Peru Proves Much More Than the Journey to Machu Picchu for Us Tres Chicas

16 days, 5 flights, 8 towns explored, 46 km hiked and 3 mountain passes climbed, unknown pounds of ceviche, potatoes and pisco sours consumed and countless breathtaking moments.

There isn’t much I would change about our recent adventure in Peru. Touring the Sacred Valley, immersing ourselves in the culture of the Uros Floating Islands, relaxing in the hot springs of the Colca Valley and of course, hiking the Inca Trail, we discovered Peru is far more diverse than we ever expected.

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Pre-Inca Trail at the Ollantaytambo Ruins when we still could joke about how hard the stairs were to climb in the high altitude.

As it turns out, 2 weeks was just about right though for us “tres chicas” to experience the beautiful geography, learn a touch of Spanish (not near enough) and become fascinated with Peru’s long and rich history.

 

Jen-At-The-Top-Of-Wayna-PicchuFor each of us, there were moments of the trip that impacted us most. For me, it was a tie between climbing to the top of Wayna Picchu after 4 days hiking in the rain to Machu Picchu and staying with Eduardo & Claudia on the Uros Islands.

The incredible views and the sheer insanity of being able to climb to the very summit of a mountain, on a 500-year old staircase carved out of the mountain with no safety harness or railing boggled my mind. But then so did this incredible young couple deciding to make their life on an island made of reeds. Their kindness and desire to preserve this traditional lifestyle knows no bounds.

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Eduardo & Claudio of Waliski Island

Throughout the trip we heard about Juanita, a young Incan girl sacrificed to the mountain gods as a teenager over 500 years ago. Seeing her, literally in the flesh, within a university-turned-museum in Arequipa on our second last day was another moment for one of my friends.

I think it’s safe to say, each of us went on this adventure with some intentions, self-discovery and overcoming fears of the unknown, among them.

For me, it seemed at first this trip was a celebration to wrap up the “year of the global summit”, the non-profit project I took on after quitting my full-time corporate job of ten-plus years.

IMG_5330Now that I am back though, I realize it was actually the start of the next leg of my journey. Like our trek, the leg may not go entirely as planned, but will still be rich and exciting if I allow myself to go with the flow and focus on the present. We summited Dead Woman’s Pass by putting one foot in front of the other, even when it seemed impossible and there was nothing to see along the way. At the end we were rewarded with parting clouds, sunshine and incredible views.

Everyone tells you endless stairs (not really stairs), utter exhaustion and disgusting bathrooms on the Inca Trail are made worthwhile by the views. When the views aren’t there (which is the case when it rains), you need something else to push you onward. Personally, it was the desire to finish and make sure my friends also finished.

IMG_5356But even that motivation wavers after 3 days of rain and the hike to Machu Picchu from the Sungate included a 45 minute pep talk with myself, that even still ended in some tears.

The rest of our trip would not prove as difficult, physically or mentally. I still lost some sleep when my laundry didn’t show up the night before we were leaving. Luckily, all resolved itself in the morning and before I knew it, I was boarding a little speedboat and playing Uno in a tiny, warm kitchen on my own “private island” with my Uros hosts.

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Four ceviche options at CALA in Lima – octopus, shrimp & corn, avocado and octopus, fish.

We finally learned to ask for less food when too-full tummy aches were the trade off to wasting valuable food. And I think we were wiser to the tricks to get us to part with our money by the second week also. In the evenings, we drank pisco sours while trying to lace together the day’s historical accounts of the Incas, which all seem to vary a little depending on the guide.

And while we tend to romanticize civilizations of the past, we most appreciated our trail guide’s interpretation of the Inca history.

“The Incas did good things and they did bad things.” It’s matter of fact and Juanita is proof, just as we have our flaws today, so too did this incredible civilization which is heralded for all it’s accomplished, yet shrouded in so much mystery.

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The incredibly breathtaking Colca Valley.

So, all that deep stuff aside, I took lots of notes and wrote regularly throughout our trip and look forward to sharing this with you. If you’re considering the Inca Trail or visiting Peru and Machu Picchu, hopefully you will find my posts helpful. If you aren’t into hiking and weren’t thinking about going to Peru, maybe they will inspire you as there is so much more to see, eat and experience than Machu Picchu alone.

 

Also, I just saw this contest, sponsored by Peru Tourism, Icebreaker (pretty much everything I wore was from Icebreaker), G Adventures, contiki, World Nomads and LATAM (I flew LATAM twice in Peru and was really happy both times with their service). Enter for your chance to win an 8 or 10-day trip to Peru to see and do much of the same things we did!

 

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