Excluding the KLM problems that we have discussed the holiday was a wonderful experience and we will have so many happy memories.
The rainforest was terrific and our guide Vico was so helpful and knowledgeable. He always kept us informed with so many explanations of what we saw and his enthusiasm for the environment was infectious. He had a unique ability to judge what we wanted to see and do. A smile was always on his face and he set the tone for our entire holiday.
I have to also say that Raul Varela (Aracari in Lima) was brilliant and we owe him and his staff a great big Thank You for all they did throughout our stay. We had full confidence in everything they did.Then we moved on to Cusco and Maria del Carmen Vargas (Aracari) was equally helpful and was always available. She obtained a wonderful guide for our next part of the holiday. Adriel Vilcas was a true ‘Andean’ and knew so much about the local history and due to his local knowledge and contacts took us to villages and sites that most guides would not have been able to do so. He made the whole area ‘come alive’. He was invaluable when sorting out the fiasco of Puno. There the local Aracari representative was only noticeable by her/his entire absence. More of that later. We loved this part of our holiday and Sacred valley came alive because of Adriel’s explanations.
Machu Picchu was as brilliant and awesome as we had dreamed and all the hotels in this area were everything we could have wanted. The train journey was wonderful and unlike British Rail it was clean and on time!
Then we moved to Puno. The hotel said we were not booked in that night and were due in the following night. We later found out that other guests were booked in for the wrong nights. The Aracari repetitive was nowhere to be seen so Adriel fought our case for us despite having a 5 hour journey back to Cusco. The hotel tried to push us to an inferior hotel in Puno but finally put us in two rooms without a lake view. They did admit that you had booked lake view rooms. We then heard that the Aracari local repetitive would come to the hotel between 6 7 8. But we had a phone call from her about 7:45 to say she would not come but our guide tomorrow would meet us at the port at 7:15 am with a board with Jackie Wilson on it. She said we were booked on Suasi for one night at least but not sure if it was for 2.
Next morning we searched for the guide at what we hoped was the right port. He eventually turned up at 7:33 without any apology. He was, to put it mildly, useless. He had no interest in showing/explaining anything to us. We went to the floating islands and following the briefest of explanation left us to wonder and then be taken on a ride on a reed boat. It was all so interesting that we would have loved some greater involvement of Gilbert. Later we climbed 600 feet to a village square. When we asked Gilbert what there was to see he said ‘Most of this area is closed today and I will see you here in 15 mins and off he went!!
Whilst on the boat he paid more interest to the lady Italian interpreter than us!! When we arrived at Suasi Island we asked Gilbert when do we return. He replied that we would be told that later. Suasi was a gem. Put it on your MUST list. Everyone there made us so welcome and the night sky was something to behold.
Return journey Gilbert NEVER SAID A WORD. The boat overheated so we were late arriving back at the awful hotel in Puno. When we arrived we asked for our laundry. (Had to carry our own luggage as no porter seemed interested) The laundry was promised to be sent to our rooms by 6:00pm. Silly we believed them. At 6:00pm no laundry. ‘Oh will be with you by &:00@ no it was not so I phoned and was told ‘laundry closed and will be open at 6:00am tomorrow and nothing can be done@ Well Jackie and I ‘Kicked up’ and eventually our laundry was found.
The evening meal (lamb) was so bad we returned one as uneatable. Mine was nearly as bad but I struggled through as I did not want to cause too much of a stir. The ‘head waiter’ made a face when Jackie asked for a change but one did come and was ‘slapped down on her place with barely discussed contempt’ It took us 4 efforts (2 to the Head Waiter) to obtain the bill for the meal. This meal was without doubt the worst on the entire holiday by a long way! We completed the hotel questionnaire (wonder if they kept it as it did not make good reading for them!?)
However, a breath of fresh air arrived when Pilar (Aracari guide) arrived. She was excellent and our spirits rose. She looked after us so well and we learnt so much about the local areas. The condors were really on form and we had such a lovely few days. Mama Yacchi was a wonderful hotel and so much nicer than Colca Canyon lodge. That hotel tried hard to overcharge us for the use of the hot springs but Pilar would have nothing of it. She was wonderful. How does Aracari find such good guides! Pilar also kept us informed of all the change of plans due to the earthquake so we felt very secure. She also gave us the name of a top restaurant in Arequipa where John said he had the best steak ever! Mine was fantastic as well. We were also lucky to see two local festivals and all the bands playing. It seemed they had just waited for us to arrive!
Back to Lima to be met by Raul and that confidence boosting smile. The rearranged tour was very good and another excellent guide, Josie. The driver here was a little scary (the others had been so good and always so helpful and kind).
I would like you to pass on to Aracari my comments as they were so professional and, apart from Puno, they helped to make this holiday the ‘one of a life time’. We have had holidays organised by CC Africa and Abercomie & Kent but Aracari and yourselves ensured that this was the best. They are not in your league.