I finally caved in and went to Peru and Machu Picchu.
Happily, I must say that I enjoyed it and had a good time. The reason for enjoying my time in Peru? Spending it with good people, slowing down my travels to take more time for photography and avoiding the larger groups and crowds.
Avoiding Peru for 8 years
While most people put Machu Picchu high on their travel list, I aggressively avoided it for almost a decade. You see, 9.5 years before I finally went I started working for a (then small) tour company called Gap Adventures. The company grew every year and I watched more than 100 colleagues and co-workers over the years travel to Peru, show me their photos and exclaim how amazing Machu Picchu and the country of Peru were.
During those years I wrote tour itineraries, newsletter stories and website articles about Machu Picchu nearly every month. I answered phone calls from travellers and sold trips to people who were convinced that I’d hiked the Inca Trail, as I knew it all by heart and could envision the entire trip in my mind. Blah blah blah…start at Km 82, blah blah blah…Dead Woman’s Pass…blah blah blah…Sungate. I knew all the trails – The Lares Trek, Salkantay Trek, Classic Inca Trail and more. Peru was a permanent fixture around the office and as the company grew and stories kept pouring in, I lost all interest in visiting.
I felt like I had spent an eternity in Cusco and hiking in the Andes to see Machu Picchu. Visiting Machu Picchu became as exciting to me as watching an inch worm slowly make it’s way across a tree branch. (Actually inch worms seemed more interesting.) People I worked with started to simply assume I’d been to Peru and seen Machu Picchu – it practically became a requirement that your first work trip was to Peru.
The country, the experience, “Peru” itself had become a commodity over those years. I mean we used to brag about sending more people on the Inca Trail than any other company. We had trips laving every day, supported a weaving project for women in the Sacred Valley, we trained porters to guide tourists on the Inca Trail, our offices in Cusco and Lima had more staff than many other adventure travel company’s had at their head office – Peru was everywhere and everything.
Being freed from the daily Peru onslaught
Almost 8 years after selling those first Peru trips, I parted ways with the now not-so-small tour company called G Adventures and never made it to Peru.
After being freed of the incessant barrage of Peruvian information I slowly started to gain a bit of wonder about Peru. I mean it did create many life-changing experiences for travellers year after year, going by the emails and testimonials I used to receive. There had to be something special about Machu Picchu perhaps?
Fast forward a year and, as fate would have it, I ended up winning a trip to Peru with another company called Intrepid Travel.
Heading to Peru, by way of the Galapagos
I had a new job and new freedom, life was good. So after living down in the Galapagos Islands for a while, a (free) side-trip to Peru seemed like a no-brainer. I could finally judge for myself what this Machu Picchu place was about, without actually having to spend much to get there. I was able to keep expectations low.
I had a great time in Cusco, eating Alpaca steaks and mountain biking around the Sacred Valley. I hooked up with two other travellers for a short 3 person tour to Machu Picchu and I think it was the ideal experience. It didn’t feel like a group trip, it was like we were just 3 friends who hired a guide to show us some towns and bring us to Machu Picchu. If I was going to like Peru, this was the way to do it.
Finally Visiting Machu Picchu
After about a week in Peru it was finally time to see what all the fuss was about. Time to head to Machu Picchu.
A drizzly, overcast day greeted us, which was actually great as it meant we didn’t have to get up quite so early to take the bus to Machu Picchu. (That “watch the sun rise” at Machu Picchu dream isn’t often a reality as the mountains are commonly shrouded in mist and clouds early in the morning.)
My little group of three had a couple hours of touring around the Machu Picchu ruins before parting ways with our guide and having the place free to roam as we wished. We slowly walked around the site, visiting the Inka Bridge and many popular spots, waiting for the heat of the later morning sun to start to burn the clouds away and unveil Machu Picchu, Wayna Picchu and the entire mountain area.
I passed by a couple of G Adventures groups, and thought how lucky I was to be sharing this place with just a couple of new friends, for some reason the people in those groups weren’t smiling and didn’t seem as enthused about Machu Picchu as my two travel buddies. I think, perhaps, they must’ve hiked the Inca Trail and spent the past two days hiking in rain and sleeping in flooded tents. Any Inca Trail hikers I ran into that day told me they had wished they had skipped the Inca Trail as the weather had been terrible.
And so, after a couple more hours it came time to head back to Machu Picchu Pueblo for a late lunch. I’d been satisfied with my time at MP. I took photos, I enjoyed what I saw and I was happy it happened. It wasn’t as magical as some people made me think it would be, but I imagine that is because I’ve been to many other amazing places and my preference has always leaned towards wildlife destinations.
My favourite part of walking around Machu Picchu? Spotting a couple of lizards, some llamas and small rodent things, similar to Chinchillas!
Still, I was super happy to visit Machu Picchu. Unlike the Galapagos Islands, it isn’t high on my list for places to return to – I can understand, however, that it has a big impact on many travellers who appreciate the history, culture and impressive setting of the “Lost City of the Incas”.