My final trip of the semester was a fabulous mixture of adventure, nature, and ancient culture. Visiting Peru was like a mixture of The Emperor’s New Groove and an Indian Jones movie. It was absolutely incredible.
We first arrived in Cuzco and had a terrible time adjusting to the altitude (It’s over 3400 meters there. That’s over 2 miles!!). Cuzco is fabulous and historic with lots of churches, cobblestone streets, artisan shops and close access to all the ancient ruins. Even though there is a colonial, European influence, the general architecture of the city is distinctly South American. Looking around at the stucco buildings, stone arches, and tile roofs with the mountains nearby, it was clear that the only place in the world I could be was Peru. (Fun Fact: Lima (the capital of Peru) was the “first” European founded city in South America)
After exploring Cuzco, we adventured to the Sacred Valley and visited the ruins of Ollantaytambo and Pisaq. From Ollantaytambo we took a train to Aguas Calientes, which is the town at the base of the Machu Picchu mountain (the altitude is much less here ironically).
The next morning we woke up bright and early hopped on a bus and rode it to the top of the Machu Picchu mountain. (You can climb up the mountain on foot but it takes about 1.5 hours and we were not in the mood to do that at 5:30am; I did however climd down the mountain. That took a lot less time). We explored the ruins, hung out with the llamas, and were incredibly impressed with the fog covered mountainous views.
The highlight of the day was climbing Wayna Picchu, which is the mountain next door where you can overlook Machu Picchu. They only let 400 people a day go up, and let me tell you it was a brutal trek–I don’t know how these Incans did it daily. To climb up, you go up nearly vertical staircases and climb rocks (there are ropes and cables installed to assist you). It is like 100 bleacher miles + satan drills + wallsits combined. The views and the pride that comes with knowing you survived totally vale la pena (“worth it”).