For VBT Product Content Manager, Kyla, the opportunity to travel to Machu Picchu has been a lifelong dream. She even has the grammar school projects and collages to prove it. Needless to say, when the chance to take VBT’s Peru Tour arose, she jumped on it!
An avid walker, Kyla takes daily strolls in and around her home in Vermont with her dog. You won’t find any pets mixed in with the alpacas, llamas and chinchillas on the Inca Trail, so she sought out another family member to join her on her Machu Picchu hike—her sister, Melissa.
While both sisters were anticipating their visit to Machu Picchu, each was picturing their own experience in Peru. Kyla was really looking forward to the physical activity and Melissa was after a sense of cultural immersion on her vacation. It wasn’t long before they were both pleasantly surprised by their experiences.
On one of her favorite treks in Peru, Kyla made her way to the ancient Maras salt mines. The walk provided the sense that she was, “completely alone in the Andes, with nothing for miles but some unexpected local traffic – herds of sheep and oxen.”
Melissa, on the other hand, experienced her first cultural exchange when the group came upon a mother and daughter near the salt mines. Melissa, a kindergarten teacher, was thrilled to interact with the locals by sharing stickers that she was carrying with the young girl. Though they had no common language with which to communicate, Melissa and the young girl were still able to make a strong impression upon each other. Later, the group learned from their local Trip Leaders that each of the Maras Salt Mines were family-owned plots, passed down from generation to generation since the time of the Inca.
Though this may have been the first, there were many other outstanding cultural encounters in store for the group on their tour of Peru. With the help of their Trip Leaders, Kyla, Melissa and their wonderful small group of travel companions were invited into a local family’s home as they explored a small village that still maintains the Inca system of urban planning.
Later that afternoon, the group headed out for a walk into the Andean Highlands. Kyla recalls following the Urubamba River out of Cusco on the bus after a visit to a local Peruvian market where the travelers got to see the stunning array of diverse fruits and vegetables. The bus began climbing along a highway to Cuyuni Pass, a mountain peak at an elevation of nearly 14,000 feet. Leaving the last of technology behind, it was here that the group got the opportunity to attend a Cuyuni religious ceremony.
Here, VBT Trip Leader, Jorge, translates for the Cuyuni spokesman as he introduces the cultural traditions of the native community and gives us a glimpse into the ceremony that is about to unfold.
Afterward, they began their walk (accompanied with alpacas, music and tradition) on the stunning footpath and came upon Cuyuni women as they sat right in the wilderness weaving: “Taking the walks that the Cuyuni take every day, then rounding a corner to see these beautiful, vibrant colors made me feel very blessed to have such an authentic experience.”
The entire group, of course, was grateful for Jorge’s Spanish translation during the ceremony, but this wasn’t the only instance when their local Trip Leaders were able to enhance cultural immersion in Peru. “No question went unanswered. Their local knowledge extended well beyond our trip and into what it was like to grow up in this amazing place…. They could anticipate the crowds and knew exactly when to arrive and when to leave places so that we had a once-in-a-lifetime experience without a lot of extra people around.”
The group’s other Trip Leader, Miguel, is passionate about keeping Inca tradition alive in Peru. He is fluent in English, Spanish and Quechua—the language of the ancient civilization. He has dedicated much of his life to exploring and recovering Inca traditions and is always happy to share local customs with travelers. His fervor for his heritage was infectious. “Miguel loved it so much, he made the group love it even more.” Perhaps he provided the last little bit of inspiration needed to get the group ready for the Inca Trail.
On the fifth day of their tour of Peru, it was time for Kyla and Melissa to hike the Inca Trail. For Kyla, it was more like taking steps back in time. She was amazed that the trails were still standing after so many years. “Just walking along paths that you knew the Inca built was an unforgettable and humbling feeling.” She was also struck by the ever-changing climate as she hiked. “The day opened with open vistas and blue skies, and then we climbed up, and at one point, we passed a waterfall and the next thing you knew you felt like we walking in a rainforest.”
Looking down onto Machu Picchu from the Sun Gate was the true pinnacle of the Peru vacation. As Kyla and Melissa approached, they were both so in-tune to their walk that they didn’t realize what they were coming upon. All of a sudden, they turned a corner and a local on the trail reached out his hand and heartily announced, “You made it!”
“It’s so hard to put into words. It was just the most unique and unmatched feeling I’ve ever had,” recalls Kyla. Though each sister was impacted in a different way by their walk along the Inca Trail, it still remains as an experience that each will carry with them for a very long time to come.
After exploring, up-close, the actual site of Machu Picchu, the group took a triumphant ride to their next lodgings, Inkaterra. It was a dramatic change from the challenge of the Inca Trail, but still memorable. From the moment they were greeted with chilled drinks at the 5-star resort, it was the ultimate experience in pampering and relaxation. When they weren’t indulging in delicious local cuisine, some of the group enjoyed the many activities the Inkaterra’s Eco Center had. Their bear sanctuary on the premises, hummingbirds flying all around as you walk to dinner and a variety of gardens and orchids spread throughout the property are just few of the everlasting memories. It was a flawless way to cap off their life-changing trip to Peru.
Mingle with locals, get the thrill of a hike along the Inca Trail and unwind and relax when you join VBT on your very own adventure in Peru.