Holidays are supposed to be about getting away from work, right? Not for these four. We chat to Keryn and Amy – two of our favourite Wotif peeps – to find out why they, an ex-Wotifian, and a redhead all went on a South-American adventure together.
How did this group trip come about?
AMY: Do you believe in fate? Because I don’t.
Like all good ideas, this one was first hatched in a bar. Some of us didn’t know each other that well, but we felt we were all pretty ‘trip compatible’. We all had full-time jobs and similar personal circumstances, plus we shared a love of travel and how do I put this… a willingness to leave our partners at home (read: our man friends are not into hiking).
Also not to be discounted was the fact that a few of us had worked together. When you sit next to someone most of the day, you see them deal with stress, early morning calls, and late-night deadlines. There aren’t many other situations where you can test spending 40+ hours a week with someone!
Where did you go? What did you do?
KERYN: We travelled for 3.5 weeks across Peru, Bolivia, and Argentina… Or more precisely, we:
- Had our pisco-sour initiation in Miraflores, Lima.
- Cruised down a river to the Amazon Jungle (Madre de Dios region) to watch wildlife and apply a million layers of sunscreen and DEET. (Amazon note: Howler monkeys are great alarm clocks, macaws are stunning, and capybaras may be super large rodents, but they’re also super cute).
- Adjusted to the altitude and were overwhelmed by the generosity of the local communities in Cusco.
- Hiked the 32km Quarry Trail (starting and ending in Ollantaytambo) over three days. We were 4450m above sea level, with hiking poles for friends and no showers, but we also had unparalleled views and an unforgettable experience.
- Visited the floating islands of Lake Titicaca and hung out with our home stay families (and lost a competitive game of volleyball).
- Had a quick stopover in La Paz, Bolivia.
- Were charmed by the pretty pastels, European feels, and tango dancing in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
You camped and hiked…for three days… Why?
KERYN: FOMO? It was physically and mentally challenging, but we knew that if we were going to do this trip, we wanted to do it right. When else would we get the opportunity to wake up to a view of the Sacred Valley? We knew we’d regret not committing to the full experience and we hoped we were at the right fitness levels to give it a crack.
Why did this trip work? Wait… did it work?
AMY: Heck, yes, it worked! I’ve been on a few group holidays and making them work isn’t rocket science. They work when they’re made up of reasonable people being reasonable. Respect is key.
Of course, aligning holiday leave and budgets is important (and sometimes tricky). But early planning also sets expectations and decreases the risk of indecision during the trip. So you can spend more time sampling cocktails from cool bars and attending local flamenco shows and less time getting into passive-aggressive “I didn’t even want to go here” wars.
Pro tip – at times we were tired, sick, and hangry. Saying ‘cheers’ (or salud!) before dinner was a great opportunity for a quick apology if we’d snapped at someone, or to say thanks to the friend who’d nursed us through our second tummy bug (thanks again, Jess).
But do you all hate each other now?
AMY: No, definitely not – we’re better mates than ever. When you share a tent or thin bathroom door with a friend while battling altitude sickness, you, um… bond?
You make group memories that will keep you laughing for years to come.
What are your top tips for group travel?
- Have pre-trip planning sessions early and often. Rotate visiting each other’s houses, with your laptops and passport deets in hand, and research as a group to figure out what destinations and activities you do (and don’t) agree on.
- Be prepared to book flights, hotels, and activities at the same time.
- You’ll get sick of trying to split bills after every meal, so appoint a Trip Treasurer to keep track of who owes who. Just use the Notes app on your phone!
- Try for an even number of people so no-one is ever left out or end ups footing the bill for a hotel room to themselves.
- Mix it up! Shake up the buddy system and try sharing rooms with different friends (er…maybe not so much if you’re travelling with couples!), or swapping bus/airplane seats every few days. Yes, one of your travel buddies might be your best mate, but there’s a limit to how many times even they can listen to that story.
Do you have any tips for travelling in South America?
- We haven’t put you off the idea of a hike? Awesome! We can’t recommend the Quarry Trail enough. It may not be the ‘traditional’ Inca Trail (which goes for four days and treks right up to Machu Picchu), but it has the benefit of being a quieter trail. We didn’t see a single other tourist during those three days, whereas the Inca Trail sees hundreds every day.
- South America is awesome, but the change in food, climate, and altitude can be a shock to the system. Before you go, get together as a group and decide what medication and supplies each person will bring and if you’ll have enough to share so you can avoid over packing and overspending. If it’s to do with stomach bugs, it’s worth bringing double for each person, especially if you’re travelling for a few weeks. Things like bandaids, insect repellent, and sunscreen can definitely be pooled.
- Bring your appetite for potato and corn! There’ll be several types of each on your plate at each and every meal. No complaints here.
Book your next trip to South America