Today we got up to head for the Sacred Valley on an all day tour. When the tour guide came to pick us up, he told us that we would need to spot lunch because he had not got authority to pay for our lunch (as per the itinerary from the tour company said lunch would be included). Red flag #2. Anyway, we went to meet up in a square with other tourists and got on a van to head out to pick up some other people. The van was nice, and as we weaved throughout the side of the city, our guide started telling us the story of Cusco. I had been a little nervous, because he was a little old man, and I thought oh boy, this will be hard to understand probably.
To my surprise, his English was amazingly proficient, funny, and informative. The other passengers were nice too, and came from all over the world–England, the US, Australia, etc. After leaving Cusco, we started seeing amazing landscape that comprised of beautiful wheat colored grasses, with a backdrop of snowcapped peaks. It was absolutely stunning. The van stopped every so often to let us have pics of the landscape, so it was really good.
Our first stop was a little town called Pisac. Here they had some markets that you can barter for items, but more interestingly were the Inca ruins that we toured around.
After Pisac, we toured Urubamba, or muddy plains, and had a buffet lunch. We enjoyed our company with a couple from England who are traveling for about a year as well. It’s really amazing to meet so many people who are doing this type of travel, that it reminds me of being younger and having this amazing wanderlust that led me around the world initially.
After lunch we headed to Ollantaytambo which had an impressive fortress that overlooks the small Inca town. Climbing up the stairs, you get winded, but are rewarded with an amazing view and informative lesson in Inca history with their abilities of creating such fortified structures with rocks that fit together like a jigsaw puzzle.
We then finished up the tour with a trip to Chinchero, where we saw a weaving demonstration along with a beautiful old church. As the evening fell upon us, we were able to see some amazing stars, so after our tour of Chinchero, we asked the driver to pull off the road so we can look up and see the different constellations that are seen in the southern hemisphere. It was so beautiful to see the Milky Way and see how many stars you can actually see when you have no light pollution.
Overall, the tour of the Sacred Valley was so nice and informative, that we’re even more excited to start our hike the next morning.
When we arrived back to the hostel, the guides were waiting for us. We were so exhausted from the full day, and still hadn’t eaten dinner, so we went inside to start our orientation of the next few days. Luis, the guide introduced us to our guide for the hike, Bernie. He was there with the porter as well. I had the itinerary printed out to follow along because after the couple of hiccups before, just wanted to make sure we were all on the same page.
Unfortunately, the other people dropped out of the tour apparently, which meant that they were no longer providing a tour van for the group, since there were just two people. They then said that we would need to be up and ready by 3:45am (in about 7 hours!), and would need to pack everything that night. They would lead us to a public bus station where we would board a public bus at 4am, drive for a couple hours, transfer at another terminal, and drive another 2-3 hours to reach the origin point of our trek. This did not sit well with us at all, as we were under the impression that we would have safe transportation the entire time we were in their hands. A public bus station in any country at 4am does not seem the safest place to be. After they continued on telling us where we would stop and what we would do, there were a couple other changes, and a few things that made the actual hike not sound like what we had purchased–IE: the final day was hiking along a road with cars for the entire day to reah the base of Machu Picchu. All these things added up to making us feel very uncomfortable with the organization of the trek, the execution of everything, and after talking to other travelers and what they have paid for what they received, it seems like we paid even more, and were receiving less quality/safety.
We spent the next several hours trying to find a solution that would make us feel safe in going, and it just spiraled down hill. We were hungry, exhausted, and the longer we stayed up, the less likelyhood of us being physically prepared to get up at 3:45 to start our 4 day hike. We called the travel agent that we paid, as the guide, nor the organizer were the people who had been the person who actually sold us the trek. We spent a couple more hours with him on the phone and were up until 1am, at this point completely baffled, exhausted, angry, frustrated, and mentally out of it, we ended up asking for a refund and trying to figure out what we could salvage from what we’d bought the next morning.
The last stop is the small market town of Chinchero where you will get to purchase some souvenirs as well as visit ruins on your way back to Cusco. You arrive in Cusco at approximatley six in the evening.