Mountain Adventures ft. Machupicchu

I awoke at 6:30 with so much excitement for the weekend ahead. After a cold shower I was ready for the adventures that lie ahead. Our group met up at a park nearby, where we were met by a big white bus, and 4 very excited directors. We left Cusco around 8 in the morning, heading to our first destination, Pisaq. I had planned to sleep on the way there, because as always, I stayed up late dying to find out what happens next with Olivia Pope. Unfortunately, the winding roads would not allow my slumber, so instead I enjoyed the dreamlike views of llamas and a bird’s-eye perspective of the historic city.

Once in Pisaq we visited the centro arquelógico de Pisaq. There we explored more Inca ruins, while testing our stamina. As always, I was mesmerized by the structures built to last forever. We took many photo breaks, which often were disguised as water breaks. As we were on top of a mountain we were faced with the task of descending this beast, and a beast it was! I’ve always had a slight fear of heights, but growing up with a backyard full of monuments and cliffs, I’ve learned to manage my fears. With that said, this trail, or lack thereof was the scariest thing I’ve ever done in my life! We were literally scaling down the side of a mountain-free, like the Inca did I suppose. I am so proud of myself for completing what seemed like hours to reach stable ground again.

Once we reached flat land again, and I felt safe, we continued our journey onto the Inkam museum. I thoroughly enjoyed this museum, and normally I’m not a huge museum goer, but this one was awesome. It was a timeline of indigenous civilizations throughout Peru and South America. All civilizations leading up to the Inca Empire. There were also life size mannequins and reenactments to offer visuals of the people and their rituals.

We enjoyed a delicious lunch there, and I will never forget the iced tea! I also regret not writing down the names of the foods I eat, often they are Quechue dishes, but they are always so satisfying! After lunch, we hopped on the bus, took a nap, and soon arrived at the town of Ollantaytambu, and our hotel Pakaritampu. The hotel was beautiful, encompassed by protecting mountains and vibrant flowers. We were so high up in the mountains, I thought I’d soon learn what the clouds tasted like.

After settling in, we all decided to explore this majestic little town. We looked at all the shops filled with alpaca sweaters, jewelry, and funky tourist pants. In our attempt to pass the time before we were to meet with our directors for dinner, we stopped at a café shop in the main plaza. I ordered a coffee, and my mother called me. I separated myself from the group and found a table next to the window where I tried to describe my views to my mother. There I sat overlooking a beautiful town with the moon hanging low between the endless mountains, talking to my favorite person in the world. And there she sat thousands of miles away, looking out her window onto the setting sun, protected by the warmth of the monuments. We were living a life neither of us had imagined, and I was so happy to share that moment with her.

Soon it was time to head down the street to dinner. We ate at hearts café, where I enjoyed the best grilled cheese sandwich! I was so tired from the long day of managing my nerves trying not to fall off the side of a mountain, so I retreated to our hotel. If there is anything I will remember about this hotel, it will be the shower! There in the mountains of Peru, I took the best shower of my life. The water was steaming hot, and the pressure could cleanse even the darkest of souls. I slept like a baby that night.

The following morning, I awoke at 4:30 to get ready. My roommate Thara braided my hair, bless her heart, this is a lot of hair to tame that early in the day. We met for a quick breakfast in the lobby, before walking to the train station. We departed at 6 am on the PeruRail train. Our next stop- Machupicchu, Maravilla del mundo! It was a two-hour train ride to Aguas Calientes where we took a bus that took us the rest of the way up the mountain to the entrance of this unexplainable site.

We spent about twenty minutes on the bus which took us up switchback dirt roads into the heart of mountains. I was waiting for my fear of heights to return, but I was too in awe with what I was seeing to consider the fact that I was literally on a ledge. Once at the entrance, we paid to use the restroom, showed our passports, and proceeded past the gates that would lead us to the stone city. We did a two-hour tour, passing through every dwelling, and listening to what historians could gather from their research about the constructions and their significance.

One of the most interesting things I learned, is that Machupicchu is encompassed by four mountains sacred to the Inca. They had a strong connection with the land, so strong that they felt comfortable living so high up and so isolated. This particularly interested me because it reminded me of the land of my people. We too live within our four sacred mountains, a land that has helped us grow and prosper.

Update: clouds do not taste like marshmallows.

After our tour ended we went on our own adventure up to la Puerta del sol, located at 2,745 meters above sea level, on one side of Machu Picchu Mountain. It is said that this gate served to control the people whom entered the city. From this historic location, only reachable by the Inca trail, you can see Machu Picchu, the Urubamba River, the Huayna Picchu mountain and the surrounding area.

The hike was intense, but very worth it once we reached out destination. It took about two hours’ round trip and we were surrounded by clouds! That too, is an experience I will not soon forget. What it felt like to be so high up, walking a trail built by such a powerful, innovative people. It was so beautiful.

Once we decided we should head down before we all realized how frightening this was, we met up with our directors for lunch at Indio Feliz. The food was so delicious and I appreciated how they decorated their entrees. I had pollo de piña, and enjoyed the best limeade of my life! After so much walking, this lunch was heaven-sent! According to a friend’s phone, we walked more than 6 miles and climbed over 200 floors. Not bad for a warm Saturday in Peru!

Completely drained, we returned to the train station and made our way back to our hotel. I don’t remember being that exhausted in a while. I immediately showered and was fast asleep once we returned to our hotel. The following day we returned to Cuzco, which was about 2 ½ hours in bus. Once I got home, I told my family all about my adventures…and then I slept some more! It was definitely a trip to remember. I am so thankful for this experience!

Published by Shandiin Herrera

Diné, Duke University Alumna, Lead for America Hometown Fellow

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