- Overall, it was a wonderful tour/holiday and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. Peru is an amazing country with very friendly and considerate people who proved to have a wonderful sense of humour.
Overall, very good and what I have experienced before from Explore. This was my 7th trip with Explore. I was very pleased to see that the hotels were now listed on the trip notes so that they could be viewed online prior to travelling.
GROUP LEADER - HELMUT
I cannot speak highly enough of Helmut, he is a priceless asset to Explore. He was knowledgeable, endlessly patient, considerate and was particularly attentive to all group members regarding the issue of altitude sickness. He did everything calmly, efficiently and with very good humour. He was a joy to travel with. He would very much like to lead an Inca Trail Trek tour and I can wholeheartedly state that he would be wonderful at this. His knowledge of walking in those conditions, in that heat and at altitude would be invaluable to anyone attempting that trek. He thoroughly deserves the opportunity to expand his experience and types of tours that he leads for Explore.
There were, however, some points of concern about the trip.
Probably the most disappointing aspect for me. I flew from Birmingham to Amsterdam then on to Lima. My flight from BHX was at 6am (which meant a 4am check in) with a long lay over in Amsterdam. Following the long haul flight from Amsterdam another group member and I were then made to wait in Lima airport for 1 1/2 hours for other members to arrive on a later flight. This was pretty awful as we had been travelling for well over 24 hours by this point and had we known how long the wait would be we both said we would have got a taxi together. To make matters worse I learned that those group members we had to wait for had had a much shorter travelling day as they had been put on a later flight from Birmingham. Explore needs to consider not just flight time when arranging these things but actual total travel time. I had not been given any other choices except a flight from London. I think the Explore sales team need to be a bit more expansive in explaining the flight arrangements otherwise I would be tempted to arrange my own flights.
There was also a full day to wait in Lima on the return journey. Again, another very long day as we had to leave Cusco at 6am and we arrived in Lima at 10.15am when our international flight wasn't until 8pm. This is a wasted day.
We were lucky that one member of our group sourced a city tour of Lima for $45 which picked up and dropped off at the airport. It took 4 1/2 hours and was really worth it as it felt as if we had an extra day's holiday but also saved us from sitting in Lima airport for nearly 10 hours. This was with Haku Tours and it's a non-profit organisation with the money going towards building soup kitchens and helping the needy of Lima. The tour guide was great (although it was it's very much from the Inca point of view). Still it showed the main highlights of Lima and I would recommend that group tour members be alerted to this option by Explore when there is such a long lay over. Ideally, Lima should be part of the itinerary with no long lay overs at airports anyway.
A very gruelling itinerary with lots of long travel days. I think this should be listed as BUSY and that all participants should be in a reasonable state of fitness. There were one or two people on this trip who admitted they were not fit enough for this kind of tour; there was the added difficulty of altitude sickness also.
It's a great pity that Lima is not part of the itinerary as there are some interesting places to see here and it warrants at least a day at the beginning or end of the tour. See my note above about the Lima tour that one group member sourced.
Pretty much a waste of time if the option of a flight over the lines isn't advisable. Our tour guide said that there are now reputable companies but he wasn't able to recommend anything due to Explore's policy of caution and that of our own FCO. However, I mentioned that the FCO is regularly over cautious and that if Explore sourced and approved of a particular company that flies over the Nazca lines then I would take Explore's recommendation. I feel this was an opportunity missed.
Most accommodation on the trip was of good, comfortable quality with the exception of the Hotel Sillustani in Puno. This hotel was dark and uncomfortable and I would not recommend it to anyone.
The trip to Uros Island on Lake Titicaca was good fun and the boat trip to Taquille Island relaxing but again the walk to the accommodation on Taquille Island was extremely demanding and participants should be made aware of this in the trip notes prior to booking. The stay on Taquille Island was for me the worst part of the trip overall. I do not appreciate being stuck in one place with not alternative for dinner etc. The food provided was poor and there was virtually no choice; fish or omelette (served cold). The same food provided the very next day during the 'lunch' on the beach before returning to the mainland. The accommodation was poor, there were many little things the proprietors could do to make this experience a bit easier eg a table and some chairs in the courtyard. We had to sit on cold, stone steps; the only alternative was to stay in one's room. I felt that these were the only people in the whole of our Peru trip who were unwelcoming and only out to make a quick money. Their attitude to photographs for example, do not take them as it's offensive to them but they were happy to have their photos taken when they were trying to sell us their goods the next morning. It was the only time on the trip that I was made to feel unwelcome by the locals. Also the trip notes stated that there may be a cultural evening put on but there was absolutely nothing to do and basically when the sun went down there was no alternative but to go to bed. I failed to see the point of staying over on this island. Make sure to take a torch as there were no matches for the candle in the room; also it's not easy to carry a candle to the outside toilet and wash basin. A head torch would be most helpful. Also, a towel as these are not provided by the accommodation.
There was plenty of time for this to be a day trip only, could have stayed on the beach or gone for a walk, a choice depending on people's preferences and abilities but then return to the mainland.
PUNO to CUSCO bus. Explore chooses to use a Tourist Bus that takes 10 hours and stops at around 5-6 places, including buffet lunch, between Puno and Cusco. There was little choice on the buffet lunch and the quality not so good. Also, several members of the group, and I agree, that we would have been better to have had a bus just for our own group. We could still have stopped at some places and for lunch but overall we could have done the journey much quicker and got to Cusco at a more reasonable time. The tour guide on the bus was far too talkative which was tiresome on such a long journey and even more so that he kept jumping from English to Spanish and back again. It was very difficult to keep up with what he was saying, one would just tune in to his accent and then he was switch to Spanish only for him to switch back to English a sentence or two later.
ANDEAN EXPLORER TRAIN - PUNO to CUSCO
When I booked the trip I was told that nobody else on the trip had booked the train (it had to be booked in advanced). As I didn't want to travel alone on the train I decided against booking this train and stay on the bus with the group. Other group members were told exactly the same thing so didn't book either. One group member did book the train and was told that others in the group had booked. None of this makes sense as we were all clearly given contradictory advice. Again, I feel saddened that this was an opportunity missed especially as the person who did take the train said it was a wonderful experience.
Overall, the issue with flights was the main thing that tarnished this trip.
I would like to extend my heartfelt gratitude to Helmut for taking us safely and with a great sense of fun around his wonderful country.
Published on: 24 April 2016