Wild Yoga at Machupicchu

Years ago, I used to write a weekly article for a newspaper in Nelson BC called, “Wow! What a Week!” where I’d highlight the previous week’s arts and entertainment scene. It was a pretty sweet deal; getting to meet all the artists, see music and visit exhibits. I never thought I’d have a writing gig as good as that. I was wrong. I now have the fortunate opportunity to write blogs here and there for Wild Women. I’m thinking that I might need to call this, “Wow! What a Week!” I’ve been lucky enough to spend a week on the Inka Trail here in Peru with amazing weather, deelish food, and most importantly, astonishingly talented and fearless women. Yup. I love my job. 

The first ever Peru trip for Wild Women was at the beginning of June, and there were nine amazing women in the group; eleven in total including Disnarda, our fabulous guide, and myself. Our Wild Women spanned the country and came from places as far and wide as Vancouver Island to Halifax, and ranged in vocations and ages. What united them all was their fearlessness, sense of adventure, (despite some being afraid of heights and high, precarious trails) and zest for life. Truly Wild Women indeed.

 

I met the ladies at the Andean Treks office in Cusco mid-day, to find that some of them had been waiting already a couple of hours by the gates, which had been locked, and found the buzzer wasn’t working. There had been some miscommunication with what time we could show up at the office; the dude inside didn’t know we’d be there, so we waited until Disnarda got there, who ended up calling and opening the door for us. I was so grateful that the women were so chilled and patient. You kind of have to be in this country, where “Peruvian time” is WAY different than Canadian time. Things always run a bit late, there is usually a bit of a misunderstanding or miscommunication and plans change moment depending on the circumstances. It reminds me a bit of India in a way, so, seeing that I’d already been here a month before our first group of women arrived, I wasn’t a bit surprised to hear that there had been a bit of a shmozzle with the meeting plan. Once we got inside, settled with our coca tea and had our first meeting, the energy was palpable; these women were ready to rock and roll for some adventure. Some had come because they were finally at a place where they had some “me” time, and most had come because they realized that this was an amazing trip that couldn’t be passed up, and ascribed to the whole “If not now, when?” proverb. Life-lovers indeed.

After a lunch of pseudo-Chinese food (where I ordered a vegetarian tofu rice based dish and got a meat filled wheat based pasta dish: once again, welcome to Peru!), we headed out on the road towards the sacred valley. We arrived at the Arwana Hotel and Spa around 4:30pm, and once we picked our jaws up off the ground after seeing this place, made our way to our lavish colonial-style rooms. I felt like I’d stepped back in time and entered an Isabelle Allende novel set in a magical colonial setting. The hotel itself has a museum, movie theatre (which of course was airing World Cup action), 5-Star spa, pool and hot tub, gardens galore and an amazing labyrinth to walk. The rooms all had Jacuzzi bathtubs big enough for two, marble, and comfy beds with duvets: paradise. Especially because I’d been staying in some smaller and much colder places since I’d arrived in Cusco. Some of the ladies had spa services before dinner and showed up at the table looking serene and beyond relaxed. I vowed I’d sign up for a massage on one of the following trips. The dinner was fab and comprised of typical Andean fare. Some of the brave chicas tried the alpaca tartare, which was a crowd-pleaser, unlike the grilled alpaca, which tasted kind of like liver. Most of us celebrated the trip’s beginning with the famous “Pisco Sour”, which is a Peruvian grape-based liquor served with lime juice and frothed egg white: deelish. It was Terri’s birthday so we sang a rousing tune for her, and took bites from her chocolate torte the chef had prepared. We thanked her for having a birthday; just another reason to celebrate.

The next morning we met Disnarda Argon, our guide who had been born and bred in Cusco, in the lobby. Her smile is infectious and her love and knowledge of the Sacred Valley is truly inspiring. Her mom is Quechuan, and her dad’s side of the family is from Spain, so she’s a great example of how many retain both of their lineages. When Spain came to Peru in 1528, they tried to strip the native Inkas of their language and culture and rituals. Amazingly today, there are still many who speak Quechuan, (and only Quechuan in some parts of the region), and in fact if you want to be a doctor or teacher here in Peru, you have to learn Quechuan. Pretty cool. Disnarda took us to Ollantaytambo to visit the ruins and showed us how the Inkas used the natural formation of the land and stone to build their terraces, storage places and housing. Amazing. When I think about all of the quickly assembled lego-type housing that’s being put in and around my hometown of Barrie, it amazes me. These Inka dudes knew how to build homes that would last. After our tour, we drove to Pisac, where we had an amazing buffet lunch at Dona Clorinda’s: fresh river trout ceviche, pesto potato something-or-rathers, salads out the wah-zoo, and an upside-down pineapple cake to finish things off. We rolled out of the restaurant happy and stuffed and headed up to the Pisac ruins for the afternoon. These are my fave ruins so far in Peru, and have a magical feel to them. We got back to the hotel in time for another amazing dinner, and I got to jam out on the Steinway grand piano with Mario, the Peruvian flute player. I can honestly say I’ve never jammed with panpipes; we did Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” to celebrate our Canadian-ness. Dinner was once again fabulous, and we headed back to our palaces to pack for the whole reason we’d come: The Inka Trail.

“From the city of Cusco there are two roads or royal highways which are two thousand miles long; one goes along the plains and the other along the mountain tops. In order to make them the way they are, it was necessary to raise the valleys, cut the stones and rocks, and humble the heights of the mountains.”

~Pedro Cieza de Leon.

The trail originally served as a way for the Inkas (over 400 years ago) to connect all towns and areas to Cusco, which was at that time, the capital of Peru. It’s so crazy to imagine how they built these roads…without any sort of machinery. ALL done by man-power (and women-power I imagine, helping out in many other ways) alone. The Lost Inkan City of Machupicchu was only discovered by Hiram Bingham in July of 1911, and more ruins that we explored on the trail were found a bit later (by a couple of wild women adventures/archeologists!), so these ancient trails are really only recent finds. 

We arrived the next morning at kilometer 82, which is where the road ends and our journey began. Ricardo our gallant co-guide met us at the beginning of our day, and after checking in at the control point, we were off. We walked the first day for 10.5 km alongside the Urubamba River, and made it tour our first campsite “Huallabamba” (the last community in the Inka Trail), just in time for afternoon tea and snacks. When we arrived, our (huge!) tents had been set up for us, and duffle bags were neatly placed inside the tents, and we were given a big bowl of hot water to wash. Man, this is my kind of camping. I’m used to schlepping all of my own stuff (which is a lot if you’ve never seen my toiletry bag), and having to make all of my own food. This was high-end camping. The food on the trail was outstanding, and made by a head chef Arapeto, and his side-kick, Joel (who became affectionately known as “Joelito” to us all, and had a smile to light up even the darkest of nights. Nobody could get over what those dudes could make in the middle of nowhere. The most amazing thing of all was that all of the porters (14 in total) would carry our stuff, their stuff, and beat us to the campsites. Most of them came from smaller villages and spoke mainly Quechan, and had families of their own to support. Some would start off wearing hiking boots (now mandatory) and then change their shoes to what looked to me like flimsy sandals, to run up and down the hill. Most of us felt not-so-sure-footed at some point in our huge, sturdy hiking booties, so it was incredible what these guys could do! Some of us slept like babies that night; others not so much, but we were all ready the next morning to start Day 2…a total of 8.8 kilometers, and one of the most challenging days. A couple of our ladies had a case of the Peruvian “Montezuma’s Revenge” for most of the day, but they persevered with Gravol, Imodium and some antibiotics so we all made it to the pass safe and sound. There, we saw “Dead Woman’s Pass”, and we could see why…man…it was a serious grind for the last hour. We made our way down the 2-hour descent and came to the next campsite of Runcu Raccay, where once again we had popcorn, tea and snacks…well deserved!

Day 3 was a bit more mellow and thankfully the ladies were pretty much feeling fit and fine…with the exception of Rose’s poor eyes; she had some sort of allergic reaction and I named her “Puff Daddy” until they settled down. Did I mention she has a great sense of humour? With tea bags on her eyes at our lunch break, I never heard a negative complaint. NONE of the ladies complained or moaned and groaned, even with Margaret’s upset tummy for a couple of days, May’s sore knee one day, Terri and Lael’s upset bellies here and there; these ladies are serious troopers. After lunch, some local muna tea (Andean mint), and a small siesta, we meandered our way through the “Eyebrow of the Jungle” as we descended our way to the next campsite: one of Ricardo’s favourite campsite (and now mine too!), Phuyupatamarca, or the “City Above the Clouds”. We relaxed a bit, took in the picturesque sunset, then headed to the dining tent for Andean popcorn (a different type of maize) and listened to Disnarda’s presentation (on her Andean computer, aka: flipchart book) on the Inkan Empire before our last (once again, amazing) supper at the campsite. The night proved to be chilly because the sky was clear, but we managed to put our sleeping bags inside the duffle bags for more warmth, and caught a few winks before waking up early to being our hike to Machupicchu. To be there for the Solstice by the way!

We started our hike just after 7am and presenting our porters, cooks and guides with tokens of appreciation: cash, sundries, socks, jackets and anything else that we knew would be appreciated and useful. It was a really touching moment, and we shared teary-eyed hugs and said goodbye to the crew before heading out on our last day’s hike. Slow and steady, we made it to the Sun Gate (Inti Punko) of Macchupicchu about 4pm...just in time to take in its glory, and make the bus for Aguas Calientes, the town that lies below the ruins. There, we had a great dinner at “Quinoa” restaurant and were treated to a few more Pisco Sours, and a few bottles of red wine before making our way to the hotel for  hot showers and beds. The original plan was to camp on the last night, but my grandmother always says, “You can never make a plan…and keep it”, so we decided as a group to go for some comfort and warmth before out big morning back up at Machupicchu.

The next morning we took an early morning the bus to bring in the Solstice with sunrise contemplation at Machupicchu: magical. It was indeed sunny, and a fantastic way to bring in celebrating the sun. Lael charged up her amber sun pendant, and the rest of us charged up our spirit by soaking in the sun’s rays and the energy of the mountain. After our tour, some of us decided to stay and cruise around the ruins, do some meditations, or eat ice cream. Others headed down into town and took in some live music and shopped at the markets before having dinner, then boarding the train for Ollatatambo. There, our driver met us and brought us back to Cusco to the Rumi Punku Hotel in San Blas. We fell into our beds, exhausted, happy and fulfilled. The next morning was bitter sweet; like the last day of camp, as we bid each other fond farewells, hugged and made promises to keep in touch. Thank Goddess for Facebook; we’ve been posting pictures and tagging each other since the trip. If you’d like to have a look, please visit us here: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=oa.709636289130668&type=1

Much love and light,

Sarah 

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