October 4, 2010-October 12, 2010
Leaders: Shannon Revolinski
Students: Anne Attridge, Michelle Cheatham, Julie McClelland, Ann Mulroy, Nancy Phipps, Bill Sabbagh, Margaret Sabbagh, Anne Stolz, Susan Tome, Emily Zerfoss
October 4, 2010-October 12, 2010
The day has come and the group has finally arrived in Cusco! Our adventures began as the group arrived at the Hotel Monasterio, a beautiful, five star hotel originally built in the late 1500’s as a colonial monastery. It was enjoyable just watching the guests’ faces light up as they entered the beautiful surroundings of what seemed like a Peruvian palace, especially after a long night of international traveling. Once everyone arrived and was introduced to their future traveling companions or reunited with old, lifelong friends, we had the opportunity to explore the cobblestone streets and grab a delicious lunch at Pacha Papa, a restaurant located on the outskirts of the main plaza with a quaint, sunny courtyard and an outdoor, wood burning oven. The meal was a great introduction to the delightful Peruvian cuisine. With exhaustion nipping at our heels after lunch, an afternoon nap at our wonderful hotel was just the ticket for some rejuvenation.
Everyone’s anticipation increased even more when we met our enthusiastic trekking guides, Leo and Heirro, this evening. They filled us in on everything we need to know for the days ahead of us from the treks to the lodges to the people we are bound to meet. Tomorrow morning can’t come soon enough!
After our briefing, we headed on foot to a beautiful restaurant just around the corner from our hotel. For the adventurous diners, the menu provided our guests with cuy (guinea pig) and llama to explore the more exotic cuisine of the country. Of course, there were more modest choices on the menu for those of us who were not quite ready to dive into bizarre Peruvian entrees. The food throughout the day has been one of the great highlights of our time here in Cusco.
We are settling into hotel for the evening for a good night’s rest before we hit the trail tomorrow. Today was a perfect day to acclimate and get acquainted with the group and the adoring country of Peru.
The group has made it to our second lodge, the Wayra lodge, after a challenging and rewarding day of hiking. The Wayra (which means wind) Lodge is beautifully nestled in the middle of huge Andean Mountain peaks including the towering Humantay Peak. It feels like we have hiked to land literally in the middle of nowhere. It was not easy to get here today, but the journey was well worth it as we relax in the warm, comfortable sitting area of our lodge while the aromas of our dinner cooking in the kitchen fill the air.
To catch you up from where we ended last, I will start with our journey from the Hotel Monasterio. After indulging in an AMAZING breakfast spread on our first morning, we met Leo and Heirro who packed us up in two vans to start our journey to the trailhead. Along the way, we stopped in the quaint village of Mollepata where the locals shared the art of making yarn from Alpaca and Llama hair, the dying process and the weaving of the beautiful, brightly colored clothing. We were so amazed by the simplicity of life in the village where the people live on the resources and land surrounding them. As much as we wanted to stay all afternoon, we had to load the van to finish our winding, rocky journey to the trail head of our hike.
Leo and Heirro introduced us the mountains of Peru with an enjoyable three hour hike to our first lodge, the Salkantay Lodge which had one of the most beautiful view of the two, glacier covered peaks of the Humantay and Salkantay mountains. The mountains peered down at us, giving us an idea of the beauty of nature that lies ahead of us. On our second day of the trek, we spent our time at the Salkantay lodge with a lovely day hike to a turquoise, glacial lake with a bright blue sky and bright, white glaciers overhead. Our hike was the perfect way to prepare us for the challenging hike to the Wayra Lodge.
Once again, the morning started early with a delicious breakfast (the food has been awesome!) that gave us energy for the seven hour hike ahead of us. We hiked about four hours up the switchbacks known as the “Seven Snakes” to finally reach the breathtaking, 15,253 foot pass along the peak of the sacred Salkantay Mountain. With the cool temperatures and the thin air, we celebrated our exhausting hike with celebratory photos and a few moments to soak in the wonderment of nature. A hot lunch awaited us about an hour and half down the mountain, so we continued our journey to our second lodge.
We now sit in the beautiful Wayra lodge discussing our achievements of the day! We have the hardest day of hiking behind us and Machu Picchu awaits us. We are loving every moment!! I have to cut it a little short as dinner awaits. Missing everyone back home but loving the fact that we are here!!
We have made it to our final lodge of the trek with only two more days until we reach the mysterious Inca city of Machu Picchu. The group has already experienced so much and we have not even reached our final destination. This trip has been the true definition of the catchy phrase of, “it’s not the destination, it’s the journey.” I’m positive our destination will be just as amazing, but this trek has been out of this world! We have been introduced to parts of this country that are beautiful beyond words. We have had encounters with locals of the mountain villages who are genuinely the friendliest people we have ever met. Even though there is a language barrier, you can literally see the warmth from their hearts shining in their faces and huge white smiles. We just returned from a family’s home where we were graciously invited to see the process of roasting coffee beans from the coffee plantations of the surrounding area. It was literally the freshest coffee the entire group has ever tasted! However, the best part was feeling so welcomed in a home located thousands of miles away from the places we call home.
The days of trekking and lodges have been so unique in and different from each other that they have provided us with considerably different experiences and memories which are sure to last us a lifetime. We have seen demonstrations on how to make pisco sours, had a lunch cooked in the earth, tasted cuy, witnessed fully-costumed dances performed at the annual Carnival, and played volleyball with the locals of the surrounding mountain villages. Not only has this adventure been a challenging trek to the sanctuary of Machu Picchu, but it has been an experience of cultural immersion thanks to our guides and the people of Mountain Lodges of Peru who have generously shared their deep-hearted love of their land and culture with us – a gift that we will always cherish.
It’s getting late, and our last day of trekking lies ahead of us. Our next destination is the gateway city of Machu Picchu, Aguas Calientes. With clear skies, we may have the chance to see our first glimpse of Machu Picchu. Can’t wait!
It’s amazing that the trip has come to an end. The memories and new friendships made over the last eight days are sure to be unforgettable. Peru has proven itself to be a magical place that we only hope to come back to again and again. The trek was perfect in every way from the lodges to the food to the people and finally to Machu Picchu.
The early morning mist blanketed the stone walls of Machu Picchu as we explored the grounds early yesterday morning. The setting was perfect making the air cool and mystery of the Incan city even more magical. We woke up early to catch the first bus out of Aguas Calientes. With a 6:30 am arrival at Machu Picchu, it seemed like we had the whole place to ourselves. Leo led us on a fascinating two hour tour explaining what seemed to be every nook and cranny of the area. We couldn’t help but be blown away by the man power and brain power that went into the construction of the perfectly structured walls made of massive stones to form temples, houses, and perfectly aligned terraces — a type of construction that has probably not even been attempted by modern man.
After our tour guided tour, we had the chance to explore the Lost City of Incas on our own taking advantage of the opportunity to hike Huayna Picchu, roam the grounds or hike to the sun gate. The hike up Huayna Picchu was a moderately challenging hike that perfectly concluded our trekking experience in Peru. The view from the top was absolutely amazing! As the sun peaked through the clouds, the view of Machu Picchu in its entirety took our breath away. It was here where you could fully grasp the strategic location of the city on the ridge of mountain in the middle of the Vilcabamba Mountain Range with the Urubamba River surrounding it on three sides thousands of feet below. We could help but wonder even more of how did they do that?!
We soon finished our journey with a delicious lunch of a spread of various Peruvian delicacies – a great way to end the afternoon. With Machu Picchu behind us, we travel to Cusco for one last night before we leave for the states. Although, we will return home to our daily routines of our normal life, a little piece of the beautiful land of Peru, the mystifying wonderment of Machu Picchu and our time on our trek with our new friends will be in hearts forever.