The top 10 most spectacular places I have visited: #3

“Wow, WoW, WOW!”

We just kept repeating those words over as the mist gradually lifted.

This was the culmination of four days of trekking. It was the fulfilment of a long-standing dream and of the goal that had, by now, risen to top spot on my bucket list.

It was even more than that! I’d had to face the question: Could I go on this extensive trip even if it derailed the business that was currently bringing in my income? Was this something I just had to do to fulfill my life’s dreams, regardless of the consequences? I’d decided it was: I would rather die doing this than die not having done it.

It was even more special because I was doing it with my oldest son.

My friend, who’d been there a year earlier, had told me: “Machu Picchu will not disappoint!” She was right!

You’ve seen all the standard photos. They don’t lie. Machu Picchu is just like that. But they tell you only so little; the grandeur—and the size–of this place so far exceeds anything that can be captured on photos.

I’d travelled to Peru a week earlier and had already experienced a short stint into the Amazon jungle. Then, back In Lima, I’d met my son, who had first needed to complete some projects before joining me.

We’d travelled by motor coach to Arequipa to get some advance acclimatization to altitude, and enjoyed a day going up into the high Altiplano of Peru, where we’d seen volcanos, rare topography and herds of wild alpacas.

Then we’d flown to Cusco and spent the better part of two days exploring the Sacred Valley, an absolutely delightful exposure to the Inca Empire of yesteryear and the fertile garden of this era. That had also been a part of our acclimatization routine.

Then, four days ago, together with 13 others, we’d started out on the Salkantay Trek. We’d originally hoped to do the classic Inca Trail trek, but hadn’t gotten permits for the busy May season. That disappointment was quickly eliminated when a friend suggested the Salkantay Trek which, while not having the cache of the Inca Trail, is better, and tougher, as treks go. That did not disappoint, either.

The weather was fabulous, except for an evening downpour that soaked us on the first night. But the second day was spectacular as we surmounted the stunning Salkantay Pass, at 4,630 m. (15,200 ft.) That was a very long day, but after the pass we’d descended to a much lower elevation and were now in good shape for whatever lay ahead.

Two more days of trekking, plus a hot springs soak had taken us to Agua Calientes where we spent the final night in a hostel before the early morning ascent to Machu Picchu. For me, and most of our group, that was a one-hour, 2000-step, pre-dawn climb. Jeremy, not having felt well the previous day and night, had elected to take the bus up. He met me at the top.

We arrived at 6 a.m. just as the gates opened to an eager crowd of several thousand people. Our guide showed us around and explained the ancient life of Machu Picchu, which was a religious sanctuary, not a residential city. After the one-hour guided tour, he left, and the group went our separate ways (though we kept running into each other throughout the day).

It was a gorgeous, sunny day. We toured the entire site, hiked as far as the Sun Gate, and part ways up Montana Machu Picchu. We took all the standard photos, but with ourselves in them, and many more. By 3 pm, we were exhausted and amongst perhaps the last hundred remaining visitors.

We elected to take the bus back down to Agua Calientes, then, around 6 pm caught the train to Ollantaytambo, where buses were waiting to take us back to Cusco. A very long, and very fulfilling day.

We spent the next three days on an excursion to Lake Titicaca, a visit that made my “honorable mentions list (see that blog post earlier). Jeremy departed there; I carried on to southern Bolivia to explore the breath-taking Salar de Uyuni and surroundings (Most spectacular places #6).

I didn’t die. My business survived. I nailed two of my top 10 most spectacular places.

And there’s much more of the world left to see.

All I can say is: Don’t cut your dreams short; at the end of our life, memories are everything!

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