Machu Picchu Started My Bucket List Quest
My Bucket List quest started back in 2011 after seeing a picture a friend had taken at Machu Picchu. I had never heard of seen Machu Picchu before then and I was amazed at its beauty and mystery.
I now had two problems. I had never traveled out of the country by myself and I knew I probably wasn’t going to be able to convince my married friends to take 2 weeks off and fly to Peru. My comfort zone told me not to go because it would be too dangerous traveling alone and doubt set in as to what I would do if something bad happened when I was over there.
So, what did I do? I booked the trip knowing that I was too cheap to cancel and loose my deposit. Little did I know that simply booking the trip, before I was fully convinced it was a good idea, I started the ball rolling on all my future bucket list adventures.
Often times the hardest step is the first one. Once you have a little momentum, it is hard to stop.
Packing for Machu Picchu
Off to REI to buy hiking boots, sleeping bag, backpack, and clothes.
Quick Night in Lima, Peru
My first international flight and night out was uneventful. I stayed in a hotel just outside Lima. The biggest thing I had to get used to was the toilet paper trash can next to the toilet. Not awful, but different than what I had been used living in the US.
There were comforts of home… WiFi… so I could check in with friends and family and the all important world of facebook.
Off to Cusco
A short domestic flight from Lima to Cusco went smooth. I could tell right away that Cusco was at a much higher altitude than what I was used to. Climbing three flights of stairs at the hotel nearly made me pass out. This wasn’t a good feeling knowing I was going to be hiking at much higher altitudes later on my trip.
I was first introduced to Coca Tea leaves upon arriving in Cusco. These would prove to be very helpful to fight mild altitude sickness.
I recommend eating at La Casa Del La Llama located near the city square. They have a roof top patio that has a great view of the city. It tastes like pork and has very little fat. It was very good. Also, while you are there you might as well have Cusquena (Peruvian Beer).
While walking around the town, a celebration parade started what seemed like just out of the blue.
Off to Ollantaytambo
Ollantaytambo is an Inca archaeological site near Cusco and on the way to Machu Picchu.
Hiking in the Andes
Taking a three-day hike in the Andes mountains was a highlight of my life. Hiking the Lares Trek turned out to be better than hiking the Inca Trail. The Inca trail is more popular, but I found the Lares Trek a better way to go if you enjoy hiking and amazing scenery.
The Inca Trail is packed with people, a very long walk and much of it is on stone steps. The small group I hiked with on the Lares Trek passed one other group the whole time we were on the mountain. Our camps were empty and we were able to see native Peruvians up in the mountains.
The highest pass we reached was over 14,000 feet which was a challenge and a few in our group became sick from the altitude but everyone made it to the top. The views were some of the most beautiful views I’ve seen.
At night, the temperature dropped down to freezing which made for a very cold night, so a quality sleeping bag is a must. Stepping out of your tent in the middle of the night will get you a memorable view of the brightest view of the millions of stars and frequent shooting stars that are hidden when living near sea level and surrounded by city lights.
Another advantage of the Lares Trek puts you away from the more tourist filled Inca Trail and near the Peruvian people who live in the mountains. Seeing kids, off in the distance, in their bright colored handmade clothes come running up to our group to greet us was memorable experience.
Reaching Machu Picchu
Having so many amazing experiences before I even reaching Machu Picchu made me fear that I had already seen the best of the trip. I was wrong. The pictures you see of Machu Picchu are breathtaking, but seeing the area first hand is indescribable.
There is a strange calm and mystery of the area that I have not felt before. Even though there are thousands of people walking around the ruins, it feels unlike other heavily visited tourist areas. Sitting on one of the farming terraces to take in the full view of the area was very peaceful and awe-inspiring.
I have always had a problem with heights. So, taking the short trail to the Inca Bridge turned out to be a challenge for me, but well worth the 10 min walk.
Bucket Mate is Born
It was on this trip when I decided to devote time, energy, money, and effort to having more of these once in a lifetime type of experiences. My pursuit of completing my bucket list and helping others complete theirs was born.
One thing that I found out on this trip is that when pursuing your bucket list adventures you will undoubtedly have unexpected things come up. I believe these unexpected events can turn into some of your best “unexpected memories”.
While standing in line to get my boarding pass to go home at the Cusco airport I had one of these events occur. I was waiting in line with a friend I had met on the trip when two undercover police officers asked me to come with them.
The first thing I thought was, I hope somebody did not slip something into my bag when I wasn’t looking.
The led me to a small back room in the airport which had 4 chairs lined up against the back wall with handcuffs on all of the chair arms. Needless to say this was not a welcoming site.
The male police officer started speaking to me in spanish. My knowledge of spanish consists of Hola and gracias. Thankfully the female officer spoke english and stepped in when it was obvious I had no idea what he was saying.
They asked me what I was doing, how long I was in the country, and if I had any drugs. I calmly answered their questions all while thinking about the show “Locked Up Abroad”. After pulling out all of my clothes, unraveling my sleeping bag, and playing with my kindle they said I was free to go. I proceeded to re-pack my backpack which took about 15 mins since it took a packing genius to get everything into my backpack.
At the time it was a scary situation, but everything turned out fine and now I have an “unexpected memory”.
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