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When to book your 2015 Inca Trail

8 Jul
KM 82

KM 82

Hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu has become one of the most popular vacation adventures.  But do to this popularity, and some heavy regulations by the Peruvian government, getting your permit is not so easy.  In order to hike the Inca Trail you must have a permit to do so.  Only licensed tour operators, like Alpaca Expeditions, can obtain these permits on your behalf.  You can NOT enter the Inca Trail without a permit and you will enter through a checkpoint where the permit will be matched to your passport – must match perfectly.

The government limits the amount of permits for each day to 500.  Everyone needs a permit to enter the trail – even the crew that is hiking with you – so this limits the amount for travelers to about 200.  While this seems like a very small number, you will actually be thankful for this as you hike because it does limit the crowds along the way.  You only need a permit for your start day.

The government has a website, http://www.machupicchu.gob.pe/, that shows how many permits are available for each day.  As I type this, they are all sold out until November 1st – today is July 8th, so you can see how quickly they sell out.  You can currently book a permit through the end of January and then the trail is closed for all of February for maintenance.

Inca Trail Map - Rusty

Map of the Trail

But what happens if you are looking to trek in March 2015 or sometime after?  These permits are not for sale from the government until January.  Around New Years, the Park office will tell us the exact date the permits are released, but for now we guess some time in the middle of January.  But this does not mean you should wait to book your 2015 Inca Trail trek until January.  Most companies like Alpaca are already taking reservations.  The day the permits are released is a bit hectic in Cusco and usually ends with a few days completely sold out of permits.  Last year several days in May sold out within just a few hours of the permits being released.  So its good to have your reservations secured early and have a company like Alpaca fight on your behalf for your perfect start date.

So start thinking of when you would like to visit us.  We ask for three possible start dates, in order of preference, and we will do everything we can to get your number 1 choice.  By getting all your information into us early you will be added to our list, helping us to keep organized and giving us a better chance to get that top choice of yours.

There is actually no risk to you to book early and lots of advantages.  While we do require a $200US deposit per person which is normally non-refundable, we will refund these deposits for 2015 until January.  If we were not able to get any of your 3 chosen start dates, we would refund your deposit 100% as well – but this will not happen.  And by securing your trek for 2015 this year, you are also locking in our current rate for the Inca Trail, which will be a savings.

So when should you book your Inca Trail trek for 2015 – why not now.  We would love to show you the Andes and be your guide and we promise, if you choose Alpaca, you will have the most amazing vacation adventure of your life.

Trek with Alpaca – you will remember this trip for a lifetime.

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http://www.alpacaexpeditions.com

 

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With May Comes Huge Crowds to Cusco

1 May

Alpaca Logo 2013

Welcome to May everyone! We have officially entered the heart of the busiest time for tourism in this area. Many of you have treks coming up shortly and we just wanted to remind you of some key preparation points.

Cusco will begin getting overwhelmed with tourists and places will be booked.  Make sure you have all your reservations set for your upcoming trek.  Confirm your flights coming into the city – airlines are often changing the times.  It’s good to do a double check on everything about 2 weeks before you plan on arriving to Cusco.

Most important is weather. While May is part of the dry season here in Cusco, weather is completely unpredictable and it can absolutely rain at any moment. Be prepared. I have reminded everyone to bring jackets, pants and waterproof gloves. Especially for those of you trekking, when you are using your walking sticks your hands are exposed. Being wet with frozen hands is not fun. Please bring everything and hopefully you will only enjoy sun and can return it when you get back home.

Passports.  Please remember that not only does the Inca Trail permit have your passport listed on it, but all train tickets and entrances to Machu Picchu also require your current passport number.  You must show this when you enter each of those placesISIC and your passport needs to match what is on the ticket.  If you have received a new passport number, please give us the number immediately.  Also for you STUDENTS – only green ISIC cards will reward you with a discount, but this card must be valid and with you to allow you onto the Inca Trail or into Machu Picchu.  They check and they will not grant you access if you have a student ticket and no student ISIC card.

Pack light.  No matter which tour you are doing – train or trek – the trains to and from Aguas Calientes limit the size of your luggage to nothing larger than 8kg.  If you are doing a tour by train and have no small bag, please let our office know and we will lend you a small duffel bag.  Every hotel in Cusco is used to this and will store your larger luggage safely.  If you are not comfortable with this, we can do so as well.

Checking in to our office is very important.  We need to know that you have arrived safely to the city and are aware of your start times, no matter which tour you are doing.  Our office is located very close to the main square at Calle Heladeros 157, Office 24 – 25 on the 2nd floor. I am sure your hotel can help you to find where we are located. Please note that we are not the blue door that says ALPACA, that is another company across the street from us – we have a small black plaque above the doorframe that says in gold writing – ALPACA EXPEDITIONS and we are on the second floor of that building.

The altitude effects everyone differently and there is no way to predict this.  Even those of you that are avid skiiers and have spent some time in the mountains can suffer and some people have no effects at all.  It’s good to be prepared.  I definitely recommend visiting your Primary Care Physician or a travel doctor and getting some DIAMOX.  This should be a small dosage – either 125 mg twice a day or 250 mg once a day.  Try to not get the 500mg dosage – it is a diuretic.  Also, drink lots of liquid – non-alcoholic guys – this also helps acclimate.

Travel insurance is a good idea for those of you trekking.  Just in case someone does get hit hard with the effects of altitude sickness.  We have recommended a great insurance agent that can help, but honestly you can find others right online.  And this is really inexpensive.  Our point of contact is Jill Roth and she can be contacted at jroth@afsinsurance.com.

If there is something you think we should address as far as other advice, please let us know and we will add.  Also check our website with some handy packing lists…www.alpacaexpeditions.com.

Journey is the Destination

 

 

 

Vaccinations and Travel Insurance

22 Apr

Many of you have asked about what vaccinations are needed for traveling to Peru. We think that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention really offers the best advice for this. Even your PCP will go to this site to make sure you are ready for travel. Below is the link and you will see some vaccinations are required and some are just suggested. If you are travelling the entire country I would do everything suggested, but if you are travelling to just Cusco you will have less worries. Malaria and Yellow Fever are not worries up in the mountains, but again, contact your physician to confirm. We are not doctors.

http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/traveler/none/peru

Also, for you trekkers specifically, travel insurance is strongly recommended. While we plan to take very good care of you and make sure nothing happens while you hike the Andes, some things are just not predicted. Rarely we have someone suffer from extreme altitude sickness, but this does occur from time to time and you might want to visit the clinic or hospital to get your body right. I think being safe and having some sort of insurance to help pay for any strange occurrence is not a bad idea. And travel insurance is not expensive.

We have recommended a great insurance agent for those in the US – Jill Roth from Ahart, Frenzi and Smith agency, but you can find other companies right online pretty easily. If you are interested in contacting Jill, her email address is jroth@afsinsurance.com.

Just remember, we are here to help with any problem and will work for you to have an issue free vacation but its always better to be safe and covered.

Thank you!

27 Sep

So many of you have taken time out of your day to write amazing reviews about your experience with Alpaca on websites like TripAdvisor and Lonely Planet.  This is something that is so appreciated by us.  It’s an honor to us just to be chosen as your tour operator.  We hope that each and every one of you falls in love with Cusco, Machu Picchu and everything Peru has to offer.  And we hope that your trip is truly enhanced by being part of the Alpaca team for just a little while.  We honestly strive to make amazing memories for everyone and always want to hear your honest feedback after the tour/trek.  Some times reviewers are able to articulate our ideology as a company better than we can, so we are highlighting the review we received today that just seemed to understand the motivation we have for every single trip.  Thank you so much everyone and thank you Sivia for this review…

As seen on TripAdvisor.com…

“Excellence in every extent of the word”
Reviewed September 26, 2013

The cWacawasiompany and tour team- Our close friends and us just completed the Lares Trek with Alpaca Expeditions and I am at a loss of words to describe the breath taking experience this was for us (no pun intended). If you’re planning to visit Machu Pichu, look no more. You have found the best company to guide you. There are many things to be said about them, but after having spent 4 days in their company, one stands out from the rest. They are a socially responsible organization. They CARE. Raul, its owner, has managed to build such ownership in each and everyone of his employees in a way that is quite tangible in the way they perform their jobs. You see passion in their eyes. They will make you fall in love with their country. The Green Machine as they call themselves will go the extra mile to make this a once in a lifetime experience for you. By the way, they truly live up to the green machine standards. Although the Lares Trek may quite possibly be the less traveled road, there are other companies who offer it and we were appalled by the litter they’d leave behind. Our guide carried a plastic bag with him and picked up any trash we’d run into on our trek. Respect and love for the environment is a value we hold dear to us and were glad to have shared it with the team.

The food- our expectations were exceeded! We were beyond spoiled. I’m quite certain I have never eaten so well before in my life! Our Chef Roger is a rockstar! He didn’t just feed us, he nourished us. The menu is well thought of to sustain the physical challenge it requires for this trek. I’m talking varied, fresh, delicious and well ballanced meals. The best food we had while in Perú, was cooked by him. He did so much in such limited space and very little tools. He’s an inspiration indeed. I mean, for our last day, he baked a cake! A freakin’ CAKE! Without an oven. That’s a rockstar if you ever saw one!

Equipment- They’ve invested on a port-a-potty which made it comfortable for us to use the restroom. I’m telling you, they think of everything! Their tents, poles and all around equipment, are state of the art, so worry not. They will see to your comfort 100%. They pay so much attention to detail.

The trek- everytime we thought we had seen the most beautiful landscape yet, another one came right around. This happened throughout the whole trek. We got to interact with local Andean habitants, got up close and personal with alpacas and llamas, got amazed by the beautiful rivers and glaciars. Don’t under estimate the beauty of the treks other then the incan trail. Although dissapointed at first, we are now glad the incan trail was booked and experienced the Lares Trek instead.

Our guide- last but not least, Sabino, our guide was hands down the highlight of our trip. He’s so passionate about his heritage, that you have no choice but to partake of his passion and submerge yourself in the incan history. He’s incredibly knowledgeable on the flora and fauna as well. At one point, I started to feel the symptoms of altitude sickness, and he was quick to let me inhale an herbal oil that quickly made me feel better. He encouraged us every step of the way and I will NEVER forget his words when we reached the highest and toughest part of our trek (Condor Pass) after thinking I wouldn’t make it. Even now, I tear up to think of that very emotional and happiest moment of our trip. Throughout the trip, he took the time to talk to the locals, give out coca leaves and tell us about the people and their culture. He’d say “I was like them. That’s where I come from” making it all the more maningful of an experience for us. We don’t think of him as our guide. He’s a friend now. He’s our Peruvian Compadre 🙂

Once we got to Machu Pichu we felt like it was the icing on the cake, it was beautiful and everything we had hoped for it to be, but nothing could have prepared us for the amazing experience of our trek, thanks to Alpaca Expeditions. The journey truly was our destination. THANK YOU!

Visited September 2013

Follow trekwithalpaca on Instagram

16 Sep

Raul and Machu Picchu

Alpaca Expeditions has finally joined Instagram and will be adding photos from all our tours around Peru. Follow us at trekwithalpaca and enjoy photos of trekkers enjoying the Andes, tours around the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu, boat tours of Lake Titicaca and many other tours that we offer all around Peru.  And of course there will be lots of photos of the fabulous Green Machine of Alpaca Expeditions.  And for all of you that have photos of your journeys, please send them to us and we would love to share them as well.

 

And don’t forget to follow us on Twitter at the same address – @trekwithalpaca has lots of updates on tours, what’s happening in Cusco and all around Peru, and any specials that we are offering.

We can’t wait to show you a little bit of our country – book now with Alpaca Expeditions!

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

 

Hiking Huaynapicchu: Logistics

10 May

HuaynapicchuAs amazing as visiting Machu Picchu is, the beauty of the ruins is best appreciated from above.  While all you Inca Trail hikers will get to see this before you even get to “Lost City of the Incas” from the Sun Gate, all other travellers will need to do a little walking, or hiking, to get this perspective.  And while the views from the Sun Gate are amazing, there is nothing that beats the view from Huaynapicchu.

Because of Huaynapicchu’s popularity, and because the climb up is a bit challenging and narrow, the government has decided to limit the amount of hikers each day to 400 people.  These 400 tickets are split into two windows of time to visit – and you must begin your hike within your allotted window: either between 7-8AM or 10-11AM.  During the busiest time of year, tickets for this hike sell out about a month in advance, so book early.

The hike begins from within the Machu Picchu citadel.  You typically hike this on your own, but an Alpaca guide (or anyone within the complex) will direct you to where to begin this hike.

So here is my advice for those who want to hike Huaynapicchu:

** I will say this often, but book this hike early.  You must also have an entrance ticket to Machu Picchu to hike Huaynapicchu so it makes the hike a bit expensive for Inca Trail hikers, who access Machu Picchu through the Sun Gate rather than the entrance gate and do not need an actual Mapi ticket.  To climb Huaynapicchu is $65 for all Inca Trail hikers and $15 for all other travellers who already are visiting Machu Picchu (this includes all alternative trek hikers).

** Most of our guests book the 10-11AM time slot for this hike since they will be on their tour of Machu Picchu until then, if you prefer the earlier slot, please let us know.

** The hike is challenging.  Even if you have completed a long trek, Huaynapicchu will not be a breeze, be patient with yourself and with your fellow hikers.

** Bring your camera.  The views from Huaynapicchu are absolutely incredible, so please make sure you have battery life and a good camere – you will want these photos forever.

** Most importantly – have fun.  How often do you get to be in the Andes staring at one of the 7 Wonders of the World.  It’s amazing.

5 Ways to Face Your Fear When Travelling

31 Oct

Taken from a CNN article today – in honor of Halloween for all you Americans!

(CNN) — We don’t mean to scare you… No wait, actually we do, but only for a little while, and we promise the payoff will be worth the effort.

These spots offer spectacular sights and experiences to travelers who are willing to face down five common, and very real, fears.

All you’ll need to bring with you are curiosity and courage, says psychologist Emanuel Maidenberg, director of the Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Clinic at UCLA.

When we’re in a situation that makes us fearful, “we have to have the curiosity to say let’s see what happens if I see this through, which is not easy to do, and the courage to not do what we’d normally do in this situation, try to escape.”

6 destinations with a dark side

The trick is allowing the potential for enjoyment and excitement to outweigh your hesitation over trying something that creates anxiety. The treat is the feeling of accomplishment you have when you overcome your fear.

These five places offer both risks and rewards. But don’t overdo it. If you have a paralyzing phobia, you’ll probably want to start a little smaller and closer to home.

Afraid of the dark? Slovenia

There’s a reason that people throughout history hid out in caves. Caves are filled with eerie rock formations, subterranean waterways and bats (which can be scary in their own right), but mostly caves are very, very dark. You have to be brave to explore them. Or do you? With 9,023 caves, Slovenia offers more underground scenery than just about any place on earth.

Start with the easiest: Postojna Jama (jama is the Slovene word for cave) is the busiest cave in Europe, receiving hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. The space is massive enough to accommodate a concert hall, a speleobiology station for the study of cave fauna and an underground railway that will carry you along a two-mile route past weird, glistening limestone formations all illuminated by electric light.

When you’re ready to move on to darker realms, the cave beneath Predjama Castle offers 45-minute guided tours with only flashlights for illumination. (If you chicken out, you can retreat to the castle, which dates back to the 13th century.) Skocjan Caves Regional Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site not far from Slovenia’s border with Italy, is another popular spot for cavers brave and timid.

Afraid of heights? Machu Picchu, Peru

Hiking the segment of the Inca Trail that goes to Machu Picchu is a dream trip for plenty of people, but most of them do not have a fear of heights. For while the standard four-day hike, which starts after a three- to four-hour ride from Cusco, is rated as moderate-to-difficult in terms of energy and experience levels, the steep, narrow Andean mountain paths could put an acrophobic on high alert.

What’s the reward for rising above your fears? Machu Picchu, built in the 15th century, is the “most amazing urban creation of the Inca Empire at its height,” according to UNESCO, which placed the site on its World Heritage list in 1983. It has weathered earthquakes, torrential rains, and nearly 600 years of existence, and it remains a remarkably well-preserved complex of buildings once used for living, working and worshipping.

Dozens of licensed, local tour operators conduct guided tours to Machu Picchu, as do U.S. firms such as Boundless Journeys. All recommend spending at least two days in Cusco to acclimate to the altitude before beginning the climb to Machu Picchu, which tops out around 9,000 feet. Advance arrangements are critical as there are limits on the number of visitors to the ancient site.

Afraid of Spiders? Arizona

If creepy-crawlies get under your skin, consider them in a different context. Spider Rock at Canyon de Chelly National Monument in Arizona will help you. As far back as anyone can document, spiders have been positive symbols in Native American cultures, associated with weaving and with women, since weaving traditionally is done by women.

In Navajo culture, the legend of Spider Woman is, essentially, the legend of how the Navajo came to be expert weavers. According to Adam Teller, a Navajo guide and storyteller whose family-owned company Antelope House Tours runs guided hikes and 4×4 tours through Canyon de Chelly, Spider Woman also wove blankets in which she wrapped up naughty little kids, then she’d eat them and spit out their bones to make the white stripes on Spider Rock. (But maybe that’s just something his grandma told him so he’d behave).

It’s certainly true that the twin-peaked Spider Rock is among the more recognizable sights in Canyon de Chelly, which has the unique distinction of being the only U.S. National Park located on Navajo tribal lands. There are hikes and drives you can do without a guide, including the South Rim Drive that leads to Spider Rock, but guided tours complete with explanations of the area’s significance to Navajo culture add to your appreciation.

Afraid of enclosed spaces? Cu Chi Tunnels, Vietnam

Few places on earth will give you chills like the Cu Chi Tunnels, not merely because at less than three feet wide they are a claustrophobic’s nightmare but mainly because of their history. Built in the 1940s during the French occupation of Vietnam, the tunnels became a powerful tool for the Viet Cong during the Vietnam War, allowing them to attack and then vanish underground to escape capture.

Yet the tunnels weren’t only a strategic weapon: Inside the nearly 125-mile tunnel network, dug by hand and ingeniously booby-trapped for protection, people lived and worked. Once the tunnels were discovered during the war, teams of American and Australian soldiers known as Tunnel Rats infiltrated them, sometimes crawling through spaces as little as 12 inches wide to recover military information and supplies.

Today the Cu Chi Tunnels are a day trip from Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) and are part of most tour programs to the area, such as the Vietnam Cultural Explorer tour offered by Boundless Journeys. Yes, the tunnels still arouse strong feelings and opinions about politics and war, but beyond that they are a tremendous testament to people’s resilience and resourcefulness during wartime. They also will put your fear of enclosed spaces into perspective.

Afraid of the dead? Cambridge, Massachusetts

Don’t think of Mount Auburn as a cemetery. Think of it as a well-tended horticultural park with pretty one- and two-mile walking trails and lots of beautiful New England foliage from blazing red Black Gum trees to fall-blooming Witch Hazel to 26 different species of oak. That’s sort of what its founders had in mind when, in 1831, the Massachusetts Horticultural Society purchased the 72 acres that would become Mount Auburn Cemetery.

You can choose to see Mount Auburn purely as a park. The visitor’s center sells maps for self-guided theme tours on horticulture, architecture, art, and other topics, and runs excellent docent-led tours on weekends. Eventually, though, you’re bound to become curious about the people at rest in Mount Auburn, and you’ll find that they include outstanding figures from all fields of endeavor, including poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow; Fannie Farmer, creator of the “Boston Cooking-School Cookbook”; scientists and thought pioneers such as Buckminster Fuller, B.F. Skinner, and Mary Baker Eddy; as well as jurists, artists, statesmen and business leaders.

You’ll also learn (thanks to the “Not So Rich and Famous” guided tour) that many of the ordinary folks buried here have fascinating life stories as well. “We return to the world, and we feel ourselves purer, and better, and wiser, from this communion with the dead,” said Joseph Story in 1831 when the cemetery was consecrated. Those remain words to live by.

For the full article, go to http://www.cnn.com/2012/10/31/travel/facing-fears-travel/index.html

“10 Things I Loved About Trekking to Machu Picchu with Alpaca Expeditions”

11 Sep

Reviewed September 10, 2012 by Renee Q.

My boyfriend and I just returned from a 5 Day hike to Machu Picchu on the Inca Trail with Alpaca. Here’s what we loved:

1) Courteous and responsive communication – Bonnie and Raul both emailed several times to confirm our arrangements and answer our (many) questions.

2) They work around your schedule – We basically had a private tour on the dates we wanted – with no additional cost – because Alpaca doesn’t force you to book when they want to go, they let you choose when you want to (which was nice compared to other companies which leave ‘every Sunday.’) I expected since we booked early, others would be added into our group. But Raul informed us that it was just the two of us and took us without complaining even though I’m SURE he didn’t make money.

3) The food is amazing and varied – I have no idea how chef Mario made us a cake on the trail, but he did. Also fried chicken, steak, the BEST porridge I have ever had in my life (my boyfriend had 3 helpings), cauliflower fritters (AMAZING) and if you can believe it, bananas flambé. Also I am allergic to peanuts and don’t eat red meat and it was never an issue…there was always lots to eat.

4) They put your safety first and move fast if there is a problem – I was feeling great in Cusco and on the first day of the hike, so I didn’t take altitude meds. But on the second day, Raul noticed I wasn’t well and suggested I take them. He was right…I got really sick the higher we went. He gave me oxygen, put me on his back and basically carried me down about 500 feet in 15 minutes. He let me rest and recover for a few hours before we reclimbed that part of trail. He was patient the entire time and didn’t put any pressure on me.

5) The entire team was incredibly supportive – Two of the porters came down to help when I got sick. One ran down from the lunch site in about 10 minutes. He carried my day pack and water back up. The other was the chef and he brought me coffee, food and water. They were all so patient and giving me physical and moral support to make it up there.

6) They are flexible – My altitude sickness put us behind by half a day. We made it up on the next day, which meant everyone had to walk really far. The team was cheerful about it and the porters even ‘fought’ when another group claimed our campsite because they thought we weren’t going to make it!

7) Raul’s passion for his culture and knowledge of history – Even though I had read a few books about Incan history, Raul’s storytelling made it come to life for me, so much so that I actually got teary listening to him talk.

8) Porters are treated like family – Porters do not have to buy their uniforms, like some companies make them do. They all had good footwear (instead of sandals) and proper packs (instead of plastic tarps held together with rope like other porters had.) It honestly felt like I was walking around with a few of my little brothers – you can tell they all like each other and enjoy working together.

9) They are good to the environment – I saw them cleaning up the campsites and picking up bottles that others had thrown out on the trail. Raul also mentioned when he does alternative treks he takes 2 porters along to clean the trail since it is not regulated.

10) New, clean and comfy equipment – The sleeping pads were awesome! We were really comfy. The tent seemed fairly new and kept us dry throughout a few rainy nights.

11) (Bonus) They go above and beyond: Let’s face it, toilets on the trail aren’t great. There was one that was REALLY bad and Raul knew it would be, so he ran down before I got there to clean it out with water so I wouldn’t have to. He absolutely didn’t have to do it, but he wanted to make sure I was as comfortable as possible.

In a nutshell, if you want to have an amazing time with a fun, knowledgeable and ethical company, go with Alpaca Expeditions. Raul and his team were incredible!

Visited September 2012

Help Alpaca Fight Fake Reviews

4 Sep

As many of you know, TripAdvisor is a great tool to travellers when beginning to plan a vacation.  It’s also great for small companies like Alpaca in getting our name out to people who wouldn’t normally know about us.  We have been so lucky to have amazing and happy people travel with us and they have been so kind to leave reviews about their experiences with us.  Reviews with lots of details is so helpful to prospective travellers who are not sure what to expect when in Peru or when travelling with us.  Because of you all, we were lucky enough to become the top listed travel company in Cusco according to Trip Advisor.

Clearly being number 1 has upset some other companies offering similar trips in Peru.  We believe one of our competitors has gone out of their way to continue to leave terrible reviews about us that are completely fictional.  They make up details about trips they claim to have taken with us and say that we left people ill on the mountain or left without the entire group – things that are so against everything Alpaca believes in.  As you all know from your experience with us, we go out of our way to make sure that every traveller has everything they need – we ask before you arrive in Peru about any special needs or food restrictions – our goal is to create personalized trips for each person, so we keep our groups small.  We answer all emails quickly and clearly.

Mistakes happen of course, but we will never ignore any question or complaint anyone has – we will never stop asking “how can we be better.l”  We want you to feel safe and provided for when you are with us.  These accusations made on TripAdvisor are so upsetting to us because they make claims of things that are fundamentally against our beliefs.

If you have time, we ask that you contact TripAdvisor and help us fight these reviews listed “terrible”.  You can either leave your own review of your personal experience with us – or mark the reviews that are listed as suspicious and explain you know that they are not possible.  Below are two links – one to our listing and one to where you can write a review.  We thank all of you that help.  We know how busy you all are and its so special to us that we have such amazing “Friends of Alpaca.”

Alpaca Expeditions TripAdvisor Listing

Write about your experience with Alpaca Expeditions