Are you up to the physical challenges?

We just returned from this tour and I cannot recommend it highly enough. From the Sacred Valley, to Ollantaytambo, to Macchu Picchu in Peru, to hiking, snorkeling, and getting up-close and personal with wildlife on the Galapagos Islands, every day is an incredible adventure. However; it is important to know that this is a physically demanding itinerary and good mobility, balance and stability are a must.

Including our flights from and to USA, we took 10 flights in just over 2 weeks. You will need to check through airports and go through security every time. There are several days when you will be up and out of the hotel before dawn. You will climb stone steps that are hundreds of years old. Some are high, some are low, some are deep, some are narrow, all are uneven. In most places there are no handrails. Add in that you are climbing these steps at high altitude, stopping often to catch your breath.

In the Galapagos, you will transfer between the ship and the islands several times a day. This involves getting into rubber panga boats that are bouncing up and down in the water, and wet landings where you slide over the side of the panga into shallow water and wade to the shore. On the islands, you need to be able to walk at least a mile on uneven dirt, rock, sand, and lava trails, with nowhere to sit and no bathroom facilities. The ship provides walking sticks for those who want them and the tour is structured to bring you back to the ship after each activity.

Water activities include glass bottom boat and panga rides, kayaking, paddle boarding and snorkeling. One of the snorkeling opportunities was a walk-in from the shore. The others were deep-water snorkeling which involves getting into the water by going over the side of the panga. Snorkeling provides amazing opportunities to swim with the sea lions, who love to play and will nip at your fins and come face to face with you. It was a highlight of the trip. The ship provides the snorkels, masks, fins and wetsuits.

I recommend training for this tour in advance by walking, hiking up and downhill on uneven terrain, and climbing as many stairs as you can. Work on your cardio to help with breathing at high altitude. Bring good quality walking/hiking shoes with ankle support and break them in well in advance. Listen to your guides. If they tell you they think a hike will be too challenging for you, and you should sit it out or take an easier route, follow their advice. Some of the trails are challenging even for people in good physical shape.

This tour is an incredible adventure, but you must be physically capable of keeping up with a fast pace every day, managing lots of steps and uneven trails, getting into and out of the panga boats, and keeping up with the rest of the group. Know your limitations and set your expectations accordingly and you will have an amazing experience.



  • Options

    Well said MM Walsh. But despite whatever you say which is entirely true, there will be people here who are not fit and possibly have read your report but will still want to go. I’ve found myself on tours with such people and they compromise the tours for everyone else, this type of tour in particular. This is where river cruises are great because on challenging days you can elect to stay behind or chose the easier option that appear to be offered. It’s really sad not to be able or be as physically active, I dread that time coming. I wondered how I would fare in the elevation and humidity of Rwanda, so I upped my physical routines before I went, climbing a very long steep hill on one of our local trails more often than we normally take that trail, sometimes we don’t take that one for months. We knew we could literally be carried on that trek if it was too much, thankfully we did the trek.

  • Options

    Thank you, MM Walsh. That’s good information. We are scheduled for May. Of the numerous tours on our bucket list, we put this one ahead of most others primarily for that very reason. We’re still in decent, but not great shape and my balance is starting to slip some. Thought we should do this one sooner rather than later. We live at 7300 feet so hopefully the altitude won’t be too much of an issue, but I’ll try to be more disciplined about my daily walking.

  • Options
    edited June 2022

    Agree 200%

    Several months ago (actually before every tour) I up my activity and actually start training- I swim (serious, not leisure, interval training) and walk- I can't run with my knees. It has paid off.

    During the last morning at Machu Picchu the clouds weren't cooperating to catch sunrise over the mountains, so instead of waiting around I decided to make the hike from the hotel up to the Sun Gate- supposedly 1000' feet higher than the main site and takes 1.5 to 2 hours each way over uneven and often slippery 'steps' and rocks. I had to be back to check out and catch the last bus down, so had to hustle. Swimming helped with breath control when snorkeling.

    This year, I upped my walking to 7 miles w/o a break, 5- 7 days a week. Again, it paid off on Jordan & Egypt. At Petra- while people may be able to ride in a golf cart through the main site they will miss out on a number of sights just off the main trail. My training allowed me to trek up the mountains to both the Monastery and High Place of Sacrifice, back to back. The toughest challenge, however, was getting down to and out of the burial chambers deep inside the Bent Pyramid!! The amount of walking on Treasures of the Aegean should not be underestimated. There were a few folks on our tour who had trouble making it from the bus park up to the Acropolis.

  • Options

    Good for you, Alan. I’m unlikely to get up to 7 miles but you do give me inspiration to do more. A week in Scotland and ESW are coming up in a few weeks. Hopefully, I’m in good enough shape for those already.

  • Options
    edited June 2022

    I'm well into my 70's now but keep trying. Sometimes it is hard, and I can easily become a slacker, but I must admit is has really helped. Of course, my partial knee replacement, and the extra year to recover, didn't hurt, either! :)

  • Options

    We’ve taken both the Peru/Galapagos (one of my favorites) and Israel/Jordan tours. Both very active, lots of walking on uneven surfaces and stairs. We are in our early 70s, and unlike AlanS, we don’t train for our trips (kudos to you AlanS for being so rigorous). However, we both have a routine aerobic exercise regimen we stick with throughout the year including walking 3-4 miles weather permitting (we are in the Chicago area, so you never know). We handled both of these tours with no problem at all. Even the altitude at Cusco wasn’t much of a problem.

  • Options

    I did a pretty detailed blog of our trip to Peru and the Galapagos, including pointing out where the challenges are. You can see the blog at https://www.mikeandjudytravel.com/2021-1Galapagos-01.htm

  • Options
    edited June 2022

    Hi Mike! Your blog was a huge help to us in preparing for our trip. I recommend that everyone already booked on, or considering, this tour check it out.

  • Options

    Have been on physically demanding tours mentioned above.We are both in early to mid seventies;in good health.However problems creep up no matter how fit you are!Most recent Galapagos trip in December was 3 to 4 weeks after an epidural to relieve back pain for my husband.He made it thru the boulder hike without any issues although slowly.Did not holdup the rest of the group.While we don’t specifically train before the trip,we are quite active in the gym through out the year.The tour guides were very good;there was one leading the fast group and another with the rest of us.There was one in the rear as well.I am sure no one goes on these trips expecting to bring up the rear.Some empathy and tolerance toward co tourist is warranted;I am sure I would appreciate if I were injured or incapacitated in some way.It is the total tour experience!

  • Options

    The pace of the pack of each tour is always a variable. That is why I like the whisperers. I tend to be in the fast pack, but the whisperers allow me to wander and see other things in the same general area as the pack.

    I used this capability quite often in Petra where you can venture and get closer looks at some things, taking photos from a different perspective, that the pack as a whole can't (because of the timeline), and still stay in contact with the pack and hear the local guides entire commentary. In the past everyone had to stay within shouting distance of the local guide. And when there were multiple groups around it really was a shouting match.

    Empathy and tolerance are good things, but so is consideration of the majority. My point being, like when you're on a tour and the same person is always late for the bus loading/departure time. A single occurrence and I am empathetic and tolerant. Unexpected things can pop up that can make you late. Repeated behavior of this lateness, then it is on that person, regardless of the reasons. In this case, the empathy and tolerance get more like disgust with the person's lack of consideration for the majority.

  • Options
    edited June 2022

    Those whisperers work well for people with normal hearing but are a problem for people, like me, who wear over-the-ear hearing aids. The reason is that the microphone for the hearing aid is above the ear, as part of the unit over your ear. Tauck only provides earpieces that direct the sound to the ear canal.

    After each Tauck tour, I send a message to Tauck about how the earpieces do not work for people wearing over-the-ear hearing aids but they seem to never do anything about it.

    Silversea - on the Galapagos portion of a Tauck tour - uses a different approach that works much better. The tour guide has a transmitter, but it creates a WiFi network which we connect to with our smartphones, just like you connect to a WiFi network at home. There's an app that mates with the transmitter and we were instructed to download it before the cruise/tour. Then, you use your airpods (or whatever) to hear what the tour guide is saying. The app is available for both Android and Apple phones.

    Why is that better for people wearing hearing aids? Hearing aids now have Bluetooth built into them, so they act just like airpods, which puts the sound directly into my ears. For the first time, I was able to hear what the tour guide was saying. Previous to this, I would have to stand next to the tour guide to hear anything.

    [Update 6/24/2022: I just received a notice that Regent Seven Seas is going to that same "tour guide" system that Silversea uses.]

  • Options

    Pacing is certainly variable, and in many instances, it is up to you. Me, being me, if anything, I not only do, I over-do. :D However, I just don't do it on a whim, e.g. for my extra treks in Petra I planned it all and reviewed it all many times during COVID down time. My only miscalculation was not taking a weight penalty by carrying more water- I got a little dehydrated which cause leg cramps in the final half mile. Extra water and a good night's sleep took care of that.

    I use the Vox/Whispers like Sam- I often wander off to check out something that caught my eye or to get better photo angles, and except once in Italy, I always stay in Vox range. The new devices we had on our recent J&E trip, unfortunately have a much shorter range. :/

    Two years ago, I was working on my riding mover and injured/overstressed my back, I ended up with a spinal/disc issue and severe pain that could have ended touring for me. I was very fortunate that a round of cortisone injections (it took only two of the usual series of three) worked. I have had no pain and no issues since, but I take more care and am more aware of what I am doing (says the guy balancing on one foot near the top of a ladder while re-screening his back porch! :o:D )

  • Options

    Alan - As one who does a lot of physical activity in dry climates, something to consider is adding electrolytes to your water. Something like Nuun ( https://nuunlife.com/ ) is easy to use.

    Speaking of precarious, this is something I did about 20 years ago in my former house in PA. I needed to get to the motor of the ceiling fan in the middle of a 2-story family room. As it was in the middle of the room, I couldn't lean the extension ladder against anything and reach it, so I lashed to an A-frame ladder. And I'm still here to write about it :)

  • Options

    Yikes! :o I think I've seen the results of doing that in an "America's Famous Fails" video! :D

    Many years ago I bought a Little Giant ladder- tall reach in both straight and A-frame (step ladder) configurations.

  • Options

    Those whisperers work well for people with normal hearing but are a problem for people, like me, who wear over-the-ear hearing aids. The reason is that the microphone for the hearing aid is above the ear, as part of the unit over your ear. Tauck only provides earpieces that direct the sound to the ear canal.

    About 3 years ago I developed a problem in my right ear and found I needed to get hearing aids. I won’t go into details on my ear but hearing aids have helped quite a bit.

    Prior to the pandemic we went on a Tauck tour that used the whisper devices. Wearing the hearing aids and the whisper device was not ideal. If fact it was near impossible. On my return I did some research and found a solution that worked for me.

    One caveat to my solution is that your hearing aids must be equipped with Telecoil or T-Coil. I was due for new hearing aids and since insurance paid a majority of the cost I got some with Telecoil. There is no extra charge for this. (There are many more places in Europe that are equipped with Telecoil than in the US)

    After some research I purchased what is called a Telecoil Neckloop from Amazon. A link to what I purchased is here.

    I was anxious to try this out, but the pandemic hit and our Tauck trips were cancelled. Our next trip with Tauck was last November in South Africa. This tour did not use the whisper devices. :(

    Last month we were on the Classic Italy Small Group tour and the whisper devices were used. I got to try this out in a real world environment. It worked like a charm. I would say that the sound quality I was getting through my hearing aids was better than the whisper earpiece.

  • Options

    What I do now is bring a headphone set with me. I can put that over my head with the phones at the top of my ears. But the Silversea system is MUCH better.

  • Options
    edited June 2022

    A possible alternative to the Telecoil. I haven't fully researched and don't yet have my "new ears" so can't say for sure if it will work-

    Background- my hearing has been failing for years (old age and damage from military jet noise). I purchased a very small (small box of matches) Bluetooth transmitter that plugs into my TV A/V amp that I use with my Bose headset to hear the TV while it is operating at normal volume levels for wife and guests. I take my wired/wireless noise-cancelling Bose headset with me on the plane- the noise cancelling works better than the headphones supplied by the airlines. On tour I got tired of the Vox single earpiece and the cord getting tangled or in the way, so a few tours ago I took the transmitter and my headphones on excursions (the transmitter jack fits the Vox.) It worked great!! The headphones were a bit bulky to carry around, and looked a bit odd, so before J&E this Spring, I bought a cheap set of wireless ear buds to use in place of the Bose headset during excursions. They worked great too, until I lost them on the flight from Aqaba to Aswan :/ Wearing a mask with ear straps, ear buds (or earphone), and sunglasses are still tough on the ears.

    Next iteration- Bluetooth enabled hearing aids are now available and will work with a range of Bluetooth-enabled devices to receive streaming audio, receive phone calls, etc. just like earbuds. So, the next step, if I get around to getting new electric ears, will be to use the Vox with my Bluetooth transmitter to listen to the local guide electronically through hearing aids. There are downsides, like reduced battery life etc. so I still have some research to do.

  • Options

    I have the exact same Bluetooth transmitter/receiver in your picture. This was actually my first choice for getting the sound into my hearing aids. In theory it should have worked. The problem was transmitting the signal to my iPhone then having the hearing aid app on the iPhone send the signal to the hearing aids. It didn’t work. This method does work with my Apple ear pods. You may have better luck depending on the hearing aids. I have recent technology Signia AX aids but other brands may be different. Probably not but who knows. The telecoil function works great so far.

  • Options
    edited June 2022

    June 22
    Alan, I have the exact same Bluetooth transmitter/receiver in your picture. This was actually my first choice for getting the sound into my hearing aids. In theory it should have worked. . . . The telecoil function works great so far.

    So your hearing aid needs the phone for more than adjusting the settings? It can't receive signals from another Bluetooth source? Dang. The problem I have with my el cheapo Bluetooth transmitter (I don't have the one pictured above) is that it uses old Bluetooth 3.0 or 4.0 technology so has bad latency (delay).

    So far the few I've looked and unfortunately can only connect with Apple IOS and a few Android devices :/ ) That leaves out my random Bluetooth transmitter. Some will connect with their own proprietary devices- big box for TV or small box like Oticon ConnectClip for tablet, etc. (It appears the ConnectClip is just a Bluetooth transmitter/receiver with not cord) Frankly since Bluetooth is a standard, they should be able to connect with any Bluetooth device- that is supposedly on the horizon- Bluetooth theater assist, etc.. I read an article that talked about "streamers" but believe they are just another name for a Telecoil.

    As I said, I am just starting to look into all this. I was hoping to get a top of the line hearing aids for cheap but my VA disability rating is not enough. It is a zoo out there- it appears there are a lot of "tin men." I want someone I can trust between me and the hearing aid vendors.

  • Options

    I tried a hearing aid years ago, I found it hopeless for my needs, I couldn’t sing or swim with it and it made my ear all sweaty, and after a couple of weeks it did not work, turns out it had ‘blown’ which apparently is rare. I honestly think the audiologist sold me something I did not need. Just last year, I had my hearing tested at Costco. The test is free, the guy was fantastic. I explained that I often miss the first few words my husband says to me and then by the time I’ve said pardon, I realize what he probably said. I have a small but unusual area range of hearing loss and it’s in his voice range. He starts his sentences quietly which is exactly how his mother used to speak and I had the same difficulty with her. I also find Americans talk more loudly, so that helps, I often think some people don’t have a whisper gene, especially when I’m in restaurants. Generally a lot of back ground noise is a problem for me. Anyway, all in all, the man said i did not need aids and my husband just needs to attract my attention before he speaks. Costco sells more heading aids than anyone else in the country and has great follow up and service.
    My hearing loss stems by all my teenage attendance at pop concerts when my ears would ring for hours afterwords. And back when I was a kid, when you told your mum you had earache, she warmed olive oil, poured it down your ear and stuffed a cotton ball in it. 😂

  • Options

    My hearing loss is fairly profound. I don't have any choice about wearing hearing aids. When Bluetooth aids came out, it was like a miracle. Previously, I'd take my smartphone, put it on speaker and then hold it in front of my face. That way, I could use both ears to hear with, which helped comprehension. I'd often hand my phone to my wife and she'd act as an interpreter between the other person and me.

    With Bluetooth aids, when I receive or make a phone call, the sound is directly in my ears (both ears) and I can really hear. It changed my life. I can also listen to music on my smartphone through my aids.

    I receive my aids from the Veterans Administration, but before I signed up with the VA, I used to go to Costco. They have good prices.
    You have to find a store with an audiologists that you like.

  • Options

    Bluetooth aids have been available for many years now so I assume most people who really need aids have them now. I wish Tauck would take some steps to help those of us with severe hearing loss to better hear the tour guides. A device like the one I described that Silversea uses could be used in addition to whisperers if Tauck doesn't want to go all the way to the technique Silversea uses.

    The Silversea technique does require that everyone have a smartphone, and some type of earbuds, and there may be people who don't use smartphones.

  • Options

    Physical endurance to jeans with holes to hearing aids!
    Smiling Sam:My point of tolerance and empathy was about people with different physical abilities;any moment thing can change for the worse even for the fittest.Slowly but surely all of us are moving at different speeds to that eventuality!
    Habitual tardiness is uptoTD to deal with.

  • Options

    sudhamali - Habitual tardiness is uptoTD to deal with.

    There would be nothing for the TD to 'deal with' if people showed common curtesy and arrived at the designated times.

    I agree about being tolerant and empathetic as long as people have met the physical requirements of the tour. For instance, if the tour description says that people should be able to walk a mile or two or up flights of stairs and they disregard those requirements and take the tour anyway then my tolerance and empathy disappear because of those people's disregard for the requirements of travel.

    To expect that the tour group and tour director should be required to make special arrangements/considerations for people who have willingly disregarded the requirements, in my opinion is rude and disrespectful and demonstrates an entitled attitude.

  • Options
    edited June 2022

    @AlanS - I haven't looked into this for a while, but I know that the "Bluetooth" in hearing aids is not the full Bluetooth that you'd have in a commercial device. The reason is that hearing aids are very power constrained - people want hearing aids that work for a week (or so) without changing the battery - and they want small hearings that are not obvious. The Bluetooth standards organization defined a special version of Bluetooth that is very low power on the hearing aid end. But the hearing aids will only connect to a device that also implements the same standard. Both the iPhone and Android phones implement this version of Bluetooth.

    What that means is that you cannot connect your hearing aids to your computer (for example) unless your computer implements this version of Bluetooth.

    It's possible that newer hearing aids implement the full Bluetooth standard, but I kind of doubt it. The full standard requires quite a bit of memory and a reasonably powerful processor - and that requires more battery power.

  • Options

    I’m completely with you Sam. Anyone can have an accident on tour and that is life, although again, when you are specifically told to wear a certain type of footwear and don’t, that is inconsiderate to the rest of the tour group too.

  • Options

    MikeHenderson - I know nothing about hearing aids and you piqued my curiosity. Do the latest hearing aids use rechargeable batteries? If not, how long do the batteries last? I've seen battery display racks in Target with "hearing aid batteries" which aren't rechargeable.

    I recently bought Sony wireless earbuds that are feature rich (noise cancelling, bluetooth, etc.). They cost about $250, are rechargeable, and the charge lasts about 8 hours when noise cancelling is on and about 50% longer when it's off. I know hearing aids can cost 10-20x that, so would expect the tech to be available in them.

  • Options
    edited June 2022

    Wow, JohnS and Mike- some fantastic info here (hear :D ), Thanks!!!

    As I've started to discover, it looks like what I want to do (Vox to hearing aids) with minimal extra hardware like a Telecoil, etc. is currently not possible. (I am not a Luddite, but believe it or not, do not own a cell phone :D ) Maybe someone will come out with a device, similar to my tiny Bluetooth transmitter, that will be compatible with hearing aids and work with other sources of audio. One article mentioned they are in work.

    . . . I have a small but unusual area range of hearing loss and it’s in his voice range.

    Did you buy that story?? :D Guess what my audiologist told me! :o Actually, she showed me my audiogram and pointed to the band where I have the biggest hearing loss- right at female voice frequencies! She said many men have that problem. A coincidence? I think not! I must admit to missing a lot of conversations, but even worse, I miss a lot of movie dialogue (we go to the movies a lot) so it is time to take action.

  • Options

    June 22 edited June 22
    So your hearing aid needs the phone for more than adjusting the settings? It can't receive signals from another Bluetooth source?

    The only I can connect to are my iPhone and a TV Streaming device made by the hearing aid company, Signia (Siemans). I have tried connecting to my computer but it doesn't work.

    I know nothing about hearing aids and you piqued my curiosity. Do the latest hearing aids use rechargeable batteries? If not, how long do the batteries last? I've seen battery display racks in Target with "hearing aid batteries" which aren't rechargeable.

    My current aids are the rechargeable type with a travel charger which is very similar to Apple earpods case. They reside there overnight and are fully charged in the morning. I have some older aids that use batteries which last about 5 days. I use these as a backup.

    I am not a Luddite, but believe it or not, do not own a cell phone.

    There are some alternatives to using a cell phone. The brand I own has a remote control miniPocket which negates the need for a cell phone but in my opinion the cell phone is much more desirable. I am sure most of the major brand hearing aids will have this type of device.

    The title of this thread is about physical challenges. I think we are somewhat on topic discussing hearing as that is a physical challenge although not to the degree of getting in an out of rubber panga boats.

    One area that I have had a challenge with on the Tauck tours is the group meetings such as the welcome and farewell dinners and the group dinners and lunches. If there is a lot of background noise the hearing aids amplify everything and it is a challenge having a conversation with one or two people. I have hearing aids that are suppose to minimize this and there are filters on the iPhone app that can reduce background noise. I know I am not alone with this issue. On all of our Tauck trips there have been a substantial number of people who wear hearing aids.

    The joys of getting old. Many things do not work as advertised anymore. :s

  • Options

    @BKMD Most hearing aid manufacturers offer both rechargeable hearing aids and aids that use batteries. There's advantages and disadvantages of each. I've used both.

    The big advantage (to me) of the rechargeable hearing aids is that I don't get a battery failure in the middle of some event (maybe having lunch with friends). The hearing aid will notify you that the battery is failing and you have maybe 10 minutes to put in a new battery. Taking your aids out and changing the batteries during lunch can be discourteous to some people, so I'd have to pretend to go to the restroom to change the batteries. Or, I'd be on the phone and one of my aids would run out of battery.

    But the disadvantage of the rechargeable hearing aids is that the battery only provides a charge for a bit more than 24 hours - maybe 30 hours. This is a disadvantage for travel. We often take a flight that is overnight, so I put the hearing aids in my ears in the morning and the flight may be 12 hours later. Then you arrive the next day at your destination. Unless you charged your aids during the flight, it's likely that you'll get a dead battery sometime after you arrive during the day. And it takes a while to recharge the batteries - hours.

    My current aids are rechargeable and my previous aids are battery. So when we take an overnight flight, I'll wear the battery aids. I may, or may not, switch back to the rechargeable aids while on the trip.

    And if you really need hearing aids, you need to bring a backup pair. I had an aid fail during one of our trips and didn't have a backup pair. That was difficult. My wife got very tired of telling me what people were saying:-)

Leave a Comment

BoldItalicStrikethroughOrdered listUnordered list
Align leftAlign centerAlign rightToggle HTML viewToggle full pageToggle lights
Drop image/file