Recently finding myself with some free time between coursework for my graduate program and a summer project, I decided to travel to Peru- a country where I have a long history. My father was born and raised in Cusco and to this day the majority of my family resides in the capital of the Incan Empire, Cusco. Over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to spend many summers along with my parents and two younger sisters living with my grandparents in Peru. Regardless of how many times I visit the beautiful country, each individual experience is unique and exciting. I always discover something new and create unforgettable memories.
On this particular trip, my itinerary consisted of a packed two weeks which included a layover in Lima before continuing on to Cusco, Machu Picchu and finally a 4 day, 3 night trek through the Andes. Along with me were my parents Luis and Tory, my younger sister Emily, and two friends Stacia, and Olivia.
NAME: Mariella Torres
FUN FACTS: Half Peruvian, Half Vermonter, Triathlete, Marathoner, Yogi Wannabe
Now Entering Peru:
The trip started with a hiccough. After arriving in the Lima International Airport we were promptly told that my brand new drone that I was SO excited to fly was prohibited and would be confiscated until I left the country. Not the best way to start a trip, but in international travel you have to be prepared for the unexpected. If this was the worst thing that would happen I was fine with it. We had a quick layover, and then we on our way once again sans drone to Cusco.
We spent our first day letting everyone adjust to the altitude of roughly 11,100 feet, which meant naps and constant coca tea. We had one full day in the city to tour around, visit sites, and spend time with my grandparents before we were off again to travel through the sacred valley via Peru Rail enroute to Machu Picchu. Now on the list of the new seven wonders of the world, there are no words to describe this magical place. I have been lucky enough to visit several times, and I’m astonished whenever I set foot inside.
Hello, Machu Picchu:
There have been many changes over the years. I remember at the age of 5 my mother would tell my sister and I that she would be napping in the large central grassy area, but that we could run off as long as we were safe and came back in an hour or so. So we’d sprint up and down the stairs completely unaffected by neither the strain of the many stairs nor the 8,000 foot altitude. Nothing was off limits. One of the world’s seven wonders was our playground. Today, because of the rise in popularity and the attempt to counteract erosion, only 2,000 people are allowed every day at this historical site. Many terraces and sacred stones are roped off with guards at every turn ready to blow the whistle and give you a warning or kick you out. There is no jumping allowed, and we learned the hard way that yoga isn’t allowed either. Those new realities aside, a trip to Machu Picchu is still more than worth it. As a veteran of the area I have learned that it is extremely important to stand in line at 4am to snag the first bus up to the entrance. Nothing compares to watching the mist roll in over the jagged peaks of the surrounding mountains and the sun slowly rise radiating through the clouds.
My father, for good reason, is insistent on spending at minimum two full days in the ruins. On our first day we conquered Machu Picchu mountain, the larger of the two famous mountains. The second day we climbed Wayna Picchu- the more famous high peak that is always seen in the backdrop of classic pictures. Both of these ascents require separate reservations as they only allow 200 people a day up each. We were told that they were completely booked through the end of August. If Machu Picchu was not on your travel list, add it - right now.
And Then, There Was Cusco:
After four days we returned to Cusco a little sore, with some bruises, a lot of sunburns (oops), and hundreds of pictures. We had just two days to rest before our next adventure- the 4 day, 3 night trek. In all the times I’ve been to Peru, I’ve never done an extended trek. It takes a lot of planning, it is expensive, and for the most part my sisters and I were too young to make the journey. My Mom has always day dreamed of standing at the foot of Ausangate Mountain, a stunning snowcapped mountain that is visible from Cusco and holds significance in Incan mythology. By making this trek, we finally were making her dream come true.
Like everything else in Peru, a trek like this really needs to be experienced first hand in order to understand the true grandeur. Nature has a way of humbling you, and walking amongst the Andes Mountains was both a spiritual and magical experience. Guiding our trip was Flavio, a seasoned mountaineer from the region. Also along with us was a staff of five including a horsemen, a cook named Charlie Domingo whose talent with a gas camp stove is unmatched, his assistant, and a thirteen year old boy whose job was to accompany us with an emergency horse. Each day there was a different and unique highlight. Day one featured a deep turquoise glacier lake. On the second day we treked along a very steep pass which had views for miles. Three days into our trek we came to the point my mother had dreamed of: an up close look at Ausangate at 17,000 feet. Finally on the last day, we came to a small mountain community with a plethora of really cute puppies. Throughout the hike we saw Andean birds, Vicuña, many alpaca and an animal that resembled a fox which I unfortunately couldn’t identify. As you can imagine I took a ridiculous amount of pictures. Yet every time I would click and check the image I would be extremely disappointed at how it paled in comparison to the actual energy, emotion, and magnificence of the landscapes. I suppose that’s the magic of travel though. You can live vicariously through photography and blogs such as this one, but until you actually get out and experience the sights, breath the air, or immerse yourself in a foreign culture, all you can do is imagine. As powerful as your imagination can be, it still can’t compare to the life experiences gained from actually traveling.
Peru in particular has special place in my heart. As I become more and more aware of the world around me and move into adulthood, I find myself returning each time with experiences that are deeper, more meaningful, and create further self awareness. It has become a place that I cherish deeply, and I can’t wait until my next return.