Visiting Machu Picchu by myself seemed way too complicated.
I looked online for the traditional Inca Trail trek, to find it was already sold out for the dates I wanted. Apparently you need to book it around 6 months in advance, as they only allow a certain number of people on the trail at one time, and obviously it books up fast. I did some more research on tours and treks and was overwhelmed with the choices. As I knew I would need a guide to do a trek anyway, I plumped for the easy option, and finally chose to do an “Overland Adventure” with Dragoman Overland Travel, operators in South America for Intrepid Travel. Their Machu Picchu Trek also encompassed La Paz, Lake Titicaca and Cusco, as well as the 4 day trek and Machu Picchu itself.
After my flight, this trek was the next thing I booked. Working backwards from my departure date, and figuring out where else I wanted to be at certain times on my trip I chose a tour which left La Paz with Dragoman on September 11th. I’ll tell the tales of each place we visited along the way but here I want to focus on Dragoman and their package.
Before I booked, I had a ton of questions so called Dragoman’s office in the UK instead of booking straight away online. The staff were friendly and quick to reply to my subsequent email enquiries as well. For most of their packages, which cover all corners of the world, the cost is split into the package itself and a ‘kitty’ which covers day to day costs on the ground that the Tour Leader would need to pay. The package has to be paid upfront, in a couple of instalments if needed, and the kitty usually paid to the Tour Leader on the first day of the tour in $ or local currency. Thankfully there are now starting to accept the kitty payment in advance as well, so I didn’t need to carry around several hundred dollars in the days running up to the tour. The split price can make it difficult to figure out how much you will actually spend, so if you are on a tight budget make sure you know exactly how much you are paying, and what extras you need to pay along the way, like additional meals for example.
The package included all overnight accommodation, breakfast and some meals (all whilst on the trek), transport and guides as well as all the trekking camping equipment. Sleeping bags weren’t included but I hired mine for a small fee. Once I’d booked the package, Dragoman were equally prompt in sending all the final details I would need to help plan my trip, like a suggested packing list, and discounts for vaccinations and kit if bought from their suppliers.
Our group met in La Paz in Bolivia, and we travelled together to Cusco, via Lake Titicaca and a few other stops along the way. On the first day of the tour we had a meeting at 6pm in the hotel to meet the rest of the group and get a few more details on the day to day workings of the tour. Overall we had a good group; but obviously when you bring 11 random people together some personalities clash a little more than others. I was surprised to find the majority of the group were Australian – five in total including two newly-weds Marty & Mel and and older couple Ellen & Nev who I saw as my Tour Mum & Dad, and Greg who was travelling on his own, plus Nick, a New Zealander living in Australia, Radhika & Gopal, an Indian couple who live in the US, one American (Paul), one Japanese girl (Aya), and me holding the flag for the Brits.
Our Trek Leader was Lynsey – a fellow Brit woo hoo! She explained the plan for the next 12 days. She would be driving our truck Rosita from La Paz to Cusco, and would be part guide, part chauffeur and life-saver should anything go wrong. For the La Paz to Cusco part we were also joined by a local guide Leo, who spends his time between La Paz and Puno, where his mother lives. Then for the trek Lynsey would hand us over to a company called Andina Travel who partner with Dragoman to run the exclusive Community Trek to Machu Picchu.
Lynsey drove Rosita like a demon, it was a big truck, which could seat up to 22 people, but our group was smaller so we had plenty of space to move around. I must admit, driving a truck like that through busy streets in La Paz, onto the ferry at Lake Titicaca and across the bumpy dirt tracks takes some guts, and Lynsey did it with style and control! The only downside to our kind of trek is that with staying in hotels, we didn’t get to take full advantage of the truck (which also stocked picnic and cooking equipment, tables & chairs, camping equipment and a tank of potable water among other things), or Lynsey, as for most of the outings we were accompanied by the local guides, and Lynsey stayed behind with the truck.
We got to know our local guides well though; Leo was great – knowledgeable and enthusiastic about sharing his knowledge with the group. He was originally born in Colombia, but moved to Bolivia when he was young, and is now based there. Our guide for the trek was Yamil, he was equally good – explaining the culture of the people we encountered along the way, types of plants and leading the way across the mountains.
There are of course positives and negatives involved with opting for a tour instead of going it alone, but in this case I felt the benefits outweighed the negatives, and was pleased with my choice. Aside from the trek to Machu Picchu when we camped, we stayed in reasonable hotels; some better than others. The only downside for me travelling alone was being put in a twin room with the other solo girl from Japan. I don’t have a problem sharing a room but as a solo traveller sometimes it’s nice to be alone, or even with more people so you don’t end up with the same person night after night. I could have paid more to have a room by myself, but I’ll be honest I didn’t fancy adding to the already hefty price tag so shut up and put up.
Everything else was as I expected and I enjoyed the time with our group. I would recommend Dragoman for other tours, depending on your budget and how confident you are as a traveller. They offer various different types of treks, depending on location and the services on offer – you can book deluxe versions or budget options if you prefer.
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