Adventure to Peru

Unbounded Adventures recently returned from our 9-Day tour of Peru. On this amazing tour we visited Cusco, Ollantaytambo, Machu Picchu, and spent four remarkable days in the Amazon Jungle at an Ayahuasca Retreat.

The tour was designed to offer unique experiences of different places with culture, adventure, and the opportunity to participate in the life-changing experience of an Ayahuasca Ceremony. This blog is to review the tour and talk about the experience of the Ayahuasca Ceremony.

The city of Cusco with a view of San Pedro Central Market (left) and St. Peter's Church (right).

The city of Cusco with a view of San Pedro Central Market (left) and St. Peter's Church (right).

We started our journey at 11,200 feet above sea-level in the city of Cusco, Peru, which is where most people start their trek to the ancient city of Machu Picchu. Cusco is a tourist-friendly city with a ton of culture and history from before the Incan Empire. We did a guided city tour and explored the Central Historic District. Later we stopped into the San Pedro Central Mercado where you can find just about anything, including fried guinea pig, donkey jaws, and a bucket of pigs heads. (I didn’t say it was anything you necessarily want).

Bucket o' pig heads.

Bucket o' pig heads.

Directly north of the city there’s an ancient Incan ruin overlooking Cusco called Saqsaywaman, (pronounced sexy woman) which is a five-minute ride by bus, or you can get there by horse.

Riding horses up to the Sacsaywaman ruin. Clouds rolled in and it sprinkled for a few minutes before it cleared out.

Riding horses up to the Sacsaywaman ruin. Clouds rolled in and it sprinkled for a few minutes before it cleared out.

View overlooking Ollantaytambo and ruins.

View overlooking Ollantaytambo and ruins.

From Cusco it’s a two-hour ride to Ollantaytambo, a small scenic town in the Andes Mountains with cobblestone streets, sandstone buildings, and ruins overlooking the town. We stopped in Ollantaytambo (oy-en-tay-tambo) for a day to catch the train to Aguas Calientes (aka Machu Picchu Pueblo), which is the town at the base of Machu Picchu. There aren’t any roads to Aguas Calientes, so the only way to get there is by train, thereby adding to panoramic beauty of our excursion.

Train from Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes

Train from Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes

Ollantaytambo was an enchanting and awesome place to spend the day while we waited for our evening train. There are plenty of places to explore with nice restaurants and outdoor seating to enjoy the scenery. There are satisfying half-day hikes to the ruins perched in the hills that overlook the town. It was a perfect chance for us to explore the amazingly well-preserved ruins.  

Next we arrived by train to the bustling little town of Aguas Calientes along the Urabamba River. The town has narrow and hilly streets lined with shops, restaurants, and bars. There’s plenty of activity with tourists coming and going all the time.

Aguas Calientes, aka Machu Picchu Pueblo - nestled in the Andes Mountains along the Urubamba River.

Aguas Calientes, aka Machu Picchu Pueblo - nestled in the Andes Mountains along the Urubamba River.

Machu Picchu - The lost city in the mountains.

Machu Picchu - The lost city in the mountains.

There are two ways to get to the Machu Picchu ruins from Aguas Calientes, hike or take the bus. The bus is much faster, but hiking is much more rewarding. Machu Picchu is absolutely stunning and almost impossible to do justice. This city was originally built around 1450 and abandoned 100 years later. It was lost for centuries until Hiram Bingham re-discovered it in 1911 on an expedition through South America. Most archaeologists agree that Machu Picchu was only used for part of the year during the winter months, and at most it was home to around 1,200 people.

View from the east side of the ruin looking towards the Montana Picchu and the main entrance.

View from the east side of the ruin looking towards the Montana Picchu and the main entrance.

It is no surprise that Machu Picchu is considered one of the Seven Wonders of the World. Photos cannot begin to do it justice, and it is easy to understand why this resplendent place is on so many people’s bucket list. The Incas believed there was an unseen power or energy in the mountain, which was the reason they chose to build the city there.

We left Machu Picchu and caught an evening train back to Ollantaytambo where we stayed the night. The next day we went back to Cusco and hopped on a quick flight to Pucallpa. Pucallpa is the city in the rainforest and where we began the last part of our journey, four days at an Ayahuasca Retreat in the Amazon Jungle.

The view of Nueva Luz de Fatima as you step off the boat.

The view of Nueva Luz de Fatima as you step off the boat.

Our retreat was located on the Ucayali River in an alluring little village called Nueva Luz de Fatima. Staying at the village was an incredible experience that gave people the chance to unplug, unwind and relax. Our shaman’s name was Gilber who was a third generation shaman taught by his grandfather and father. Gilber had been working with ayahuasca for over 30 years, and besides being an extremely gifted shaman, he is also incredibly humble, inviting, and happy to tell stories about his life and adventures.

Ayahuasca has been used by civilizations in Central and South America for thousands of years, and it is considered to be a medicine that can physically and mentally heal. An experienced shaman always guides and oversees an Ayahuasca Ceremony. Ayahuasca is a tea brewed by using chacruna leaves and the chagropanga vine, both of which grow in the Amazon. The active ingredient in ayahuasca is dimethyl-triptamine, or DMT, which causes hallucinations that last between 4 and 8 hours. In the past 10 years a good deal of research has emerged into the science behind DMT and the impact on the brain. During an ayahuasca ceremony, an MRI of the brain activity shows that more of the brain is being used – it literally expands the brains functioning. This video briefly discusses the science behind the brain on ayahuasca.

Sapote, a native fruit that grows in the Amazon.

Sapote, a native fruit that grows in the Amazon.

During the day at the retreat guests can relax in a hammock by the river, swim in the pool, and go on boat tours and jungle tours. Fresh, local, and healthy food is prepared for all meals, and special dietary needs are accommodated. The Ayahuasca Ceremony begins each night at dusk in the maloka. Each person is given the tea in a small glass by Gilber.

From this point on everyone’s experience is different. Some people immediately start having visions and for others it takes longer.

“The first time I took ayahuasca I sat for an hour and a half without anything and was starting to think it wasn’t going to do anything, but eventually the visions started. I was told that for most people the visions come in waves--and that they start and eventually stop for a little while, then another wave will hit. Some of the people in the room told me later that their experience lasted as little as two hours and others told me it lasted up to eight hours. I guess it just depends on the person.

During my first experience, I got a lot of information about my life and saw myself through other people’s eyes. Everything in my life made sense and I was seeing things clearly. I was also aware of everything going on around me. I was completely aware of sensations in my body and the people around me. It was truly an eye-opening and amazing experience and by the time it was over it felt like I had truly gone on an epic journey.”

We spent a total of four nights at the jungle retreat, with the option to participate in four ayahuasca ceremonies. On the fifth day we left the jungle and started our trek home. The journey was over and the tour was a total success. It was a rewarding and life-changing experience that left us all in a deep reverie for weeks to come. The group bonded, connected, and shared, we had cultivated life-long friendships.

We are planning two more trips to Peru this year, one in July and one in September. This tour is an adventure for people who want something different, exciting, and rewarding. It is a transformative trip, and if it seems like something you’d like to experience, then we would love for you to join us!

Please remember, this trip is not for everyone and if you are considering it, we would ask you to research and make an informed decision.

We encourage and welcome you to contact us with questions so we can address and discuss your specific needs. At Unbounded Adventures we offer personalized care and attention to your safety, comfort and travel needs. With our Peru travel team of Gilber, Angel, Tim, and the entire village of Nueva Luz de Fatima, you are in good hands.

Travel and adventure is the best gift you can give yourself, and a gift that keeps giving. Experiences enrich and fill our lives. Mark Twain said it best;

--”Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

We hope you’ll join us on a future tour for the adventure of a lifetime!