We began our adventure with a long and twisty road up and down mountains and through valleys, our crazy driver overtaking other buses and trucks on the edge of a huge drop off, we went up, up and into the clouds, further and further from Cusco.
We unloaded a bunch of bikes and began to ride down the other side of the mountain, wet, cold, slippery and a little bit miserable. But I decided to make the most of it, splashing through puddles and streams and singing Queens ‘Bicycle’ loudly through the wind certainly kept me entertained for the 2 hours that would have otherwise been a bit dull (riding a bike down a twisty mountain road in the rain and fog).
The afternoon was spent white water rafting on grade 4 and 5 rapids on the Sacred River – there is nothing like a near death experience to bond people together, and after we flipped our raft on a bad rapid in flooded water and all came out of it a bit battered and bruised, we all seemed to be a little closer (and a little shaken). The majority of the hour spent rafting was very fun, and according to our guide we should feel blessed to have taken a dip in the sacred river!
The real adventure began the next day as we hiked for 8 hours through the thick jungle, tasting strange jungle alcohol, eating fresh passionfruits and bananas, seeing monkeys and parrots and sweating out all the bad stuff! We sweated a lot in the humidity and eventually came to a section labeled “Welcome to the Inka Trail” – possibly a section of the traditional trek, it was absolutely stunning on the edge of a cliff with views of the valley stretched out in either direction!
We walked alongside the raging river and eventually came to a ‘cable car’, which was just a tray attached to a cable and some rope to run it across the valley – a wee bit dodgy! Through a cave tunnel and we arrived at the thermal pools – soaking in the warm water took us back to reality and away from the hike we had just done (in a weird sort of way, the luxury and control of the pools made me feel bittersweet, I missed the trek and the fresh air and the purpose!).
The following day was spent zip lining across valleys and the river, the thrill and excitement of it all entwined with a few group members hangovers from the night before made for an entertaining morning. We then piled back into the bus and drove to hydroelectrica where we began our 3 hour hike along the railway to Aguascalientes where we stayed in a dodgy hostel and slept early, ready for a 4am departure the next day.
Waking up early and walking up to Machu Picchu, I feel like we were all on dream mode. The clouds were settled in all around, and as we climbed all the stairs up to the top they started to sppear mystical and magical, like they were concealing a secret place from our sight.
More waiting to be let into the park, and eventually we broke on through to the other side!
Early in the morning as everyone was still making their way up or through the gates, the city appeared truly deserted, and the mystical clouds blew through and everyone looked on in almost silence.
This was the time warp – transported back into the ancient civilisation of sun and moon worshipping!
Walking up to the Sun Gate was my definite favourite part of Machu Picchu, up there in the silence, the sun hits the trees and the city appears to be protected by all the tall mountains, with minimal other people around, it’s a great place to sit and observe, soak it all in.
It’s hard to describe the magnificence of Machu Picchu, “in the end, you’re just happy you were there with your eyes open, and lived to see it” (Anthony Bourdain).
Pictures are probably better!
After all the beauty and magnificence and inspiration, it’s important to hear that it wasn’t all amazement and awe – there was hard work, dodgy hostels, Bad and great food, strange people, excellent people and a whole heap of things that contributed to make this experience. People often forget that travel is not always glamourous or easy. Here I am covered in mosquito bites, aching muscles , but glowing with happiness and No regrets! It always seems more glamourous in retrospect.
In the end, it was the people who were with me at the time, their humour and attitude, their company, sharing the experience of witnessing something so intense.
Seeing Machu Picchu makes you wonder what else is out there – what other secrets does the jungle hold?
Still round the corner there may wait a new road or a secret gate
– J.R.R Tolkien