Sunday, 28 June 2015

Destination Machu Picchu, Peru

The midday sun peering out of the swirling clouds acted like a spotlight bathing Machu Picchu in a golden glow. It was a tiny glimpse into the world of the Incas who ruled the largest pre-Colombian empire in the Americas. I was delighted that my expectations of this renowned sight were exceeded. 

Nestled between two Andean peaks, Machu Picchu (Old Peak) and Huayna Picchu (New Peak), this 15th-century city was rediscovered in 1911 by the American archaeologist, Hiram Bingham who arrived in Peru looking for a lost city of the Inca empire

Bingham is said to have a met a local who knew of a spot that could be just what he was looking for. He took the American to a place which was abandoned when the Spaniards conquistadors arrived in the 16th century and since had been enveloped with vegetation: Machu Picchu.

What the Incas used  this city built 2,400 meters above sea level for remains a mystery. It is thought that as well as being residential, there was a religious connection. But, its importance to the Incas is likely to remain an enigma forever.

Constructed in the mist of tropical mountain forest and crisscrossed by steep stone steps this city blends effortlessly into the rock. Built without iron and steel or without wheels to carry equipment or animals they could ride, what the Incas achieved can only be described as remarkable. 

Getting used to the high altitude and the arduous climbing up and down craggy paths and steps to see the ruins of temples, palaces and storage rooms was well rewarded. The llamas darting about on the terraces brought a sense of reality to it all. You should allow at least four to five hours there and try to go early in the morning so you can avoid the crowds.

Even taking the Machu Picchu train operated by Inca Rail from Ollantaytambo in the Sacred Valley which weaved through the mountains covered in green jungle to Machu Picchu Pueblo (formerly Aguas Calientes), the closest town, was magical. Yes, it was geared for tourists but somehow it helped make the journey special and increased levels of anticipation for the main event.

One of the three laws the Incas tried to live by was: don’t be lazy. They made the seemingly impossible possible. Maybe this amazing vista should be a lesson for us all.

By Daralyn Danns

Getting there

Last Frontiers ( arranges tailor-made holidays to Peru

I stayed at the Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo hotel ( What makes this hotel outstanding is not only its pretty casitas (small bungalows) with cosy fireplaces to help keep you warm during the cold evenings  but also the cloud forest surrounding it 

Monday, 22 June 2015

A visit to Duck & Dry, Chelsea

“Your hair looks amazing,” said my cousin when I caught up with him the other night.

As he has seen me after my visits to many top hairdresser, this was quite a compliment.  

This was the result of a visit to Chelsea’s chic blow-dry bar, Duck & Dry. My tresses were incredibly well-styled and so, so glossy. I really was incredibly pleased with the outcome.

Although there is a menu of styles to choose from including updos, my stylist Mary Caybakan asked me how I like to wear my hair. After having so many disappointments from being over-dried to over bouncy to too curly, I am always sceptical when trying a new hairdresser, especially a blow-dry bar. 

I explained to Mary that I did not want to look as if I have just come out of a salon. My hair should be smooth and I wanted bits to kick out. I didn't want a mummsy bob. My expectations were not high, 

Duck & Dry, I soon discovered,  is no ordinary blow-dry bar. My hair was washed and prepped with Davines products which I really like. I came out looking like I was made in Chelsea and, thank goodness, without the hefty price tag that so many salons in this neighbourhood have. You can also have a trim or add a few hair extensions if you so desire.

Service is fast and efficient and the atmosphere is buzzy. It even has its own prosecco bar when you can pop in and have a drink and nibbles or a take-away a coffee even if you are not having your hair done.

The “Ultimate Bundles” are popular and I can see why. For every six blow-drys, you get one free. A glass of prosecco is included. This is the one I would plump for. There is even one for updos, perfect if you have a lot of weddings to go to. Another plus is that it is open every day (from 7.30am to 7.30pm during the week). 

By Daralyn Danns

A blow-dry starts from £28 for more information visit