Trip Coach: January 15, 2008

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Ross Wehner, co-author of Moon Handbooks Peru, answered your questions on Peru.

Ross Wehner: Hello this is Ross Wehner and I'm so happy to be able to speak with you about Peru today. There are many questions and I'm going to try and answer as many as possible. Most of this info I'll be giving over the next hour is in Moon Peru and, if it's not, I'll make sure it's in there for the next edition!

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Westfield, Mass.: I am traveling with 4 other women (ages 60) to Peru and Machu Picchu April 8-16. Want to know what the temperature will be(for packing purposes)and should we bring only travelers checks or use a credit card for our expenses. Any additional security tips would be welcome.

Ross Wehner: Great questions—time of year and money.

First time of year. The dry season in Peru is from May to September, with June through August being the driest months. These are also the most crowded months so if you are going to Machu Picchu, expect to be with lots of people and make your hotel and other reservations early. There is a whole section on Moon Peru on how to avoid crowds at MP (p. 73). I am a big fan of March through May, when there are less crowds and the highlands are fluorescent green from all the rains. I also think September through November is a great time to go. January and February are very rainy in the highlands and the jungle, though if you don't mind Seattle in January you won't mind Machu Picchu in January either. January and February are, by the way, summer on the coast so the beaches are packed and very warm and beautiful.

Second, money. ATMs are now ubiquitous throughout Peru so you can reliably draw cash in local currency at a decent exchange rate at any time of the day from streetside ATMs in Lima, Cusco and a few dozen other mid-size Peruvian cities. If you are on a backpacker's budget and going to inexpensive places to stay or eat you will need cash always. Though dollars are accepted, you don't get a good exchange rate so carry soles (the local currency).

Credit cards work great but only at the mid-level and up restaurants and hotels in the major cities.

Traveler's checks are a pain to cash but are a nice backup if you get fleeced. Expect to wait one hour in a bank, though you may get lucky and go right to the counter. Cusco,. Lima, Arequipa have change stores (marked "Cambio") as in Europe but they don't give good rates usually. But if you can find a "cambio" place, it's certainly worth it for the convenience.

If you change dollars on the street, which I do all the time, only do it with someone who has the cambista uniform on and with the clear ID prominently attached to the uniform. To change money on the street, make sure to do it in public places and during the daytime if possible.

When I travel to Peru, I bring an ATM card, my credit card and, if I'm really being cautious, my traveler's checks., I also write all the info—especially the numbers to cancel the cards if stolen—into an email which I mail myself and can check later if necessary. The print out this email and store it in your stuff away from your wallet and travelers checks.

Third, security. Peru is safe if you travel sensibly. For more info about safety, please read "Health and Safety: section of Moon Peru and also the section on taxis, page 566.

Have a great trip!

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San Francisco, Calif.: What is the best itinerary for a 12-day trip to Peru in March? We are planning our trip and we love the ocean and interested in hiking Machu Picchu.

Ross Wehner: That's a hard question to answer in a forum like this well. There are suggested itineraries in the opening of the Moon Peru book, which you can mix and match. If you like the coast, you may want to try and go in March and April, when it's still summerish on the coast and pretty dry in the mountain. Plus you'll have the Inca Trail and Machu Picchu to yourself! Then I would visit Paracas and Ica and take a 2-night odyssey into the Ica Desert with the Desert Man, mentioned in the Ica section of the book. This giant swath of desert is up against the Pacific with beautiful wilderness beaches that people have not set foot on in centuries. The surrounding moonscape is filled with beautiful desert oddities, such as prehistoric shark teeth and the fossilized bones of giant, extinct porpoises.

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Rocky Point, N.Y.: Is it possible to go air balooning over Machu Picchu? If so, what is the best month to do it?

Ross Wehner: There are no balloon companies flying over MP at this moment to my knowledge. Plus the idea of being in a balloon and having to land in that impossible steep, and thickly vegetated jungle sounds like a nightmare to me! You can get a great view of MP from Huayna Picchu, the peak that looms over MP in all the photos. There is a recent restriction of 400 people per day so, if you want to climb Huayna Picchu, get there first thing in the morning! If you are going with a tour operator, let them know ahead of time as well.

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Chattanooga, Tenn.: I'm flying into Lima in June. I'd like to go to Machu Picchu and I'd like to hike the trail, at least one way. We're both very fit, mid 30's and don't mind "roughing it". Any suggestions? Jeff

Ross Wehner: Do the Inka trail when it's not crowded outside of June-August! Or check out the alternative Inca Trail that goes past the sacred mountain of Salcantay and hooks onto the end of the Inca Trail. There was a good review of alternative Inca Trails in the NY Times. Or do a totally wild and off-the-beaten path trek with one of the operators I recommend in Moon Peru.

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Merced, Calif. If you wanted to do a 2 day hike to Machu Picchu, visit Lake Titicaca, visit pisac—would you arrange a package deal or individually book each trip?

Ross Wehner: This all depends on what kind of traveler you are. What I can tell you is that Peru is safe as long as you take basic precautions (see "Health and Safety section of Moon Peru and also the section on taxis, page 566). I can also tell you that with a basic modicum of Spanish you can do almost anything you want in Peru and generally have a great sense of accomplishment and adventure while doing it. It might take a bit more time though!
You can certainly visit Pisac and Lake Titicaca on your own and, in fact, I would say do not take a tour unless you are very nervous about traveling on your own in Peru. For the 2-day, 1-night Machu Picchu hike you have no choice but to go with an operator. I recommend this company and there are other recommendations in Moon Peru as well.

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Neenah, Wis.: I am actually in Peru right now and was wondering whether the Nazca lines are really worth it? I have been asking a few travelers who have come from that direction but have received mixed reviews. I am traveling with a friend and she has already told me that she doesn?t want to do it due to cost. $40 seems a little pricey (for Peru) for something you might not enjoy. I just want to know a more professional opinion so that I can determine whether to make that pitstop or not. Thank you.

Ross Wehner: I understand your point of view.

The Nasca Lines are very impressive to me but people, depending on their perspective, tend to be either under- or overwhelmed by them.

I would say if you have a spiritual fascination with the Nasca Lines, they are worth making a special trip for. If not, then it's something to do only if you are traveling down the coast.

You can see them from observation towers fairly well but the best way to see them of course if by plane, which usually costs at least $100. There are also companies that can fly you from Lima and back for around the same price, which saves you a day or travel at least.

Good luck!

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Haverford, Pa.: I was thinking of going to Peru the second week of March. I have heard that this is still the rainy season. Are there places like Machu Picchu which it would be significantly better to visit later in the year?

Ross Wehner: March is a wonderful time! Do it! No crowds, green landscape! Most rains come in the afternoon and I find them beautiful over Peru's landscape. Bring an umbrella and a rain jacket. When I was a wilderness educator and we would get stuck in multi-day storm on a backpacking trip, we would tell students: "There are those who know what it means to walk in the rain, others just get wet." Having said that as you get towards the dry season of June-August the weather gets progressively drier. The peak months of rain are December - February.

Remember these are the rainfall patterns for the mountains and jungles of Peru. The coast is completely different and opposite to the winters and summers in the U.S.

On the coast, Dec - February is the sunny warm months and other parts of the year tend to be more foggy. The farther north you go in Peru, adn the closer to the equator, the warmer and sunnier it gets outside of that Dec-Feb timeframe.

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The Villages, Fla.: What is the best way to see the Sacred Valley on our own for two (2)days if we want to leave from Cusco tour the area and stay in Ollantaytambo each night? Also what is the best source to buy the train tickets from Ollantaytambo, returning to Cucso?

Ross Wehner: Great question. Ollantaytambo is one of my favorite places in all of Peru. It's really the best example of a living Inca village anywhere in the country, with people living in stone homes with trapezoidal doorways and street canals -- everything built 500 years ago by the Incas. There are incredible hikes to remote ruins and communities all around Ollanta. The sun temple at Ollanta I find to be the most spiritual and moving example of Inca stonework, along with Machu Picchu. The best place to stay in Ollanta is El Albergue (www.elalbergue.com) or El Tambo, the latter being more rustic. The properties are run by Joaquin Randall, his poartner Maita, and Joaquin's mother Wendy Weeks. This American-Peruvian family has lived in Ollanta since the 1960s and I have known them for a long time. They are thoroughly involved in service projects and other efforts to immprove the lives of Peruvians in Ollanta and other communities. I should mentions that Joaquin and I are involved in an effort to help U.S. schools organize volunteer and leadership experiences in Ollantaytambo through an organization I founded called World Leadership School.

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Dallas, Tex.: Hi Ross, I'm interested in going to Machu Picchu in August. I'm only going for a week, and I might be going alone. What tour would you recommend? I'd like to go with a group and have things planned out, but not every minute. Also, what other sites would you suggest that are a must see in Peru for the time that I have?

Ross Wehner: A week is pretty short—can you spare 10 days? All the bust agencies I can recommend are in the book and I have also come across a new one, perusurnativa.com. These trekking agencies will often offer a 2-night Inca Trail Machu Picchu experience that I recommend, 2 days in the Sacred Valley and then maybe 2 days in Cusco. I encourage you to plan at least one crazy, off-the-beaten track experience to get a taste of Peru. Take a bus from Peru to some crazy community in the middle of nowhere...you can talk to the agency you work with and they will have suggestions. Have a great time!

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Tulsa, Okla.: Who are the top two or three bicycle outfitters that operate in Peru?

Ross Wehner: you know there is a guy in Huaraz name Julio Olaza, mentioned in Moon Peru, who does a great job and could probably organize a trip for you anywhere you wanted. His email is julio.olaza@terra.com.pe—other than that I would say check out the excellent travel info website andeantravelweb.com, which is loaded with up-to-date info about different outfits. If you find someone you like apart from Julio, let me know. There are other suggestions for bike operators in the Cusco section of Moon Peru as well. It might also be worth checking out Manu Expeditions, as owner Barry Walker has lived in Peru now for 30 years and can point you in the right direction—if he can't organize the bike trip himself. A spectacular mtn bike ride, which I have done, is from the highlands outside of Cusco all the way to the Manu rainforest. This is like a 12,000 foot drop over 100 miles of dirt road in ONE DAY! Bring lots of intertubes.

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Minneapolis: Plans: Leave Miami for Peru first week of May, Fly to Lima and then Cuzco with some light hiking. Dilemma: Friends who were there in late May of 2006 (Machu Picchu) said it was still cold and snowy; to go later if at all possible. When I relayed this to the travel agent, she claimed "Not true...early May is fine for travel and hiking." Your response?

Ross Wehner: Friends are wrong. May is sunny and warm. Pack your bags!

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Pinole, Calif.: I've been to Machu Picchu but have never stayed at the hotel there, always below in agua calientes. How do I make reservations for the hotel right on Machu Picchu?

Ross Wehner: You know, I would not stay in the hotel that is right at the entrance to Machu Picchu. To be honest, it's extremely expensive (north of $500 per night at least) and I don't think the rooms are that nice. Most people stay at one of the boring but affordable hotels down in Aguas Calientes—and you can still get up and hike before dawn or catch a shuttle and see Machu Picchu at sunrise, which is what I suggest doing to escape the crowds. The best option for staying at Machu Picchu by far, and the place to stay if you want to splurge, is Inkaterra's Machu Picchu hotel. The owner, Jose Koechlin, and his wife have impeccable taste and Jose has been a major force in Peruvian consevation. Since I met him in 1990, he has been Conservation International's point person in Peru. Teh food is wonderful, there are over 100 orchids on the property, I identified 30 bird species in half-hour of birding there one morning—in short, it's a paradise next to the otherwise cramped conditions of Aguas Calientes and even the luxury Machu Picchu hotel.

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Fort Myers, Fla.: I am torn between hiking the trail to Machu Picchu and taking one of the trains. I am not an athletic person but normally walk for 8 hours or more daily when on vacation without problems. However, I'm not wearing my luggage and bedding while I walk. What should I consider when making that decision?

Ross Wehner: The Inka Trail is not something to be taken lightly. There are three passes over 14,000 feet and the walking can be rough. Then again, I never tell anyone not to dare to do something because if you go with the right attitude and desire I am sure you can make it. Another option, less strenuous, is the 2-day, one-night version that all the operators offer. There are also incredible and less commiting hikes all over Peru—Ollantaytambo, in the Sacred Valley, is a wonderful base camp for intellectually stimulating day hikes.

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Sao Paulo, Brazil: How long should we stay in Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu? Do you think 2 days in Cusco and 2 days in MC are enough?

Ross Wehner: I do recommend staying overnight in Machu Picchu so that you can get there at dawn and escape the crowds. As the trains roll in and the ruins fill up with people in mid-morning escape to one of the fabulous day hikes that will take you toa mind-blowing spot in the Machu Picchu complex—the Moon Temple is my favorite, but there is also Huayna Picchu, the peak over MP, the hanging bridge and Mt. Machu Picchu the peak opposite Huayna Picchu which no one ever climbs but has just a good of view of MP. I did it last year as an acclimatization hike with some mountain climbers and we had a great time (base to summit, 1-2 hours depending on your shape. Bring food and water).

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Oakton, Va.: I am going to Peru in late June to present scholarship money to a child I have sponsered thry Plan International. He lives in Laderas A, about an hour north of Lima. How hard is it to get there? Do I need to rent a jeep rather than a car? Is there somewhere I can take him and his Mom for a special night out? Or a terrific day trip? How difficult is it to get to Ayacucho? I have another school grant I hope to do there. Can this all be done in a week? Are school fees handled thru a bank check mostly or by credit card? Where can I get more information? Thanks, Nadine

Ross Wehner: Nadine

Very interesting. I would suggest that you get help through Plan International or a Lima-based contact for visiting Laderas A. I am not sure where that is, but it sounds like a pueblo joven (slum) outside of town. I have certainly spent time in the pueblos and have never had a problem, but I don't think you should go there alone. Especially if you don't speak Spanish. There is too much risk. So go with someone from Lima who you trust, rent a car or a taxi and have it wait for you while you are there. You can rent a car with drive for a whole day in Lima for around $80-$100 and there are few recommendations in Moon Peru for that. For a day trip, maybe you could ask them what they woud like to do—it also depends where Laderas A is located. There is Pachacama, the ruins south of Lima, which are fascinating, plus the Gold Museum in town which is pretty expensive for poor kids and mind-blowing.

For school fees, you should probably plan on making a transfer right into the person's bank account if they have one. Otherwise by check. Most kids go to state schools, which of course are paid for by the state. Private school tuition is paid for by check, usually.

Feel free to contact me offline with more questions as I am interested in the work you are doing, ross@worldleadershipschool.com.

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Asheville, N.C.: Hi Ross and the Budget Travel Staff, I am turning 30 this summer and want to really make it memorable. I'd like to take a trip to Peru but I have limited funds and will have to travel solo. Can you recommend a safe and reasonable tour agency for a 10-14 day trip around late June? Thanks for your help! Jessica

Ross Wehner: A lot of folks have asked for recommendations about tour agencies. What I recommend is going through the list we have in Moon Peru and also checking out this excellent and reliable web site: andeantravelweb.co.

Remember that there are lots of small, cheap agencies that frequently mimic the names of the larger more reputable ones. Don't go with these! Also don't negotiate too hard or look for the rock-bottom deals—In Peru, moreso than any other place in the world, you do get what you pay for.

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Ventura, Calif.: Hi Ross, Is it reasonably safe for a woman (I'm 40) to travel solo in Peru? I've traveled solo in Europe and did not feel threatened at all. I want to explore without taking a packaged tour. Thanks!

Ross Wehner: Good question. Yes, I think it is reasonably safe to travel alone in Peru as a 40-year-old woman but know too there is risk. My wife and I traveled through Peru for eight months in a jeep and visited every corner of the country and never got robbed once. We did feel unsafe once when we were stopped in the middle of the night by machete-armed protestors who had blocked a country road in the late evening and demanded payment to pass. We were trying to circumvent a main labor strike on the highway by taking country roads—all in order to get to the beach and take a break from guidebook research! Lesson here: use caution and don't force it! Things have their own time scale in Peru that you must respect if you are doing something different, like traveling alone through seldom-visited areas. The funny part of the story is that, as my heart was beating and my wife huddled in a tarp in the back of the jeep, I struck up a conversation with these masked machete men and tried to be as cheerful as possible. They all took off their masks and we had a great talk about how hard it is to be a farmer! They were such sweet people, just very desperate, as many Peruvians are. I also worked as a journalist in Peru during the early 90s, when Peru was basically closed off by the Shining Path. I traveled extensively and did not have a problem except for a time that I strayed into a jungle village that was controlled by a Colombian drug cartel—but people I met in the town warned me and smuggled me across the river in the middle of the night. Peruvians, on a per capita basis, are probably the sweetest and most caring people you will met on the planet!

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Riverview, Fla.: I have a trip scheduled for the first week in March, 2008. What would be a good travel wardrobe for that time in year in both Lima and Machu Picchu? Thanks!

Ross Wehner: Nothing more than fleece jacket and a light rain shell—I don't think a heavy parka is a good idea. The more layers, the more flexibility you have!

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Houston, Tex.: My husband and I are planning an early May trip to Peru to hike Machu Picchu and see Cusco & the Sacred Valley and we're considering spending the 2nd week relaxing on the beach on the north coast. I've read about Mancora in Budget Travel. What would you suggest and what can I expect of Mancora?

Ross Wehner: Mancora is beautiful, but it ain't the Caribbean. Cold water, tan sand, rough surf. The other author of Moon, Kazia Jankowski, spent a lot of time therea nd knows it well. She did a fabulous job updating that section of the book. But Mancora changes fast as well, so if possible, stay flexible to change plans when you get there. I liked the areas outside of Mancora, like Vichayito and other places.

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San Francisco, Calif.: Hi Ross, My boyfriend and I are planning a trip to Machu Picchu this year, and wondered what's the most reasonable price for airline tickets, and which city do we fly in? Do you have any recommendations on affordable and most comfortable flight plans? Thanks, Jen

Ross Wehner: to find the best airfare in Peru, I suggest you play with dates and use kayak.com—it's a great tool! I buy most of my fares online now, rather than use travel agents. You have to fly into Lima to get anywhere in Peru and you usually either leave from Los Angeles, Miami or one of the Texas airports. There are some cheaper flights that go through Central America or Argentina, but be careful of huge flight times!

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Ross Wehner: Before I end I want to say that Kazia Jankowski, the other author of Moon Peru, has launched a very interesting travel company called Pica Peru, peruculinaryvacations.com.

This company takes people on culinary and cultural tours to Mancora and Cusco. She is a professional food writer and is in good with all the best chefs of Peru, which in turn are some of the most extraordinary chefs in the world. I highly recommend Pica Peru and Kazia in general!

An organization I have recently founded is World Leadership School, worldleadershipschool.com.

If you know of a high school, middle school or college that may be interested—let me know! ross@worldleadershipschool.com

Thank you and good luck in your travels—

Ross and Renee (my wife) and Kazia (dearest friend)

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Brooklyn, N.Y.: I am planning to visit Peru in April. We originally planned to visit Puno (Lake Titica) first and then head over to Cusco and the Sacred Valley. I read that altitude sickness can be a real problem starting out at the high elevation around Puno. We cancelled our tickets and are now searching for a fare starting out in Cusco and ending the trip in Puno. Is starting out in a high elevation like in Puno a true problem etc...? We are planning to depart NY on April 16 and then leave from Peru on April 27. How do you think we can best spend our limited time? Thank you, Michael

Ross Wehner: I'm going to keep answering questions as long as I can in the interests of getting the important points addressed.

Altitude sickness is a major problem in Cusco and especially Puno (nearly 14,000 feet!). There are suggestions on how to deal with altitude sickness in the Cusco section of the book. Short version: upon arrival in Cusco, descend to the lower Sacred Valley, then go to Machu Picchu and then go to Cusco. Go to Lake Titicaca last—do not stay there or you will get sick most likely.

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Lenoir City, Tenn.: We are just starting to research the Machu Picchu/Aguas Caliente/Cuzco area of Peru for a trip in May 2009. I have some physical limitations and need to be as conveniently located as possible as well as hopefully find first floor accommodations in hotel with private bath. I am interested in the local culture, others in the party need info on reliable hiking/trekking guides for Machu Picchu. Any suggestions of locations, guide books, travel agencies which specialize in this region would be most appreciated.

Ross Wehner: Hmmm. I respect your determination to visit Peru and Machu Picchu! I would start with Moon Peru and look at the agencies mentioned there and then look at their websites. There are lots of great organizations. I would suggest Arequipa as a nice place for strolls and great food and a Europe-like atmosphere, Ollantaytambo for walking, Cusco and Machu Picchu. Good luck!

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Baltimore, Md.: My partner and I would love to see machu picchu, however she has a heart condition and would not be able to make the strenuous hike up. Are there any individualized touring options, that are reasonably priced, to "ride" up on a mule (similar to the grand canyon)? Thanks so much for your time! Kind regards, Sharon

Ross Wehner: check out the horse tours of Manu Expeditions, contact there is Barry Walker.

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Sheldon, Iowa: My son (16) will be traveling to Peru May 26th-June 5th with his high school Spanish club--a group of approximately 10-13. Appropriate clothing for this time of year is a question to avoid overpacking. They will be visiting Machu Picchu and Lake Titicaca along with other sites. They will be staying with host families in groups of 2. Do you have any "be sure not to miss" advice for these young students while visiting these sites or Peru in general? Food is also a concern they have. Thank you in advance for your assistance.

Ross Wehner: I'm so excited for your son! I would suggest he bring lots of light layers (fleece and a rain jacket, one pair of long underwear and sturdy hiking pants). Without knowing specifically where they are going, I would certainly suggest he spend time in Ollantaytambo if he could in the Sacred Valley. He should be careful about food, and there are good recommendations in the Health and Safety section of Moon Peru on avoiding sickness and medicines to bring. Mostly he should keep his eyes open, look out for chances to connect meaningfully with local people and remember that he can sleep (and listen to his iPod) when he is back state-side!

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Nashville, Tenn.: My husband and I travel with some close friends for a week in early March each year, and there is great interest in Macchu Pichu. We are in our mid-60s and definitely felt the effects of altitude (not sick; just weak and a bit light-headed) when visiting Colorado this past summer. How can one visit Macchu Pichu affordably and have sufficient "adjustment time?" Any advice appreciated.

Ross Wehner: please see note above about altitude and also in the cusco chapter of Moon Peru. This is a really important factor to plan your trip around—though remember that Peru is in an southern latitude where the partial pressure of oxygen is denser than it is in our more northerly altitude. So a 14er in Colorado is much harder than a 14,000 foot pass in Peru.

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Cedarhurst, N.Y.: Going to Peru Feb 18 via Miami-Lima-Cuzco. Any suggestions for restaurants in these 2 places?

Ross Wehner: check out Moon Peru, filled with Kazia Jankowski's suggestions. She is probably the foremost US-based expert on Peruvian cuisine after visiting every decent recent in Peru over an 8-month period last year—and then writing about it in the book.

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Grand Junction, Colo.: We want to plan a trip to Peru between Jan. 2-18, 2009 from Denver, CO that will include Machu Picchu, Lake Titticaca, and the Galapagos Islands off the coast of Ecuador. So far there are 5 adults ranging in age from 48 to 77, all English-speaking. What small group tour would be best to cover all that with English-speaking guides? We'd like to stay at the base of Machu Picchu and on a boat when visiting the Galapagos. Thanks, Karen

Ross Wehner: That sounds like a lot to squeeze in in 16 days—and remember that January is the height of the rainy season in Machu Picch and Lake Titicaca, the latter being particularly miserable and cold (icy) this time of year. I would reconsider your dates and also spend those two weeks all in Peru—the Galapagos, in my mind, is a seperate trip all together and I think you will come back feeling quite rushed and perhaps that you did not get all your money's worth. The best agencies that I nkow of are in Moon Peru and also on andeantravelweb.com.

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Portland, Ore.: I will be traveling to Peru and Argentina for two weeks on February 8th. I was disappointed to find out that the Inca Trail is closed during the month of February for trail maintenance. Can you recommend other options for hiking and interesting excursions in the Cuzco and/or Machu Picchu area? Thanks!

Ross Wehner: yes—check out perusurnativa.com and other trekking agencies in the book. For pure trekking, the Huaraz (Cordillera Blanca and Huayhuash ranges) area of Peru cannot be beat—just see the movie Touching the Void to see what I mean!

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Layton, Utah: Hi Ross, We're a group of six baby boomers planning a two-week trip to Peru on June 7, 2008 which will include a couple of days on the Amazon. We're coming from Connecticut and Utah. We'll be on a tour with Latin America 4 Less. What is your recommendation regarding yellow fever shots & malaria pills before the trip? Also, could you please offer some advice on weather at that time of year, any special events going on, and other "don't miss" tips? Thanks for your help!

Ross Wehner: Yellow fever definitely. Regarding malaria, I have never taken those pills and have spent months in the Peruvian amazon but I would speak with your local travel clinic and consult the CDC website, which has up-to-date recommendations. There are no particular holidays that I know of on June 7, but the PromPeru website often has holidays lifted for different areas of Peru. Good luck!

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Orlando, Fla.: I will be going to Machu Picchu in late March this year. What kind of weather can we expect? How do you deal with the altitude at Cuzco? How bad is Travelers Diarrhea in that area? Thanks

Ross Wehner: Thank you for brining this up. Aguas Calientes, the town at the base of Machu Picchu, where most people stay has a terrible reputation for food sickness. Every member of my family has gotten sick there. Please splurge and treat yourself to a nice restaurant while you are there and order something safe—grilled meat or potatoes, no salads!

see other above comments about altitude.

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Annandale, Va.: What is the cheapest mode of transportation from Lima to Cuzco?

Ross Wehner: Burro. Seriously, people have done it.

I love your spirit! there are so many great ways to get to Cuzco from Lima and my favorite is going through Huancayo, Ayacucho and then onto Cusco. A huge adventure. Take individual buses from each city and enjoy the adventure you are about to embark upon. Do not take buses at night and, if you take cheap buses, do not put things in the overhead storage section. Ever. YOu can also take buses from Lima to Huarochiri, and cross the snow-covered range on foot, and then hitch hike or take buses onto to the highway that leadst to Huancayo. I did that and it was one of my best adventures ever—think outside the highways but be sensible and safe!

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New York, N.Y.: My girlfriends and I (a group of four 28 year olds) are going to be hiking the Inca Trail in early May. In an attempt to minimize altitude sickness, we'll be spending three days in the Cuzco area. Can you recommend some things to do that will not be energy-intensive (we want to save our energy for the Inca Trail) and is not your typical boring museum? Are there some interesting day trips we should try?

Ross Wehner: Ok this is the last question I can answer as they are shutting this webcast down.... I wasn't able to answer all questions but I think that I addressed them all with at least other responses.

I would recommend you go to Ollantaytambo and spend a few days there horseback riding, hiking up and down the trails, exploring, visiting communities , etc. This will be a great prep for the Inka Trail.

Have fun and thank you everyone for tuning in!

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Lenoir City, Tenn.: I am just beginning to plan a trip for May of 2009 to Cuzco/MP area. There will be myself (55), who can't walk for very long at all, and 2 young hikers in their 20s who want to hike to MP. Any suggestions for the best location for us to stay, local transportation for me, and reliable tour guides for them?

Ross Wehner: ok one last question—I could not resist.

Follow the altitude suggestions made earlier—start in Sacred Valley (especially Ollantaytambo), then proceed to MP and finish in Cusco. Maybe you can lounge in Ollanta for a few days while the younger hikers do the Inka Trail. Then you can meet at Machu Picchu.

One hotel that I highly recommend in Peru, and somehow did not make it into the edition of Moon Peru, is El Balcon Inn.

Good luck!

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