Sunday, February 21, 2016

The Road to Machu Picchu

As part of my MBA curriculum, we spent about 7 days in Chile in early May of 2015. But beforehand, two other classmates and I ventured to the Peruvian Andes to see the sacred Inca ruins. The following posts chronicle the logistics, the sights along the journey and Machu Picchu itself.

The Thought Process:
I visited Peru in early 2014 while a friend was working down there, spending about a week combined in Lima and Huacachina. It was my first time in South America but it had a glaring omission: Machu Picchu. Furthermore, there was a five day gap between the end of spring semester and our summer session in Santiago, so why not fit in a side trip? When would I be in South America again?

So in January of 2015, I started to research options in the region, as well as recruited classmates to share the experiences and expenses with. So the considerations were: price, complexity and lifetime value. Brazil and Argentina were considered but are considerably pricier than Peru. Plus, both countries require visas - an additional expense and administrative effort. Lastly, we read reports that Machu Picchu was deteriorating, so it fulfilled the lifetime value component.

I was fully prepared to undergo this journey on my own but casually mentioned ticket prices to my two closest classmates, Misty and Will throughout January and February. Then, during the first snow-day of graduate school, airline prices for our itinerary dropped. I informed my classmates of this development and they came through. All three of us booked that day. For under $1250, we got this multiple city itinerary (ATL > Mex City > Lima > Cusco for three nights then Lima > Santiago > Dallas >ATL).

At this point, we had a 30,000 ft, high level plan but the more granular details would not be finalized until two weeks prior to departure. There were decisions to be made regarding accommodations, travel from Cusco to Machu Picchu, which day to see it and what type of reservation to buy.

Packing presented a unique challenge because we needed to not only pack hiking appropriate gear for Peru, but also business casual for the Chile trip. Here are items I went out of my way to acquire specifically for Machu Picchu:
  • Adidas hybrid trail shoes - essential for perilous Huayna Picchu climb.
  • Zip off hiking pants - quick drying and useful when temperature changes the way it does in the Andes.
  • ISIC card - for students only and was required by our University. It is travel insurance abroad and you are eligible for discounts with it. In fact, it paid for itself because of the savings on admission to Machu Picchu.
  • Sunscreen - Learned my lesson last time I was in Peru.. Also, higher altitudes make you more susceptible to UV rays even if you’re brown like I am.
  • Buff - wore it around my neck in the cold mornings and a headband to soak up sweat in midday..

A lean, mean operation for 2 weeks.

Next post will document the details of getting to Machu Picchu. Thank you for reading.

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