Peru – La Magica Andes
In 2017, I went on a yoga retreat with my studio, Beaches Hot Yoga. Initially, I had no inkling to until my then yoga buddy, Jonelle, suggested it. It was a fantastic week. It was full of yoga, but also a time where new friendships formed and good times were had. And the location was to die for; a retreat that took one hour by boat to get to. Mexican Paradise, also known as Xinalani. Fast forward to February 2019. This year’s trip was Peru. I was not thinking of going until two of the gals from the Mexico trip booked. I thought about it, then looked at the photo of the yoga studio in the Sacred Valley and was sold. It completely surrounded by The Andes. I put down my deposit down that week and then the months went by without me thinking too much of it until a week or so before we left.
I was excited, but also hadn’t travelled to a developing country for decades. I was afraid tourism had destroyed these bygone paradises, since I was last in one – 1994. I have to say though, the excitement of arriving into Lima brought back great memories of travelling; the smells, the crowds, the different language, culture, architecture. We stayed in a beautiful artist’s home cum hotel in Barranco, what is generally a Boho part of Lima. It was stunning and looked out over the ocean from the property. The following day we flew to Cusco and went directly to Yoga Mandala. I thought the photo I’d seen of it at the studio was perfect, but the actual place was something to behold. And we had it to ourselves for 7 days. It was stunning. Cradled in the valley, the majestic Andes towered over us. Practicing yoga here was once in a lifetime experience. So beautiful. The people, food, grounds and group were really perfect.
Unlike Mexico, this retreat was a little less yoga, a lot more sightseeing. I mean we were in Peru. We had to see Macchu Picchu, Rainbow Mountain, the markets, Urumbamba, the salt flats of Moray and much more.
I’d seen photos of Machu Picchu, but in ‘real life’ it is beyond one’s imagination. So beautiful and mountainous and green. And getting there was a trip in itself; bus/train/hairpin drive up to the base. We actually climbed up Huynapicchu, the mountain that is behind the ruins that you see in all the brochures. They say ‘whatever doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger!’ It was a fairly harrowing walk up there, and whether it was age or common sense, I stopped before the last few hundred metres where the ‘Stairs of Death’ lay in wait. I didn’t need to climb up stairs the size of buildings with no railings. I was satisfied with the view I got. Any view of that place from anywhere was enough really.
Despite the amazingness of Machu Picchu, I think the highlight for me was Rainbow Mountain (featured image). Only a tourist attraction for two years, this was once a glacier that melted. That’s the down side. The upside was that we got to see the colours that lay below the ice. Scientists say that the oxygen in the air is likely to fade the colours at some point, so while this is a climate change disaster, I feel lucky to have seen it in its tourist infancy. I can imagine in a few years, where there was just the local station/toilets on this trip, there may well be hotels and other tourism mechanisms.
What a stunning sight. I felt like I was on top of the world. We weren’t too far off at 17,050 feet! Altitude sickness kicked in for a few folks, including me (major headache) on the bus trip back down, but it was worth it. The locals are smart. At the starting point for the walk, there are laying in wait with horses. My pal Elaine shouted, ‘Hey, Di, my treat!’ Whose going to turn that down? I’m glad we did that. Even after the horses dropped us off, there was a fair bit to climb. Slowly. It was a hard slog. Lack of oxygen slows everything down. It’s a strange sensation. And it makes everything heavy. We were also lucky with the weather – it was a mix of sun and cloud and no wind. And about 15C. The local guide said you never know what the weather will be – often it’s windy, cloudy and snowing (!) so after a four hour bus ride – most of which was a heart in mouth, steep, hairpin turn drive – we got there alive and with perfect conditions for the walk.
Having spent a few of the other days touring attractions and markets, we had Friday back at the retreat to hang out. What a perfect day. I did my first ‘sweat lodge’ which was an amazing experience in several ways, and just enjoyed the grounds with the gang.
A long haul home for some (flight disasters) a few of us were lucky to make all our connections. I find myself enjoying these shorter trips as I get older. It was a great time, and a once in a lifetime experience I was so lucky and grateful to have, but was glad to get home, be able to flush the paper down the toilet (ha ha) and see my pooch, who was waiting for me at the airport with a sign on her neck. Too cute.