I awoke this morning, the haze from the cloud forest mist still on my eyelids. We had hiked the intricately laid Inca trail steps for the past three days. Today marked our arrival to Machu Picchu and the end of our time climbing the Camino Inca.
As I washed my face with the soothing warm water brought by our porter, reveries brought me to the moment in San Francisco when I had first decided to take on this adventure.
My heartstrings were tugged by the alluring pull of South America upon catching a glimpse of Machu Piccu on a vintage postcard I found in a travel shop near Van Ness. The hustle of passing cars, chatting tourists, and the murmur of footsteps were silenced as I marveled at the majestic architecture, mysterious spiritual history, and colorful Peruvian culture. That was it for me. I knew in the depths of my being that I needed this trip. I was at a crossroads in life and rather then meander in the mire of indecision I fluffed my wings, tightened my laces and hushed my doubts.
I soon began to research the different ways in which I could venture to that magnificent world wonder. Companies offered train rides, motorcars, and buses from Cusco. This wouldn’t do for me. I wanted to hike the authentic route that the Ancient Inca had, as I’m the type of traveler who craves being immersed within the traditions, and unique ways of life that every place offers rather then the frequented tourist paths.
I rigorously navigated my way through the Internet maze and talked with many fellow globetrotters in hopes of uncovering the path that would embody the authenticity of how the ancient Inca used to get Macchu Piccu. My luck struck oil when I found a rather reasonably priced indie travel organization that booked small group expeditions of the Inca Trail led by a native Peruvian.
Not more then two months later I sat in awe on a dusty seat in a janky little bus leaving Cusco as my stomach fluttered like migrating swallows. Our cozy group of seven travel companions tiptoed to Peru from different nooks and crannies of the globe. Amongst them was a delightful redheaded and rosy-cheeked girl from Switzerland named Sophia. She and I became quick chums and chatted about our previous adventures and hopes for this experience. There were also two dashing lads from London who were quite humorous and delightfully entertaining. They added whiskey and spice to our conversations.
The curves of the Camino Inca were lined with dazzling flora and a lush array of wild orchids that captivated my senses. The delicate pink and white forever-young orchid holds a piece of my youth within its roots that will always remain on the trail. Having chosen this route we were privileged with being able to touch the grey chiseled granite stones and wander within the Sayacmarca, Runkurakay, and Winay Wayna ruins.
I lay on the grass within the Winaya Wayna ruins and looked up at the South American sky. The air was intoxicating within the Andes Mountains. The altitude offered a fresh perspective when sorting through one’s life. I started to analyze the creative crossroads I had found myself in. As a writer and activist I wanted to not only sharpen my craft, but also to impact and inspire others and I hadn’t yet discovered which direction to take.
The day we crossed dead woman’s pass I was greeted by an elderly women walking in the opposite direction of us towards Cusco. Her skin was bathed in stories from life lived within this beautiful and spiritually rich country. She had with her an old, but sturdy donkey that carried on its aged back her brightly colored blankets and other native items she had woven with her well-worn Peruvian fingers. The strength in her step and the confidence within her demeanor left an impact on me.
A woman so at ease, and comfortable traveling alone within her native country was a gift to witness. It pained me to have that realization of how women in my own country are fearful to walk within their own neighborhoods by themselves. Our global society has placed a lot of doubts and negative attitudes towards women’s abilities to handle situations on their own. This included an overwhelming apprehension blanketing the idea of solo female travel. I had talked with so many girls about my travel plans and was met with doubt of my being able to fulfill my goals, surprise that I would be alone during my adventures, and others who gazed at me with eyes that yearned to have the courage to head out on a journey themselves. This was something many ladies, including myself, have put efforts towards extinguishing and instead replacing with self assurance whilst cultivating conscious and confident women travelers.
As my mind drifted back to the present I met up with the rest of my group to make our way to Machu Piccu. Our plan was to watch the sunrise over the Andes. I’ll never forget watching the golden hued rays dance and frolic along the ridges enveloping the ruins. A part of myself was awakened. Even though this trip was coming to a close I smiled with the assurance that for me this was just another beginning.