Machu Picchu is believed to have been a retreat for Inca royalty nestled in the mountains near Cusco, Peru.
For my birthday my fiancé got us tickets to Machu Picchu, Peru and little did I know what type of trip this was going to be. Because Melani (my soulmate) booked this trip as a surprise I didn't know the cost, or any details and completely depended on her to manage our time there. These are the types of trips I think bond us the most because we totally depend on each other while abroad. This was our first vacation going out of the country and we made some crazy rookie mistakes but one of them in particular altered the course of the entire trip.
Here's a couple of mistakes we made before we get to the big one...
1. We didn't get our mobile coverage transferred so we were without any means of communication the entire trip. We had plans to visit the different ruins anyway so it made no sense to us to have cell phones. We pretty much left our fate up to the Universe. At random times our hotel had spotty wifi and we were finally able to tell our moms we were alive the third day into the trip. We were there for five.
2. We didn't check to see if we could transfer our credit cards or if any of our cards allowed for usage without percentage increases meaning we only had the cash we brought with us on the trip.
3. We took the surprise element a little too far. Had I been informed of the trip details I would have been able to plan accordingly and possibly pointed out to Melani any discrepancies I spotted in the itinerary. Leaving a trip this big up to your partner is too much pressure and things may slip through the cracks.
4. People advised us that they devalue currency exchange at the airport so it's smarter to go into the city to get "Soles" which means we didn't have any Peruvian money to pay for the ride to our hotel or to buy food.
HERE COMES THE BIG ONE...
Because this was a surprise I had no idea what to expect. I had no details about the itinerary or any notion of the fine print. When we landed in Cusco, the altitude sickness hit us quickly, and when you're about 11,000 feet above sea level, your senses feel drunk. The mob of taxi men yelling out, "miss, ride, taxi" just added to the pressure. The crowd started shuffling out, and we still didn't know where our ride was. Because we had no service, Melani couldn't connect to her cell to see the trip details. At this point, I kept wondering if she had purchased a ride to the hotel when she booked through Groupon and sure enough she didn't remember seeing a charge for it.
I asked her to wait for me at the luggage area while I figured out how we were going to get a ride to El Puma Hotel where we were staying. As I walked I silently prayed we wouldn't get kidnapped or scammed by one of these drivers. As I'm walking around the airport,I heard a girl going back and fourth with a driver when I heard her say the magical words "PUMA HOTEL."
Turns out her and her mother were also on the Machu Picchu trip via Groupon and had opted out of purchasing the ride to the hotel in hopes of getting cheaper prices upon arrival. I asked them if we could split the ride and they agreed. They looked relieved they didn't have to go alone with the stranger. At this point, we were all trusting him to get us there safely. I haul over to grab Melani who was turning white, and we all squeezed into the cab.
As we're driving the man asks us if he can make a stop at his office before taking us to the hotel and that's when I started panicking MORE.
Andrea, the girl I met, begins bargaining with the driver to take us directly to the hotel as this was not the plan and no pit stops were allowed. She also tells him that she has a knife on her and if he were to try something she wouldn't hesitate to shank him if need be. Her mom is just sitting there confused (they were on a mother/daughter trip) and Melani looked like she was about to vomit.
Throughout the ride, he keeps telling us about how legit he is and how he's the owner of a travel agency Norel Tours. He showed us his work identification and asked if we had an itinerary for the trip, I thought we did. It turns out Groupon only schedules the Machu Picchu trip and all the rides to and from for the single day you go there. (Andrea informed us of this too since Melani had no clue. She doesn't read the fine print. I'm the one who does that part in our relationship.) The rest of the days on your getaway you have to figure out on your own what you will do when you're there. All four of us looked helpless at this point, and we agree to let him take us to his office.
WHEN WE ARRIVE AT HIS OFFICE...
Three American Anglo dudes were sitting on the couch yelling at the top of their lungs that this place was a scam, and we shouldn't trust them. Talk about awesome first impression. It turns out someone else pretended to be from the agency, drove them to it, dropped them off, and left with all their luggage and money.
At the agency Melani gets offered a cup of coca tea, and she can't keep up the front any longer so she drinks it. I refused mine just in case they spiked it. She stayed by the door to make sure our luggage was safe, and we proceeded to speak with Norel, the taxi man / travel agency owner about the packages he was selling us. After ten minutes of him explaining the packages I told him I didn't trust him and those white guys yelling about his scam didn't impress me and I wasn't going to buy anything from him. He said that was fair and that we could visit all of the sites and pay him after each visit if we thought it was worth it. We all agreed, and he FINALLY took us to the hotel. Upon dropping us off, he told us someone from the agency would be meeting us within the hour and a bus was going to pick us up to go to the first ruin. And as life has it everything was legal, Norel Tours is a real company and our itinerary found us for the rest of the time we were there.
These are all the sites we explored with Norel's company minus the Machu Picchu site visit which we purchased via Groupon.
-OLLANTAYTAMBO -PISAQ -TIPON -SACSAYHUAMAN -CHINCHERO -SALINERAS DE MARAS (pictured above) -MORAY -URUBAMBA (As part of Norel's deals you stop and eat at a buffet all inclusive for one of the days you visit the ruins. Urubamba is the town where the buffet is. I think we ate there the day we visited Pisaq.)
-We missed the Incan Temple of the Sun (Qoricancha) because we arrived at El Puma Hotel later than expected. The bus had already left to the site so they picked us up before they set out to the next site.
We visited about two to three sites daily and at the end of each day Norel's bus dropped us off at the Plaza de Armas the central square in the old city where we had to walk back a couple of blocks back to the hotel. This was fine because since the area is surrounded by shops, bars and restaurants we would explore the different eateries and enjoy the local bands and artisans.
For the actual Machu Picchu trip with Groupon, everything was flawless. The bus showed up on time to pick us up from the hotel. All of our train and bus tickets were included both ways.
Nothing was delayed, and everything ran very smoothly. You have to take a train and bus to get to the ruins plus all of the walking you do when you get to the site, but you get your money's worth. The Groupon deal also includes the price of the hotel for the entire stay.
Machu Picchu is everything you can imagine and more. If you're in tune with the frequencies you'll radiate at a different energy level and if you're extra woke a UFO might just show up and scoop you up.
Melani proposed while we were there and I nearly fell off the mountain. It was incredibly romantic and I ugly cried while strangers randomly gathered in line to hug and congratulate us. We were surprised by the amount of open-minded locals who came up to us to offer their blessings. Our tour guide revealed to us we were his third proposal since he began working there.
Things I learned from this trip:
1. I cannot project my fear onto others.Turns out Norel Tours was real and he was trying to hustle to make his daily bread. Every tour we went on for the entire week was spectacular and our tour guide Christian was amazing. Peru is a country filled with respectful, loving people who have an awareness most of us will never understand. I barely saw any pollution or garbage on the streets except in underserved areas where it seemed that there were landfills with waste waiting to be recycled. Peru is extremely environmentally conscious too. They have receptacles for compost, plastic, and glass. Our daily tours turned out to be about ten dollars per person per day. We came back with money which has never happened to us on any trip. There were also a lot of hippie communities living in eco-domes made of clay and glass bottles as windows. They hand painted messages on the exterior that read "cuida nuestro planeta" or "take care of our planet."
2. Going to a foreign country has its benefits and things you need to respect and adjust to. In America, we feel entitled to running water and being able to flush the toilet. Our neighborhood in Cusco ran out of the water a couple of times, and we couldn't flush the toilet. Showers meant filling up a small plastic cup, squatting in the tub and hoping the water would splash the necessary areas. The hotel workers had to come in a couple of times to flush the toilet for us with water they had to bring up to the third floor. Therefore they had to smell and see our body excretions.This meant that Melani and I had to use the bathroom like dogs which meant going on top of each other for both number one and two. I feel like I learned everything about her on this trip, inside and out if you know what I mean.
Things to take to Machu Picchu:
-Water Bottle. You may also find yourself buying water while you're there. We bought water to drink and to brush our teeth. After the third day I gave up on that and used sink water, but you run the chance of getting sick. Use your discretion. -Hand Sanitizer for the reasons stated above. -Wipes. -Sunscreen, lots of it because you will need it. -Napkins. -Toilet Paper, Peru barely has garbage on the streets. They don't have dispensable napkins on every restaurant table and in public bathrooms. And while at the ruins or in neighboring towns if you need to use the bathroom they charge you a Sol for toilet paper and to use the restroom. -Scarf for protection against the sun. Especially around your head and shoulders. -Neck pillow for the flight. To get to Machu Picchu, you have to fly into Lima and connect to Cusco. It takes about six to eight hours total. -Snacks, some people ask for money or food in the towns, especially the kids, it's nice to be able to give them something.
-Pads, Tampon, Liners- for my ladies. I think the altitude affected my cycle and onset my period while I was there. They don't make the hygiene products exactly the same so come prepared.
-Medicine- I'm not one to swallow pills ever, but I did get headaches while I was there and couldn't find Tylenol or Advil at the neighboring pharmacy. I trusted the tech behind the counter to get me something to relieve my cramps and headaches and took a Peruvian equivalent, but I honestly didn't know what I was swallowing.
-Headphones for the flight
-Magazines or books
-It was true that the currency exchange rate is better in the city than at the airport. But I would suggest exchanging at the airport a few bucks in case of an emergency.
- Stop by a local market and purchase Doña Pepa's. They are decadent chocolate covered cookies with small circle sprinkles, super simple but so divine.
-People suggest resting the first day so your body adjusts to the altitude. Since we met Norel and paid for the tours he picked us up within the hour of us arriving to the hotel. We didn't have time to adjust to the height, but I don't think we needed it. Traveling and looking forward to what we were about to see distracted us from feeling sick for the most part.
-Pack shoes with good grip. You'll be doing a lot of walking in dusty, rocky, uneven ground.
-Pack a selfie stick and if you have a GoPro this is the perfect place to use it.
-Be prompt. Peruvian's don't know about Miami time and if they say they'll be meeting you at 8 a.m. they'll be arriving at 7:58.
- Below is the information for Norel Tours: Address: Av. Pachacutec 309 ( Frente a la Estación Perú Rail Wanchaq) Tel: 084-650137 Mobile: 984-600317 Email: Noreltours@gmail.com | firstname.lastname@example.org Site: www.viajes-machupicchu.com FB: Norel Tours Viajes WhatsApp: 51 977 134919
-The Groupon deal we purchased was a bit more expensive than this one as per Melani. I recommend purchasing this trip via Groupon especially because the prices are usually more budget-friendly. Also, since you're working with a package deal, they sell you the hotel stay and train tickets to Aguas Calientes the town where Machu Picchu is located plus the bus ride to and from the top of the mountain. They also coordinate the pickup to and from your hotel. I wouldn't want to have the pressure of making sure I coordinated the itinerary for that day and purchased all of my passes to and from so it's nice to pay one price and know your trip is set.
OUR PERU TRIP WAS INCREDIBLE. Granted I did get proposed to, still one of the best days of my life. I won't go into details because some things you just have to hold close to your heart, but Groupon's service was totally worth it for us, and Norel finding us was the icing on the cake. Just make sure to go prepared, do your research and go with a lover or friend who's down for a crazy beautiful adventure.
If you have any questions please email me and I'll be sure to get back to you with a reply.
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