Do(s)nuts at Machu Picchu
“ … finalmente, un dia por la mañana mientras, verificaba una carga que llegaba de Lima, cayó sobre un tranco y se golpeo el cerebro, razón la cual intentarón trasladando a Lima, y al no poder resistir, la travesía, terminaron así sus días de una orgullosa y larga vida bien vivida.”
-excerpt from a mural at the Don Estaban Don Pancho café in Cuzco, Peru
After many moons, strenuous steps, laughs, blood, sweat, and tears, Emily and I made another dream of ours come true. One important thing in my life, that I’ve slowly but surely learned along the way so far, is that the key is not only finishing everything you start but having the spunk & belief in yourself to start something so fun & crazy that more than most people ever think of doing in the first place.
For the reason I cannot realistically explain, I have always had an immense internal draw & heartfelt urge to experience Machu Picchu in person, ever since I can remember. For the reason I was asked where I wanted to go for our honeymoon back in 2009, I first threw it into our couple’s destination mix (to which I was promptly denied and overruled for Greece instead because my lovely bride wanted to do more honeymooning and less honey-hiking). As luck and life would have it, the first and final sign that showed us we were primed and ready to create this Machu Picchu adventure came our way via a random email at the end of this past November. To us, in hindsight, our letting go of the constant, daily grind and saying yes to the decision of making this dream a reality was the easiest part of the entire process.
So, was the fateful email from a family member or friend? No. It was from none other than the good people of Groupon! You, like several other friends who I first mentioned this comment to to kick off our story have mentioned, might be thinking … Chuck, don’t normal people use Groupon for things like a restaurant deals, low-priced furniture moving rates, and 2-for-1 massage packages? To that, I say yes AND we are not normal people; that, and we didn’t actually sign up for the Groupon deal that was offered in the fateful email. We used it as our unofficial lightbulb over the head spark. Once you flip that light switch, at least in our household, it doesn’t easily turn off.
The specific Groupon included (for a very reasonable price):
Round-trip airfare from Miami to Lima & Lima to Cuzco, 9 nights of standard accommodations throughout the journey through Lima, Sacred Valley, and Cuzco, all transfers, meals involved with 9 breakfasts, 2 lunches, and 3 dinners, sightseeing per itinerary by motor coach, services of English-speaking tour manager and local guides, and entrance fees per itinerary. More importantly, it included a visit to MACHU PICCHU, and it felt like the email dropped from the Sacred Heavens onto our front door.
To preface the above itinerary, we had been scoping a special deal for Machu Picchu off and on since last year when I found round-trip airfare to Lima for half the price of the regular figures, hesitated on making the purchase on the spot, and the very next day saw the price skyrocket to above normal prices every moment that followed since. Not pulling the trigger at a moment’s notice can hang with you for days, months, and years, if you let it.
This current Groupon said, we immediately sent an email to our close, living in Florida, friend, Dr. Daven Doshi. Because he is also always quick-trippin’ on the draw, packed, and ready to travel anywhere in the world on a whim, and because I knew that Machu Picchu was also on his short list of dream trips, he just as quickly responded back to us. He first wrote that he was anti-Groupon adventures, anti-travel groups, and anti-having others plan our dream trip for us. Pleasantly, Doshi followed that up with saying he was pro-going to Machu Picchu, pro-us planning our own trip with everything we wanted to accomplish with this idea and more, and pro-us giving him the same amount of money the Groupon was asking for to make it happen on the same dates we could go as soon as possible. Minus a few days to double-check our certain availability (a completely separate story altogether), we promptly scribbled down the date of January 17th on our calendars as a GO! It was really happening and that quickly. The best things always happen unexpectedly.
With that major decision of do we stay and wait or do we go now put behind us, Emily and I took off the holidays from everything stressful. We learned the power of saying NO to parties and gatherings that added a hint of hot worry with the cold weather. We also managed to get Maggie Carrigan (a good friend of ours that we just so happened to hook up with Doshi about 5 months prior) on board with the trip too. That wasn’t has hard as that might have sounded, whether you know Maggie or not. A Chicago art historian graduate student, with a handful of jobs to keep the lights on and the cat fed, she said that she would absolutely hate to know she missed out on a once-in-a-lifetime trip by constantly be reminded of it with beautiful pictures on Instagram of her best friend and boyfriend living it up on the Inca Trail without her.
With four now in the club, and travel dates set in stone, Doshi and Emily got busy researching. Doshi wrote emails and made calls to friends of friends of friends who had experienced the adventure similarly, all the while taking notes of highlights for options aside from the big hike to choose from (which included things as follows: white-water rafting, horseback riding, and other wild things on the side). Emily had dinner and talked with several friends in Nashville who had been down that Inca road, gathered up guidebooks by the handful to scope through, and read just about every single Inca Trail blog experience that Google had to offer. Maggie and I simply said yes to everything they reported, filled with trust and a belief that we knew everything would work out perfectly, and felt even more excited to be with the people we are with. Not to be lazy at all, more so to be a solid counterbalance to our other halves. We all made a perfect team.
The New Year came and went, and January (including museum/bookstore/school life) trudged along at a rate as quick as a snail moving backwards, per usual. During the slower pace of life by the week and NFL playoffs marking the weekends of winter, we had ample amount of time to get bags packed and necessary missing objects found and picked up for the trip. Emily and I were fortunate to make a last minute special trip to KY to get good hiking shoes and really share our excitement with family before heading off.
Special note, before I get to the actual day of leaving for Peru (a phrase that never gets old, trust me), Emily and I are now notorious around family and friends for being able to pack everything we need on vacations and random trips into one backpack for the both of us. For this occasion, we were mandated that we were each only allowed a day pack that we would carry while walking the trail (filled with whatever we wanted to bring- meaning snacks, water bottles, possible medicine, rain gear on the fly, etc.) and another bag that would include all of our clothes, cleaning supplies, and sleeping gear (including sleeping bag and other things we wouldn’t be able to rent from the travel company) that the hired porters would carry for us. The latter bag had a limit of 15 pounds, including the bag it was packed in. Needless to say, with our limited travel needs and experiences together, we were just fine. But, a week before we left for Peru, one day while at work and keeping the animals inside because of the freezing temperatures outdoors in Nashville, our lovely dog Remus decided take it upon himself to go through our bags, unpack everything, chew through and puncture some inflatable mattress materials, and also tear up a treasured, art-packaged Neutral Milk Hotel box set as a cherry on top. Emily was livid, but Remus cuddled his way out of any punishment, as usual. All was well and forgiven in a timely manner. Everyone knows that you don’t go to bed or leave your pets at home for an extended time period on bad terms.