Tag Archives: sacred valley

Doing the tourist thing…

18 Apr

I woke up to the bus shuddering as the engine was killed. Everything was totally dark, except for a blinking yellow light outside from, what I would discover, was a construction truck. I overheard bus stewardess (not sure what else to call her) tell another passenger that there was a landslide. I closed my eyes figuring we would be moving on again soon.

Later, I felt the bus start again. When I looked at my watched, I was shocked to see that it was 4 in the morning — 7 hours later. We had sat on the side of the road for all that time, waiting for them to clear the road. Through the window, I could see the other trucks and buses pass, one at a time. When it was our turn, I could see where the road had been washed away and the pile of rubble still to cleared.

At 3 in the afternoon (the time we were suppose to arrive in Lima) when we stopped for lunch, I asked the bus stewardess what time we would be arriving. She told me that it would be another 7 hours. Now — I want you all to pull out your maps — yes, the world ones. And look for Peru. And look in the southern part of the country — there you go — find Cusco.  Ok — then look in the central part — find Lima. There you go. Now — see how far apart they are? Yeah — not so much, huh? Ok — now imagine that journey taking 29 hours.

yeah, i could barely believe it either.

We ended up arriving at 11 at night, 8 hours past when we were suppose. A half hour after my next bus to Huaraz was leaving.

And that, my friends, is how I came to spend an unexpected day in Lima with no plans whatsoever.

Peruvian coast

But — that is not the point of my story. Well, only part of it.

I did not know what to do today — so I walked around the area I was in, Miraflores, spent too much money on coffee and food. And took the double-decker tourist bus tour of the city.

Which I made fun of in other cities I have been in. In Cusco? I laughed at those poor suckers.

But there I was. In the front seat. Being that tourist with my camera as we drove by sights.

Sculpture in Parque del Amor (can you guess why it was named that?)

Which made me wonder to myself, why the scorn?  What is the problem with toursity things?

I am not quite sure – maybe it is that I have never really been a joiner.  And doing touristy things tends to mean that I am joining big crowds. Not my favorite thing.

But sometimes, touristy things, are touristy for…. well…. a reason.  Right?  I mean, the Eiffel tower is famous for a reason.  People go to Angor Wat for a reason.  Just like people flock to Machu Picchu for a reason.

And I was one of them.  Me, who doesn’t like crowds.  Me, who likes to be off the beaten track.  Me, who wants to go where others don’t.  If its harder, steeper, less people – yep, sign me up.  None of which defines Machu Picchu (or a double decker bus for that matter…).

But sometimes, those really tourist things are just worth it.  Machu Picchu is one of them.  Aguas Caliente, on the other hand, is not.  (there are two ways to get to MP – doing the Inca Trail, which treks right into the sight – but you have to reserve at the time of birth – and taking a train to AC and possibly spending the night there beforehand or afterwards.  I, needless to say, did not have reservations for the Inca Trail – so I took the train and spent the night there beforehand.  If any of you want to know how to do MP solo – I am happy to help – just send me a message – it is actually quite confusing….).

The good thing about spending the night there beforehand is that I was on the first bus up to MP – which meant that at 5 in the morning, I was waiting in line, in the rain, to head up to the site.  Which meant that I was one of the first people through the gate.  Which meant that I was one of the first people with a view of MP in the breaking dawn.

Of course I had seen pictures of MP before going, who hasn’t?  In fact, the above picture is taking by just about every one of the 500 visitors EVERY SINGLE DAY.  Yep, 500 people a day visit the ruins.  I am sure there are days when there are only 497 or 456, but that is still a lot of people.  And we all take the same picture.  So – I am sure you have seen it too.

Machu Pichu at daybreak

But, this is one of the touristy places that is really quite amazing.  In the early morning light, in the quite of morning with the birds chirping and swooping around (many swallows live in and around the site), I was blown away by the majesty of the site.  By how beautiful it is.  By how beautiful this world is and how truly blessed and lucky I am to be here, exploring and witnessing it all.

The clouds over the mountains in the distance

I spent the morning exploring the ruins and then climbed Huyana Picchu which is the mountain next to the ruins – in which there are ruins on the top of as well (Damn, those Incas – carrying stones up to the top of the mountain!).  It rained off and on for most of the day – but there were enough glimpses of sun to enjoy the views and the amazing orchids in the forested hills.

orchids on the surrounding hillsides

It was a day that I was glad to be doing the tourist thing.

looking down on Machu Picchu from Huayna Picchu

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Solo trip

14 Apr

Though I have been traveling solo all year, I have never done a solo trip.  And by that I mean, a solo backpacking trip.  I have done lots of day hikes by myself and I have thought about doing some solo overnights, but I never got up the courage to actual go do it.

a few of the high alpine lakes near the pass in the Lares Valley

[Full disclosure — i did a one night overnight in Oregon a number of years ago with my dog — so kind of solo, but i wussed out on the trail I was going to do and headed back to the car early the next day]

When I was in Nepal, I thought about doing another trek (because if you remember, I was there when it was the rainy season).  But, I wussed out, not wanting to go by myself.  unsure of how it would be, unsure of the world around me.

So, here I was in Peru, wanting to get out of Cusco before my trip to Machu Picchu, wanting to trek more in the beautiful andes, but not having anyone to go with.  Do I wuss out and just do day trips?  Or do I put on my big girl pants and head out for my first solo trip?

sunrise on the mountains over Cancha Cancha – a traditional village close to 4000m up above the Sacred Valley

yep.  I put on the big girl pants.

I headed out for the Lares Valley, which leads up from the Sacred Valley.  I would do two days with the 3rd being a transport day to get to Aguas Caliente for my visit to Machu Picchu (but more on that in a different post).

looking back down into the Sacred Valley

I got my tent, my food, my map and headed out – taking buses to the trail head, asking locals for directions.  Feeling a little nervous, but ready to be out there.

So, what made this time different?

self-portrait (as usual)

I remember the first time I really, truly fell in love.  People all around me were telling me that I looked different.  That I looked good, that I was glowing and radiant and looking so happy (maybe looking a little bit better than that picture above…..).  I remember thinking, at first, well, that is strange — I don’t feel different.  I am not doing anything different.  Why would they be telling me that?

And then I realized what it was — I was happy.  I was content, in love with my man and in love with the world.  Life was …good.  And it showed in me — as I smiled and radiated my way through the world.  And though that feeling (and that relationship) ended, I remembered that time and that feeling well.

Which, is really similar to now.

Life is good.  There is no place that I would rather be, then right here, right now.

And that, in turn, gives me the courage to try the things I have not yet done – like trek solo.  Like talk to locals in my sometimes butchered spanish.  To smile and laugh with strangers.

And so I went and trekked solo.  And it was good.