No Hay Palabras! (There Are No Words!) (But I’ll Try Anyway) - Jan 2 - Jan 16, 2020
Let me start by explaining that I made this as difficult as I possibly could. Not intentionally, of course, it just happened that way. I started planning this trip in January of 2018, with intention of paying it off (they offer simple payment plans) by the end of the year, with departure the first week of January 2019. I set up an itinerary and began the payment process. Half way through the year, however, life happened, throwing a giant roadblock in my way. I had already been working with James, who I guess left the company and transferred me to Hayley. When I told her that I needed to postpone my trip for at least a year, she jumped right on it. Despite the fact that we had already reserved travel and admissions tickets, she was able to get all but $77 refunded to me, with everything else I had paid for to roll over to the next year when I could continue payments. Simple, right? It doesn’t end there.
Over the next year, I had more time to explore online what Peru had to offer, and of which KimKim was connected to about everything. The more I learned, the more I wanted to do. As I began to think about extending my trip from 10 days to 14, Hayley got transferred and yet a third travel specialist was assigned to my planned journey, Carla, who was up to date on all that I had been going through as soon as we were introduced. I proposed my new ideas of itinerary to Carla, and within a few days she had amended it and adjusted the cost, explaining why certain attractions and activities cost different amounts than others. When another financial burden in life fell upon me and I had to change the itinerary again (what a pain the @$$ I am, yah?) Carla finally helped me settle in on an impressive experience for even the biggest adventurers. Sacsayhuaman led it off in Cusco the day after I was retrieved at the airport by my guide for the two weeks, Rolfi, who came highly recommended by a former Peru visitor whom I met through one of these reviews! Then we embarked into the Sacred Valley, where the majority of the adventuring would take place. Rolfi really was incredible, and on our first day hike to Huchuy Quosco I quickly recognized why he had been so well reviewed. Not only was he knowledgeable of all the sites we visited over the next two weeks, but he was from Calca, just about the center of the Valley, and knew so many of the locals. His English is college level (fortunately for a Spanglish speaking gringo like myself), and even speaks Quechua, so no matter where we were he had a kind word for everyone we encountered. Then we were off to Chinchero for some paddleboarding. The guide for this water trip was a Cusco local named Barrac, and was not only very informed of the area but super friendly and easy to talk to. I had one day off to do my own thing and when I asked Rolfi what I should do, he suggested a local half day hike that would bring me past a very seldom seen by tourists archeological site in town and offered to walk with me. We had a great time buddying up and talking about all types of subjects from personal to international. Next was the Via Ferrata day, with a stay overnight in the Skylodge, and the zip line tour back down the following morning. For this, Rolfi kept his feet on the ground. Also, the whole experience comes with a bit of a price tag, but I can assure you, it is worth every last bit. The folks at Natura Vive were not just incredible guides and safety instructors, but considering what they had to work with in a plexiglass and aluminum (aerospace grade) dome hanging off of the edge of a rock face, these guys were great cooks as well! And so darned hospitable that I felt as though I was staying at the Ritz Carlton. The next morning, as the last zip line end had been reached and the harnesses were coming off, there were Rolfi and our driver ready to whisk us off to the next experience. Up towards the high countryside we went again for a day of mountain biking that started with an easy peddle to the Moray archeological site where we had lunch and walked around the area as Rolfi explained the site’s significance and development. Then, since the light rain had ended and our awesome driver had scraped all the red mud from our bike tires and brakes, we shed our rain jackets and headed for the downhill single tracks to the village of Maras, where we stopped momentarily at the town square. Then we continued on to the salt pool mines in the canyon where Rolfi again had much information on the matter, and finally down to the lower level of the valley floor again. That was the point where I recognized the awesomeness of this trip and gave myself the first appreciation of putting together so much happiness for myself. Another day hike was positioned in this time period somewhere, just around Calca and really enjoyable with all the evening rains bringing such a beautiful green out across the valley and mountains, with flowers blooming everywhere, of which Rolfi of course knew all the names. Then came the apex of the trip, the Lares Trek. I don’t want to spoil any of it for everyone, but fricken WOW! The hike was manageable for someone like me who is in pretty darned good physical shape, but I feel that Rolfi sensed my desire for a leg burn workout on this journey and rather than insist on too many breaks allowed me to romp onward at my own pace. The first night of camp I felt came too soon, as I still had energy to burn. But Rolfi assures me that I would want plenty of stored fuel for the next day, set to begin at 5:30am. He wasn’t joking. The elevation change of the next day had my heart and lungs trying to figure out a pattern together, but by about the time we were an hour from the summit I was stepping with a good rhythm that wouldn’t drop me but get me there steadily. Recognizing this, Rolfi let me take point for the final 300m of the climb. You can see in the expression on my face in the photo he took right when we reached the acme of around 4300m that my mind was the clearest it had ever been and I’ve never been higher on happiness (pun so very intended). After a snack and a pleasant sun soak session we continued further downward to our camp for the evening surrounded by majestic peaks and the sound of waterfalls, creeks and rivers flowing all around us. Oh, and the porters cooking our food, setting up our sites, providing tea, coffee, and even hot water bottles for our sleeping bags at night? Top notch, first rate, unbeatable...there just aren’t enough words to explain them. The hike down the valley to our waiting driver the next day was pleasant after such a thigh burning push the day prior, and I welcomed the open doors of the pickup truck when we reached our driver. In Calca, KimKim had arranged for me lodging at Casa de Aida, a wonderful zen style retreat of a hostel run by the sweetest, kindest, most wonderful mama in the whole valley. Breakfast was fresh from her garden and hens each morning, with freshly roasted and ground coffee to fill my belly to the point of tastebud happiness. No, that doesn’t sound like it makes any sense, but that’s how it felt. Stay there. You’ll see. My time with Rolfi culminated with two days of hiking Machu Picchu. Despite the departure time from Calca at 4:30am, Mama Aida had a thermos of coffee and some breakfast sandwiches prepared fresh for us and hand delivered on our way out the door. When I say that she is the best, I absolutely mean it. There is no one better, I promise. Machu Picchu, I think, is what you make of it, so take the time to spend two days. Get off the train like we did at KM 104 and hike the Inca Trail to again pass through a separate site not many see close up, and then pop out over a ridge through the Sun Gate, the true entrance to Machu Picchu and a stunningly awesome view of the site and the looming Huayna Picchu looking over it all. We took a break there and absorbed the energy before slowly making our way down through the site to the buses which brought us to Aguas Calientes, a town only accessible by train or hiking. Seriously, there are no cars, cabs, rickshaws or even scooters on these streets. The buses that run up to Machu Picchu and back to town? Yup, brought in by train. We spent the night in town after a pleasant dinner at one of the many fine restaurants and awoke bright and early the next morning to catch the bus up. The stairway is also an option if you are feeling courageous, but we had reserved tickets to hike that protector peak, Huayna Picchu, which must be reserved months ahead of time since they only allow two groups of 200 guests per day access to the famed “Stairs Of Death”. They weren’t that bad, considering the view from the top of this wonder of the world, but if you charge them without stopping the way I did, you’ll definitely feel it. I was beyond happy to have my trekking poles for this, especially on the decent. Also, if you opt for this exclusive opportunity, do yourself a favor and attack it in the first group, earlier in the morning before the sun is high. Trust me, you’ll thank yourself when the sun starts beating down on you on the way back down. Being the most famous of the country’s attractions, Rolfi of course knew much about the site and not once did he bore me with facts. Tourist trap or not, a truly impressive experience. After this I was sad to part ways with Rolfi, as I returned to Cusco for another night at the hostel El Balcon, of course set up by KimKim. This place was about as comfortable as can be with a fantastic breakfast in the morning. For the final part of my itinerary, I was greeted the next day by none other than Barrac, the paddleboarding guide who was now going to be my rafting guide. We drove back down from the upper elevations of Cusco for a three hour rafting experience which culminated with a hot shower, sauna, excellent hot meal with tea and coffee, and a review of the photos and videos captured by the onboard GoPro camera. I was returned to Cusco for one last night at the hostel, then picked up the next day by the driver once more. At the behest of a friend back home, I decided to extend my trip an extra few days to just kick back and relax, decompress before heading back to the states. This idea came before my first itinerary change, and Hayley was kind enough to connect me with a couple in the Sacred Valley who have an apartment that they rent out through Airbnb. KimKim was even gracious enough to have the driver cart me all the way back out to the valley (90mins)! I’m telling you, KimKim went above and beyond to make my dream escape come true, and I am already scouting their website for my next adventure...and I’m still sitting at the Airbnb right now! I really can’t say enough, porqué no hay palabras! Peru és paradíso, and KimKim and Quechua Treks know how to show it to you! Feel free to check out all my pics from this incredible adventure on Instagram @rain_downfire and shoot me a message if you have any questions or want any advice. If you journey with KimKim, you’ll never be lost. Safe travels, and happy trails!