Machu Picchu

This is video of us finishing the Inka Trail and arriving at the Sungate Entrance. It was about 6.5 hours of hiking. Absolutely stunning!

WOW! I made it to my dream destination! This was a magical, spiritual journey. From flying into and out of a hurricane on our flight to Peru, with the threat of being stuck for 4 days in a shelter in Miami, to the beautiful mountains of the sacred valley, this was a trip that would be hard to top for me.

In 1997, I had been pregnant with my oldest child and watching the morning news, Good Morning America. They did a show on the 7 Wonders of the World. Machu Picchu was one of the wonders and I was fascinated at the beauty and mystery behind the ruins. I immediately put it at the #1 Top Destination to see, even if it took me 20 years to get there.
While watching this, I had remembered my brother Bob talking about this when he was in high school and how it was a mystery on how the Inkas built this village so many years ago. He was into hiking a little when he was in high school and had bought some hiking boots! He was so excited and proud of these brown leather hiking boots with red laces that were so popular back in the late 70’s. He was always adventurous and was always trying to talk the rest of us siblings into going out to hike, swim at the gap, tube down the river, etc. So, this trip was going to be full of memories of my brother…I could feel the emotion well up inside of me when I started to plan it.

There are a few ways to enter Machu Picchu. You can ride the bus from the town at the bottom of the mountain, Aguas Calientes, or take several of the hiking trails up. There are trails from just outside of town that you can hike up, or larger hikes from several different entry points on the surrounding mountains. You are going to want to plan the day you want to go long in advance if you can, as they only allow so many on the mountain per day. Many days sell out, so plan in advance. You can go to https://www.machupicchu.gob.pe/inicio to buy your tickets. If you go with a tour group, most of them will purchase your tickets for you.

There was only one way I wanted to get there, and that was hike the Inka Trail. The government had made a new policy that anyone hiking on the mountain now has to have a guide with them. This helps keep the mountain in pristine condition and not have it overran, littered and abused. But, most of the companies only offer 2 or more day camping trips. I searched and found a company, Sam Travel Peru, that offered 1 day hikes to the top of Sungate Entrance and then down to Machu Picchu. Perfect!! This was for us. It would be an approximate 7 hour hike. Time to start training for this climb.

Beginning of the Inka Trail
There were so many areas that were difficult descents and climbs

We flew into Lima, Peru and then flew to Cusco,Peru. Because of our flight delay, it left us with 2 days and 2 nights instead of 3 nights in this awesome city. But that will be another entry for my blog. In order to get to Machu Picchu, you must head into the Sacred Valley. There are many ways for you to get there and Sam’s Travel Peru had set up for a shuttle bus to bring us to the town of Ollantaytambo, where you get on the train up to Aqua Calientes. But, I don’t like to take the easy way. I need to experience the Sacred Valley slow and on my own time, so we found a taxi that would take us to Ollantaytambo when we were ready, and we then stayed there for 2 nights before we started our hike. The taxi ride was a close to an hour and half and cost 90 soles, which is about $28 dollars.

The day of our hike, our guide, Carlos, came to our hotel very early in the morning and picked us up. Because we were not coming back to this hotel to stay overnight, and the train ride up to Aqua Calientes does not allow you to bring your luggage with you, the hotel kept our luggage for the 3 days we were gone and then Sams Travel Peru picked up our luggage when we were ready to head back towards Cusco.

Sam’s Travel Peru made the whole experience so much better then I had even imagined. I was so worried about how our luggage would get from one place to another. After three days of being gone, would they forget about us and our luggage? NOPE! They were on top of it all and did not disappoint.

Train ride from Ollyantaytambo to hikers drop off for Inka Trail

SO, when the train came to the drop off point for all the hikers to get off, we all walked down the side of the hill, across a bridge and began our entry point to the Inka Trail. So much anticipation and excitement leading to this point! I was way overdressed and had to peel most of my layers off immediately. The day was going to warm up to be a beautiful sunny day. I was just going to have to tie all my clothing to my backpack and carry on!

Start of the Inka Trail

We came upon a beautiful, majestic waterfall, and that is where we sat for our lunch. Sitting in silence in the outdoors with nature always brings my family to mind. My hike brings my brother to mind. Bob, does he know I did this? Can he see that I am here and wishing he was able to be with us? His dream hike! I envision him hiking next to me, with his big grin and his cheery disposition, and his unsteady shuffle of the Huntington’s dance! Even in his last months alive he was cheery, living with his deterioration from Huntington’s and unbeknownst to him, AIDS.

WOW! I just typed that out! SO, there it is, out there. This is what sits in my heart, gets my throat to close up and that big knot that sits there, on the verge of crying, yet he was a champ through it all. This brings on so much heartache and emotion, and I try to block it all while I am enjoying this beautiful scenery. Many times, I have to hold back the tears and remember that I am the one that gets the privilege of seeing this amazing place and that he knows I am here and he is happy for me.

Guilt is one thing that runs strong for the ones that do not end up with the gene. It never seems to retire from my feelings or mind. I push it away and it it keeps creeping back in at times when you should be the happiest! But maybe that is why, because you know they did not get the kind of happiness I am experiencing and their life ended too soon. Because my brother knew he had Huntington’s, he did not take the precautions to avoid getting AIDS? He had been tested for it 8 yrs prior and was negative, but knew he had a death sentence, Huntington’s! Maybe he threw his hands in the air and gave up on protecting himself, because he just didn’t care anymore. I can understand the logic in that, and at the same time, it stings to my core. It was horrible watching him suffer, with what we all thought was just Huntington’s. I had not seen him in over a year and when I did, my assumption was that he looked like he might have AIDS. SO, in his final days, my sister and I both agreed we needed to know if he had AIDS for the safety of everyone taking care of him. The results didn’t come back until a week after he passed.
It was a burden my sister and I kept to ourselves.

I tell this story, because I can bare the weight no longer. My sister and I never told the family. We wanted to protect his personal life. I have told some friends, and one of my nephews, recently. But this IS life…this is where so many can share and learn from other’s experiences. We all make choices that can alter our own life and the ones we love, and people with Huntington’s do not have the capability of thinking clearly in their later stages. Bob was well into his Huntington symptoms in his late 20’s, tested for HIV in his early thirties and was negative. He died from complications from aspirating on his food at the age of 39. He was still living in a group home and doing most things on his own. I often wonder if he ever suspected he may have it, or did he chalk everything up to being Huntington’s? This was my brother, whom I loved and hated to see suffer,no matter what it was that he was suffering from. I tell this story with only love towards him. My point being, he had no idea how his actions would impact those that were left with the knowledge after he died. As I sit here on this rock with this beautiful waterfall and majestic mountains and the Inka trail at my feet, I imagine all the people that have walked this trail since the 15th century and then rediscovered in 1915. The stories each person carries with them! Hard to imagine anyone sat here and had the same feelings of this hike as I am having!

So, I pack up the lunch I was eating at the amazing waterfall, wipe my tears and on we go!

We kept at a great pace and reached the campsite ahead of schedule. I was relieved, as I had to use the restroom and the campsite had a shelter with some holes in the ground, just waiting for us hikers. The Llamas guarding the area, ready to be loaded for the rest of the trek up by the campers still at the campsite. Such beauty! As we waited for everyone to do their business, we sat and enjoyed the surroundings. Being in the mountains always brings my heart and head back to my youth of living in Colorado and all the good and bad that comes with it. This is therapeutic for my soul.

Our trek from there was amazing, with bridges, stairs and beautiful scenery as we got closer to the main event…Machu Picchu! FYI…This 1 day hike is usually done in 2 days with camping, so if you choose to do this, prepare for it. It has several difficult, steep stairs and descents. For some, this may be an easy hike depending on their fitness level and if they live in higher altitudes, but for others it can be very difficult. I found this to be on the moderate to high difficult range, just due to the length of the hike. Drink plenty of water before heading into the mountains to avoid getting altitude sickness, and definitely suck on the Coca leaf candies or leaves that they sell in many stores.

Final set of stairs before we reach SUNGATE ENTRANCE

SUNGATE ENTRANCE…still about 45 min to Machu Picchu

After our hike, Carlos gave us a detailed tour around Machu Picchu. He gave us plenty of time to take photos and have time to absorb the sites. It was really busy that day, and we were planning on coming back up the next day to hike Huayna Picchu, so we followed Carlos’s advice and decided to leave the mountain after his tour and come back up early the next day before our scheduled hike to sit and absorb the energy and enjoy the beautiful surroundings.

We then got on the bus, which Sams Travel Peru had already purchased for us and went into town. We had a nice dinner with Carlos, compliments of Sams Travel Peru, toasted to a great hike and amazing day, then went to our hotel to crash! We were going to be hiking up Huayna Picchu in the morning! (Which Sams Travel Peru purchased for us in advance along with our bus tickets. This was NOT a hike through their company, but one you can do on your own). And that will be another entry in the blog! This had been an amazing, emotional day and I didn’t want it to end, but I knew the next day’s hike would be just as wonderful!

After hike restaurant in Aquas Calientes