Running the Inca Trail with two Olympians

For the record, my fitness level is pretty decent. Last February I competed in America's largest cross-country ski race, the 50 kilometer American Birkebeiner, and finished in a respectable, if not blazing, time of 3:44. However, compared to Olympic athletes, I'm essentially just another couch potato.

"Err," I answered, "I've been doing an hour run about three or four times a week."

"Great!" replied Roberto. "How would you like to hike the Inca trail?"

The question gave me pause. I've lived in Lima, Peru for close to ten years and I've done just about every tourist activity in the country, except the famous Inca trail. However, the prospect of hiking all day long and camping at altitude is not the type of undertaking you should agree to without consideration. From all accounts, the Inca trail is pretty difficult, so I wanted to make sure it'd be worth the trouble.

17 destinations and counting

By the time Patty Peavler has finished listing the countries she’s traveled to, it’s hard to keep them straight.

Alaska? No, Austria. Wait, both? Liechtenstein is big enough to be a country? And Iceland is the one not actually covered in ice, right?

If you can keep up, 17 or so destinations later, Peavler ends with “and I’ve been to Europe 21 different times.”

Travel nut, you think. This woman must excitedly carve out months at a time to leave behind her quiet Montrose Park home and jet off to fabulous places.

That’s where you’d be wrong. As much as she loves leading trips with Premier Members, the Farmers Bank travel club, the bank’s vice president of marketing is just as happy piddling around the capital city with her grandchildren, arranging flowers from her garden or serving First Christian Church. The travel just happens to be a very enjoyable job perk.

Born and raised in Frankfort, Peavler wasn’t always a traveler. In fact, she stayed local every chance she got. After graduating from Franklin County High School, she attended Kentucky State University where she received an undergraduate degree in history and a master’s in public affairs.

With two degrees in hand, Peavler started Capital Florists with Jack Perkins and arranged flowers for “three or four years” before deciding she wanted a job at Farmers Bank.

“Working for yourself is hard. I just sort of thought it was the right time to try something new.”

Peavler was hired in 1983 and has worked at Farmers since as part of the loan department, assistant vice president of marketing and finally VP of marketing.

As a young bank employee, Peavler’s first interaction with the travel club came through Mildred Browning, former vice president of marketing at the bank and club pioneer. Browning was the first to lead travel groups after Farmers learned of a bank in Texas, which had started a similar program.

“The bank here was able to mold their own group called Capital First Ladies, with Mildred as the director, and she planned just wonderful, marvelous trips for us,” recalled Peavler. Women (and now men, too) who were bank members could sign up to go with a group to any number of exotic locales, several times a year.

“It was a way for ladies who were members of the bank, but were maybe without a husband, to travel. Back then, two women wouldn’t even have thought of traveling to another country by themselves – probably not even to Cincinnati by themselves. So, it worked very well.”

According to Peavler, group travel has always been one of the most effective ways to see the world. Transportation, lodging and schedules are all planned and a local group sends you on your way with friends.

Also, being aware of financial considerations ahead of time – like meal costs and admissions fees – and having safety in numbers make group travel appealing to many.

Peavler took over as club director when she assumed the position as vice president of marketing nearly 16 years ago, and with close to 15 years of experience as a group traveler and 15 as a travel leader, her stories are endless and intertwined.

In one long breath, Peavler sang the praises of three different countries.

“I love Ireland,” she started. “I think its natural beauty is wonderful and the people are delightful, and by the way I have a trip going there in November that I still need four people for. But I think it’s a really good place to start your international travel because language isn’t a problem and they have a good opinion of the United States.”

“But, I will have to say that I was very intrigued by Iceland,” she continued. “It’s only five hours from Boston by plane. It’s interesting because when you go there, there aren’t very many trees because the Vikings had to use the trees for their ships, so they cut them all down. And even though the Icelandic language is just unpronounceable to me, you can speak English and they’ll speak it right back. They also have Kentucky Rebel barbecue sauce. And of course the geysers.”

And just for good measure, Peavler ended the breath with a shout-out to Peru. “Also really beautiful is Peru. Machu Picchu is very atmospheric, very beautiful. It was quite evident that people lived there and took care of it for a long time.”

And Peavler has just as much to say about Alaska, Canada, the Caribbean, Hawaii, Russia, Holland, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, the Czech Republic, Austria, Liechtenstein, Malta and Egypt.

Alaska prompts her to throw her head back in bliss as she recalls its beauty.

“I saw 12 bald eagles in one tree,” she exclaims. “One tree!”

And Russia, she says, may have been the most surprising place to visit.

“The have a museum there called The Hermitage that rivals the Louvre in the quality of art they have and it’s natural beauty.”

And the best place in the world to visit?

“Oh, I’ve been trying to think of that,” Peavler said. “But honestly, there are so many best places in the world.”

“I think of it like this: When I’m going someplace, I always pray, ‘Lord, show me what you want me to learn.’ Because if you go without an eye toward learning what that country is like and what the people are like, I think you’ve missed a lot of it. So it makes every place enjoyable.”

In the future, Peavler would like to visit Asia – particularly Easter Island and the Galapagos Islands – and South Africa.

“There really isn’t any place that’s not beautiful,” she said. “But it’s nice to see the rest of the world knowing I get to come back to Frankfort.

Trip Planner – Simplified Trip Planning To Machu Picchu Peru Launched

When it comes to planning the trip of a lifetime to a remote destination, a specialist can help cut through the stress and confusion. Traveling to Machu Picchu Peru to hike the famous 4-day Inca Trail is no exception. If Machu Picchu is on your ‘bucket list’, Outdoor Travel Adventures can simplify the planning process, and even make it enjoyable.

The first step is planning early. Since the Peruvian government enforced a daily permit limit of only 500 (including tourists and porters), permits sell out months in advance. Therefore, Outdoor Travel Adventures recommends planning your trip approximately 6 months ahead of your desired travel dates…the earlier the better. As of early June 2011, permits are nearly sold out through Sept 2011.

Once the process begins, Outdoor Travel Adventures will assist with everything from flight planning to packing tips. Their featured Inca Trails itinerary, the Machu Picchu Pilgrimage, is a favorite amongst discerning clients. Mark W. of California said this about his recent trip: “…the trip was amazing. We had a great guide, Teddy, and perfect weather. Machu Picchu was definitely worth the trip and hike.”

The Machu Picchu Pilgrimage is a 10-day itinerary featuring Lima, Cuzco, Sacred Valley, Inca Trail, and Machu Picchu. The 2011 trip price starts at $2295 per person (double occupancy) plus domestic Peru airfare of approx $350 per person. The trip includes accommodations, some meals, 8 days of guide service, and porters on the Trail. Trips are available any day on-request for a minimum of 2 people; max group size 12. The best weather is found April through September; although travel is available year round with the exception of February.

For more information on this or other adventure itineraries or additional Machu Picchu Tours call (619) 523-2137/ toll-free (800) 554-9059.

Outdoor Travel Adventures is a leading provider of adventure, nature, and luxury travel. We seek to match our customer’s travel goals with an experience that is right for them

Tourists worldwide to travel free to Machu Picchu

Lima, Jul. 07 (ANDINA). Tourists all around the world will be able to return all-expenses paid to the Incan citadel by participating in the photography contest named "I was in Machu Picchu" until July 31.

Commemorating the scientific discovery of Machu Picchu, national and international tourists have to send pictures of their visit to the mentioned citadel to the web page of the contest organized by Quimera HD with the support of Peru’s Ministry of Foreign Trade and Tourism (Mincetur).

These pictures will compete in seven categories: People, Funny, Traveling, Mystic, Landscapes and Nature, Architecture, and Ancients. The photos must be digitalized before being sent to the contest, which selection period began in May this year.

The prize granted to the seven winners will be a new visit to Machu Picchu with all-expenses paid for two persons, from anywhere in the world, during six days and five nights and one travel grant worth US$500.

Participants and voters will also be included to win different prizes such as digital cameras and alpaca goods.

Machu Picchu by car: The backpacker's alternative

Heading to Machu Picchu? You can skip the train and the Inca Trail.

The Peruvian government is in the process of constructing a highway that will allow tourists to arrive to Aguas Calientes by car, and while the work is not finished, it has already provided an alternative route for backpackers to reach the famed ruins.

Having already tried the classic train trip once, I decided to use a recent visit to Machu Picchu to try out this cheaper, more adventurous alternative. In some ways, we got more of an adventure than we expected.

The two-day tour began at 7 a.m. in Cusco. My partner and I were whisked away by car, through Ollantaytambo and the small town of Santa Rosa, where we got lunch, and finally arrived at Santa Teresa.

The finished road ends in Santa Teresa, and turns into a mud track, littered with potholes and hugging precarious cliffs. After a total journey time of seven or eight hours, during which we had a spectacular view of the Sacred Valley, we reached a hydroelectric plant along the Urubamba River.

Amherst firm helps Incan artifacts return home

AMHERST - Eleven years ago, architect Ann W. Marshall replicated Incan stonework for the walls of a traveling exhibit featuring artifacts from the famed mountain city of Machu Picchu.

This month, she and Elizabeth Morgan, a colleague at Kuhn Riddle Architects in Amherst, are helping to install that exhibit permanently in a building with the real thing. Its new home will be in a former Incan palace in what was once the ancient culture's capital, modern-day Cusco, Peru.

"Imagine a wall built without mortar that is centuries old, but today you can't slip a piece of paper into the space between the stone blocks," Marshall said.

Marshall designed the original exhibit, "Machu Picchu: Unveiling the Mystery," working with her husband, Michael A. Hanke, and his Amherst-based museum exhibit company Design Division. "Machu Picchu: Unveiling the Mystery" featured artifacts collected in Peru by American explorer Hiram Bingham III in 1912 and donated to Yale University's Peabody Museum.

At the time, the traveling exhibit was state-of-the-art, with an animated light-and-sound map of Machu Picchu and a great amount of effort put into introducing visitors to the Incans as people.

"We wanted to give people a feel for the architecture, the colors and so forth," she said. "We took people inside the house of an Inca. There was a figure there talking in traditional clothing who spoke to visitors."

The artifacts - there are 329 museum-quality items in the collection -were also displayed in a more meaningful way.

"Instead of putting them in big cases along the wall we divided them up into categories," Marshall said. "Metalworking, everyday life. Religious life."

Some objects are gold, she said. But most are pottery or made of human or animal bone.

The exhibit went around the country, appearing at Chicago's The Field Museum among other places, before returning to New Haven, Conn.

But the Peruvian people wanted the artifacts to return to Peru and have waged a long and at times acrimonious battle to get them back. Peru sued Yale in U.S. Federal Court in 2008, according to The Associated Press

"What's going to happen is that Yale is establishing a center in Cusco," Marshall said.

It will be a joint project with the Universidad Nacional de San Antonio Abad del Cusco and will be called the U.N.S.A.A.C.-Yale International Center for the Study of Machu Picchu and Inca Culture. The building itself is at least 500 years old.

The return of these artifacts has been a cause for national celebration in Peru. According to news reports, more than 224,000 people turned out to watch the country's president greet the first shipment when it arrived in May.

Morgan said the challenge of moving the exhibit goes well beyond updating the technology and getting everything translated into Spanish. The original displays were meant to fit into a standard museum interior, basically a black box. The palace in Cusco has a series of rooms and the 15th century building itself features not just Incan stonework, but additions made by the Spanish conquistadors.

"We can take the fake walls out and work with the original stonework," Morgan said. "The space also has a naturally lighted courtyard that we can incorporate."

Design Division is small, too small to handle the job on its own, Marshall said. That's why she brought the project to Kuhn Riddle. They are also working with contractors and architects in Peru.