No words. Really…. no words.
Our Good to Go gang checked off a Bucket List item by making the trek to Machu Picchu, Peru. A place of mystery. Ancient ruins hidden and rediscovered. National Geographic stuff, literally. One of the seven man made Wonders of the World. And We were there.
You’ve seen the pictures of the cloud shrouded, majestic peaks, the valleys lined with terraces. Stone structures remain that archaeologists have studied and pondered. What you don’t see in the picture is the ambitious trip it takes to get there. This adventurous trip usually starts in Lima, Peru, where the air service gets you into the country. We started there as well. But then sojourners need to acclimate to the altitude of Machu Picchu and the best way to do that is to go even higher and learn to breathe without much air. We flew to Cuzco, elevation 11,400 feet above sea level.
Cusco took our breath away, literally. We immediately felt the difference as a simple walk to the parking lot left us panting. But our local Peruvian guide, Harry, (his dad loved American movies) gave us all the hints about drinking water and taking cocoa tea like a locals. We learned the difference between an alpaca and a llama. We looked, tasted and tried to imagine having over 7000 varieties of potatoes, 56 varieties of corn and 16 different kinds of avocados. We were entertained by Peruvian musicians playing the pan flute. We were dazzled by the weaving and wonderful wooly items to purchase. We took loads of pictures. But mostly, we were preparing our bodies and lungs for the next day.
Machu Picchu. It’s not like other high places that you can drive your car and park in the tourist parking lot. There are two ways in. One, the way that the ancient civilizations have done it for hundreds of years. You walk the six miles on the Incan Trail. It will take four days, camping along the way. Two, take the narrow gauge train that winds along the river and trail. We took the option two. This vista-dome train is a bit like a theme park ride as you leave civilization and work up the mountains with waterfalls, and cornfields, and some scenery that alone is worth the trip.
The train terminates at Machu Picchu city. Totally made up of tourist-related businesses and those that work in them, this small town that is nestled between at the foot of these major mountains and rolling rivers, is the next step on our journey. After the train, we boarded a bus that took us up the mountain over a series of switchbacks that make those in Colorado look like freeways. Buses going up have the right-a-way, so the coming down bus has to back up until the one-way is wide enough to pass. This magical place has seen a huge boom in tourists and now are limited the number of passes given each day. The four hour visit starts with a visit to the pay toilet, because there won’t be one inside. Two soles, please. That’s less than a dollar and worth it.
We hiked with good shoes, water bottles, rain gear and trekking poles. And when we came around that first bend to see that iconic view… well, there are no words big enough or powerful enough to describe this Unesco site located 7,980 feet above sea level. You simply have to be there. It’s an adventure to even get to this place. We did it.
Just in case you are wondering what the other Manmade Wonders of the World currently are: Great Wall of China, Christ the Redeemer Statue (Rio), Chichen Itza (Mexico), The Roman Coliseum, Taj Mahal (India), and Petra (Jordan).
Patti Beth Anderson has more than 20 years of experience in the group travel industry taking people all over the world. Her motto is "I return with the same number of people I left with… not necessarily the same people, but the same number nevertheless. So no 'crankpots' allowed" She may be reached at 918-786-3318 or firstname.lastname@example.org.