Tag Archives: Holiday

Inca Trail – To Do Or Not To Do? – Journey In Peru

Deciding to travel to Peru from Ireland or Europe can be a big deal especially as the price of the flight is often quite staggering and especially so during peak season. The lure of Machu Picchu, now a World Wonder and famous UNESCO heritage site of the lost Inca civilisation, captures the imagination to the extent that travellers often sign up for the Inca Trail that leads there without ever having done this type of thing before.

There are some important factors to consider before signing up to undertake some days of trekking in Peru. Firstly, I will outline, I have been to Peru twice and have even lived quite close to the Inca Trail but have not done the hike itself. I had my own reasons for this.

Two important factors to consider are, your fitness level and your adjustment to being at higher altitude than usual.

If you excersise a lot, have good stamina, are used to hiking, especially for long durations then possibly you will be more equipped for spending a couple of days of hiking the Inca Trail. If you have not experienced the thrill of hiking in hills and mountains why not join a group in your local area, who are skilled in guiding you and see if you enjoy the experience. Your expensive holiday should definitely be one that you fully enjoy.

If you have already lived in high altitude environments then you will know your bodies adjustment and reaction to this. If you have not experienced being at high altitude it is very important to educate yourself on the symptoms and effects that can occur. You really don’t know until you go, how this will effect you. It has no bearing on age or fitness level.

Machu Picchu (2430m asl) is actually at a much lower altitude level than cities such as Cuzco and Puno for example. It is best to acclimatise slowly by spending a few days in high altitude before attempting hiking treks that take you further away from access to medical care.

Always heed the signs of altitude sickness and report to your guide if travelling in a group. Guides should be trained in health and safety. Tour companies usually have these saftey guidelines well out-lined for their clients.

Peru is an amazing country with so much to offer. Machu Picchu may be its crowning glory for tourists but there is so much more to discover such as the Amazon area, Lake Titicaca and its floating reed islands and Uros civilisation, Ollantaytambo in the Sacred Valley, Cuzco City once the capital of the Incas and Arequipa’s volcanoes and architecture.

Floating Reed Islands and Uros People on Lake Titicaca

Floating Reed Islands and Uros People on Lake Titicaca

Many people travel solo and do the back-packer thing which can be less luxurious and less expensive, while many others take advantage of an organised tour which take you much more quickly around the vast circuit of treasures in a shorter space of time.

Arequipa Peru Volcano

Arequipa Peru Volcano

Trekking and hiking can be a lot of fun and brings a sense of achievement and opportunity for bonding with fellow trekkers. Whatever you decide, be safe, be well and choose the option that will make your travel experience the most enjoyable for you.

If you do consider trekking the Inca Trail have some consideration for the ones dedicated to carrying your back-pack. This is a service that is provided for travellers within tour groups. I have spoken with one young man who did this work for a while before he studied for the hospitality industry. His recollection of carrying the heavy back-packs of travellers was not the most joyous. So put yourself in the shoes of others and pack as lightly as possible.

Enjoy your trip. If you have enjoyed my blog and this post and found it particularly useful why not repay me by sharing the post or leaving a comment.

© Caroline Cunningham – Author of Wild Star Landing and Journey In Peru


Torn Between Two Lovers

Torn! Yes Torn. Why? Because I said in my last post Eat Love Peru that I would contribute further articles with regard to the Peruvian passion for food. As soon as i had that thought of writing the article I reverted back to ‘DRINK’. Sorry, am giving you totally the wrong idea. Oops! I said ‘totally’……….(O: and I never say ‘totally’….like the way some folk ‘totally’ say ‘totally…..ahhhhh!!

Yikes! And there again I have left you probably thinking…’what she doing? Has she hit the bottle?’ Nope! Not at all the way it appears in writing. You see in Peru, those who are passionate about their food (and they are many), often use what they call ‘the secrets of good cooking.’ There are many secrets as I discovered in my conversations with a number of friends, some who were also qualified chefs.

As I was in the deep end for my nine weeks of living in Peru, with regard to learning Spanish, I invited myself to watch carefully as one of my chef friends cooked our meal for the evening. Surely I would discover some of the secrets if I paid attention well.

I shall keep you in suspense to know the name of the dish being prepared on that first evening, but I am pretty sure I did in fact discover one of the secrets. Pisco! Si, yes, Pisco. Its a drink, an alcoholic one and it would be difficult to make your way throughout Peru without being offered a drop or two of this particular spirit, of which its country folk claim with pride.

To be more precise, Pisco is made from grapes and is certainly a product of the famous winery of Ica along the Peruvian coast. Pisco is a colourless spirit and high in alcoholic content (40%), so gently does it with this stuff. In my taste buds it is similar to a brandy or a palinka (made in eastern parts of Europe).

But not to worry, in Peru there are many recipes for the drinking of Pisco. Pisco Sour is the most famous of its cocktails and is hailed as the traditional welcome and celebratory drink in every home and hotel. Chilcano is a perhaps a more relaxed and chilled out cocktail option. There are numerous possibilities, as i discovered during my 9 weeks in Peru’s Sacred Valley.

You can make hot drinks to warm your bones in the cool of an Andean evening, after the sun disappears behind the rocky peaks. I never thought of asking if it is good for arthritis? Hold your horses! Better to drink the stuff (following the recipe) before you try rubbing it in your knees, as  was a custom with Poitín (an alcoholic drink of Irish Olden Days before there were so many laws).

Last but not least, I discovered that Pisco is one of the secrets, ‘the secrets of good cooking.’ I saw it with my own two eyes as the measure was added to the pan. And the dish was delicious I have to say. It was double YUM.

Surely you will now understand my torn agony as I strove to tell you about food. Its great when everything falls into neat categories. That’s life. No neat categories. So lets get on with the show. Next article is definitely about FOOD. I promise it is not the last you will hear of Pisco however and yes I will also include the recipe for Pisco Sour. Salud!

Catch up on Previous Posts Eat, Love, Peru

Eat Love Peru!

Peru boasts a wealth of gastronomical dishes and you don’t have to visit a fancy restaurant to find that out. Cooking and eating might as well be included among the sacred rituals continued from Inca times for these two occupations were embraced with passion and reverence in all quarters of my hang-outs in the Sacred Valley region of Cuzco.

As a tourist in Peru it is not so likely that you will discover the many eating houses that the Peruvians themselves frequent unless you decide to be a stalker for a day to see where they are going at those times when hunger strikes. If you do take this adventure you will be presented with a choice of set menus of the day, serving 2 or maybe 3 courses with a drink (chicha morado or fresh juices) and all for at least a third the cost of what is charged in tourist restaurants.

There is also a wealth of stalls and small eateries serving what is sometimes labelled ‘street-food’ perhaps skewered pieces of vegetable and meat which smells delicious and tastes to match. In the eateries one of my favourite dishes was the Papas Rellana’s. A ball of mashed potato’s stuffed with some chopped up vegetable and minced meat and a boiled egg in the centre, fried in oil and served hot.

Why not give it a go when you are next in Cuzco before or after your trip to Machu Picchu.

If you have a passion for food and would like to learn more about Peruvian dishes and drinks, FOLLOW my blog as I will be posting some recipes soon!!

Coffee on Chatham Row

A warm sunny day in Ireland is by now a rare and excitable event. On one of these rare days I took to the streets and headed straight to town to mingle with the masses of giddy Irish rooted folk. All my business attended to by noon I settled in a sunny spot outside the Metro on Chatham Row which is becoming a favourite haunt of mine for coffee and their famous Tuscan Bean Soup!!

I squeezed into a vacant chair and faced outwards at the busy street with passers-by, vans and cars grooving along and the sun beaming down on me with the right amount of shading from the overhead canopy.

The coffee tasted delicious. I don’t take sugar anymore but I do absorb the flavours of the sights and sounds that accompany my sipping. Large men sipping tiny cups of coffee conjured amusing images of Gulliver and his travels, while beardy Irish blokes tried their best to nonchalantly discuss the latest art venture that they’d been seconded to.  A quiet sort just randomly checking his crossword eventually decided he had cracked it and moved along. The talk from table to table invariably drifted to ‘Spain’, sure I am going there myself next week! ‘Chico!’ ‘Omar Shariff & Lanzarote!’ Yes these vibes go well with coffee in the rare Dublin Irish sunshine.

Cars and vans rolled slowly by awaiting their turn to take the nearby corner. A friendly beep signalled my neighbour to turn and exchange cheeky grins of familiarity with the driver who is probably also thinking of Spain.

‘When we are on the beach, remind me that I have something to tell you,’ one of my favourite Aunts had said on the phone when booking our flights a few nights ago. ‘Can you repeat that line once more?’ I asked her as the reality began to sink in. ‘When we are on the beach………..aahh! Good coffee!