I've always wanted to travel to Machu Picchu, that desire became even more prevalent when I was studying to become a travel agent. Many times I would sit and look at Peru brochures, wondering when it would be my turn. Finally, it came.... and it did not disappoint.... no wonder it's among the wonders of the world... we'll get to that part of the month in a minute...
First some really nice news: I've been studying with a lady almost about a year, it's been a long process with her, she used to study as a child along with her sister but she never grew spiritually, her sister on the other hand still serves Jehovah as a baptized publisher. The lady I study with is younger than me but she has an adorable 4 year old, about to start school next year. She has tried many times to make progress but for some reason or another has discontinued her study, she has found it a real battle to leave the world and it has discouraged her very much. However her desire to draw close to Jehovah has always been there. About a year ago she filled in a bible study request form on our jw.org site. About a month later I was calling on her trying to make arrangements to visit her. At first she was very difficult to find at home and it seemed to me like she wasn't very interested, but the fact she had willingly filled out that request made me return over and over again until finally I was able to start the study with her. With time I understood some of the issues we would need to help her to progress. Her major battle was with herself as she felt unworthy of a relationship with Jehovah because of how many times she felt she had failed him. She was easily discouraged by others and focused on the negative within the Congregation.
As I've been learning myself how to conduct progressive bible studies, I realized I couldn't just be her teacher, I also needed to be her friend. Slowly we spoke about all these issues and looked at many many bible scriptures to encourage her. She's a very studious person, so I would leave her articles to look up on the jw library online, and she always had questions for when I got back.
I've learned a lot because of all her questions, a few months ago she was really into the Revelation Book, and every time I visited she had 10 questions about prophecies and all sorts of things... well let me tell you, I've become an expert at using my online library on my phone.
She has been doing really well with her study and from the first study we had we started picking her up for the meetings. She was uncomfortable with the clothing she was wearing to the meetings and although we emphasized that Jehovah was happy that she was coming along, we also helped her out with some skirts and tops so she wouldn't be so self-conscious. Eventually she started commenting at the meetings and has now turned those comments to really good heart felt thoughts.
She was facing a major obstacle with the lifestyle she was living, but she has now also attended to that so she could continue to progress. Her husband was never keen on the Witnesses, when she first started coming to meetings, he didn't know about it. We encouraged her to talk to him and let him know so no issues would arise if he ever found out. To her surprise he allowed her to come to the meetings. Whenever I happen to be at their house for the study and he would get home, I would try to wrap up the study as he didn't particularly want me there... However a step forward has been made with him too.
They recently celebrated a big step in their lives, legalizing their relationship, and we asked if it would be ok, if we had a dinner for both of them, she didn't think he would want to come but again to her surprise he agreed, so we had a few come over and had a little dinner for them. He was so thankful and so surprised, he made the comment that he had the Witnesses all wrong and that he was happy his wife had friends like us. I hope this makes it easier for her to continue her progress in the long term.
Ok, now about our trip....
We had this excellent idea of driving to Trujillo, Peru to visit our dear friends living there. At that point none of us realized how far away Trujillo actually was. From Cuenca it took us about 3 hours to reach a little town near the border to change our money from dollars to soles, then it took us 2 hours to fill out all the paperwork and cross the boarder... why so long... hmm, I'm not sure what happened, it wasn't even that full, but we also had to write up docs for our car... anyways... we stopped for an hour to have lunch in Tumbes and then drove to Chiclayo for the next 7-8 hours!!!... Once we crossed the border we were stopped, no joke, 5 times by the police - just to check our documentation. As our cars were from Ecuador we had to display papers on the windshield which meant we got targeted! It was actually funny at one point as the traffic police had just parked and were getting out of their vehicle up ahead of us to set up another road block, then they saw us coming and excitedly waved to one another trying to be quick enough so as to stop us... needless to say Jeremy stayed on the gas and left them in our dust...legally of course... too late boys!!!!
We were dead when we arrived.... the worst thing was having to drive on the Panamerican HWY at night... not recommended at all.... the roads are actually decent but because they are so straight and have no street lights, nor road lines it makes it so difficult to see where you're going... remember this road is in the middle of a dessert, so when it got windy the sand started to cover the road up... it was a nightmare... well we learned our lesson... try not to drive this hwy at night!.... the next day it was only 3 hours to Trujillo... I hadn't realized how popular Trujillo is, many foreigners are serving there too. It has its own ruins as well which we were happy to visit. There are lots of congregations with a lot of need and it's close to beach towns with need to... certainly a place to consider.
From Trujillo we caught a plane to Cuzco, no direct flights, all go through Lima. There's been talk of an international airport in Cuzco but things move slowly so who knows if it will happen. This city was so Cute! The city itself has loads to see, if you ever visit try to plan your tours in advance, there's a city tour that's available and its definitely worth doing... there's also a really nice restaurant called Chicha, the food was amazing... worth trying out.... While we were here we also visited Moray where we had horses and quad-bikes take us across the country side to see the sights and also went to the Natural Salt mines both absolutely beautiful, then we went to Pisaq and Ollantaytambo - Sacred Valley. If we had more time I think I would have liked to stay at Ollantaytambo, the train to Machu Picchu leaves from here but it also had a nice little town to explore. The train takes about 2 hours to get to Machu Picchu, it was a shame we caught the late train so we didn't get to enjoy any of the scenery, we would definitely choose an earlier ride, probably the 4:30pm. We arrived late at night around 9pm so we quickly got dinner at Indio Feliz Restaurant and were surprised by the amount of business cards that are left behind on the walls of this place. Couldn't leave without doing the same, so dad left his business card and I left the only business card I had, our JW one... hehe..
|Indio Feliz Restaurant|
The next day we got up early, put on our hiking boots ready to take on Huaynapicchu... we caught a bus that takes about 20 mins to take you up a mountain and you arrive at the ruins of Machu Picchu. It took us about an hour to climb, full of steep stairs, everyone was out of breath, even the ones that seemed the fittest had to stop constantly. Why?? the altitude... you feel it like its pulling you to the ground, it's hard to breath, you get an awful headache and it feels like your blood is pumping so hard through your heart, that at any moment your going to get a heart attack.... haha... that's only putting it lightly... we didn't get altitude sickness to bad because we live in Cuenca, we're used to the altitude to a certain degree now. Cuzco is much higher than Machu Picchu which is why you should start and stay there for a few days. Many hotels in Cuzco had oxygen chambers to help you out, there's even a fancy hotel that pumps up the oxygen in your room!!! Did I say it was fancy??? I mean expensive....
Anyways.... we made it up.... from here its a beautiful view of Machu Picchu, which looks tiny from the distance, too bad we only got glimpses of it, there's a lot of fog early in the morning and so I would recommend doing the later climb if possible but it was still worth it. All the pain and sweat was well worth it. The climb down was a different issue, I hadn't even stopped to consider the climb down.... its definetely harder than going up.... they were way steeper... I was clinging on to those steps and coming down sitting down almost half the way.. I am scared of heights... and well this was probably one of the scariest things Ive done... I came very close to having panic attacks at several points... and yet I saw this old lady with a walking stick... a walking stick!!! reach the top and well she would've had to come down at some point too.... so there's really no excuse.... so worth it!! If you ever go make sure you book it in at least 2 months in advance, through peak season maybe even 4 months in advance, the climb up this mountain peak which overlooks the ruins is only reserved for a very special 400 people per day... that's not many considering there are thousands visiting every day.... so get in early so you're not disappointment....
The part that I had been most looking forward to had finally arrived.... the tour of the ruins... we had a great guide, he answered all of my questions and I'm sure just to make me happy he made up a bit too... but I didn't really care, its such a special place and well in the new world when the people from those parts of the earth are resurrected I'll ask them so many questions and I'll learn the truth of what really happened and what life was really like... what was amazing about their religious beliefs, (as in most very religious cultures) was that there's always some type of temple or statue to an unknown God, the Incas also had a temple for the Creator of all things including the Sun and Moon, this is a big deal since all their temples and beliefs were about worshiping the Sun, the moon and mother nature (or earth). The temple for this Creator of all things was the biggest of them all, reminded me too much of the bible account with Paul. I wondered if Paul would have used this to preach to them also... Over all, the Incas were a highly functioning society, they had running water flowing through canals in the city, they based their society on simple but very important principles, do not steal, do not murder, if you don't work you don't eat, do not lie.... sound familiar???
|Temple for the Creator of all things|
They were very hospitable people, they had built little rooms for guest going past the city, all Incan cities had these, free of charge, where guests would be housed and fed. Those between the ages of 18-60 had to perform civil duties 3 months a year, that's how they built all these cities and roads and bridges during this time, they would also care for the elderly, the sick, the widows and the orphans by working the land that had been assigned to them. All people had land assigned and when they had children, for every child, a portion of land was given to cultivate for themselves.
There's a debate regarding whether they carried out human sacrifices, some say they did do this and others that say they didn't, it was something I noticed with all the guides, they're very knowledgeable people but have different opinions on certain things.
The Inca Royals wore clothing made from vicuno yarn, the most expensive to date. Vicuno's almost look like lamas but their wool is very thin, today a shawl made from this wool can cost you thousands...we got to feel the fabric and it's so soft..... so soft.... look it up, it's actually really interesting... well the Inca King would wear different clothing made of this rare wool everyday, he would never put on the same thing twice! What happened to his clothes once he had worn them? They were burnt as a sacrifice!!!
The royals also had a different shaped head, when they were born their head would be put between two planks of wood to shape it from a young age, eventually it would be removed giving them an oval looking shape, it would distinguish them from the population, only they could do this. They were the only ones also allowed to go to University to be taught by the great teachers of their time....
I was so fascinated at learning about their culture, and I really hope that one day I can actually talk to one of them...
Before the day ended we also took a 15 minute walk to the Inca Bridge, when we arrived I wondered how they built it... and how many people died building this? It's certainly beautiful, but I could see that time hadn't been kind to it either, most of the city is constantly being restored. For now its 80% real and 20% restored...
I've never been so sad about leaving a place, it brought me to tears at thinking it might be the last time I would ever get to see it for myself. Most people who have been will never be able to describe it to you, not even photos really show what it's like. As I was gazing at the city from afar and saying my goodbyes a tour guide spotted me and must have realized how sad I was, he said to me, "it's ok, your not the only who cries when they leave... its a special place..."
Overall it was a great adventure holiday, yes at one stage or another you all get sick from something you eat or a flu etc, but the excitement of seeing new things, learning the history and trying to understand how they did things makes you forget how your feeling, even when your tired... The food in Peru is amazing! Its been named the Gastronomy Capital of Latin America and the best destination for culinary tourism.. I didn't know too much about their food, but wow, let me finish off by giving you one last piece of advice.... try the Lomo Saltado... yumm!!!