Sarah’s Peruvian Adventure (2010)

During November 2010, I went to Peru in South America. The highlights of the trip included a four-day trek on the Classic Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, the Amazon rainforest, the old Inca capital of Cuzco high in the Andes, and the cold azure waters of high altitude Lake Titicaca with a native home stay on Amantani Island.

After reading the trip notes over and over again and buying all the latest rain protection kit, I felt prepared for the monsoon season (as a wedding photographer this was the only time I could really go). However – what I hadn’t prepared for was unusually hot and dry weather!!! Luckily my nan made me take sun-cream and a hat….thanks nan….I guess you do know best πŸ™‚

Our journey started when we got a flight to Puerto Maldonado, a small jungle town in the Amazon rainforest. I have never experienced humidity like this before and it came as a bit of a shock compared to my usual holiday destination of Scotland. We went by boat for 4 hours to our jungle lodge Tambopata Reserve, where we had strict instructions not to wonder off on our own. On the night time guided tour, we had to make sure trousers were tucked well into our socks to avoid the ants climbing up our legs – not my best fashion moment.

After the Amazon rainforest stay we made our way to the city of Cuzco. The city had a lovely old and friendly feel to it. Whilst in Cuzco, we visited the nearby Inca ruins of Sacsayhuaman and Qenco, which overlook the city. There was lots of opportunity to buy some fantastic products such as hats and rugs from the local women, at very good prices – if only I had another suitcase with me. The Inca Trail. Unfortunately, I don’t have many photos from the first few days of the trek as I became very ill. In fact, the guides wanted to send me off the trail, but with help from some fantastic people in the group helping to carry the contents of my rucksack and even my camera equipment I managed to get through the first few days on virtually no food. I knew this was likely to be my one-and-only chance at attempting the trail and didn’t want to miss out! So a massive thanks to everyone who looked after me πŸ™‚The aptly named Dead Woman’s Pass or Warmihuanusca, was a climb of over 1000m taking us to our highest altitude point of 4234m (13,780 ft). We were literally walking in the clouds.The most amazing location to camp, the views were incredible. Waking up to a good thunderstorm the following morning was very exciting, if not a little nerve-racking. Along the trail we visited some Inca ruins such as Runquracay. On the forth and final day, we embarked on a 2 kilometre staircase. After all that going-up it was inevitable that we had to come down at some point. I’m not in any hurry to repeat this again any time soon ;p

The final steep staircase took us to the sun gate where we got our first view of the famous Machu Picchu. An amazing view – once I got my breath back from all that climbing. We all enjoyed a well-earned treat at the natural hot springs in the nearby town of Aguas Calientes, (the pool-side bar was very welcome too). The following day we went back to Machu Picchu for a proper tour. Yes, I did buy a “I survived the Inca Trail” t-shirt.

Machu Picchu – one of the seven wonders of the world – was built in the 15th century at the height of the Inca Empire. It was abandoned just over 100 years later, as a result of the Spanish conquest. Although known locally, it was unknown to the outside world before being brought to international attention by the American historian Hiram Bingham in 1911. Since then, Machu Picchu has become a popular tourist attraction. Experts speculate that it served as a place of worship, a sight for tracking stars, and the ninth Inca emperor.

Next, we headed towards Lake Titicaca on a long coach journey (450km) across the Altiplano, the high plains separating the Andes from the jungle, stopping off along the way. Lake Titicaca sits 3,811m (12,500 ft) above sea level, making it the highest commercially navigable lake in the world. It is 120 miles (194km) long and 50 miles (80km) wide at its broadest point. The Uros people live on floating islands made from reeds, and they describe their buoyant life as living between water and heaven. We were shown by the woman on one floating reed island how they make them, and what happens if there is a family fall out – they use a saw and cut it in half ;p We even got to dress up in their traditional costume, but Im not sure the fashion will catch on here any time soon.Amanti Island has no electricity or roads – very peaceful. My leg muscles were punished further with even more steep hills on the island to climb, which came as a bit of a shock as I thought my hill climbing was over for the holiday. During our stay on the Island we split into smaller groups and stayed with some local families. The local well was outside the house of the family I was staying with.Coca Tea (below left) is a herbal tea made using the leaves of the Coca plant which contain several alkaloids including cocaine. The amount of cocaine in the leaves is very small though – only about 0.4%. It has a mild bitter flavour similar to green tea with a more organic sweetness. This is available to drink with most meals because it is widely believed to alleviate the symptoms of altitude sickness. The leaves just need to stew for a while in hot water as with the mint tea (below right), but some locals like to chew it.With no electricity, their kitchen was very basic, but I have to say the food was far better than I can manage with a kitchen full of gadgets ;p This really was the trip of a lifetime and I made some great friends along the way. We’re already planning to meet up again soon. Hope you enjoyed the photos.



  • Wasn’t it brilliant. Thanks Sarah for putting such a great selection together – really brought back some fab memories.

  • Albert Palmer
    February 5, 2011 9:27 am

    Very jealous. I love South America but not been to Peru yet. Photos look like something out of the lonely planet. Only better!

  • Beautifully photographed Sarah, a photographer’s paradise.

  • Superbly captured, would love to do that

  • Alan Hutchison
    February 6, 2011 3:10 pm

    Wonderful Sarah – so jealous – I’d love to do something like that – fabulous photography.

  • Elizabeth & John Emms
    February 6, 2011 7:18 pm

    What amazing photo’s – glad you had such a wonderful time.

  • Thank you so much for everyones comments. It really was a fantastic trip and would recommend it to anyone. πŸ™‚

  • Rob Sanderson
    February 7, 2011 3:37 pm

    Thanks for sharing! Looks like you had a great time, the photos make me want to go

  • Sarah, these blew me away. The sort of photographic record that gives me itchy feet to jump on a plane and go…superb.

    That spider is frightening!

  • Today I won a Β£10 voucher to spend at the Clachaig Inn, Glencoe Scotland as they are running a “T-shirt compitition”. The idea is to wear one of their T.Shirts in an interesting location. I remembered that I had one of their T-shirts on whilst I was on Lake Titicaca so sent them the photo πŸ™‚ We love the Clachaig and go back every year.

  • Hiya
    Came across this website and these fantastic photos by accident.
    What i would like to ask is:
    What was the name of the company that organized this trip as i am thinking of going and this looks amazing.
    Looking forward to your reply


  • Hi Gill

    Many thanks for your comments.
    I booked this trip through Exodus (I would highly recommend it). Trip code is: TPJ

    Hope you enjoy the trip as much as I did πŸ™‚

  • Hi Sarah
    Have just enjoyed your wonderful photos and they brought back some good memories as I did a similar trip several years ago. Big difference between a photographer and a happy snapper!
    All the best

  • Thanks Anna

    This was my first trip to South America, and I really want to go back and explore more of it! The locals were all so friendly πŸ™‚

  • Sarah,

    They are absolutely fantastic pictures, thanks for sharing. I’m going on a similar trip in 3 weeks time and I was wondering if you had a lot of specialist photography gear with you?

    Any tips for the Inca Trail? πŸ™‚


  • Hi Colin

    I didn’t take my main camera, just a D300 as this was a lot lighter to carry. I mainly used a 18-200 lens. You will find you will be on the move a lot and just want to keep things simple.

    The most useful item I took was a camera bag that went round my waist to take the weight off my shoulders, and to allow quick access to my camera.

    For the 2 week trip I took 8 x 8gb memory cards and lots of batteries and I got through all of them!! Try and wait until you get home before looking at all your photos as this will save your batteries.

    Hope that helps and you have a fab time πŸ™‚

  • Hey!
    Amazing photos – I’m off to do this tomorrow with Exodus so this is great inspiration! Did you bother to take a tripod or too much bother?

  • Hi Amit

    No I didn’t take a tripod. I didn’t want the hassle of having to carry it, especially on a 4 day hike on the Inca Trail. Hope you enjoy the trip as much as I did πŸ™‚

  • Angela Young
    May 25, 2011 8:07 pm

    Stunning photos Sarah, I really enjoyed looking through them.

  • Thanks Angela

  • Wonderful photos . I would love to do this trip but am not fit enough – gammy hip and 60 years of age !!

  • Superb photos. You’ve really captured it all and given me a great visual insight into the adventure I will be embarking on myself next week. I’m so excited as the Inca civilisation has fascinated since I was a child.


  • Hi Sarah, I just wanted to say i love your photos and they have made me even more excited for my forthcomming trip walking the Inca Trail, I dont leave until May but just cant wait. I am taking my Nikon D3000 and just want to make sure i have enought memory cards and batteries as i dont want to miss a minute of it. Thank you for sharing your adventure, it will be mine too very soon. All the best Leza x