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We were very lucky to have the company of some fantastic guides on the tour. Marco, our main tour guide, was as helpful as ever. The children will also mention Willow (Colca Canyon), Maria and Ruben (Puno and Taquile), Marlene (our host in the barrio [poor neighbourhood] of Cusco), Cristian and his rafting team, ‘George of The Jungle’ at Wasai and Fabiola (our tour guide in Lima). Enthusiastic and caring people – all of them. There were others too which i haven't mentioned. The trip would not have been such a great success without the superb organisation of Andean Trails and the personal attention of Kathy (the boss). We may have been their paying customers but their organisation, attention to detail and efficiency was fantastic. If you or any members of your family are ever planning a South American trip in the future then I don’t think you need to look any further for a quality organisation to organise your trip. Anyone who is familiar with our previous trip in 2006 will find it hard to believe that we actually crammed in more than we did then. For example, we had a great open-top-bus tour of Arequipa, saw a lot more of Lima including San Francisco and its catacombs and Lima’s Inca gold museum. The most significant addition to the trip was the visit to the poor barrio (bar-ee-oh) arranged by Andean Trails. We left a great quantity of clothes, football kits, pencils and 80+ ‘Tiny Tots’ watches donated by the Ragdoll TV company. A few members of the St Benedict’s community also donated a bit of money which we left with Marlene. The kids had great fun playing football with them and friendships were made the following day when 16 of them joined us on the rafting trip. On the bus to the river communication was easy and fun – we sang a song in English and then they sang a song in Spanish – again and again. It was great to see the handshakes and hugs between them all as we all said goodbye. We hope to maintain our contact with Andean Trails and Marlene and their work and are planning to raise money for ‘the project’ through our Advent and Lenten charity appeals.
Alex Hendry, UK, 2016
» Tailor made school trip to Peru
- What was the highlight of your holiday? Was there a low point?
There wasn't any part that no-one liked. The itinerary was organised in such a way that it was varied and exciting throughout. Enough time in the rainforest and camping on the Inca Trail rewarded by more comfortable urban stays afterwards. The adults especially loved the homestay village in Willoq as it offers an authentic and friendly piece of rural living. Football against locals was a highlight as well. The biking to Moray was perfect - a little challenging for some on the downhills but exhilarating with incredible views of surrounding glaciers high in the mountains. The Inca Trail is far more sustainable than I had imagined; very few people up until camp 3 and maintained to an excellent standard. Ridiculous views and incredible engineering to build the stone paths. Miraculous meals produced by our team of chefs and porters; their workrate was phenomenal. Macchu Picchu is as good as you would imagine, and I'm pleased that we scaled Huayna Picchu as well - great sense of achievement here.
For a school trip, this fortnight was superb. If kids are prepared for days without TV, days of no wifi and meals they will have to adapt to, then they will have the time of their lives. Safe, challenging and exciting; everything you want in a school trip.
- How would you rate accommodation/ food/ guides/ overall organisation?
Accommodation can't be faulted. The only chance we had of a pool was in Lima, but it was closed for renovations (and virtually a hot-tub, not a pool). Nobody minded.
Range of food was very good - even fussy eaters were ok. It was a buzz for us to eat piranhas that we had caught in the Amazon. Cuy (guinea pig) was another first.
Guides were all superb. We had a student vote once we had left the guides and the rainforest guides probably gained most votes. They were all especially good with the students.
I was really happy with the tour you put together - no difficulties despite a 3 hour late arrival into Puerto Maldonado, and a similar delay on the train from Agua Calientes - guides were always waiting for us. I don't know how I'd improve on the itinerary we had - rainforest, homestay, biking, Inca Trail, Cusco, Lima - the rainforest disappointed a little in terms of wildlife (I was hoping for more insects, beetles, frogs, etc) but this was undoubtedly due to the dry season.
- Did you feel you benefited the local communities? Any additional comments on the homestays would be very interesting as this is the first time we have included this in our school programme.
-We definitely benefited local communities. This is partly why we chose a trip like this. One change we made during the Amazon section was to stop at a local (non-touristy) village (Infierno) during a boat trip - we bought a fair amount of juice here that probably made their week! In the homestay village, we were given the chance to buy local clothing that the villagers had made - often the families we stayed with. This was a nice souvenir and definitely added money to the local economy. Unless the students are expecting 5-star hotels (or perhaps even if they are) the homestay experience should be on a school trip itinerary. You are out of your comfort zone and are actually living.The interactions between the students and local children, with little language skills to speak of, were heartwarming. We played football and gave out football tops we had collected for the trip. It was obvious locals were delighted, especially if it was a Spanish top. The weaving and farming activities were fine, probably not a highlight for teenagers but still worthwhile.
- Knowing what you now know what would you like to do differently next time?
I thought about this a lot towards the end of the trip, and asked the tour guide if he thought we could have improved the trip. The conclusion I have is no. Sure, I'd like to fly over the Nazca lines, trek the longer routes to Macchu Picchu, visit Arequipa, see the sites in northern Peru, but this trip was excellent.
I made a photobook for the group, and always ask them for their favourite moment of the trip, which I add to the book. Here are some favourite moments:
- Playing football in the Homestay village at 3500m against a makeshift Peruvian side that featured a woman with a baby strapped to her back playing in defence.
- Being with the people of Willoq village and getting to dress up like them and take part in their way of life.
- Arriving at the Sungate and seeing the first glimpse of Macchu Picchu.
- Watching a tarantula emerge from it's cave in the Amazon.
-The biking, as the route was very fast-paced and had amazing scenery left, right and centre.
- Getting down to the camp after a day hiking up and down dean Woman's Pass. Just relaxing at the tent looking out over the valley was amazing.
- When I first thought I had caught my first piranha but unfortunately it fell off the hook before I could get it on the boat.
D. Low, UK, 2016
» School group tailor made tour Amazon, 4 day Inca Trail, homestays, Peru
South America Travel Special - mailchi.mp/495f89cb32bd/south-…
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