I read somewhere that Machu Picchu is like the Carmel Machiatto of photos. I think whoever said that has never actually been to Machu Picchu. You can’t possibly put a photo of this majestic beast in the same category as a drink from Starbucks’. Nice try though.
Have Heights Will Travel
I chose Machu Picchu for a solo trip because as much as beaches can be beautiful, a beach is a beach is a beach. This required a sense of adventure and pushing myself out of my comfort zone and by comfort zone, I mean dealing with my fear of heights. I’m deathly afraid of them. Even though I wasn’t tackling Huayna Picchu or the Inca trail, I convinced myself on some of these climbs that I would surely fall to my death.
I realized my fear of heights is legitimate. There was, a very real possibility that I could fall over as I climbed the steps. There were often times no railings. Just you, the steps, and the cliff. One wrong step and you could fall leading to the valley floor thousands of feet below.
The elevation was not only consistently running through my mind, it was racing through my heart, literally. Cusco is 12,000 ft into the Andes mountains. Even though Machu Picchu is at 9,000 ft it’s still high for a girl who lives at sea level. I’m thankful my heart remained in my chest when I’m sure there were times it was going to pop out. The pounding headaches from the pressure I got were palpable. I was thankful for the local tea which helped me acclimate.
Overall I did well considering some people needed oxygen. It was all worth it to experience an intricate part of history and one of the seven wonders of the world.
It’s Raining, It’s Pouring.
Arriving at the entry gate into Machu Picchu around 2 pm seems like an ideal time because it’s not too crowded. It was overcast and as we entered, it began to rain. I’m not used to the rain in California so when the guide said, “Ok now we climb up” I paused with hesitation. “We’re climbing up on these unstable, almost verticle, steps with little railing in the rain which will make it more difficult?” I thought. I was sure my face was telling but as I looked around, everyone else seemed unphased. All I could do was take a deep breath and follow along because I wasn’t turning back.
So up we went and up, and up. As we got to the first platform my body was so tense yet trembling from fear. I had millions of images that suddenly flashed through my head of just how I would die and how people would find my body as we climbed the slippery stones, “Well if this is it, what a way to go.” Just as I was sure these would be my final thoughts, suddenly all around me became silent. The moment you get out of your head and look up, is a moment I will never forget.
The Old Mountain
Machu Picchu may mean “Old Mountain” but imagine seeing it with new eyes. There she was tall and dignified, standing gracefully. She was proud-of her roots, proud of the genius she witnessed when the Incas built the citadel around her in the 15th Century, and proud of how she remained hidden from war and pillaging until being discovered in the 19th Century. She was powerful; silent yet saying so much. It’s as if she was a living, breathing Goddess before me. I understood right then why the Incas honored her. My fear of heights dissipated and suddenly nothing else mattered. My eyes welled up immediately. I don’t think anyone looked onto the mountain and all her glory and didn’t feel something. Everyone around me was quiet. No one could believe what they were seeing. It was breathtaking.
The rain was already pouring profusely on me and around me but I didn’t mind. The brim of my hat was dripping wet and even a poncho couldn’t help any of us. I am standing there soaked but it just felt like it was purifying and cleansing.
I was up there for about three and a half hours just wandering and taking in as much as I could. After, the group I toured with were taken to the Belmond Sanctuary Lodge for lunch.
Nothing like a glass of wine to settle your tense body. Pisco Sours are a specialty in Peru but I was craving a glass a wine to sip, savor, and enjoy to reflect on my incredible day. The rain was still falling around Aguas Calientes and I wandered the town still soaking wet without a care in the world. I walked into the hotel and enjoyed a glass of the Intipalka 2014 Valle del Sol Malbec. It’s just the right amount of spicy you need and the notes of plum that make this wine one I could enjoy on any day. I took a deep breath in and I was at complete peace with my day.
Table for Two
I continued on my high of the day and made a reservation for dinner at the El Mapi Hotel. I sat at my table ready to enjoy a 4-course meal when a woman sitting next to me noticed I was dining alone and asked me to join her. She was also traveling alone and as we began conversing, she at 67 told me all about her solo travels and how much she enjoys it. It’s moments like this my love for solo travel is reaffirmed. Here’s a woman 30 years old than I was who enjoys traveling alone. She loves her own company yet isn’t so shut off the world that she doesn’t appreciate meeting other people. Her story was fascinating. She’s been all over the world and as we laughed, drank wine and enjoyed each others company, I saw what I might be like at 67.
Why You Should Go to Machu Picchu Solo
The journey from to Cusco and Machu Picchu are overall safe for women who want to travel solo. You should always be open to what solo travel brings yet keep your wits about you. Being in a third world country I never felt alone and realized I have more than I need. That goes for this trip and at home. The people I met there were amazing and is by far the best trip I’ve ever been on.
If you’re afraid of heights like I am, give yourself time when touring. Give yourself time to get acclimated to the altitude. Once you’re able to get out of your own way, you will leave this country inspired and changed. We are so tiny in the world. This trip was a great reminder to stop seeking happiness because that’s when you can become unhappy. The happiness is within us, it’s always within us.You see how happy the people of Peru were with very little and it definitely puts things into perspective. It can do the same for you.
Cheers fellow solo travelers,