a machu picchu wish

inca trail trek peruBefore you blow out your candles on your next birthday cake, maybe you’ll want to make a wish like Intrepid Express reader Michelle Geraghty…

“At this point, I’ve had 31 birthdays – each one of them being pretty special… whether it was spending it at my granny’s when I was 4, because I got the bicycle of my dreams at the age of 12, because I got to take photos of Uluru changing colour at sunset when I turned 28 or because I was surrounded by mates having a wicked weekend on the Aran Islands off the west coast of Ireland when I hit the ripe old age of 30. Each of them, a happy memory that’s etched in my mind forever.

But none stand out like my 29th birthday, when I found myself breathless from the altitude (not the trekking – honest!) on the Lares Trail in Peru. Visiting Machu Picchu had been on my ‘To Do’ list for a while, and I’m not the type of person to take an easy route there!

The 4 days were full of adventure as we pushed our physical limits trekking at altitude, visited local families and a village school, breathed in the spectacular views and learned about the local culture. And we met plenty of llama and alpaca along the way for company too!

For the most part we were in the middle of nowhere, but the porters always managed to pull quality meals, seemingly out of thin air. But even so, imagine my surprise when I woke up on my birthday, on the side of a mountain in the Andes to a fully iced birthday cake – with a “Happy Birthday Michelle” in big iced letters! To this day I don’t know how or where they found the time or tools to pull that one off! But it didn’t end there… Later that day we popped into a house in a small village to find numerous guinea pig running around at our feet. The last thing I expected was that one of these cullinary specialities would be on the plate in front of me at lunch – teeth and all – as a special birthday treat!

To think of all the effort these relative strangers went to to make me feel so special that day still humbles me. Throw in the incredible views, the highs every time we reached the top of a mountain, and the friends I made along the way and it’s hard to imagine a birthday that will top that one!”

Tour Peru with Intrepid on trips like these great small group adventures:
Inca Trail – 8 days
Peru Highlights – 21 days

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* photo by Simon Waite – Intrepid Photography Competition

About the author

Sue Elliot - Like many of us, Sue contracted a serious travel bug at an early age. She's visited over 90 countries in search of a cure, but her wanderlust just seems to get worse. Thankfully at Intrepid Travel she's amongst people who understand the affliction and since 1998 Sue has enjoyed being our blog and newsletter editor. Here you'll read about Sue's travel experiences, find helpful travel advice and she loves sharing great tales from Intrepid travellers.

2 comments

Thanks for the lovely comment Andrew!

Made my day seeing this in the newsletter and then reading such kind words from a stranger. Wrote the article a year ago, but it all still applies…great memories!

To clarify to those who don’t know the difference, the Inca Trail (the traditional route) was full so this story is about the Lares Trek – simply another route to Machu Picchu. I had initially been disappointed to learn I was the only person in my group not to get a permit, but having done the Lares Trek, I wouldn’t change a thing! I havn’t done the Inca Trail so can’t compare them first hand, but I know our trail was quiet and serene with more locals and villages than ruins and giant Inca steps. But the final destination was the same and Machu Picchu is soooo worth trekking to!!

HAVE FUN!! Can’t wait to go back. But first… Guatemala and Belize are calling. How lucky are we to have such great travel opportunities! :-)

Michelle cleverly draws the reader into her world by sharing anecdotes from her most memorable birthday experiences and tops this off with humble gratitude and appreciation for the ingeniuty of the porters in concocting an iced birthday cake for her in the most unexpected location – the Lares Trek in Peru.

It is the human element to this story that fascinated me which only serves to vindicate my view that its the journey and not the destination where the most memorable travel experiences occur.

I am inspired by Michelle’s article and have set a goal to walk the Inca trail in 2011.

Thanks Michelle

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