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Traveler’s Corner: Exploring Incan Culture in Peru

November 27, 2017  By: Gretchen

Exploring Incan Culture in Peru

AAC Tanzanite Circle members Larry and Becky McGee traveled to Peru last year. Their trip began when they landed in Lima, also known as the “City of the Kings.” While in Lima, the McGee’s toured historic downtown Lima with stops at the Government Palace, the Cathedral, the Archbishop’s Palace, and the Municipal Hall. They also visited modern Lima and art galleries, including the Larco Museum, home to the largest private collection of Pre-Columbian art in the world.

From Lima, they traveled to the bustling city of Cusco. After acclimating to the altitude, they toured the city, visiting Cusco’s historical Inca and Spanish colonial monuments, churches, and an art museum. They also visited the nearby ruins of Sacsayhuaman, Tambomachay, and Puca Pucara.

Next up was the Sacred Valley of the Incas with stops at Pisac, Urubamba, Ollantaytambo, Chinchero, Maras Salt Mines, and the archaeological site of Moray. Then onward to Machu Picchu. Perhaps the most well-known site in Peru, Machu Picchu is a Peruvian Historic Sanctuary and UNESCO World Heritage Site.

After spending two days at Machu Picchu, the McGee’s traveled to the beach town of Paracas to end their trip with two days in the area. While staying in Paracas, they took a flight over the Nazca Lines. The Nazca Lines are an immense Pre-Incan astronomical calendar made up of extraordinary and mysterious designs that were discovered in the 1930’s.View Peru Classic Itinerary Now that some time has passed since their trip, we asked Larry to reflect on their experience.

Why did you pick Peru?

We are moderate travelers in our 70’s. We like to travel but we have some limitations on where we can go. We had made a list of places we wanted to see based on what we read and saw on PBS and Peru made the list. A lot of people think Peru is geographically beautiful but it’s much more than that. The Inca civilization and the impact it had is incredible.

Looking back, what stands out as your favorite part of the trip?

My favorite part in terms of the things we saw was of course Machu Picchu. But, the sites and buildings are the same for everybody. The quality of the guides is not the same with every company. Our guide was simply excellent. He was fluent in English, he knew so much about the history, and was just a heck of a nice guy. The quality of the guide makes a huge difference. We had the same experience when we traveled to Africa with AAC as well. The guides were everything you’d hope for.

Any favorite memories or experiences?

There were so many! One that stands out was our experience with some local weavers. One day we were taken to a village in the Cusco area that had many weavers. We had a demonstration concerning the use of various natural materials to dye wool and then saw the beautiful goods the weavers had created. Two incidents really stand out. My wife Becky was really admiring a purse that one of the weavers had made, but did not like the size. As our guide helped to translate, the weaver realized that Becky wanted to know if there was a purse for sale of the same size and color as the weaver’s personal purse. The weaver then emptied her purse and sold it to Becky for a lower price because it was used. It was just one of those great moments. The smiles were so warm.

A bit later, we realized that we would need to use a credit card as we had inadequate cash. However, the weavers indicated that they would have to charge a 5% surcharge which we didn’t want to pay. Then they asked if it would be okay with us if we took the goods with us and that afternoon as we returned to our hotel, they would meet us and we would pay them at that time. That is exactly what happened and as they left the hotel they sang us a song.

Clearly, they trusted the guides, and therefore us, to keep the deal which involved over $500. I believe there are not many places where this would have happened and it was a first for us. To me, that speaks to the caliber of the guides and a culture of trust. Another great moment on a fabulous trip.

What advice do you have for other Peru travelers?

First, it would be a mistake to say you want to learn about the Incas but only go to Machu Picchu. There are so many places you should see to really learn about them. The Incas were far more than incredible stone masons. They were revolutionary in how they organized society. They developed water systems 500 years ago that are still in use. We were wowed by so much more than the stonework.

Second, take the altitude seriously. When you first get to Cusco, you shouldn’t do anything for half of a day. You have to acclimate. That’s the major reason none of us got ill, because people that pushed it got sick. I had talked to my doctor about what to do about altitude sickness and had some medication with me in case. It’s totally manageable but you have to be serious about it, no matter how good of shape you’re in. Cusco is a special city though. The food, the people, where it’s located…it’s great. We expected a dinky little town, but the metro area has half a million people. We never felt uncomfortable though. We felt safe walking around, even at night.

Anything else you’d like to add?

This was just a fantastic trip. It was just as good as we hoped it would be.

Are you ready to check Peru off of your bucket list?