Looked after by Andes Adventures

I would like to tell you about a company that really came through when things went awry. The company is Andes Adventures (1323 12th St., Ste. F, Santa Monica, CA 90401; phone 800/289-9470 or 310/395-5265 or visit www.andesadventures.com).

I booked a 10-day tour to Machu Picchu, Peru, with Andes Adventures for Oct. 7-16, ’04. The cost was $2,425 from Los Angeles, with single supplement included as well as all meals and round-trip internal air Lima to Cusco. This was a fully inclusive trip.

The tour was exceptionally well organized, and the tour guide was great. It was a great experience. But that is not why I am writing.

There was a small group of us. The tour was planned to end in Cusco on Thursday, and on Friday morning we were to fly from Cusco to Lima. We would have hotel rooms where we could relax before catching a 1 a.m. flight back to Los Angeles on Saturday morning.

At our farewell dinner on Thursday night we learned that, as a result of a dispute between the airline LAN Peru and the Peruvian government (and I still don’t understand what it was all about), all planes had been grounded. Nothing was flying on Friday, the day we were due to depart.

Our tour was over, and our guide, Abelardo, should have been home with his family. However, he spent all day Friday trying to negotiate an alternative to getting us home. This was to no avail since there are virtually no alternatives out of Cusco. We had vacated our hotel rooms in Cusco (since we were supposed to leave), but Andes Adventures promptly arranged rooms for us at no cost to ourselves.

By Saturday the planes were flying again, but the airport was bedlam as all the displaced travelers fought for the few vacant seats available. Abelardo remained with us, sacrificing more of his personal time. I don’t know how he did it, but he got us seats on the flight and we were able to bid him farewell after he had spent the best part of two days of his time off on our behalf.

Of course, we had missed our flight to Los Angeles, but Andes Adventures again stepped up to the plate, making new flight reservations for us. This was done by their (unseen) staff in L.A. Since we could not leave until 1 a.m. Monday, Andes Adventures provided us with hotel accommodation, again at no cost to us. The only downside is that we had to spend an extra day sightseeing in Lima!

Not only did Andes Adventures provide us with an excellent tour, but they unhesitatingly helped when things went awry — matters outside of their control for which they had no responsibility — and they did not ask for any extra compensation. (I did tip Abelardo and a helper he used.)

A tour company that can handle unforeseen problems and not let them spoil a traveler’s vacation is a real find. Andes Adventures is such a find.

Woodland Hills, CA