Peru

Ker­ryn ram­sey’s visit to Machu Pic­chu is a high­light of her fam­ily’s ex­plo­ration of Cusco and the Sa­cred Val­ley.

Holiday with Kids - - Contents -

Ker­ryn Ram­sey and fam­ily ex­plore the de­lights of Machu Pic­chu, Cusco and the Sa­cred Val­ley.

Hav­ing just stepped off the plane at Ale­jan­dro Ve­lasco Astete In­ter­na­tional Air­port in Cusco, Peru, the al­ti­tude at 3,400 me­tres is knock­ing us around. As my hus­band, my­self and our two kids strug­gle through the ter­mi­nal, we feel weak and short of breath. For­tu­nately, stalls sell­ing coca tea are just out­side. This tea, made from coca leaves, is a mild stim­u­lant and le­gal in Peru, and after down­ing a cup, we all im­me­di­ately feel much bet­ter.

Cul­ture shock in Cusco

Our ad­ven­tures be­gin in Cusco, a truly en­chant­ing town full of Span­ish ar­chi­tec­ture and nar­row me­an­der­ing streets. We have booked into the Hostal Wara Wara, a rus­tic hill-top pen­sione with a self-con­tained apart­ment, ideal for a fam­ily of four. We spend the rest of the day ac­cli­ma­tis­ing and then hit the town. Plaza de Ar­mas is a hotspot of restau­rants, churches and colo­nial ar­chi­tec­ture. There is con­stant ac­tiv­ity with fes­ti­vals in full swing and po­lit­i­cal speeches tak­ing place.

We watch dancers per­form the Ca­pac Colla dance. Women and girls dressed in

tra­di­tional dresses are joined by men and boys wear­ing woollen masks with grotesque faces. Many of the dancers have the body of a baby llama strapped to their back. As the band plays and dancers twirl, our kids are feel­ing a solid dose of cul­ture shock.

Dot­ted around the plaza are touristy shops sell­ing T-shirts, jew­ellery, art­works and hand­i­crafts. We visit an im­pres­sive 15th­cen­tury church, La Com­pañia de Jesús, and climb the rick­ety, stairs up the bell tower.

The kids are show­ing signs of his­to­ry­over­load so I have just the an­ti­dote: Play­box Gam­ing Cen­ter. In this im­mer­sive vir­tual re­al­ity ex­pe­ri­ence, they shoot zom­bies and fight aliens. After an hour of bat­tle, the kids are ready for more of Cusco.

We have no trou­ble ush­er­ing them into the Choco Museo choco­late mu­seum. I sign us up for the two-hour bean-to-bar work­shop, start­ing with ca­cao beans and end­ing with a de­li­cious block of choco­late.

We hire a taxi to take us to the nearby Sac­say­hua­man ru­ins, an Inca fortress com­pleted around 1508. This ex­pan­sive area is dot­ted with an­cient walls built of mul­ti­tonne blocks fit­ted to­gether like a jig­saw.

In the mid­dle of the ru­ins is a nat­u­ral rock slip­pery dip that the kids can’t wait to try. It’s high, steep and smooth from the thou­sands of be­hinds that have slipped down it. We spend an ex­haust­ing half-hour run­ning up the rock face and slid­ing down again and again.

Through the Sa­cred Val­ley

Our day trip to the Sa­cred Val­ley starts in the best way pos­si­ble at the Cochahuasi An­i­mal Sanc­tu­ary. Ded­i­cated to res­cu­ing and re­ha­bil­i­tat­ing an­i­mals that have suf­fered from mis­treat­ment, it is the home of lla­mas, vicuña, tou­cans, con­dors, pu­mas and spec­ta­cled bears. The kids are, quite sim­ply, en­tranced.

About 50 kilo­me­tres away is Mo­ray, a series of con­cen­tric cir­cu­lar ter­races that looks a lit­tle like a Ro­man am­phithe­atre. De­scend to its cen­tre and you can feel the tem­per­a­ture drop by as much as 15 de­grees.

The Sali­nas Salt Pools, sit­u­ated at the bot­tom of a steep cliff, look like a patch­work blan­ket of ochre, brown and white. The 3,000 salt pans form a sur­real land­scape that of­fers end­less photo op­por­tu­ni­ties.

A stop at a cafe gives us the op­por­tu­nity to try a lo­cal favourite: roast guinea pig. The kids and I de­cline, but my hus­band re­ports that it tastes a bit like chicken.

As­cent to Machu Pic­chu

In­trepid ad­ven­tur­ers walk to Machu Pic­chu along the Inca Trail, a slowly as­cend­ing trek of 43 kilo­me­tres that takes about four days. We catch the train.

We ride the four-hour Peru­rail Vis­ta­dome from Cusco to Aguas Calientes, a small town at the base of Machu Pic­chu. My hus­band and son en­joy play­ing chess on a cafe ter­race over­look­ing a small wa­ter­fall while my daugh­ter and I go shop­ping. You can never have enough Peru­vian earflap hats!

Ac­cess to Machu Pic­chu is split into two ses­sions: 6am to mid­day and mid­day to 5.30pm. We have morn­ing tick­ets so we are up be­fore sun­rise to catch the bus up the moun­tain. The dozen hair­pin turns and sheer drop down the moun­tain has the kids’ eyes stand­ing on stalks.

The per­fect Machu Pic­chu photo spot is at the Gate­keeper’s Hut. I drive my fam­ily like un­ruly lla­mas un­til we stand on the rocky out­crop and gaze down at the an­cient ru­ins at least we would if the mist wasn’t so thick.

For­tu­nately, the great god Wira­cocha smiles on us and the mist clears an hour later. Machu Pic­chu ex­ceeds all ex­pec­ta­tions and we climb ter­races, soak up the vista and mar­vel at the skill and ef­fort to cre­ate such an evoca­tive place. The lla­mas wan­der­ing around only add to the en­joy­ment.

The train trip back to Cusco is un­be­liev­ably happy; we all feel light of heart and rein­vig­o­rated of spirit. When I ask my kids what they think of Machu Pic­chu, they give it the high­est pos­si­ble ac­co­lade. “It’s awe­some!” they say in uni­son.

01 Llama over­look­ing Machu Pic­chu © aaabb­bccc/shutterstock 02 Peru­vian kids © Brigitte Bolduc/shutterstock 03 Meet­ing the lo­cals © Ker­ryn Ram­sey 02 03

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