For the participants of Peru Through the Lens in February 2012, this is an area where I will post many of the questions you have submitted to me by email, as well as the answers received so that everyone is up to date. Feel free to email me with questions and I will do my best to answer what I can, or find out for you!
Q: Should we bring items to give away when we are in communities?
A: (from G Adventures) We really recommend NOT giving away little trinkets/toiletries. Making a donation to an organization that does good work in Peru would be a far better use of your dollars than buying little trinkets to give away. It tends to perpetuate the idea that tourists are walking ATMs and there have been major problems with kids in developing countries being given candies/sweets by travellers (as many of them don’t even get proper meals). G for example, has their own not-for-profit Planeterra, so maybe start there if you are looking for suggestions for a worthy charity. Or check out this website: http://www.stuffyourrucksack.com/. (Also, usually it is Spanish work books/colouring books and supplies for travelling to South America).
HOWEVER, you could still bring a gift for the homestay families, which is far different. We will be staying with two different homestays each. One in Lake Titicaca and one at Ccaccaccollo. We have requested suggestions one what would be good gifts to show our appreciation. I will update when we have further details.
Q: Will we need good hiking shoes or will regular comfortable sneakers do the trick?
A: Although we are not hiking the Inca trail we will be on our feet A LOT. There will be lots of opportunities to walk around cities and communities while we are there. We will also have a bit of a hike the day we do Machu Picchu. Although we will be taking the train most of the way, there is still a climb to get to the top of the site, then thousands of stairs and somewhat rough terrain. Also take into consideration that it could be misty or rainy at any time. I would highly suggest a pair of hiking shoes for the grip and durability that they offer.
Personally, I will be wearing my Merrell (http://www.merrell.com/CA/en) hiking shoes for most of the trip, although I may take a second pair of sneakers if I can find room in my backpack, just in case my main pair get wet or give me blisters even though they are well broken in.
Q: Will we be backpacking all of our clothes or will regular wheeled suitcases be fine to use?
A: Yes, you will need a sturdy backpack for this trip. Personally, I’ve chosen to borrow one from a friend rather than purchase one. Wheeled suitcases will not be appropriate for the terrain in places such as Lake Titicaca and the Women’s Weaving Community where we do our homestays. We will be changing accommodations every day to every couple of days, so you will need to be able to carry everything with you.
Q: Will we have secure facilities to leave our bags in during the day while we’re out shooting?
A: As with travel to any country, it is necessary to take our own precautions to keep our personal items safe. Hotels will not be five star resorts. Some of the hotels that we stay at may have safes but they may not, or they may be able to keep our personal items secure in a room while we are out for the day. I would not count on this though … not just in Peru, in any unknown country that I travel to.
My biggest suggestion for everyone is to leave anything of value at home. Other than your camera gear of course!!! Any valuables you take with you, should be with you at all times … camera gear, jewelry that you can’t leave home, passports etc. That way, if there is a mishap, it will only be clothes and toiletries lost.
I don’t want to scare anyone. We will be safe and not traveling to volatile areas. I’m just advising to take precautions in advance to leave valuables at home.
I also suggest packing a couple of small combination locks for your back pack and camera gear for any time when we are in crowded places where pick-pocketing might take place. This will also keep pockets and zippers closed in case you trip or set your bag down and it tips over.
Q: Will the group be doing any formal dinners in restaurants or will it be strictly casual attire?
A: There will not be any formal dinners where dressing up is required. Group dinners will be casual attire. Women may wish to bring a casual, comfortable skirt or sun dress. Men may wish to have khaki pants or shorts and a casual shirt. Your main concern should be comfort, not fashion. We will not be anywhere with a dress code. I plan on packing one pair of sandals that will work for casual dinners and to give my feet a break from the hiking shoes.
Q: Cost of food – what would you recommend we budget for in terms of cash for food / incidentals?
A: Rose from The Adventure Travel Company in Halifax was in Peru last year. She has suggested that about $200 for food and incidentals should bemore than enough. For meals that aren’t pre-planned, you will have the option to eat fancy or cheap. Sometimes we will eat in a group, other times we’ll be off exploring different areas and eat based on what’s available. Often meals will cost $5-$7, so very cheap in comparison to what we are used to. Items that you purchase at the market are also very inexpensive. You can do a lot of shopping for $50, provided you have room in your backpack (or buy an extra one) to bring it all back.