Incas and Rainforest: Travelers' Thoughts
My wife Petra and I had always researched and organized our own travel in the past, so when we opted out of last-minute necessity for a guided tour with Adventure Life, we didn't know quite what to expect. Quite frankly, we're independent types, who have always recoiled in horror at those busloads of tourists trudging lemming-like behind an oversized pin-pong paddle inscribed with "Clueless Hordes, Follow Me!"
That said, we had high hope that Adventure Life's flavor of Peruvian "ecotourism" would provide an alternative to ugly mass-tourism. Thankfully it did! In the case of our Incas and Rainforest tour, "ecotourism" meant traveling in a small group of 4 and staying in charming and locally owned accommodations, while eating delicious local fare thoughtfully prepared with gringo-safe ingredients. Our guide for the Andean portion of the trip, Marco Palamino, spoke superb English, Spanish, and Quechua (the indigenous language of the region), and was blessed with the sort of people-skills which allowed him to navigate our little group effortlessly whether in the most rustic or cosmopolitan of settings.
Adventure LIfe has camping for the adventuresome in Peru's Andes. Not even the coldest weather in 20 years could keep us from falling in love with the Andes once we got there. A tip to future travelers though: take the elevation seriously and pack that thick fleece, long underwear and a thermal hat! Also, our 20 degree rated sleeping bags were a bit on the cool side while camping over 3000 meters - 10 or 0 degree bags would have provided a better night's sleep. Our spring-weight alpine gear did have one advantage though - it left us room to carry home the extra alpaca sweaters, mittens and hats we acquired along the way!
Staying with a local family on Amantani Island, sipping hot muña tea, riding a pedicab in Puno, watching the moon rise over Cusco from our hotel, the drive into the Sacred Valley, the panorama from atop "Dead Woman's Pass," sunset at Machu Picchu (we accelerated and hiked the trail in 3 days), and a good long soak in the hot-springs with a Cusqueña at Aguas Calientes - these are a few of the highlights that made this trip a stand-out.
After being spoiled by two weeks of Marco's perfect organization, vast cultural knowledge, and unerring culinary guidance, our trip to Puerto Maldonado and the Amazon was a bit anti-climactic. The Eco-Amazonia guides were low-key, and the mosquito screening on the lodges worked mercifully well. We did get to see some of the wildlife we came for (the Monkey Island excursion was by far the best of the bunch), and we even got to eat the pirahna our boatmen caught on the fishing excursion (we would have starved on what we caught: 1 fish for 6 people), so the whole trip was worth the blood-tribute rendered to the local mosquitoes!
All in all, a remarkable trip! We recommend the Andean leg of the trip without reservation, and the jungle for those who would like a glimpse of the Peruvian interior and don't mind braving the heat and the bugs!