you are a world apart from your loved ones.
Thomas was still a little under the weather, so I hopped in a cab to collect A.A. and M.M. from the Lima Airport. The cab driver was friendly and keen on making conversation. I was nervous and keen on tracking our movements on Google maps, because everybody knows that journies go faster if your mentally support the car through metropolitan traffic. But 5 minutes before they landed, I was there. Time to focus on the task at hand: anxiously hopping from one foot to the other and staring at the arriving travelers, looking for the two familiar faces.
Tip: Being there even before the plane lands is absolute nonsense, if not slightly masochistic.
Let the familiy fun commence
Since we have been having a blast so far, I felt the pressure to put 4 months of travel experience to use in creating the perfect Peruvian itineray. Appearently you’re always harder on yourself than necessary.
To make the most of our time together, we had the following plan: A few acclimatization days in Lima, luxury night bus to Arequipa, tour around the Colca Canyon, night bus to Cusco, Salkanty/Sacred Valley to Machupicchu, fly back to Lima and visit the poor man’s Galapagos and Huacachina. If you want to skip all the words and just look at the pictures, now is your chance!
A little luxury goes a long way
Lima was a good starting point, we explored the city centre and were amazed by the San Francisco Convent as well as the MALI, a museum chockfull of indiginous and religious art of the region.
After this easy start it was time to introduce the family to the the harsh conditions of overland traveling: The night bus.
We spent a little extra to make the 17 hour ride bearable and with that little extra we ended up in the most luxurious bus ever made. Seats turned into actual beds and the in-ride-entertainment was on point. So much for showing them the adventure of South American Buses.
Did someone say: “adventure of South American buses”?
We arrived in breathtaking “white city” Arequipa and headed straight for our spacious AirBnb. Time had stood still over there. The floorboards came loose when walked upon and you wanted to re-wash every piece of china in the cupboards. It was in that place that we finally tought Thomas how to play the famous southern Dutch card game “Rikken”. The bastard allready beat my ass.
Time for our tour to the Colca Canyon. We booked this from the Netherlands to ensure a smooth and well organized experience. We should have known by now that “ensure” is not a word in the South American dictionary (yes, I know, English words usually aren’t in Spanish dictionaries. You get what I mean…).
We waited an hour and a half on the sidewalk to be picked up. After another hour and a half our driver decided that overtaking a truck was best handled by tailgating said truck. You guessed it, the truck braked and we hit the truck. I spent 4 months convincing my family that taking the bus in South America is not playing with fire and then this… We all got away without a scratch but our guide never recoverd from the stress. Poor girl.
The rest of the tour was simply amazing. Impressive landscapes and huge Condors flying so close that you could count the feathers on their wings.
Fabulous food and an aversion to altitude
Oh Cusco, so much to offer, so much to see, so much to eat. Being with my family has one downside: We love coffee. And coffee just combines perfectly with cake. Peru is known for it’s exquisite cuisine and rightfully so. But they don’t just cook well, they bake fantasticly too. Ah well, we’ll walk it off, right?
M.M. has always said that she would love to see Machupicchu one day. When we decided to visit Peru, we therefore invited our family to come along. M.M. and A.A. took the invitation and of course, Machupicchu was one of the “must-see’s”. We decided that the Salkantay trek would be our route of choice to get there and M.M. started training with 25 km walks (I kid you not). A.A. opted for the Sacred Valley route instead of a hike and we would meet in a town close to Machupicchu.
We left A.A. in Cusco and started the Salkantay trek. While physically not extremely demanding, the Salkantay trek does take you to 4600 meters above sea level and our low land bodies do not always take that well. After reaching the first campside we had lunch and readied ourselves for the steep climb to Humantay lake at 4200 meters. I looked at M.M. and saw that she was struggeling. It was not her physical shape or strength but this was the altitude. Shit.
Now some of you allready know that M.M. is a tough cookie but after this part of the hike, my respect grew even more. After every ten steps, she had to stop. She then literally willed her lunch back into her stomach, took a deep breath and walked again until the point of almost vomiting.
Let me tell you, 300 meters of elevation in 1,5 hours in these conditions are brutal. But she made it. All the way to the stunning lake (one of the highlights of the trek) and all the way back down again.
We hoped that a good night sleep might do the trick but her altitude sickiness only got worse. We had to get off the mountain.
We still beat the mountain though. It did not keep us from arranging a new tour to get to Machupicchu, this time all the way together with A.A.! Needless to say, it even exceeded expectations.
And M.M.? After the initial feeling of failure she quickly recovered and to prove a point, she practically ran to the sun gate in Machupicchu, which is a trail also almost 300 meters in elevation. Eat that, mountain!
Time flies when you have a sandboard
After all this, we still had some days in Lima for museums and strolls through bohemian districts. We tried to put as many highlights in one trip as humanly possible and M.M. & A.A. decided that they wanted to add to the fun. They arranged a trip to the Islas Ballestas (the poor man’s Galapagos) and a visit to South America’s only oasis. And apparently when you allow two people of over 60 to book a tour, it involves penguins, sea lions, 10 glasses of Pisco (17 to 40% alcohol), a buggy and sandboarding. So much for activities for all ages.
We had an absolute blast, made everlasting memories and are sad that they have gone back home. Something to add to every travelers itinerary? A family vacation!