Through the Eyes of an Alpaca Trekker

3 Jul

We don’t normally publish reviews written about us on TripAdvisor on this blog, but I thought our recent trekker’s review included so many good details that could help with anyone planning a trek through the Andes and also give you an idea of the type of service Alpaca provides to our customers.  When I contacted our client to make sure it was ok to list her review here, she mentioned two more things that would be helpful to everyone – wet wipes and facial wipes.  After a few days of not showering and hiking, you will be thankful to have something that smells so good.

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“Look no further – Salkantay trek with Alpaca Expeditions”
Reviewed July 1, 2013 NEW

The number of trekking and tour companies in the Cusco region is mind boggling and the process of booking a trek is stressful. Here’s our argument for Alpaca Expeditions and the Salkantay trek!

First and foremost, Alpaca is owned and operated by Raul and Bonnie, two people who’ve worked on and experienced the Inca Trail. As I understand, Raul started as a porter on the trail and worked himself up to guide. While this in itself is a nice story and will likely appeal to people who want to support locally owned business on their travels, what’s more important is that Alpaca’s local ownership and experience results in a superior experience for trekkers.

Before you even book your trek, Bonnie patiently answers all your e-mails. After booking, I probably sent her another 20 e-mails, each of which she answered with patience and cheer! Some of the e-mails weren’t even relevant to the trek, but were just questions about planning our trip — so helpful! Also let me credit Bonnie for helping to coordinate our whole experience so seamlessly. We were so impressed that Alpaca picked us up from one hotel in Cusco, kept our bags in their office, and seamlessly got us and our bags settled in (5 days later) to another hotel in the Sacred Valley – all without complaint or extra charges!

My hypothesis is that Raul’s own experience leads him to hire great people. It is SO IMPORTANT to have a good guide, cook, and porter for an experience like this because you will be spending lots of time with them. We are independent travelers and normally hate booking any kind of guided tour. Our guide, Erlin, was one of the best guides we ever had. He was the perfect coach, friend, guide, etc. for our experience. Always a smile, always enthusiastic about Andean culture, nature, etc.; always willing to help; always looking out for us —I could go on and on but simply put Erlin was our trip and he made it WONDERFUL.

Of course, the trek is more than a guide. Cooks Fernando and Lorenzo always had a smile and were equally hard working and enthusiastic. We especially loved the delicious soups they prepared.

Alpaca also seems to have a distinct advantage in terms of local knowledge and the best ways to organize a trek. Our guide explained that most groups structure their tours differently and miss what we thought was the best campsite of the trip, a beautiful hilltop that looks across to the snowcapped peaks & Machu Picchu. The night we were there, we were the only ones. Also, we noticed that our guide, Erlin, seemed to know everyone on the trail – therefore he was great at modifying our trip as needed, whether it was eliminating part of our walk on Day 2 (and helping us hitch a ride on a truck); helping us buy coffee from a local grower, etc.

Alpaca is really so passionate about offering the best to the customer. Sadly we did have some stomach issues a couple of times during the trek. Erlin, Fernando, and Lorenzo made sure that we got easier food to eat and prepared us herbal teas so we could heal and keep going. Bonnie reached out to us the day we ended our trek and even called our hotel to make sure we were okay! Before we had even finished the last day, she had even responded to our feedback survey (which was 80% positive but did share the hiccups regarding our stomach issues & an issue with our tent). I can’t think of another experience where a company has been so keen to improve.

Assuming you’ve read this far, hopefully you’re clicking on the Alpaca Expeditions link and making your booking. One more note, if you have a question about treks to book; we suggest the Salkantay, especially for busy season. We were so happy that we did the Salkantay trek rather than the Inca Trail. We saw maybe 20 other people in 4 days; I understand that things are quite different on the Inca Trail in a busy season like June when we went. Having the beautiful views to ourselves, the personal attention of a guide (thanks to Alpaca we had our own private tour at a great price), and being able to use mostly horses rather than porters to help carry our items were all reasons we loved the trek we picked. Also, we had the distinct advantage of reaching Machu Picchu early in the morning before many people who were on the Inca Trail, since we just took the bus up from Aguas Calientes rather than hiking in (which depending on your campsite location could take a while).

Visited June 2013

 

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