In July 2011, working as Expedition Leader for World Challenge, I lead an expedition to Peru with a group from Westonbirt School. For the pupils this four-week expedition is the culmination of a two-year Leadership and Personal Development programme.
Our itinerary includes working with a local school in Puno, a five-day mountain trek to 4,500m altitude, a visit to Machu Picchu, a visit to the Uros Islands in Lake Titicaca and white-water rafting near Arequipa.
For photographs of this expedition see Peru
This expedition is arranged by World Challenge
We arrive in Lima, the capital of Peru and the fifth largest city in Latin America, after a long journey and find transport to take us to our first night’s accommodation in Miraflores. We contact the World Challenge In-Country Agent and get some rest in preparation for the exertions of the next few days and weeks.
We have some time to explore the leafy upscale district of Miraflores, which is known for its parks and beaches, and marks our introduction to the many different faces of Peru.
Fact: Lima is home to the oldest higher learning institution in the New World: San Marcos University was founded in 1551.
Next we fly from Lima to Cusco, the heart of the ancient Inca Empire. On arrival in Cusco, we take it easy as we adjust to the altitude. Here we find suitable accommodation and investigate the trekking options for our acclimatisation phase.
Cusco was the capital of the mighty Inca empire and, as such, there are many fascinating sites to visit in the surrounding area. Some of these provide excellent opportunities for acclimatisation trekking and our team choose a number of testing day walks. These walks help us to acclimatise to our surroundings whilst absorbing the culture and history of the Sacred Valley. We trek from Cusco\’s main square to the spectacular Inca ruins at Sacsayhuaman, perched at the top of the valley and offering wonderful views of the sprawling city below. Later we take the bus to Pisac (approx 2 hours) then trek to the ancient ruins and colourful local market.
After a few days acclimatisation and organising we set off on our main trek. This trek takes us off the beaten path in the area around Lares in the Sacred Valley of the Incas, and through communities where the traditional way of life still thrives. Along the way there are Inca trails and ruins to see and explore. During this four day trek we encounter glacial lakes and local flora and fauna, including several Andean bird species.
Our main trekking phase begins with travel from Cusco to Huaran (around 1 hour). The trek itself starts with a gentle climb away from the Sacred Valley and follows the general path of the Cancha Cancha river. We are surrounded by spectacular vistas of snow-capped peaks as we ascend to an altitude of 4,458m. Our local guide is extremely knowledgeable about the local area so this is a great opportunity to learn about the history, geography, flora and fauna of the area in which we are trekking. We camp each night and have mules to help carry some of our kit. As we near the end of the trek we pass small farms and adobe houses before reaching the village of Lares, where private transport is waiting to take us back to Ollantaytambo.
After a night in Ollantaytambo we take the train to Aguas Calientes for the night and then early the next morning we go up to Machu Picchu.
For many, a visit to Machu Picchu is the highlight of their trip to Peru. Photos cannot do justice to these incredible Inca city ruins, and we are awe-struck by the spectacular setting and mind-boggling historical and archaeological significance of the site. Machu Picchu was built around 1450, at the height of the Inca Empire. It was abandoned just over 100 years later, in 1572, as a belated result of the Spanish Conquest. Declared a Peruvian Historical Sanctuary in 1981 and a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983, Machu Picchu has since been voted one of the New Seven Wonders of the World in a worldwide Internet poll.
We catch the first bus to Machu Picchu from Aguas Calientes and spend the morning exploring. We climb to the top of Wayna Picchu, which offers a different perspective on the ruins. We return to Aguas Calientes and catch the train back to Ollantaytambo and then the bus to Cusco.
After a night in Cusco we then travel by bus to Puno which sits on the shores of Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable lake in the world. This journey should take around eight hours. Once we arrive we confirm the arrangements for our project phase and buy supplies.
During our project we get a unique opportunity to delve deeper into the true Peruvian culture and way of life and really gain a different perspective to most visitors to the country. We complete our project in a remote rural community close to Puno, on the shores of Lake Titicaca at 3,800m altitude. It’s hot during the day and very cold at night at this altitude.
Our initial meeting with the project host identifies what is required and achievable during our stay. We perform important maintenance and construction tasks at the local school and also have the opportunity to teach some English to the local children. We interact with this extremely friendly and welcoming community and play some games and activities to assist in a cultural exchange. We’ve also taken some gifts for the children – sports equipment and educational materials, which are all very well received!
After several days at our project site it\’s time to move on and we travel out onto Lake Titicaca to the Uros Islands. Lake Titicaca is situated in Southern Peru and straddles the border with Bolivia. At 3,820m above sea level, it is the world’s highest navigable lake and the biggest in South America. The port of Puno is the access point for the amazing floating Uros islands (made of reed) and the larger islands of Taquile and Amantani. We take a tour to the islands, during which we witness first hand the fascinating way of life lead by the Uros people who still inhabit these islands.
The next day we take the bus to the ‘White City’ – Arequipa. On arrival we to orientate yourselves, rest up and buy any supplies you need in preparation for our next phase.
Today we go white water rafting. This is an exciting one day adventure and a must for the adrenaline junkies of the team! We raft on the River Chili as it has easy access from Arequipa and a suitable level of rapids. The rafting site is approximately a two hour journey from Arequipa and transport and once there the team has a safety briefing and practice manoeuvres before taking to the water for a day of action-packed fun!
We return to Arequipa in the afternoon for a welcome shower and a hearty meal.
Today we take the bus to Lima. This takes 15 hours!
Today we leave Peru, the end of an amazing adventure. We arrive back in the UK the next day, the girls bursting with stories and photos to keep family and friends entertained for hours!
As always saying goodbye to my team is hard after all we’ve done but the thought of a warm shower, clean sheets and a comfy bed at home makes it easier!