After an incredible routine based 3 weeks, filled with yoga, vegetarian cuisine, Cusco, and Monica’s house, my time to actually enjoy the city I have moved to for 5 weeks finally begun. I spent my first ‘day off’ around the breakfast table with Monica for almost an hour. I love spending his time here with her. As always we discuss spirituality. She makes me question all that I have learned, from life lessons, from various teachers in recent years, from yoga philosophy, solidifying my beliefs, and finding ways of explaining myself. Monica’s very fascinated with all that I have learned and my commitment and dedication to my yoga practice, and it’s great to share this newly acquired knowledge and excitement with someone.
So with a whole day off I felt like a new person with a new appreciation for Cusco. I walked around, dropped off my laundry, got my nails done, and read my book at this cute little French cafe while watching the rain pour down outside. A few hours later I figured it was time to go home and prepare for Tommy’s arrival in Peru tomorrow afternoon.
Knowing he has always wanted to go to Machu Picchu and me presence here being an even better excuse, my amazing boyfriend bought a ticket down to visit me in Peru during the week of my 24th birthday. How could turning 24 get any better? :) When traveling, whether in Southeast Asia or South America, I often see people with loved ones by their side, exploring new turf together. Although I’ve always enjoyed my travel buddies, I do become somewhat envious of the couples, wishing i had my significant other to explore this beautiful world with. Needless to say, I was highly anticipating his arrival.
Over the last week and a half, we explored Cusco, Pisac, Ollantaytambo, Aguas Calientes and Machu Picchu. Kaytia mom and her moms boyfriend (Diana and Len) were here for some of the time as well and we had the pleasure of meeting them and seeing various sites together. While in Cusco, I got to show him around the city I have called home for the last few weeks, but also got to explore areas I have not seen yet. We met up with Kaytia, Diana and Len, and went to Qorikancha, an old Incan temple that was considered the most revered temple in Cusco. Incan ruins are unbelievable. The way the rocks are placed together, without spaces in between… The enormity of the boulders… The use and import of the stars… Everything. It’s unreal. No matter what ruin you are at, you can sense the greatness of this culture. It truly is mind blowing.
Speaking of Incan ruins, this time with Tommy was full of them. After giving him a couple days to acclimate to the altitude, we hopped on a collectivo (crammed minivan/bus for 10 soles or $3) for about 2 hours to get out of the city and head to Ollantaytambo. Not only was the drive there beautiful, full of greenery and mountains, but we landed at this incredible bed and breakfast/ hotel my friend recommended right on the train tracks. Ollanta is known for being the town that many Incans retreated to after the Spanish conquered Cusco. The first ruins we explored were at Temple Hill, also considered the fortress of Ollantaytambo. We spent almost 3 hours there with only a few drops of rain, which I find to be rare in the Sacred Valley. The next day we found more ruins on the other side of the small Inca city and again spent a few days there. It was a beautiful, hot, sunny day out and we both got the sunburn to prove it. I’ve never been much of a hiker, but there is something about hiking up a mountain knowing you are on your way to these majestical ruins that makes it much easier. And after being in higher altitude in Cusco for so long, I felt in better shape than ever before.
Later that afternoon, we packed up our bags and headed to Aguas Calientes, the starting point for Machu Picchu, on our clear ceiling train, providing us with new views and new sites of the Sacred Valley. Once we arrived to our destination, it becomes obvious that this town was only created as a hub for Machu Picchu. Prices are obscenely high, and streets are crammed packed with hostels, restaurants, and craft shops. We arrived to our hostel where we reserved a private room to find that oh we don’t have the room anymore, although I reserved it and confirmed by phone almost a week before. Oh well. Thankful for my low give a shit factor (oops but it’s true), we walked a bit until finding another inexpensive/cheap however you wanna look at it, hotel right on the river. Granted the river is not glorious and actually brown, the room was huge, well we had to push the two twin beds together, and it wasn’t the nicest place we’ve ever been, I thought it was fabulous (like I tend to always think) and gave tommy a little insight on the type of budget traveling I usually enjoy. He still loves me so it’s all okay, despite him being woken up to the spider crawling on his neck in the middle of the night. All is well and we were ready to hike up to Machu Picchu in the morning, our alarm set for 4:30am.
Well about that 4am wake up call…. Due to our lack of sleep in our luxurious room and the darkness that existed out the windows, we snoozed until about 5:30 when the light revealed the rainstorm that was occurring… Of course right? We waited for another hour and a half until we realized the rain wasn’t going to stop. Our plan was to hike up the trail to Machu Picchu, a whole 1350m ascent, or 4,500ft, or almost a mile straight uphill. Rain didn’t stop us. We started at 7:30 and were joined by a black lab mixed pit bull looking stray dog the whole way up. An hour and a half later, about an hour of straight stairs (almost 2000), we finally made it!
Whatever you hear about Machu Picchu times it by 50 and that’s not even how incredible it is in person. Pictures do not do this wonder of the world justice. It’s mind blowing, breath taking, one of the most magical places I’ve ever been. I tried to come up with my own theories of how the Incans got these boulders up to the top of this mountain and hypothesized that they just carved them out of the mountain, but was still blown away with how they put them together so eloquently. Well that’s obviously not the case since the rocks they did use are not even indigenous to the area, meaning they had to get them all the way to the top somehow, without the use of a wheel. Oh and to place them so strategically without spaces between them and carved so clean and well without modern machinery…. Right… It truly is magical. There was one part that stood out to me the most in regards of magic and energy and that was the sundial. Supposedly people come from all over the world to feel the energy emanate off this rock. Whether you are spiritual or not, there is no denying the feeling of something when you stand by this structure. My heart was racing with a huge smile beaming across my face. Despite the rain that day and the cloud coverage, the whole experience was incredible and still beautiful. I do hope to go back one day, but it’s also crazy to see his many people visit each day and there is no knowing how much longer it will be open to the public. Well see. But I’m happy to have had this experience and to see a place so sacred to not only the Incan culture but highly revered by the rest of the world. I can now see why.
That afternoon we took a train back to Cusco and the next day was my birthday! Woohoo 24! :) Reflecting on the last year, it’s crazy to see all that I have done and overcome. I lived in Thailand, developed self love and happiness, spent a month in my favorite village in South Africa, moved home, fell in love, got an amazing job, organized a 3 month trip to South America, and became a certified yoga instructor. It’s been amazing. And I got to wake up on my 24th birthday with my love in a beautiful hotel in the Sacred Valley of Peru. Life is good. We went on a hike to begin the day up to the Temple of the Condor and the Temple of the Moon, two of my favorite ruins in Cusco and two places still sacred to the people today.
And now here I am. Having enjoyed a ten day vacation from my everyday life in Cusco and I am grateful. I am healthy. I am happy. Everything is exactly where it’s supposed to be. Tommy has returned back home, Diana and Len as well, and kaytia and I are back to normal life at Monica’s, preparing for our next adventure. On Monday night we begin our trip down to Chile. We’ve had a great time in Cusco but are jonesing for our next move. We start our journey with a 12 hour bus ride to Arequipa, then a 5 hour to Tacna, where we will hop on a collectivo to cross the border to Arica, Chile, our first stop for two days. Hoping it will be filled of relaxation, sun and beaches!