So … long picture-free post ahead... sorry about that....
Matt and I are not bus tour people. We did the whole bus thing on a trip through Scandinavia while studying in Copenhagen. Now since an architecturally focused trip through Sweden and Finland could never be bad I’m just going to say that it was… frustrating.
We got so sick of hearing Get on the bus get off the bus. Get on the bus. Get off the bus. Most beautiful building you’ve ever seen? You need to be back on the bus in 15. Rest stop? We’ll be here for an hour so the driver can eat lunch.
Perhaps we’re just way too much of control freaks but neither of us like being told when to do what. Especially while traveling. Boo to that.
So when I stared looking into making this Peru dream a reality I was quite frustrated because it seemed like our only option would be to go with a tour group. And while a lot of the companies out there claimed they were “adventure tours” or had “very small groups” or whatever at the end of the day they were still tour group tours. And somehow our dream trip did not include ever hearing the phrase “Get on the bus”.
Plus none of the itineraries offered were quite right. Some had options (for an upcharge) to add on of the things we wanted to do…. but none of them were dead on.
The other glitch is that a lot of times the tour group operators are huge international companies. And it was very important to me that we spend as many of our tourism dollars locally as possible. As a preservationist I know how far that can go to saving some of the worlds great (and some not so great but still worthwile) sites. And I’m not just talking about buildings – Ecotourism has helped to maintain natural habitats literally all over the world. If tourism is an economic booster than the things the tourists are paying to see will be valued. Simple as that. And it didn’t make much sense for us to travel thousands of miles to stay at a Days Inn.
So, I spent hours upon hours on this and it just wasn’t working.
Then we though we were just going to do it all on our own. But Peru is a huge country and therefore our trip was going to have to include several domestic flights. And some of the things we wanted to do – like the Inca Trail and the Amazon Rainforest – you have to do as part of a group. And those things are very hard to arrange when you don’t speak Spanish at all and have full time job. So that wasn’t working either.
Finally we resigned ourselves to a tour group tour. Picked the one that seemed closest (of course it was the most expensive one by a lot) and were literally seconds away from booking it. It wasn’t ideal but it was still Peru, right?
Then I had a thought. Whenever I want to start a new knitting project not only do I google it, but I also search both the knitty messageboard and craftster and now Ravelry for info. Usually the messagebaord people have the most first hand information and are the most opinionated – for better or worse – about a pattern’s merit.
Why wouldn’t that work for Peru?
Several hours online later and I had found out many interesting travel forums. From those for hard core backpackers to those for people who will only travel with a tour group or on a cruise. But most importantly I found out a company called Peru for Less. They are half tour group organizer/half travel agent. They offer the completely guided group things… but if you don’t want to do that you can make up your own itinerary and they will make it happen for you. And they operate out of local offices in Lima and Cuzco.
Many emails with their wonderful and informative representative later and we have exactly our dream trip!
So here’s the bare-bones list of where we’re going:
Amazon Jungle via Puerto Maldonado
Cusco, including a side trip to the Pisac Market
Hiking the full Inca Trail
Train across the Antiplano
Puno – Lake Titicaca
Homestay with a family on Anatami Island
Much, much, more info on all of these places to come!