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www.audleytravel.co.uk | www.audley.co.uk | AUDLEY TRAVELLER | 47"Cuzco left us breathless - and not just because of the altitude"Gabrielle and Peter Mollett travelled to Peru, Ecuador and the Galapagos with AudleyApproaching Cuzco the plane nego ated its path around an outcrop of rocky mountainside and entered the high plateau of the valley in which the Inca Empire's former capital is situated. Our  rst views of Cuzco - nestling against the pastoral se ng of the surrounding hills and mountains - were characteris c of our Peru experience. It literally took our breath away and not only on account of the thin air at high al tude: the landscape, the many stunning Inca sites, the fascina ng history and not least the  iendliness of the Peruvian people ensured an unforge able stay.But it was our guide Jose who unravelled for us the jigsaw puzzle of stonewalls, buildings, terraces and temples we visited in Cuzco and the Sacred Valley. He always went that step further in his commentary and, as Inca history merged into Peru's post-Columbian narra ve, we were spell-bound by the drama c story that had engendered the mul -layered culture that we experienced. Walking through Cuzco is like walking through the past  ve centuries: many buildings and churches, including the splendid Iglesia Santo Domingo, are built on Inca founda ons with perfectly   ed limestone blocks  om Inca temples and palaces clearly visible above s eet level today. Cuzco is a  easure  ove not only of Inca sites but also of very good museums, especially the MAPI and Inca museum, and restaurants: Cicciolina stood out for its excellent, imagina ve fusion menu.Travelling through the Sacred Valley we were amazed at the innova ve agricultural terraces the Incas built on the valley's steep foothills. We enjoyed the bustle of the colourful Pisac market and climbed the steep steps up and up the terraces at Ollantaytambo to the un nished but nonetheless magni cent Temple of the Sun, a masterwork of Inca stonemasonry with its gigan c stones slo ed together in long s aight lines and placed to glow in the rising sun. Staying at the Hotel Pakaritampu we relaxed in the pre gardens while watching hummingbirds  y. Next morning we boarded the  ain for Aguas Calientes, the small town below Machu Picchu - the last lap of our journey. Almost impercep bly, the view outside our panoramic windows  ansformed; the lush mountain range changed into cloudforest-covered peaks.  ese loomed ever closer together over the narrowing valley through which the Rio Urubamba makes its way, undeterred by rocks or our railway  acks that some mes seemed to skim its surface. And so hurried  ain and river, side-by-side, to our des na on. To read more about Gabrielle and Pe r's journey (which included Machu Picchu, Ecuador and the Galapagos) please visit:www.audley.co.uk/ aveller/spring2013PERU, ECUADOR & GALAPAGOSCuzco - a spectacular city, day or night

48 | AUDLEY TRAVELLER | www.audley.co.uk/share The Takkyubin luggage  ansfer service sheds light into the Japanese ethos. Lengthy, mul -part forms, exac ng measurement of bag dimensions, the insistence of "cash-only" - it's a challenge to use your credit card in the land of the rising sun - and an u erly infallible service. You say goodbye to your bags one day and the next they wait expectantly for you to walk into your new hotel room. Not having to s uggle down stairways with heavy bags at the Tokyo railway sta on was a bonus but, even if we had, there'd have been space on the bullet  ain.  e e ciency of the Japanese rail service is well known and so we an cipated the unerring accuracy of the  ain's departure as we joined the pa ent queues within their painted boxes on the pla orm  oor. More unexpected was the sight of the pink through emp carriages, emerging in a whirl of white gloves and smiles.  eir happiness was infec ous.A er Tokyo, we entered the warm embrace of a  adi onal ryokan (guesthouse).  e a en on to our weary  aveller needs providing a diversion  om the giggles as we exchanged  en followed the quiet shock of our  rst onsen (bathing) experience - swimming costumes forbidden and towels the size of a handkerchief - slowly subsiding as one slipped into near coma  om the intense, sulphuric heat.  e thought 'bushtucker  ial' popped into my head as our evening meal was served in our room; unfairly so, the varie of food is mesmerising, the presenta on immaculate and the tastes exquisite. We did draw the line at raw octopus for breakfast. "Living happily side-by-side, the old meets the new in Japan"JAPANEmerging once more into the outside world there was a s ange relief to be reunited with our shoes, giving way to regret when turning to see our recent hosts smiling and waving un l we disappeared  om view. Perhaps they wanted to be sure we weren't coming back! From ubiquitous shrine to glitzy shopping dis ict, painted geisha to bullet  ain, pale cherry blossom  ees to the gaudy blue tarpaulins laid beneath them - old meets new, living happily side by side.We embraced the Japanese way. Alone in the cavernous halls of a newly built museum, and a er viewing a collec on of prints by the woodblock master Hiroshige, we came across a basket of wigs and clothing. And so, being completely alone, we dressed up as 18th century peasant  avellers, standing self-consciously in  ont of a landscape tableau. From nowhere, an a endant scurried across the limestone  oor, snapped our picture and  ed. I can s ll hear her laughing.uniformed cleaners gliding e ortlessly jeans and T-shirts for kimonos. Paul and Dawn Noke travelled to Japan with AudleyTraditional icons such as shrines and geisha remain iconic highlightsTRAVELLERS' TALES