Circa April 2017 - While making her list of places to visit in Mexico, my mom added "Machu Picchu". She was so excited telling me it was her dream to see this man-made wonder of the world. I debated if I should rain on her parade and tell her that it was actually in Peru, not Mexico.
I knew my mom really wanted to cross Machu Picchu off her bucket list, so I secretly planned a Peru trip to add on to our Mexico vacation. I had visions of how elated she would be when I surprised her with the tickets and then visions of her screaming at me in spanish (her disciplinary mother tongue) when she found out the details. For anyone who has been to MP, you already know that getting there is no easy task. And for the more cautionary, there is the threat of altitude sickness. So I decided to go against my upbringing and lie to my mom, by omission of course.
When we arrived to our local base in Cusco, I quickly discovered that if you didn't have reservations, the train tickets to MP were nearly impossible to book. Then we met Joel. He was a tour recruiter and I took a chance on him. Not sure what kind of connections he had, but he managed to book our transportation for each leg of the trek. If it wasn't for his help, we wouldn't have made it to the ancient Inca ruins. And my mom would be yelling at me in spanish . . . again. In the wee morning hours of our last full day in Peru, we started our journey to Machu Picchu. Our van picked us up at a crisp 3am and by the time we arrived in Ollantaytambo the morning mist had rolled in. We boarded the Inca Rail and took, what I imagined to be, a picturesque train ride through the Andes Mountains. Most of the mist (later I realized we were in the actual clouds) made it hard to see the peaks of the mountains, but the foliage was brilliant. Arriving in Aguascalientes reminded me of Disneyland. That's where we are, in the Disneyland of the Andes and all Peru. The gift shops spill over with every trinket known to man, the aroma of fresh fruit fill the air and tourists stand in mile-long lines. And at the very end of the line, yep, that's where we are.
At the front of the line we board the iconic green bus that takes you to the top of the mountain. Of course for the more adventurous, you can actually hike there, but no, that ain't gonna happen today. That bus ride was the scariest experience I've had. You would never believe that two buses could fit on that narrow, muddy road . . . but they do, just trust it. I remind my mom that now is not the time to reminisce over the helicopter rescues that occurred here less than a month ago. This remote area suffered heavy rains and mudslides, so no, we won't think about that now. And just as it begins to sprinkle we arrive to the top of the mountain, ready to begin our journey.
Not once did I worry about myself and my clumsy ways. I am notorious for falling, most of the time for no reason. The hike up to MP was moderate and the steps were rain-slicked and quite uneven, but the entire time I was worried about my mom. Between being almost 69 years old and the difficulty with the altitude I was debating if she would be able to make it to the top. But with every stop we took to catch our breath she assured me that she was going to get there no matter what. When she finally yelled, "I don't care if I die. At least I would have died at the top of Machu Picchu!", at that point I stopped asking her if she was okay every 5 seconds.
“I don't care if I die. At least I would have died at the top of Machu Picchu!" - Ma
And then we made it. She cried. I wasn't sure if those were tears of joy, exhaustion or the awe of marveling something with your own eyes. Maybe it was all three. But at that moment I couldn't be more proud of my mom. As we sat and took in the view over the Andes, I turned to my mom and said, "Ma, you made it. And you didn't die."
Joel worked for
GABRIELA Expeditions Cusco, Peru
WhatsApp +51 984 607718