Machu Picchu, Looking Back on an Unforgettable New Year Adventure

We sit here looking to our future trips in the new year and I can't help remember a trip that kick started our adventures. Saveria and I were in the middle of training for Wildflower Long course triathlon with Oceanside 70.3 and Ironman Couer d' Alene on the horizon. We had gone into shut down mode...all training-all the time, no social life, just work and working out. One day Saveria got a call from our friend Mark and he asked if she wanted to hike the Inca Trail for New Years, Saveria answered with "Sure, if you do Wildflower with us." Both agreed and after a bit of convincing, I figured a week at altitude would help my cycling.

I had not hiked or backpacked since Boy Scouts, more than a few years ago at this point, but I decided to go along anyway, we borrowed most of the gear we needed, got stuck like a pin cushion at our local travel doctor and off we went.

We flew into Lima, then quickly on to Cusco where we had a couple days to rest, acclimate to the altitude, meet our guide, explore ruins and sites around the city and fall in love with coca tea. It was a bit of a rainy season, that comes into play later, but that just made it more beautiful.

The hiking part of the trip was 4 days and 3 nights finishing with a day at Machu Picchu and an optional second day for exploring the ruins. The first was a surprise to some in our group as our guide had told us that it was flat after many miles of hiking up hill we began to tease our guide that this was hardly flat. He kept insisting that it was flat. We came to realize in the coming days that by "flat" he meant the trail didn't have steps or rocks. Apparently hiking straight up hill could also be "flat" and after day the next few ays we would have to agree! On day 2, we hiked up and over a 14,000 ft. peak in rain and wind, I was warmed up by a sugar based spirit one of the porters made and kept in a water bottle. The way down the mountain to the next campsite could be described as a torrential down pour. Day 3 brought us up and over multiple passes and through some impressive ruins. There were steps, more steps, then some more steps... Keep in mind the steps are uneven, slippery, off kilter rocks making the trail a bit technical at times.

Our last night, New Years Eve, was spent at Winay Wayna, the terrace our tents were set up on would be washed completely away a few weeks later. We celebrated New Years Eve in the bar area that was set up, it was our group and about 100 other people from all over the world, it was a great experience. The next morning we made our way to the Sun Gate and we looked down to see a beautiful valley and a single cloud below, "Where is Machu Piccu?" I wondered and as I said that the wind picked up just so and the cloud moved on to reveal the city, it was pretty amazing. Couldn't have been planned better.

We spent the rest of that day waking around the ruins with our guide and then heading to the restaurants buffet where we ate and ate and ate. We boarded busses and headed down a crazy switchback road to Aquas Calientes for an hour long shower in the room of the posh spa we were staying at. The Inca Terra was heavenly after four days of hiking. The next day we returned to Machu Picchu and explored more before heading back to Cusco, then Lima, then home.

This trip was something I did not think I would do, Saveria and I encourage each other to get out of our comfort zone while supporting each other as well. It makes us a great team.

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