The Joys of (Not) Going it Alone

A mother of two prided herself on navigating the world solo—on her own terms. So when she set off for Peru with her daughter and a bevy of friends, she expected the worst. What she got instead was a warm surprise—and breathtaking vistas

by Marcia DeSanctis
peru image
Machu Picchu, the crowning glory of the Inca Empire, is seen here at dawn’s light. Built in the 15th century by people who worshipped the sun, this city, high in the Andes, seems to touch the sky.
Photograph: Diane Cook & Len Jenshel

“I don’t think I will be able to stay awake for the party tomorrow night,” I said. This was South America: The festivities would begin at 11.

“Yes, you will,” she said, and we kept walking into the wind. “Doesn’t it all go so fast, Marcia?”

“I guess it does,” I said. The others were scattered around us. Ava and her friends laughed, bending to collect shells; Ann and Phoebe were off to the side, deep in conversation.

“It stinks you got sick,” Liz said. “But it’s funny. We all love to have someone to take care of.”

I dabbed the raw skin under my nose with a wet tissue. The 11 of us converged toward the bus that sat waiting.

“Hey, Liz,” I whispered. “How would you like a fancy hotel and a -really hot shower tonight?” She turned toward me and raised an eyebrow at the invitation. “I’m too . . .,” I said, shrugging, “sick to be alone.”

“Will we get back in time to dune board?” she asked.

I nodded, then said, “I could really use the company.”

In 2012, Marcia DeSanctis received three Lowell Thomas Awards, including the silver award for Travel Journalist of the Year. She is writing a memoir about travel and marriage.

Next: Call of the Wild: A Trip of a Lifetime

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Machu Picchu There are 17 (80-minute) flights from Lima to Cuzco daily. From Cuzco, take the train through the Sacred Valley to Aguas Calientes, which is four hours and connects with a short bus ride to Machu Picchu. I booked this through Enigma Travel Collection (, and the fee—$348 for adults, $311 for teenagers—included transportation to and from the train station, an English-speaking guide, the bus and entrance to Machu Picchu. Pack: Hiking shoes and sunscreen, and if you think you might be susceptible to altitude sickness, ask your doctor to prescribe Diamox. From June to September, the nights are dry but chilly, so bring some layers.


Tambopata National Reserve After you arrive in Puerto Maldonado, a boat will ferry you an hour along the river to the Inkaterra Hacienda Concepción ( Rates are about $360 for three days and twonights and include round-trip transportation, all guides, tours and meals but, sadly, just one pisco sour. Pack: Long hiking pants, high socks, a lightweight, crushable hat and some energy bars to sustain you on the lengthy (and very hot) walk to Lake Sandoval. Long sleeves are best for the jungle.

Paracas Until construction is completed on the international airport in nearby Pisco, the best way to cover the 180 miles from Lima to Paracas is by bus (about three and a half hours) or rental car or, if you splurge, charter plane. Hotel Paracas can arrange tours to the Ballestas Islands and the National Reserve. Hotel rooms during peak season are $170 to $690 a night (star​wood​ Pack: Waterproof jacket and layers. —M.D.S.

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