Howdy! I am Christian Liebenow, friend of the Mesh App and I am guest blogging this week from Lima, Peru. I studied abroad just outside of Rome, Italy when I was 19 years old and it was the most formative period of my life yet. My next big trip will be to Brazil, Patagonia, Paris or Mt. Kilimanjaro. Before that I plan on visiting Big Bend National Park this winter. The past two weeks in South America (first time in the continent!) have been a whirlwind. Below are several highlights of the trip which I was able to share with many great college friends.
I love to travel. Frankly, I have felt like an imposter when I have said those words in the last few months. Most travellers can point back to “the trip” when their desire to travel blossomed into a nearly consuming love. My experience came when I studied outside of Rome, Italy for a semester. I was 19 years old and those four months opened my eyes up to a world so much larger than I could comprehend. Anyways, after nearly 6 years, I finally felt alive, free and wild in only the way that travelling can move your soul. I felt this way because I was going to one of the great wonders of the world – Machu Picchu.
More precisely, in late 2014, I was invited to be a groomsmen for one of my college friends, Anton. My good Russian friend and his fiancee, Pierina, were planning their wedding in Lima, Peru – where Pierinas parents reside. Instead of inviting their friends and family to their wedding in Peru, Pierina and Anton were inviting everyone to hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu prior to the wedding week. It was the ultimate destination wedding. I enthusiastically accepted their invitation.
Mesh Know: Having doubts about traveling to Machu Picchu? Check out Paragon Expeditions for a great guided travel experience to the ancient Incan citadel!
It is a tall task to detail a two week trip in such short space. Thus, I will cover several highlights including Machu Picchu, the wedding and close with several thoughts on travelling.
The sojourn to Machu Picchu is quite lengthy. A contrast with the pyramids in Giza is useful. To visit the famous pyramids, one simply flies into Cairo and takes a taxi to Giza. To visit Machu Picchu, one must fly to Lima, fly or bus to Cusco, take a bus and then a train into the valley below the famous archeological site. There is something inside of all of us that desires to be awestruck.
I thoroughly enjoyed the two day Inca Trail hike. On the first day of the hike, we encountered several Incan ruins as we hiked deeper into the mountains which cradle Machu Picchu. The highlight of the first day’s hike was unexpected. After breaking into a good sweat, we approached a narrow, but steadily flowing waterfall. Our guide, Casiano, permitted us to splash water on our faces. Suddenly, we were nearly under the waterfall splashing cold, clear water on our faces! This was such a fun moment due to the spontaneity.
At the end of the first day of hiking, we stopped at the Sun Gate. This site offers tremendous aerial views of Machu Picchu. Do you know those moments when you wish that you could stop time and soak in every detail? This was one of those moments. It was unforced – I simply realized that I have waited years to see Machu Picchu and there I was standing.
The alarm sounded at 430 AM. Our ambitious goal was to leave at 530 AM to spend as much time as possible on the site. After waiting in a lengthy bus line, our driver navigated the mountain side and we stood atop Machu Picchu. Immediately inside the site we were greeted by spectacular morning views of Machu Picchu and the surrounding mountains. The sun fought through morning fog and the results were majestic! My favorite picture is of this morning fog (and not of MP).
Walking around the site of Machu Picchu was fantastic, however, the Huayna Picchu hike was my highlight of the second day. Summiting Huayna Picchu is more difficult than the previous hiking to Machu Picchu. The path consists of steep, narrow stairs which proved especially difficult for those with shorter legs. Those with fears of heights could not help glancing off the path towards sheer drops. The physically & mentally tough who accomplished the hike were rewarded with the most spectacular 360 view. Machu Picchu sat in one direction and beautiful mountains stood in the other direction. Hoisting my GoPro above the group, I slowly turn in a circle. It is no exaggeration to say that we felt on top of the world at this moment! It is moments like this that make all of the cost or hassle of travelling worthwhile. A moment when you cannot help but to smile. I hope to always remember that moment which I shared with great friends.
Several days later we stood in another moment when you cannot help, but to smile – when the beautiful bride is walking down the aisle towards her groom. Pierina, the Incan princess, according to the pastor, glowed in her white dress. A minute after everyone was situated in front of the pastor, the worst case scenario for the groomsmen occurred. It was the sound of birds releasing, well, fluids. Yes, all of the groomsmen in our black suits had been targets of an aerial assault. And the wedding had just begun. It turns out that not everything is perfect when you travel.
The ceremony included readings in English, Russian & Spanish. Anton joked that his father was going to recite the Soviet pledge instead of the Bible passage. We assume that this did not happen. The sermon was given first in Spanish and then in English. It was a unique experience.
After a slow start, the wedding reception was raucous. Everyone in Peru, no, everyone in South America knows how to dance. Fortunately, after the American music stopped, the Americans continued to dance and the entire dance floor was filled with great and bad dancers alike. The combination of dancing and alcohol nearly erased our memory of the bird spray which had threatened to dampen the night. We danced primarily to American hits and salsa music. The party did not end until 1 AM – several hours longer than typical American weddings!
Three days after the wedding and one week after Macchu Picchu and Huayna Picchu, I sit here typing with some difficulty on a Spanish keyboard. I am seeking first to remember, to truly recollect what has occurred in the blurred two weeks in Peru. What have I experienced? Which moments have been high and which have been low?
In short, Machu Picchu lived up to all of my expectations. I hope to vividly remember how I stood in awe as the sun shone through the fog towards Machu Picchu. All of my friends we equally awestruck by the natural beauty of the Andes. I would highly encourage you to visit. Of course, another great memory is the wedding which brought us all together in Peru. Anton and Pierina shared smiles and laughter as they slowly danced at their wedding reception.
Perhaps, this is the part of the story that the writer is hesitant to share – and perhaps even that the reader does not want to read. The high moments of the trip were accompanied by low moments. August in South America is in their winter. Winters in Lima are called “donkey stomach” because the skies are as gray as the stomach of a donkey. After the sunshine in Cusco and Machu Picchu, we were literally brought down by the gray skies of Lima. Furthermore, nearly everyone in the wedding party felt sick at some point or another. And then there was the air invasion just minutes into the wedding ceremony.
Why do I share the lows of my travels? I now believe that your life will not suddenly be perfect when you travel. I aspire to travel to experience the world, see beautiful places and beautiful people – but not to escape the reality and imperfections of my life and of the world.
One final note – for months I looked forward to this trip to Machu Picchu, to see South America for the first time, to go somewhere entirely new to me. And this trip was fantastic! So travel to Machu Picchu, or to Rome, or to Australia. Experience the world now. And this is most important – never limit yourself to adventure solely on a trip. For example, I am committed to mountain biking when I return to Texas. How foolish would it be to limit my adventure just to a spectacular trip when I can adventure in my own backyard?