When I hear the word Peru the first thing that comes to my mind is the Wayna Picchu. That’s right, the Wayna, not Machu, Picchu. One of my favorite places in the world and my top recommendation for anyone traveling to Peru is the little known mountain behind one of the Seven Wonders of the World and it wasn’t even mentioned in my guidebook. The hike up was only two hours of my life, but that side-trip was the definition of what I wanted out of my whole journey – a unique and worthwhile trip.
Just traveling to Peru is more adventurous than some tamer destinations. People are intimidated by the idea of traveling to South America and I was too, so when Peru was announced as the destination of my school’s Spanish-language trip I immediately saw a chance to dive into something new with the security of having an experienced chaperone leading the way. Once there, it was easy to get outside of my box, like letting the waitress order for me or picking the local drink over a Coke. Surely I will remember our group’s delightful discovery of the natural slides on the opposite hill of Sacsayhuaman longer than the information we were fed while touring. I feel sorry some of my group members choose to remain in Machu Picchu instead of challenging themselves by climbing the Wayna Picchu. As I hiked the gorgeous, yet often tricky path, up the most terrifying and dangerous steps that I’ll probably ever climb, and finally reached the top I realized that I’d stumbled upon the highlight of my trip. We may have all seen Machu Picchu, but those of us who went a little off the beaten trail, lucky to be one of the only 400 allowed up the mountain daily, were rewarded by something much more spectacular than anything I’d seen on the ground level.
One of my goals in Peru was to get the most out of every second spent, expressed by my mantra “more sights for your Soles (Peruvian currency)”. Sometimes a tour guide would mention something extra we could see if we followed a trail or went over some hill. Some of us would jump to go see it while others would hang back, something I never understood. When you’re on a trip you should be a sponge, absorbing everything you can. Even when we reached to top of the Wayna Picchu some of my group was quick to go back down, whereas I wanted to roam about the massive boulders and enjoy the oddly hushed quiet as people picnicked, basked in the sunlight, or admired the view. I had never felt more connected to a group of strangers. It was as if we were a family or part of an elite club, celebrating our unforgettable experience among the butterflies on an oasis separate from the rest of the world. It was the most unique atmosphere I’d ever experienced and I was determined to soak it in until the last possible moment.
My vacation to Peru changed how I will travel for the rest of my life. It literally expanded my traveling horizons to a continent I might never have otherwise visited. I won’t forget that a sense of adventure and curiosity often result in an even richer experience, epitomized in my hike up the Wayna Picchu. With one more journey under my belt I am one step closer to becoming a worldly traveler and I’m ready to return to Peru or any other place that calls me to explore.
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