A Birthday Trip to Peru
Wow, what a journey it has been on Earth these past 50 years; now that I am here, it feels like this is just the beginning.
For my 50th birthday, I decided to avoid a big party and hoopla. Over the holidays, our friends Norma and Sergio stayed with us, and it was over dinner one night that we all decided we would finally make the trip to Machu Picchu, and what better excuse to go than my birthday?
I had seen a few documentaries about Peru, but exploring it with my son and a family so dear to us was beyond my wildest dreams. It was awe inspiring, and so steeped in the natural and spiritual world that it was palpable. Beyond the magic of Machu Picchu, we explored other parts of the Sacred Valley, and discovered a country rich in spirituality, art, and amazing food.
Visiting Machu Picchu
We arrived in Cuzco via Lima where an Explora Hotel guide escorted us to our hotel near a tiny village called Urquillos near Huayllabamba. This set the tone for the entire trip - the hotel was so much more than a place to rest our heads; there was a great room where everyone gathered in the evening to share their stories from the day and spent time deciding what adventure would be next.
While touring the Inca Village we learned about the traditions of its people who are both deeply connected to the natural and astrological worlds. The guides explained the Inca's beliefs of the Underworld which we all found quite fascinating. They believe the snake lies below the earth and represents knowledge, the feline is the animal on the earth that represents power, and the raven or condor that flies above, is the messenger. We were taught the power of the coco leaves which not only help with altitude and energy levels, but are also used to make offerings to Pachamama. Since it was a cloudy day Tyge and I decided to make an offering in request that the sun come out. Sure enough, she did!
Since we went full throttle hiking Machu Picchu on day one, we decided to spend the next day in quiet village discovering how textiles are made in the region. We visited a home where artisans still spin their wool by hand from local alpacas, and use all natural dyes to color the wool. They then weave each of their works of art by hand, and the end result is a potpourri of the most brilliant colors in the form of blankets, scarves and purses. I have much greater appreciation for all that goes into their works of art and the bright colors that make you feel alive and happy.
We were also fortunate enough to visit the village of Ollantaytambo. It was here that we were welcomed into a private home with guinea pigs running all around! I had no idea you can eat guinea pigs, but it is a delicacy in the Peruvian diet. They are skewered, and sold on roadside stands. Tyge was not a fan! I found it interesting that inside the home the family had embedded skulls into the walls to make daily offerings to members of the family who have passed. I am not sure I want to be remembered in that way, but it sure gives you a different perspective on death!
After many more adventures in the Valle Sacrado we headed to Lima and stayed in the Mira Flores district. The Autor Hotel is in the heart of the city and built “Quiteria” style where houses were built side by side with a courtyard in the middle which provides a private oasis in a bustling city. It was the perfect place to end our trip and explore the metropolitan area of Peru!
Upon arriving in Lima, I discovered the most compelling thing to do there is eat! I had no idea Lima is the culinary capital of South America. The best of the best restaurants are located in Lima - Astrid y Gaston, Central, and Maido just to name a few. I must not forget to mention Jeronimo and Picanteria which were my two favorites! I had some of the best meals of my life, which was a fabulous birthday present!
Lima is a beautiful city and murals and paintings around every corner. It was a feast for the eyes even the interiors of the restaurants and cafes were designed so tastefully. The beaches are gorgeous and the water temperature is just right for a refreshing dip. Lima was never on my radar, but I would highly recommend it to anyone who is going south!
As I turn 50, I reflect on what is truly important to me: family and friendship. Spending my birthday with my son and some of my dearest friends was a magical gift worth more than gold. I will never forget the meals we enjoyed together, the sights we saw, or the time we spent exploring a beautiful part of this Earth we call home!
Happy Spring, Sarah