It was a long awaited journey, one that took almost a year to plan, but Eurocircle’s second annual tour abroad, culminated into a week of physical and emotional upheaval. It wasn’t an easy voyage, as Peru proved to be a land of great geographical and cultural distances, but after enduring high altitude sickness and physical exertion to make an early morning trek to the top of Machu Pichu, we all agreed it was a journey we will never forget.
Planning an annual trip for EuroCircle, an organization largely made up of diverse, experienced world travelers isn’t easy. For the most part, as a group, we have seen it and done it all, so selecting an itinerary that would be stimulating and rewarding is always a challenge.
Let’s just say, that Peru and its national treasures did not disappoint. From our first day in Lima when we were welcomed into the Casa Diez Canseco by its illustrious owner for a scrumptious lunch and a personal home tour, we were always greeted warmly and experienced genuine hospitality.
The real journey began when we embarked for Machu Pichu, a destination that proved to be much more remote than we all expected. The first obstacle to this elusive peak was our descent into Cuzco. At 11,000 feet above sea level, this town knocked us all down to our knees, as approximately six hours into our arrival, most of us started to feel the effects of oxygen depletion.
From extreme nausea, to vertigo, confusion and massive headaches, our travelers spent the first day acclimating to the high altitude. Luckily, we rested at the breathtaking Sonesta Posadas del Inca, a beautiful 18th century monastery surrounded by lush gardens, delicious food and yes, oxygen tanks.
Upon recovery, we descended down into the lush Sacred Valley, where we were greeted by friendly llamas, alpacas, and vicunas. It was amazing to feed and play with the calm and gentle animals, but the respite was too short.
Without a moment to spare, we boarded a bus and set off for Ollantaytambo to visit the famous Inca stronghold built from immense blocks of stone. The climb to the peak of this fortress lead us to spectacular views of the valley below, and a great appreciation for traditional Inca architecture, still in use by the locals.
Another circuitous journey through the Andes, across the desert landscape and through the lush jungle, lead us to the moment we had been waiting for. The road to Machu Pichu was vigorous and demanding, but it was well worth the effort. As we climbed up the slippery steps and the rocky terraces, the scene that appeared before us was breathtaking.
A lush, green vista illuminated by the setting sun seemed almost eerie, with a ghostly silence that was almost unsettling.
At this point we had all heard the legends of the mysterious Incas who built this city, in the depths of the Peruvian jungle, high up in the clouds where no mortals could find it. But none of us was prepared for the high we all felt knowing we were standing at the top of the world.
In front of us was a never-ending panorama of green forest and mountain terraces that swirled down into the canyon below. As we looked down through the clouds below us, we wondered how the Incas managed to drag the massive blocks of stone up the narrow pathways to build a city in the sky.
In the end, we all took a deep breath and tried to find a moment of solitude to appreciate this beautiful scene. Some of us pushed ourselves even further, passed the vista of Machu Pichu and dared to walk the treacherous Inca bridge that skimmed the side of the mountain peak, trying not to look into the chasm below. It is amazing how a few hours among the clouds, and outside our own element, changed our attitudes and our personal energy.
They say Machu Pichu has mystical qualities, and I think each of us noticed and appreciated them in our own way. Some of us came here to simply see another wonder of the world, while others came to appreciate the ancient history. A few of us embarked on a personal quest to see and feel what the legendary tales spoke about, and after speaking with a few of the travelers, I think a few of us actually found it.
And now, on to the next adventure.