When Mick told me he wanted to climb Wayna Picchu during our visit to Machu Picchu, I was dubious. See that big mountain in the background? See how vertical it is? That’s Wayna Picchu.

Climbing Wayna Picchu

At the time he proposed the climb, I didn’t actually know which mountain he was talking or how steep it was. My hesitation simply came from the fact that he said it would be fairly strenuous and that his mother decided she didn’t want to do it. She’s 71, but an active and in-shape 71. If she didn’t think she could do it, what made me think I could? I figured she knew something I didn’t.

Nevertheless, I agreed to do it. I hated the idea that I would refuse a physical challenge even if it seemed impossibly daunting. Having now finished the climb, I can report that my misgivings were entirely appropriate–honestly, if I’d have truly known how difficult it would be, I probably wouldn’t have done it.

This was near the beginning of the climb. The easy part.

Wayna Picchu rises about a 1000 feet above Machu Picchu. The climb to the summit is steep and at times exposed; many portions are slippery and steel cables provide some support during the climb. When there were no cables I resorted to using my hands to keep myself steady.

wayna_picchu_handsSharp drop-offs characterized much of the climb.

waynu_picchu_mick

It was positively frightening in some places.

wayna_picchu_ass

Sorry for the wide-angle view of my ass.

Except for the marathon I ran in 2006, climbing Wayna Picchu was the hardest thing (physically speaking) I’ve ever done. And it was so worth it.

Wayna Picchu’s summit is a grouping of large rocks. I’m not sure how many people were in the group that climbed with us, but we all scrambled for places on the rocks, congratulating ourselves on a job well-done. I felt a sort of kinship with them, knowing we’d all just shared this extremely intense experience.

wayna_picchu_summit
wayna_picchu_summit_hm

wayna_picchu_summit_mick

What can I say? It was just one of those experiences that make me think “this is what life is all about.” So yeah, if I’d have known how hard it was going to be before I did it, I might’ve refused the challenge. But knowing how I feel now, having done it, I’d do it again in a heartbeat.

And now for some practical info if you ever find yourself presented with the opportunity to climb Wayna Picchu:

1) Sign up for the 7am group.
It’s tempting to wait for the 10am group since we had to get up at 5am to get there in time, but I’m oh so glad we did it at 7, for a couple of reasons. When the 10am group started, there were still members of the 7am group on the mountain, which means there was lots of waiting in narrow passages while one group passed another. I was on my way down, which made the wait tolerable because I knew I was close to being done. But had I that climb in front of me, it would’ve been terrible. Also, by 10am the mist had burned off and the sun was out  full force. The climb was strenuous enough without worrying about heat stroke.

2) Book a month or more in advance.
We booked three weeks in advance and got the last 2 tickets of the 400 allotted for the day we went.

3) Wayna Picchu and Huaynapicchu are the same thing.
It says Huaynapicchu on your tickets, but the signs at MP say Wayna Picchu

4) Bring water.
Pretty obvious, that one.

5) Wear clothes you don’t mind getting dirty.
Much of the climb is through slimy, slippery, and muddy rocks. You will get dirty.

6) Take as many rests as you need.
This climb is STEEP and NARROW. If you don’t take rests, you might get dizzy. If you get dizzy, you might fall, which could cause a domino effect. I forced myself to rest even when I didn’t quite feel I needed to.

7) If you’re not 100% sure you can do the climb, consider doing it anyway. But that said, be realistic.
I’m not in great shape. I’m overweight, but I do exercise regularly. The climb is strenuous even for people who are in much better physical condition than I am, and yet there were people much older, and in some cases fatter, than I am doing it. In my case, by the time I’d reached what I thought was my max physical exertion capacity, the climb was nearly done.

All I can say is that this was an experience of a life time and in spite of the utter exhaustion I felt, it was incredibly exhilarating. It’s the kind of thing that I take with me into my daily life–it was a much-needed reminder that sometimes, the most rewarding things in life are the most difficult.

waynapicchuholly

 

One thing I love about serious traveling is that despite the amount of food/drink consumed, I never gain weight. Why? It’s the walking. So. Much. Walking.

Since February, I’ve been using the Fitbit Force to keep track of my activity. Normally, I manage to get my 10,000 step goal in about 75% of the time, mostly by utilizing a treadmill desk and twice weekly visits to the gym. But during our vacation to Peru, that number increased drastically.

Here’s a glimpse at my Fitbit dashboard for the week we were away:

Fitbit Screenshot

 

As you can see above, my weekly total for May 4-10 is 73,148 steps. During a normal week, I average between 55,000 and 65,000 steps.

Breaking down the numbers for the entire trip (May 1 – May 9):

Total Steps Taken: 102,083

Total Floors Climbed: 398

Total Miles Walked: 42.55 miles

Total Calories Burned: 21,828

The day we went to Machu Picchu was my most active by far. I took 18,318 steps that day and climbed over 200 floors. I don’t know, maybe that has something to do with the fact that I climbed this?

Waynu Picchu

As spectacular as this day was, this is all you get for now:

20140508-102041.jpg
An account of our visit requires far more than I can peck out on my iPhone keyboard.

Today is our final day in Peru, during which we’ll be finishing up our sightseeing in Cusco. No more blogging for me until we get home on Friday. I want to enjoy the day without thinking about having to blog it.

Suffice to say, however, I can’t wait to get home to this girl!

20140508-102520.jpg

After a 3.5 hour train ride through lush mountain terrain, we arrived in Agua Calientes. I’m sure my mouth hung open as we walked down the hill to the Sumaq Hotel–I have no words to describe the scenery. Perhaps this photo of the view from our hotel room balcony will help:

20140506-130239.jpg

Except the view is so big I had to take two pictures of it to get it all in:

20140506-153745.jpg

The sound of the river’s rushing water is loud and constant, but comforting, too. Like a living noise generator.

On the train we met a couple who lives in Australia; the woman, Sondra, is Peruvian and her partner is Spanish. She’s currently studying for her Ph.D. in Tourism and Gastronomy (with an emphasis on those industries in Peru). She interviewed me for her dissertation, as well as the Argentinian couple beside us who had completed a six day motorcycle journey from Buenos Aires to go to Machu Picchu.

20140506-154730.jpg

Our bus to Machu Picchu leaves at 5:30am tomorrow because Mick and I have tickets to hike Huayna Picchu at 7am. Mick’s mum declined because she’s a sensible woman.

Really, this landscape is unlike any I’ve ever seen. Just amazing and wonderful. I can’t believe I’ll be seeing Machu Picchu tomorrow.

20140506-155719.jpg

Just when I began getting tired of Peru, we arrived in Cusco, and everything changed. Like Los Angeles and Tokyo, Lima is sprawling and unwieldy. But Cusco is walkable, charming, and not unlike some of my favorite European cities. I love it.

Today we’re going to Agua Calientes by train, which means another 6am wake up call so this update will be brief, like yesterday’s. I hope these pictures give you some idea of how lovely Cusco is and when we return from Machu Picchu on Wednesday, I hope to write a proper post.

20140505-214426.jpg

20140505-214451.jpg

20140505-214507.jpg

20140505-214519.jpg

20140505-214348.jpg

20140505-215307.jpg

20140505-214535.jpg

20140505-215432.jpg

20140505-215456.jpg

20140505-214551.jpg

You know the episode of Friends where they all go to the Caribbean and Monica’s hair gets
huge from the humidity?

image

That’s my hair in Lima.

Today we took a taxi into central Lima. The taxi experience was one I’d been dreading because they’re completely unregulated here. You’re supposed to negotiate the price in advance to avoid misunderstandings, but the driver is free to charge whatever he wants.

I hate taxis under the best of circumstances and this didn’t sit well with me. So when the hotel bell man asked us if we wanted a taxi then led us to a shiny new Mercedes Benz, I was happy to take it, without knowing the price in advance. It was no hassle and felt safer.

He took us to our destination, which was the Museo y Catacumbas de Lima at the Catedral San Francisco. He told us the price was 33, which in Peruvian soles is about $10 USD. Not bad at all! Unfortunately, the price was $33 USD–which still isn’t that expensive by Los Angeles standards. But more on that later.

The Museo y Catacumbas de Lima is something I’d categorize as “must-see” if you’re ever in Lima. I don’t know–there’s something about seeing 400 year-old bones (mostly femurs since they’re one of the biggest bones in the body and thus more likely to survive until excavation) that makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

20140503-225007.jpg

Unfortunately, we weren’t allowed to take pictures inside but in addition to the catacombs, the catedral had the most charming library I’ve ever seen in person. But thanks to the magic of the Internet, here it is:

20140503-225608.jpg

I had my first run-in with a Peruvian public toilet at the museo and I must say, it left something to be desired. Most notably, a toilet seat. And the ability to flush toilet paper.

After that we ate lunch:

20140503-230155.jpg

What you see here is a plate of fried langostinos (shrimp) and crocettas and something called a causa relleno which was kind of like shrimp salad layered with avocado and a sort of potato purée. It was good but a bit stodgy. I probably won’t go out of my way to eat it again.

Among today’s other adventures was a visit to the Museo de Gastronomia (not planned, it just happened to be in the area), a speech by what might’ve been the President of Peru at the Presidential Palace followed by a parade featuring various dancers and what we later learned were congressmen (also not planned), and a shopping excursion for shorts (planned, because Mick forgot to pack a pair of shorts) at a department store called Saga Fallabella. Department stores and the like are places where you really feel like you’re experiencing a bit of a country’s everyday culture–though not something I’d particularly recommend, even if you like shopping.

When it was time to go back to Miraflores, we hailed a cab and did as we’d been advised and negotiated the price beforehand. The price he quoted? 20 soles, which is about $7 USD. Sure it wasn’t a Mercedes, but for a savings of $27 for a twenty minute cab ride, I’ll take a Kia.

The day was finished with a lovely dinner with my mother-in-law, the other lay volunteer with the Passionistas International Volunteer Project and the two nuns who represent the order at Villa El Salvador. I had my first pollo a la brasa in Peru, which was delicious. It included a skewer of barbecued beef hearts, however, which was not so delicious. I’ll pass on those next time.

I also tried a glass of Pisco, neat. It definitely burns going down, as spirits do, but the flavor is smooth and inoffensive. I’d drink it again.

Here’s your final image of the day:

20140503-232502.jpg

 

 

 

 

There’s something about traveling that turns my normally relaxed husband into a little old lady. His need to plan out every detail, complete with hand-drawn maps, is endearing, yet also annoying. He’s so fixated on getting things right that he gets little things–like what direction our hotel is in–wrong, then corrects me when I go the right way.

We’re in Lima, staying at the Marriott in Miraflores. It overlooks the ocean, and we’ve a lovely view of a park and the water beyond. Hang gliding is popular here and we saw quite a bit of it yesterday afternoon.

20140503-110554.jpg

A walk in the park across from our hotel revealed that it seemed a popular place for young couples to go and make out. Perhaps it’s a welcome refuge from chaperoning eyes at home?

It wasn’t long before we partook of our first Pisco Sours. I’ve had two more since and so far, the one at the hotel bar wins.

20140503-111244.jpg

Our first ceviche came from a restaurant called Amaz, which was featured on Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown. While I was a bit disappointed in the rest of the meal, the ceviche was divine. I don’t generally like it in America (raw onions, don’t you know) but I was determined not to let that stop me. So we ordered a ceviche comprised of wild snails and mussels and we both loved it. Despite my dislike of onions, I do like to eat adventurously.

And so, I’ll leave you with this:

20140503-111928.jpg

Holly WestThe winners of the Amazon gift cards are: Stephen J., Pop Culture Nerd, and John B. Thanks for playing, everyone. And more importantly, thank you for your wonderful comments.

Today is February 3, 2014.

Today I am a published author.

I started writing Mistress of Fortune (then titled Diary of Bedlam) in June 2008, but the dream of writing and publishing a novel started much earlier, borne from the reading I did as a child. I wanted to write novels too, to inspire others with stories the way I’d been inspired. And now, I’ve finally done it.

I’m nervous, of course. Now that Mistress of Fortune is out in the world, there are so many things to worry about: Will it sell? Will people like it? I’d like to say that just for today, I’ll put those concerns aside and enjoy this moment. That’s not likely to happen, but I’ll do my best.Mistress of Fortune Cover

There will be other stories that capture my imagination and compel me to put them to paper. I’ll spend more long hours alone at my computer, attempting to bring new characters to life and trying to figure out what drives them. But there will never be another first novel for me. And so, today, I celebrate.