This Story Gives Me Chills (the happy kind)

This is a Story that my colleague Denise told me.

Here’s why I love travel:

DeniseMy husband and I recently hiked to Machu Picchu via the Inca Trail -at 9,000+ feet, then headed to the hot, humid Amazon rainforest, observing monkeys, poisonous tree frogs and anacondas…but it was all topped off by the successful resolution of a 22 year old ‘mystery.’

We flew into Lima, and after 4 hours sleep (!), headed to Cuzco.

We headed immediately to the lower altitude Sacred Valley, so we could slowly acclimate for our upcoming hike.

I wanted to check out an animal sanctuary en route, and got to watch immense condors swoop overhead, and had a silky but aggressive vicuna tried to nip at us. I petted the laughable but uniquely adapted  Peruvian hairless dog (their skin is HOT!).Wild

Next, we headed to the famous market town of Pisac, towered over by Incan ruins: impressive terraces and a sophisticated irrigation system. We then headed to our base for the next 2 days, a remarkable “living Incan city”: Ollantaytambo.

Hikes to a ancient Fortress in our hotel’s ‘back yard’ made it a great place to work up to the grueling climb we’d be doing soon.

Our mandatory Inca trail guide, Luis Condor (he said his name referred to his great eyesight- indeed: the man was at one with nature and his people’s ancient heritage) was a phenomenal help during our hike to Machu Picchu (MP). When I had a hard time catching my breath on a steep uphill, he seriously offered to carry me, which was motivation enough for me to finish the hike on my own two feet.

Entering this iconic ruin from Inti Punku- the same Sun Gate that the Incas (and Hiram Bingham!) used, was a highlight we won’t forget (for me also because I could finally stop gasping!)

We then took a bus down the mountain to Aguas Calientes (AC), the town at the base of Machu Picchu, the ‘normal’ gateway to these ruins.

 

Once there, I was on a 22 year old mission:

to find some children I had met in 1992 in Aguas Calientes, the ‘normal’ gateway to MP. Back then, when I got off the train in this sleepy little village, most passengers headed to buy fruits or souvenirs from a few women who had spread blankets on the ground next to the train tracks.

I had headed towards some young children, and had a wonderful experience– giving an impromptu English-Spanish lesson for about an hour awaiting the bus up the mountain

I had hoped to find these now grown children, guessing that most were still there, doing what their parents had done years before.

We headed to the train depot to check our return tickets;  I turned around, with  1 22 year old photo in hand, but overwhelmed with what I thought would be a fruitless attempt:

Apparently AC had grown to accommodate the many people who come to see the ruins; there were now hundreds, no, probably close to a 1000 stalls now sprawling from the train station to a new indoor market area. Vendors were still selling fruit, candy, souvenirs to the thousands of tourists who pass by en route to MP.

5'Denise2< Though a bit leery of the task ahead, I scanned the booths for any vendor who looked the age of someone who had been 5-8 years old back then.

This is where it gets into ‘Goose bump’ territory:

The very FIRST woman I walked up to, WAS one of the children in the picture!

Within minutes, vendors from all over surrounded me and her, and one by one,

I met another and another and another of the children

…plus one woman whose ex-boyfriend’s son (!) was one of the boys in the picture!

She took us all over AC’s back roads to find others.

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It was an amazing experience…and one we will never forget.

…yes indeed: I love to travel.

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What is your most memorable travel experience?

 

 

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