Recently I was chatting with a fellow blogger and new webpal, Patti who runs a travel blog one road at a time, during the discussion about one of my Peru blogs, we decided it might be fun to do a kind of blog interview. So Patti made a list of questions, as well as solicited some from Facebook. Below you will find those questions along with my answers, I hope you all have as much fun reading this , as we had doing it.
Patti – I know you married your lovely wife, Liliana, who is Peruvian, but had you traveled to Peru before meeting her? How did you and Liliana come to settle in Cusco?
Me – The answer to the first half of your question is no. Not only had I never traveled to Peru before meeting Lily, I had never even traveled. The second half is a little more complex, but I will do my best to simplify the story. Back in 2008 we started to think about the possibility of leaving the rat race and starting a B&B. Our first thought was Europe. As my wife had a great-grandfather that was Italian, some family members said that Italian citizenship could be obtained through this relationship. After much research we found that this was not correct and started to consider other locations, because without Italian citizenship, a move to Italy would have been difficult.
Considering my wife is Peruvian, the next logical choice was Peru. We then started to research locations in Peru and were initially considering the northern coast as Lily loves the beach and I love to fish. This plan was quickly changed after the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. We then thought about Cusco, a location with a steady stream of tourist to market to, and a European feel as many of the buildings are of Spanish construction. In early 2012 we purchased the property, now known as GringoWasi and the rest, as they say, is history.
Patti – What led to the decision to open a B&B? How does your B&B stand out from the rest in what you offer the traveler?
Me – The decision to run a B&B was fairly easy, while not necessarily an easy thing to run, a B&B can almost be operated in any town or city; you just have to know who your potential customers are so you can market to them. The things I think makes our B&B different is the location, while there are many B&B’s scattered throughout Cusco and the Sacred Valley, I believe we are the only one in a small local “non-touristy” town. Here in Huarocondo, you could sit in the main plaza all day and not be bothered by locals trying to sell you souvenir items. I also believe we are the only property that currently, allows guests to leave their belongings, overnight, in the room for no charge when they are visiting Machu Picchu.
Patti – For the traveler who has never visited Peru, what’s the biggest selling point for Peruvian tourism? What would be your recommended top 5 “must visit” sites?
Me – One of the biggest selling points for Peru is of course Machu Picchu, but aside from that; I would also say the diversity. Not only is there a wide range of climates to be found in Peru (Beaches, Deserts, Mountains and Jungle), the foods from these regions also vary greatly. As for my top 5 sites, this is actually a tough question as all of the sites are a little different and each has something to offer. If I had to choose 5 must visit sites I would say.
- Machu Picchu
- Uros Islands/Lake Titicaca
Patti – Do you recommend tour companies or do it yourself travel? And for the do-it-yourself traveler, please point them in the right direction to get started, where’s the best information to be found?
Me – With a very few exceptions, I have always been a do it myself kind of person. I just can’t see paying somebody else, to do something that I am fully capable of doing, especially considering what the typical tour company charges. Recently I did a comparison, with the help of a guest, and found that you can typically do a trip yourself for ½ of what a tour agency will charge you.
As far as information goes, I would start with a tour company site, they often have packages posted that you can use as a basis to start a plan. The next step is to search the location on-line, you will most likely find information about the area you are interested in visiting, either through sites like Wikipedia or even blogs that people in the area have written. The last step would be to post the plan on trip advisor and ask for opinions, the travel forums on trip advisor are full of people with firsthand knowledge on the area you plan to travel to, and will let you know if they spot any possible issues.
Patti – I would imagine Machu Picchu is one of the most popular destinations in Peru, how do you address the persistent rumor of the government closing the site to tourism?
Me – To the best of my knowledge, the government has never actually closed the site; while there have been periods when, due to weather, the site has been almost inaccessible, I don’t believe it has ever been closed. Considering the Cusco region see’s around 2 million tourists each year, mostly here to see Machu Picchu, It wouldn’t make any sense to close it.
Patti – Speaking of government, can you provide local insight as to the recent travel advisories and safety concerns whiles traveling in Peru?
Me – I think somebody jumped the gun on this one, while there are many theories as to the exact cause for the warning, there was never anything specific. According to the local news, The Peruvian government was quite upset, as they say the US government was not willing to share their information. In my travels through Peru, I have found the Peruvian people to be warm and friendly. While there are bad people to be found anywhere you go, I feel Peru is safer than a lot of major US cities.
Patti – I know you’ve written (on your blog) about altitude sickness and the impact on the body. Can you elaborate for my readers what are the telltale signs and what precautions they should take?
Me – Altitude Sickness or AMS is nothing to be taken lightly and one of the most important things that I think travelers to High altitude should do, is to familiarize themselves with the symptoms. While there are medications available to help a person adjust, you could still suffer AMS while taking them. For this reason, it is important to know the symptoms of severe AMS so that you can seek medical attention when needed.
The symptoms of mild to moderate AMS are:
- Difficulty sleeping
- Dizziness or light headedness
- Loss of apatite
- Nausea or vomiting
- Rapid Pulse
- Shortness of breath
Symptoms that may occur with more severe acute mountain sickness include:
- Blue Color to the Skin
- Chest tightness or congestion
- Coughing up blood
- Decreased consciousness or withdrawal from social interaction
- Gray or pale complexion
- Unable to walk in a straight line or unable to walk at all
- Shortness of breath at rest
Medical attention should be sought immediately if any of the above, severe symptoms are present.
Patti – You just returned from a trip to the United States. Now that you’re back in Cusco with the U.S. fresh in your mind… how does daily life in the U.S. contrast with daily life in Cusco?
Me – Considering Cusco is a fairly large city, Life seems to be about the same, lots of people, all in a big hurry to get somewhere. Now if you ask me to compare it to Huarocondo, I would say much different. Life here in Huarocondo is much more relaxed, people move at a un hurried pace, no car horns blaring. The main form of traffic tends to be livestock either going into the fields, or back home from a day of work or grazing.
Patti – I asked our Facebook followers to post questions they have about traveling to Peru. Here is what they’d like to know.
FB – What are the possibilities of getting to the Chaco (sp) Canyon?
Me – Unfortunately the only Chaco Canyon I can locate is in New Mexico, so that would be a long trip. If on the other hand, they were referring to Colca Canyon, that is roughly 6 hours away by bus or about an hour by plane.
FB – Can you recommend any restaurants in Lima?
Me – When in Lima, we usually eat in local places in Surquillo, as this is where my mother-in-law’s apartment is, because of this and the fact that I have a hard time remembering names, I asked my wife for a little help on this one, and we came up with a few places around Lima that we have dined and would recommend.
1.’La Panca’ in Surquillo on Ave. Villaran
2. Costa Verde in Barranco
3. La Red in Miraflores
4. La Tranquera in Miraflores
FB – Why should new travelers to Peru make time to visit Lima?
Me – Lima is full of beautiful architecture and history. There are museums, churches and even a ruin or two. Additionally Lima has become a real power on the food scene. While I feel the Main attractions are to be found in the Cusco region, a few days should definitely be allocated to Lima if possible.
FB – What is the best time of year to travel to Peru, weather and budget wise?
Me – This would all depend on where you are going and what you want to do, but as most people head for Cusco, I would recommend May to early June; this is at the end of the rainy season here in Cusco, so all of the area is still green and the weather should be great. It is also right before the busy season which starts in mid-June and runs through July, so crowds and prices are still low.
FB – Do you have information on the tiny monkeys that live in Peru?
Me – If you are referring to the pygmy marmosets or pocket monkeys as they are sometimes referred to, I don’t know a lot about them. I have seen one when visiting some water falls close to my in-laws home town of San Ramon. It was very cute and when we returned from the fall and wanted to get a picture of it, he was holding on to the back of a girl’s neck and sleeping under her hair.
Thank you for reading and I hope you found this interesting. To see more of Patti’s work head over to One Road at a Time, Patti and her husband are avid travelers with lots of interesting stories to share.