Peru Safari-Simply Put, Just Epic
It really is a true adventure.
From Lima to the Desert, to the Nazca lines, to the Andes, to Cusco and Machu Picchu, to the Jungle, everyday has something that is simply amazing.
Paul and the team we’re great hosts throughout
and even managed to find time to bust some pretty fancy moves on the dance floor ☺
Deb & Richard Parr, Peru Overland April 2017
When we (that's Virginia and I plus our three you adult offspring Anna, Charlie and Aidan - who are still, very happily, content to travel with us on our expeditions ) decided that Peru was to be our next trip destination from our home base in Melbourne, Australia, the challenge was to figure out the best way of tackling it in the time we had available. We're always up for an 'epic' drive and trips like Mongolia in 2011 and the back-blocks of Cuba in 2013 as well as a hell of a lot of remote area touring on our own continent has set the bar pretty high. We're always happiest on the 'road less travelled', so to speak and appreciate that often you get what you pay for when it comes to adventure travel.
So not really knowing much about Peru apart from what we'd heard about the awesomeness of Macchu Picchu and stories of the Incas amazing history it was time to enter research mode and try to figure out how best we tackle things. Not being much chop with queues, crowds or overly touristy things we're always looking to find the road less travelled as it were and having entered something along the lines of 'Peru by 4WD' into google one of the most interesting, serious looking and professional websites was Peru Safari. I registered to receive their newsletter but life was getting in the way and as the months went by no one really had had time to lock anything in. Then Peru Safari sent out their newsletter including a fabulous review done by one of the newspapers in the U.K. who'd been on one of the trips and that, as they say, sealed it! Only snag was that they didn't have a trip on, on the dates that we'd be there. So after a few emails backwards and forwards Paul (the operator, who turns out to be an Englishman who splits his time between running a small fleet of Land Rover Defender campers in the UK and the business in Peru- how perfect!) agreed to run a trip specially for us. The only provisos were that we needed to be aware that it was a less than ideal time and we might have delays here or there. Whatever, it sounded awesome and we were off on another epic drive!
Here's a few snapshots of some of the best days - Facebook wont allow a full review - too many words!
We took breakfast early, 6 am or so and were immediately more convinced than ever that we'd made the right call engaging a private guide as two coach loads of American tourists jostled for positions at the buffet and arguments ensued before being shoved onto the buses headed straight for Cusco that day, somewhere that for us was still a four day scenic drive away. Paul arrived with the vehicles as planned by around 6.30 and by 7 we were on our way.
Peru Safari is in fact just Paul and his Peruvian wife Marisol and the bonus there is you get personalized hands on service and our initial impression of Paul was that he was clearly a guy who we would all click with immediately and that’s certainly been the case. The vehicles are late model Toyota Hilux Diesels equipped with ARB bull bars shipped from the UK, Old Man Emu suspension, snorkels, full canopy, LED light bars, two way radios and pretty much everything you could need. Lead car also carries a satellite phone, emergency oxygen (that we'd later need as fate would have it), medical supplies, car fridge (again from ARB, so much Aussie gear!) and all supplies for lunch and morning tea stops. All in all you'd have to say the whole set-up is first rate.
Anyways after an hour and a half or so we gradually started to leave the sprawling mecca of Lima behind on a very overcast and quite smoggy morning that neutralized what I am sure were some amazing coastal views on the outskirts of town. Lima at 11 million people accounts for about one third of the entire country's population and from what we briefly saw of it that morning is a city that sees a lot of people living in slums, with mile after mile of buildings that you'd think were abandoned or dilapidated only to realize that no, these were in fact people’s homes.
We pushed on to our first stop which was a roadside affair with a difference - a bank of wood fired stone ovens turning out delicious mini loaves, those we enjoyed stuffed with olives and a pretty decent Peruvian coffee to go with. A couple of hours later we were in desert country and headed for the Oasis of Huacachina where we'd booked to go on the dune buggies. This was completely awesome with our driver Jesus clearly being an utter expert and the beast of a thing he drove was like something out of Mad Max; a Chevy Suburban V8 stripped back the chassis and rebuilt with full roll cage and safety frame, motor racing seats with full harnesses and capacity to seat 10. The speed at which he tackled the dunes was not for the feint hearted but brilliant fun and it's an hour that will live long in the memory. As will the sight of the young adults, clearly still kids at heart careering down the massive dunes on snowboards. Not for this aging bunny that. After a tasty lunch of local asparagus followed by a traditional beef stir fry we were back on our way and starting to head towards Nazca and our brilliant hotel for the night, a fabulous historic hacienda called El Majoro which was full on like something from a movie set, with gorgeous rambling gardens, stunning bar side pool, and very decent food offer where again there was no shortage of flavour. Before we got to the hotel though we visited an archaeological site were a vast number of mummy tombs were discovered only in the last few years and is only just starting to be opened up to tourists. Jaw dropping is the only phrase I could use to describe and an absolute must if you visit the region. All in all if this was to be the first day of the trip the bar was being set very high indeed!
Up at 5am today to get organized for our full day tour of Machu Picchu. Can't visit Peru without doing that! Again all arrangements that Peru Safari put in place worked out very smoothly with nice operators at all junctures. Being January train to Machu Picchu doesn't run all the way to Cusco because of increased landslide risk so instead we first of all took a minibus ride of an hour and a half or so to connect with the train at Ollantaytambo station. Try saying that after a few Pisco Sours! The mini-bus journey was unremarkable but things soon changed up a gear when we boarded the 'vista dome' train - very comfortable with great views from all seats and nice snacks and drinks served En route. On arriving at Machu Picchu township we started to get a feel for the scale of how much of a tourist drawcard this has become, with long queues continually filling the only 29 seater buses for teg final 20 minute bus ride up the mountain. Arriving into Machu Picchu itself by now the drizzle had turned to steady rain and there seemed to be thousands of people jostling for positions. Inca theme park madness. Our arranged guide though was excellent and it’s one of those places that you really have to witness for yourself – no words or photos can really do it justice. Just the scale of the place, the perfection of the stonework, the art and planning that went into its creation is totally awe-inspiring! If only we could have had it to ourselves…
Our Mongolia trip coined the phrase 'we've come in search of adventure, and I reckon we've found it' - and today was to be the day where once again adventure was high on the agenda. Leaving the very lovely Ayacucho at a respectable 9am we headed out into the mountains again and were soon enough at thr start of the drive along the Rio Mantaro gorge. Whilst this isn't the most dangerous road on earth it is apparently in the top 5 and having safely negociated it you'll get no argument from us on that ranking. Starting tamely enough it soon starts to asert itself and there are sections where literally a moments lapse in concentration would lead to the disaster and there are umpteen memorials along the way to people who seemingly have done juat that. Luckily the way we were going meant that we were on the 'mountain side' of the track but belive me that didn't make any less scary. Nor did having to reverse up a couple of times to let oncoming semi-trailers through. The speed at which the truckies and locals tackle the thing at is nothing short of unreal, showing scant regard for the sometimes 2,000 ft drop off the side with no saftey barriers.
Anways after around 3 hours we made it through to the end, and the drama was behind us. Or so we thought. No, Paul had another trick up his sleeve with a 'short cut' dirt track that was every bit as nerve jangling as the road before it pretty much all the way to Pampas and just beyond to our accommodation for the night, the rather fabulous Casa Hacienda San Juan. This is a stunning property sitting at around 3000 meters above sea level and only accessible by 4x4. A few bottles of red by the log fire and an excellent home cooked meal finished off what was another truly memorable day. Only 220ks covered but a full 9 hous of epic driving indeed!
But sadly, we were at the end of our 'Peru Safari'. Perhaps the biggest compliment we could pay Paul is that we missed his company as soon as we said our goodbyes. The attention to detail, preparation, planning and hospitality of the whole trip was first rate - we'd award it 6 stars if that were an option! Paul's planning some future expeditions into some even more remote parts of the country - we'll be watching out for details! Can't wait to go back...
The Walsh Family New Year 2017, Peru Overland Adventure
What a fantastic trip, amazing views, superb food and all provided by the minimum of fuss by the hard work and professionalism of the guides.
As a lead guide Paul is a warm and caring host who really cares that you have the best holiday possible. It isn't a holiday for the pool lizards but if you want an experience of a lifetime you wont go far wrong.
My thanks to the whole team for our families fantastic Experience... We look forward to the next time:-)
Gareth & Rachel Sutton (Merseyside UK) Peru Overland 2017
Both Marianne and I want to express our great gratitude to you (and Percy) for the most amazing two weeks adventure in Peru. It surpassed all our expectations and that is due to your organisational skills and your encyclopaedic knowledge of Peru , its history , geography , flora and fauna.
We both thoroughly enjoyed the challenges of driving off road up dirt tracks- being careful not to look down the fall offs- and on road, with the difficulties of dealing with the adventurous Peruvian driving style! The desert, the high Andes and the jungle were were all stunningly different, and the accommodations in the remote countryside were totally individual and unique.
We will not forget the picnic lunches provided in stunning scenery and the great evenings , especially dancing in the Plaza Major in Ayacucho to the Quechua folk bands after a couple of pisco sours!
Sandy & Marrianne Gilfillan (Taunton Somerset) Peru Safari Overland Winter 2016.