Dates of Travel September 2005
In September 2005 I went on a trip that forever changed the way I travelled and inspired me to look past my typical vacations. Yes I was fortunate enough to be born in Poland so our family vacations were trips to Europe for the summer where we got to experience culture in various countries while visiting family and have places to stay along the way. Sure, I also did the whole Europe backpacking thing with my cousin Michael when I was 16 through Poland, Austria, Slovakia, and Hungary… and sure I was amongst 5 million people that went on a Pilgrimage through Europe to Rome for World Youth Day to see the Late Pope John Paul. Europe for me, despite how amazing it was, never really felt like travel, always felt more like home as we were constantly surrounded by family, with people who spoke the same language as me and had the same values (work to live, NEVER live to work). That’s Europe, I was a lucky child – I have never denied that I wasn’t that and I am thankful that my parents were amazing at ensuring every opportunity was taken to leave Toronto and Canada if possible…
Anyways… rambling now… so in 2005, about two years after both my father and brother completed the Inca trail, I was determined not to be outdone (I am a middle child people) and after working about forty four days and shifts straight at the bar… at 4 am one night after another 16 hour shift I booked a flight to Lima Peru.
Having only ever done trips to Europe or the Caribbean by myself I was a little bit anxious to be taking off at 21 into not only a whole other continent and hemisphere, but style of travel as well… this without a doubt was the trip that defined me as a travel and started my quest and goal in life to experience magic…before I tell you about the experience that is Machu Picchu I must say that Peru is an absolutely phenomenal country. I landed in Lima and quickly took off to Juliaca where I started my weeks of travel by busing it to Puno, which is the folklore capital of Peru and upon my arrival I met a group of travellers I continued with and we were welcomed into the city with parades (sadly not for us), dancing and beautiful nightlife taking place all across the central area of the city. The appeal of Puno to most people is that it is located at the edge of Lake Titicaca… for those who aren’t familiar with it; it sits pretty at 3860m above sea level and is the world’s highest elevated and commercially navigable lake. Truly Spectacular as you sail around and see the 2000 or so Uros people who still live on the floating islands made of dried reeds…they have everything… even large (and I think of the Vikings) canoe/boat style vessels that they use to travel between the islands, these are an indigenous people that have lived there for many years and live on most of the 40 floating islands that are found on the lake. Anyways on the lake we sailed over to the island of Taquille, which as I remember is the largest one (correct me if I am wrong) and had an 5 km hike to the top of the island to visit this stunning island that at 13000ft above sea level is still remarkable with numerous pre-Inca and Inca ruins as well as terracing still intact… high altitude and magnificent.. Truly breathe taking
Anyway before I start rambling, it is hard going back in memory 5 years, all I have is notes I scribbled down in an old journal – but from Puno I headed over to Cusco which would act as the base for our Machu Picchu trip… Cusco was a beautiful town with a lovely centre square in your typical colonial architecture that at night for whatever reason always seems to have golden yellow lighting and looks like something out of a story book. It was beautiful and after a few days there walking around eating and handing apples out to orphans, OH here’s the thing about Peru and if you’ve been you will know this. In Cusco children will come up to you and for one dollar will sell you finger puppets! Yes I know… finger puppets, it’s both the cutest and oddest thing ever but you have children from lower or no income families try to get sympathy out of tourists by selling these little puppets. They got to us as a few of us were leaving a restaurant and while initially we bought a few eventually we realised it wont give them a future as the money goes back to their parents and they are back on the street the next day so I ran back into the restaurant and grabbed some fruit that we had left behind and VOILA the young boys loved it.. they really don’t care about the dollar they are making, they are enjoy being in each others company and were very grateful for the food they were given…this was probably one of my first experiences travelling where I realised children who beg and haggle don’t know better, they do it on parents orders and if you treat them as you would your own child or sibling they will act like the children that they are… from that moment forward they stopped being pushy and trying to sell us stuff, and with apples in their hands started smiling, being playful, and telling us about their lives…an apple people…that’s all it takes….
Anyways from Cusco we made our way past beautiful mountain regions and canyons, such as the Sacred Valley, to the archaeological site of Saqsaywaman for sunset and followed by some climbing the following day at Ollantaytambo, which was used to serve as the capital for the Incas many moons ago. This was our base towards Machu Picchu. Now my initial interest in Peru and the Incas came from reading a fictional novel by Clive Cussler called “Inca” don’t ask why I thought it would be of any similarities but… when we finally got up to the archaeological site after a journey of about 4 days in the making I was blown away.
I think the way they always plan it is so that you arrive right as the sun is rising. So you are literally staring down from the Entrance at this city in the sky that is located 2430m above sea level, and as you stand there the light breaks through and slowly bit my bit this majestic site gets highlighted by rays of light right before your eyes, I cried then and am getting teary eyed now… this was the first time in my life I really experience magic and for those moments forgot who I was or where I was… all I remember is feeling so overwhelmed and fortunate to be witnessing something so spectacular ask anyone who has been there and they will share this sentiment – Machu Picchu is quite possibly the most breathtaking experience any one of them have been through.
As you walk around through the various terraces, buildings, enclosures and all the ruins you really get a sense of what humanity was capable so many years ago. This city they built, not only because it’s so high above sea level and virtual went undiscovered for hundreds of years, is as far advanced in layout as our cities are today, with everything set up according to the rising of the sun and how sound carries itself it blew my mind. We walked around the whole site and then (this was I think when the daily limit for climbers was still 500) six of us decided to hike up Wayna Picchu, which is the mountain that rises over Machu Picchu and is seen as the backdrop in majority of photos, its tooth like looking. Wayna Picchu, according to locals, had it’s summit used as a residence for the high priest and, but of course, local virgins and every morning before sunrise they would descend down to Machu Picchu to announce the coming of a new day.
The hike itself is supposed to take about an hour – given the various fitness levels of the 6 of us doing it I think we got up in about an hour and a half, and let me tell you – it’s gruelling – especially in the heat of the day with the sun beating down as you’re sucking in thin air and climbing up what can only be described as a never ending rock stair case – tough but very rewarding when at the end after you crawl under one boulder you emerge on top of the world. The summit here is weird not flat, and not very safe if you ask me it’s about 8 giant bedroom size boulders that seem to be suspended on tiny little rocks. Once on top you have a beautiful view of Machu Picchu itself, Putasaki (more on that shortly) and the rest of the valley – again another tear jerking moment and one that made me decide right then and there that travelling for me requires a purpose, so I promised myself within 5 years I would see the 7 world wonders and continue to try to find magic world wide.
After I had my epiphany we started to proceed down from the top, and this part is probably the most scared I have been in my life up until this point. You descend with fear, the Incans were a smaller peoples with smaller feet so threes steep steps with no guardrail that are both shallow and narrow and you’re supposed to go down and try not to kill yourself. It seems like if you sneezed you may fall off… apparently we were told that something like 1 person falls very month… so a 1 in 12000 chance of Death – AMAZING…and alas Team Suicide was born.
Team Suicide… so it goes like this on September 26th 2005 12 of us decided to take a walk in Augus Calientes (the town located just below the insane deathly bus ride down from Machu Picchu), and decided to go on a nature trail up Putasaki (which is the mountain from which both Machu Picchu and Wayna Picchu are visible) thinking it was just a climb we thought nothing of the clouds rolling in…this turned out to be an insane hike that lasted about 3 hours up to the top of this mountain but every few hundred feet we would encounter these large wooden ladders that were propped up on 85 degree angles against the face of the mountain and made out of what looked like whole treetrunks, so round, no steps and were probably at most about 70 m high… all fun and games when we were climbing up and there was still some sun out… however after our lovely top of Putasaki photos and celebrating that all of us of all ages made it to the top we started to descend just as the rain started coming down. Anywhere else in the world I would have enjoyed this experience, but as its pissing down rain when you are walking down a mountain on mud paths – not so fun… we started getting mini landslides and the ladders were basically impossible to try to hold on to normally so you found yourself trying to bear hug these steps as you were trying to not get blinded by the falling rain and mud, one of our group even had a huge rock slide onto her hand going down… everyone at one point was on their bum… we all arrived safely … but that moment forward named the twelve of us Team Suicide, as it likely wasn’t the best idea to climb up with rain clouds looming.
Now bear with me this trip was over 5 years ago so I am trying to remember most details, I spent a bit more time in Aguas Calientes and eventually made my way back to Lima for two days along the coast and my first time jumping off something. Team Suicide had a lovely lunch in the New Lima and as we were sitting on the patio noticed people gliding over us – so we went on a walk… and found about 6 Peruvians running and jumping off of a cliff over the Atlantic. In case you have yet to notice – any opportunity to defy gravity and I am there in a heart beat – so naturally I jumped the barrier and found out what it feels like to fly… I went para jumping I think its called… so basically you saddle yourself up on some strangers lap (Yep I am THAT forward) strap on a parachute and when he says go you start running until there is no more ground underneath your feet… at this point the gravity pulls you down as your chute sails you mid air…There I was hours before my flight home sitting on some Peruvians lap (haha) with my feet dangling over the Atlantic and being given my first taste of what it feels like to defy gravity – needless to say this trip not only started a mission to see the 7 world wonders, it inspired me to travel from that point forward in a way where I would continue to be blow away(don’t get me wrong I love my weekends in Bahamas and Jamaica twice a year) and in a constant pursuit of gravity defying and adrenaline experiences.
Amazing – it was the perfect way to end a trip… I got to fly…and then when I actually went to catch my flight home I met the lovely Peruvian Army at the airport who couldn’t be happier than to talk to a blonde girl and take perfect facebook worthy photos with…
Thank you Peru for creating what is now me…
I guess back then I was
Wee lil miss planet