This trip has been filled with "vamos" tours. At Machu Picchu, the act of taking a picture or slowing down was followed by "vamos!" At Pisac and Ollantaytambo, "vamos!" was all we heard. It was "vamos!" all the way from the bus and back. Coming out of the restaurant at Urubamba, I was heading to the bus and got told "vamos" when I wasn't even the last one out. We did a lot of hurrying up just so we could wait. Taking in the sites was not an option unless you wanted to be left behind, and I have been a couple of times! I am sick of hearing "vamos," so this trek to Chacan and Devil's Balcony was a nice change of pace.
We took a taxi to the bus stop for Sacsaywaman, and just before we got on the bus, a mother carrying a little boy on her back passed us. This little boy had a had with a bear and the embroidered numbers of "222" on his hat. This may sound strange, but these numbers repeat themselves a lot through my life, and they're appeared at odd moments. I heard they symbolize the Trinity, and I saw them just after I prayed for our safety and being able to feel connected to God on this trip. It was uncanny, the way it happened.
We hiked up through Sacsaywaman, stopping to explore a little on the way. Then, we followed our little hand written, scavenger-hunt style directions. Some of the directions said things like "pass the jumbled stone blocks," and we kept seeing stones and thinking "which ones?" We hiked up a steep hill and past a herd of sheep and an unhappy sheep dog. As we trekked on, looking at all the beauty around us, we got closer to a small village. When we reached the village, we followed a water channel all the way up to the site.
Along the way, we encountered many obstacles, including animals. It was like being in The Odyssey. A barking dog kept us from taking the wrong path, and then we happened upon a field of bulls. We saw llamas and donkeys grazing as well as a group of pigs. Thanks to Sarah, my hiking partner, we found the actual site past the group of pigs.
We climbed through a small cave at the top, which overlooked the gorge. When we got out and walked down to the water, we peeked around the corner to see this huge cave appear from nowhere! We tried to enter inside, but steep smooth rocks and a waterfall drop off kept us from going further, for the time being. I managed to find a way inside. We had to take our shoes off and walk through the creek into the cave and out to the other side.
When we came back out of the cave, we encountered a shaman ceremony, and a random dog led us to Incan stones and to the path we needed to get back. We foraged our own Andean mint, we scaled the side of a wall, and we found our way back wandering through terraced farms with the sounds of donkeys and goats and the smell of mint and eucalyptus in the air. Aside from the farmers and shepherds, we hardly saw anyone. We did all of this by ourselves without the help of a guide, and we succeeded. It was the most memorable part of the trip.
We got the chance to feel the stones and sit for a while and listen to the sounds, eating kiwis and trail mix in the grass. It was time to absorb the energy around us and reflect. This is what hiking in the Andes should be about. It should be about walking on foot, perhaps getting slightly lost, and having a personalized experience without someone yelling "vamos" in your ear. I felt like I experienced authentic Peru, and I will remember this for the rest of my life.