Machu Picchu Here We Come! (Instalment Four)

We had a leisurely start to the morning at Rio Sagrado, taking in the final glorious sunrise over mountain range. Not to mention another buffet breakfast that contributed to the extra 5kg I’m sure I carried back – mostly around my middle. 

Our driver then drove us to the train station at Ollantaytambo ready to board the luxurious Hiram Bingham train bound for Machu Picchu! It was white-tablecloth service with views to die for. I was inexplicably obsessed with the fact we were on a train weaving through the mountains and our table had a lamp on it. For some reason, that lamp indicated we were in the lap of luxury. The delectable 3-course meal and wine to match confirmed the indulgent feeling. I admired the staff’s ability to manage glassware on a rocking vehicle!

A lamp on a train? Now that's luxury!

A lamp on a train? Now that's luxury!

The rear carriage of the train housed a bar, along with live musicians playing native and popular music. A ceiling of windows offered a view from every turn. It was a fascinating journey.

We arrived at Aguas Calientes – the base town where travellers to Machu Picchu embark and gather in confused hordes. Hotel staff met us at the train and took our baggage for us, while we queued for buses to take us to the pinnacle : Machu Picchu.

That bus ride was an extreme sport unto itself. I’ve lived in Manila, I’ve crossed the road in Bangkok, I’ve seen some precarious vehicles and driving in my time but that bus ride had me gripping the edge of my seat. A zigzag dirt road is the only way (bar hiking) to get to the top of the mountain. Everything’s sweet when there’s just one bus climbing up but as soon as an oncoming bus hurtling down the hill is presented, both vehicles move to the very edge of the road whilst still moving. I had more than one thought that perhaps we wouldn’t actually reach Machu Picchu after all…

We arrived and survived. The volume of people at the entrance of Machu Picchu astounded me. Perhaps it is because every photo I’ve ever seen of this epic place is serene and without a single head in it.

Photo of Machu Picchu anyone? The entrance to the sacred place.

Photo of Machu Picchu anyone? The entrance to the sacred place.

Unfortunately there was some confusion about our tickets and we were delayed by over an hour while they sorted it out. I ended up as “Kylie Orr – Male – Afghanistan” on the ticket but who cared? I was finally in! MP closes at 5pm each day and we were assigned a guide at 2.30pm. I was in a spin about coming all this way and only having two hours to explore and absorb. As it turned out, it was a blessing to have been delayed. The crowds had subsided, the light was perfect for photos and we were able to truly embrace the serenity of the magnificent surrounds.

I have never seen mountains as mammoth or architecture as amazing, for its time. It is an awe-inspiring space, made much more meaningful by the guides who explained so much about the buildings, the time, the agriculture and the spirituality. Photos don’t do it justice. It is a must-see on anyone’s bucket list – and my recommendation is to do it before you lose the use of your knees! Lots of walking, climbing narrow rock stairs and navigating uneven paths. 

Does it get any better than this? 

Does it get any better than this? 

Afternoon tea back at the bus stop hotel (otherwise known as Belmond Sanctuary Hotel), then we boarded a bus to take that scary ride back down the hill. By the way, feedback from others staying At the Sanctuary Hotel was that the location was undeniably awesome but the noise from sunset to sunrise of buses and tourists coming and going offset the premium location.

We stayed at the gorgeous Inkaterra…next instalment :)

The Sacred Valley, Peru (Instalment Three)

A quick flight to Cusco and we landed in the tiny airport surrounded by mountains. Met by Maria and Queoma, we were driven an hour and a half to the next hotel Rio Sagrado in the Sacred Valley. 

A stop off at Pisac Market gave us an opportunity to walk the cobblestoned roads and be accosted (in a friendly way!) by vendors selling their wares: weavings, carvings, scarfs and hats were some of the many gift opportunities on offer.

We ate at a local restaurant; the husband tried Alpaca Steak and a local beer, whilst I gave the Cilantro Lamb a red-hot go. Delicious! Back into the car for some more chauffeuring, I watched in amusement as my husband suffered narcolepsy – his physical inability to stay awake was quite hilarious - he claims it was a combination of jetlag, altitude sickness and a midday beer. Unfortunately he missed the guide’s many facts and stories about the areas we were driving through, including spotting the vibrant and abundant quinoa crops.

As the car slowed amongst mud brick shacks (“Adobes”) I was a little dubious about this hotel. A dirt road with a fancy sign was all I could see. Behind a mudbrick fence there was however, an oasis beyond. Collected from reception by a friendly man driving a golf cart, we were escorted to our room. The view was spectacular and the grounds immaculate.

Room with a view. Rio Sagrado, Sacred Valley.

Room with a view. Rio Sagrado, Sacred Valley.


We had an afternoon’s rest before dinner in the hotel, where the husband again braved some local fare and had guinea pig – one of Peru’s delicacies. As much as I’d like to say I was brave and adventurous, the thought of eating an animal my children have requested as a pet was too much. I ordered the bog standard chicken and rice, with a Pisco Sour flavoured with mango. Better than the Caesar salad the Americans next to us ordered (with dressing on the side – oh please!). They weren’t even trying!

The next day was a trip to Ollantaytambo: a place I will never be able to pronounce yet never forget. A fascinating Inca town 60kms from Cusco, with rocks bigger than Gibraltar, the history of the archaeological site made it all the more amazing. The sheer size of the walls was mammoth enough but knowing the Quechuan people moved these without machinery is phenomenal.

Lunch was at a tourist catered rest spot where truckloads of buses arrive with loud, white folk who all pile their plates high with food they recognise.  Although I was happy to see some food without eggs, I was a little disappointed to see how Westernised the catering was. There was even “American Coffee” on the drinks list!

Back to the hotel for an afternoon of cooking lessons (for him) and massages (for me). It was hard, but I managed. 

Tomorrow: Machu Picchu!


Peru continued - A day in Lima (Instalment Two)

I’m sure I’d only slept for three minutes when that alarm went off. My body was too heavy to lift out of bed, so I rolled into the shower. The 11th floor was the location for breakfast and what a magnificent view! We were presented a rainbow of delights in the all-inclusive buffet: cured meats, local cheeses, Danish pastries, cereals, fruit, and a smorgasbord of cooked meals. I could see 5kg sitting on my gut already. A three-course breakfast of treats with views to match was an invigorating start to the day.  

Breakfast view. Terrible, I know.

Marven was our guide for the morning. A knowledgeable and interesting fellow, he taught us about the history of Lima, showed us the gorgeous parks and gardens, Lima’s historic downtown including Paseo de la Republica, Plaza San Martin, the Main Plaza, Presedential Palace, Cathedrals, San Francisco Convent and the list goes on. The buildings alone were a magnificent site – in Australia we are such a young country in terms of historical monuments (important indigenous places of interest aside) so I was enthralled by the architecture and sheer size of these monstrosities. I love a good plaza too! A city square is the beating heart of a metropolis; a common gathering ground for all walks of life.

Dropped back at our hotel right on lunchtime with a list of suggested eateries in hand, we made our way to the nearest shopping arcade: Centro Comercial Larcomar. More American–style than Peruvian but a show-stopper of a location on the side of a cliff! I was amused by the outdoor escalator; clearly this is a city that rarely has rain! We ate at Tanta – a restaurant with gorgeous views however my Spanish was not at menu standard and we ordered an array of local dishes, all served with an egg inside or on top. I have an aversion to eggs, some may call a phobia, so I had a lovely glass of champagne for lunch followed by an ice cream at Gelarti! Bonus is, I relearned the word for eggs: huevos.

We visited the supermarket; we love to see all the different products available, and bought some local chocolate, chips and jerky (yes, health was our priority). Back to the hotel for a wee rest (jetlag was hitting hard by this stage), then we walked into Lima to the markets that attract a million other tourists but I wanted to get a feel for what was on offer before we headed off to the next destination on our itinerary. We bargained and joked with local vendors in our broken Spanish and bought a few bits and pieces. Dinner was at the gorgeous restaurant attached to our hotel – TRAGALUZ. A beautiful ambience and fantastic artwork on the wall, incredibly friendly and helpful staff and the food was magnificent. My husband is on a quest to find the best Crème Brulee and Tragaluz’s Brulee is in his top 2!

Back to bed ready for another early morning flight, to Cusco!

We survived Peru! Our 10 day Trip...(Instalment One)

And who thought we wouldn't?

To say it was brilliant and amazing would not be enough. Life-changing? I'm not sure I'd go that far. Life-refreshing certainly.

To go back to the start, we left on May 3rd, a teary goodbye to the children and my parents as we embarked on ten whole, entire kid-free days, (mostly) paid for by my winning 25 words.

Overnight at an airport hotel in Sydney, I wanted to order room service. It’s a novelty for those of us who rarely travel, but for the business-travel-weary like my travel companion, who preferred to have a real dinner that was actually hot and served at a table, not on your bed. So hotel restaurant it was and I have to say, room service would have been on par if we were judging on temperature alone…

An early start on May 4th only to discover the flight was already delayed by four hours. This would cost us our connecting flight from Santiago to Lima. Without kids to wrangle, I didn’t really care. Although, given I'd been deprived of a rare sleep-in there may have been some swearing under my breath – couldn’t the airline alert all passengers to the delay so we weren’t busting our cracks to check-in early?

I read a book. An entire novel. I had a hot cup of tea, and then another. Nobody asked me for food, to go to the toilet, or tugged on my jumper telling me they were bored. No-one! Not even my husband.

The epic journey finally embarked: Sydney to Auckland. Auckland to Santiago. Seven painful hours in Santiago airport and finally we were on a plane to our destination: Lima.

Met at the airport at one am by a cheerful chap, we were driven down the dark and deserted streets of Lima to our first hotel, Miraflores Park Hotel. Greeted by effervescent staff (who the hell is that bubbly at 2am?) and led to our room, we were limp, lifeless and covered in airplane funk courtesy of too many hours in transit. A quick shower, call home and off to bed in the universe’s biggest bed!

Miraflores Park Hotel. A dump, right? 

Miraflores Park Hotel. A dump, right? 

Alarm set for 6am, as a morning tour of Lima was scheduled...

7 Tips for a Kid-Free Trip not a Guilt Trip

So, the husband and I are off to Peru in a couple of weeks. A phenomenonal, life-changing opportunity. Something I don't think I could have concocted in my wildest daydreams.

The reality is a little less dreamy. Overcoming the guilt of leaving the children behind and of asking my parents to care for them for ten days is a more difficult task than packing lightly. Everyone around me seems fine with it, and those that have said it will fly by are absolutely right. I'll be home before I know it, resuming groundhog day and wondering what the hell I was worried about. I'm certain all parties will come out the other end unscathed.

I did some reading on preparing the kids for our upcoming absence and compiled a list here in my latest column. I've been accused of overthinking, but perhaps it's better than under thinking?

Have a read and let me know if I've missed anything...

Until next time..Adios!