I travelled to Peru with four other friends. Our trip was arranged by Diane Valenti of Llama Expeditions. They did an amazing job of combining the highlights of the area (Machu Picchu, cathedrals in Cusco, plenty of time for shopping(!)), but also took us off the beaten path. We visited a school for underserved indigenous girls, we had lunch with a collective that was working to preserve cultural products (food, weaving) and native customs through tourism, we hiked up a hill to an ancient ruins called Pumamarka, followed by lunch prepared for us by local farmers, we had dinner with a woman who owns a hostel in Cusco, along with several of her German and local house guests. All of this was made even more special because of our guide, German Cruz Aguilar. This amazing man was so passionate about his country, the people, the ruins, the culture, everything, that we couldn't help but be enthralled by him and by what we were seeing. Truthfully, Machu Picchu itself was almost anti-climactic. In the morning there were so many people there, I felt like I was at Disneyland. But our guide knew to take it slow, have lunch, and by 1:30 or so, the madding crowd was gone and we had the place, if not to ourselves, at least to a much more reasonable and enjoyable level. Still, I wouldn't have missed it. Overall, I fell in love with Peru and the people there.
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