Checkfront Travels: A Culinary Experience in Machu Picchu

January 24, 2019, Scott Reid
View of Machu Picchu at sunset.

Checkfront Travels is a new series on the blog where our team members tell stories about their various adventures abroad. In this article, Scott shares with you his experience trekking to Machu Picchu. If you want to see more of Scott’s journey in Peru, check out his post, A Trek that Takes your Breath Away.


Our guides told us there would only be a “slight incline” to get to Machu Picchu. After enduring 4,000 stairs in the rain, we finally got to remove our trendy green ponchos and glimpse at the Incan citadel just as the clouds parted. It was the most satisfying sense of accomplishment I’ve ever felt — which paired perfectly with the exceptional meal we enjoyed prior. Here’s my experience with Alpaca Expeditions.

The steep incline hiking to Machu Picchu.
Slight incline. Looks almost as steep as the revenue curve after implementing an online booking system.

The journey to Machu Picchu with Alpaca Expeditions

After yet another 3 am wake up, my friends and I made the long journey to the starting point of the Inca trail. As soon as we got there, we had a little hiccup with our passports. Since I had mistakenly switched up the passport numbers in my back-and-forth emails with Alpaca Expeditions, our permits looked a little off to the government officials at the checkpoint. Luckily, our guide, Wilson, was there to smooth it all over so we could continue.

The email with Alpaca Expeditions about booking information.
Oops!

We began the trek with a fruit breakfast and a round of introductions to the porters and cooks that Alpaca Expeditions hires from rural communities around Cusco. Otherwise known as the Green Machine, this tour company values social justice and makes an effort to include the porters in the expeditions — which we thought made the experience that more special.

Meeting the cooks of Alpaca Expeditions for the first time.
This guy cooked like a ten course meal with a camp stove.

Within the first twenty minutes, Wilson already started sharing the story of the Inca empire. Considering we briefly covered this topic in our North American education, he shattered our foundational beliefs. Throughout the trek, we got to learn from him. At the end of our two-week trip, I even asked my friend who he thought was the most interesting person we met, and he agreed it was Wilson. That’s the level of impact his storytelling skills had on us. Of course, if you want to know what he taught us, you’ll have to go on the tour yourself.

Listening to Wilson's tour guide storytelling during the Machu Picchu expedition.
Wilson the storyteller.

After climbing thousands of stairs in the rain — wearing only a poncho as protection — a genuinely welcome sight greeted us halfway up. Since we were high in the Andes Mountains, we didn’t expect anything more than typical camping food like hot dogs. Much to our surprise and delight, they prepared a traditional spread including stuffed avocados, Lomo Saltado, and Aji de Gallina. Everything was delicious; I even enjoyed the bean salad.

Eating lunch provided by Alpaca Expeditions halfway through the hike.
I think the look on Nik’s face here says it all.

Suffice it to say that we were eager to eat at the time. With our early morning journey prior, and the energy we spent trudging uphill, a bountiful, quality meal was something we truly needed. At Arival Las Vegas — the in-Destination event — Douglas Quinby stated that every tour operator is in the culinary tour business whether they liked it or not. And Alpaca Expeditions drove this point home for me. The lunch they prepared blew our expectations away and made the experience that much better.

You are already in the culinary tourism industry.

Douglas Quinby, co-founder and CEO, Arival

A few hours and another thousand stairs later — including a particularly challenging set called the Gringo Killers — we finally made it to the Sun Gate to see Machu Picchu. Right around this time, it stopped raining, the clouds parted, and the sun came out to shine directly onto the ruins for us. It was an awe-inspiring moment.

The view of Machu Picchu from the Sun Gate.
Worth it!

Throughout this experience, Alpaca Expeditions added many thoughtful touches. For instance, they woke us up in our tents with coca tea and gave us a green synthetic shirt to keep us dry and comfortable — which especially helped my friend Nik who only brought cotton tops. The timing of this swag demonstrated that our guides had empathy for what we were going through and were able to anticipate our needs.

Scott and his friend wearing the green ponchos provided by Alpaca Expeditions.
Have YOU ever felt like a plastic bag?

How to take this experience to the next level

Alpaca Expeditions delivered on an exceptional and memorable Machu Picchu trekking experience — aside from the weather at the start. However, it could’ve been outstanding from beginning to end with a few tweaks before my arrival.

Sending booking information to Alpaca Expeditions.
Mistakes can be made easily in email.

Communicating back and forth by email opens up the possibility for more mistakes to be made. Because of the initial passport mix-up, we didn’t start the day off on the best note. Additionally, the booking steps were unclear, and we had to ask for our deposit confirmation.

Email confusion regarding the next booking steps for paying the deposit.

Nowadays, travelers expect instant confirmation when it comes to booking and payment. A little bit of delay can cause anxiety and worry — which doesn’t make for the best experience before the day of the tour.

The emails of Scott asking for a deposit confirmation from Alpaca Expeditions.

By using advanced reservation technology instead, these roadblocks wouldn’t have been an issue. I would’ve felt more at ease about the deposit, and my friends could have entered their personal information on their own — meaning I wouldn’t have mixed up their passport numbers in the first place.

Final thoughts

Alpaca Expeditions is a world class tour operator, and I believe many tourism companies should aspire to be like them. The Green Machine has amazing guides, memorable branding (Green), strong values, a well-designed product, and a high degree of professionalism. That said, they can extend their quality customer service beyond the day of the tour to the day of booking with the help of an online booking system.

Scott standing in front of Machu Picchu.
Alpaca Expeditions provides a sense of accomplishment to its guests. What do you provide yours?

Thank you Alpaca Expeditions for giving me the adventure of a lifetime; it was an experience that I’ll never forget. If you’re planning to cross Machu Picchu off of your bucket list, make sure to check out their Facebook page. They provide an inspirational and in-depth experience unlike anything else.

Want to read about more adventures Checkfront has abroad?

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