Highlights from Peru

Some trips are just that, pleasant getaways. Others are “journeys.” My recent twelve days in Peru definitely ranks among the latter.

Rather than see Peru through the window of a tour bus, I opted for a more active approach. After two days spent exploring the city of Cusco on my own, I joined up with a walking/hiking tour group operated by Country Walkers.

As I did with my April-May trip to Italy, I will be detailing my Peruvian adventures in a series of travel articles. I am also prominently detailing my Peruvian journey in my current nonfiction book. Details forthcoming…

For now, the piece de resistance of the hiking portion of the trip was a two-day visit to the famous Inca City of Machu Picchu.

Built in the 1450’s, the Golden Age of the Inca Empire, Machu Picchu is especially popular as a tourist destination this year, 2011, which marks the 100th anniversary of its (re)discovery by explorer, Hiram Bingham.

I say rediscovery because Machu Picchu was never the “lost city” that Bingham made it out to be. Nor was it attacked by the invading Spanish as were most other Inca cities. The site, while badly overgrown, remained intact and well known to the local Andean people throughout the centuries. Two Andean families occupied a portion of the ruins when Bingham first made his appearance in 1911. The young son of one family served as one of his guides.

Summit of Machu Picchu Mountain--how sweet it was!

To preserve the main Inca trail leading into the site, the Peruvian government strictly limits the number of park passes issued per day. Because I booked late, the allotted number of Inca Trail permits had already been distributed to my group. Instead, I hiked Machu Picchu Mountain alone with a local guide, then rejoined my group later that afternoon at The Gate of the Sun.

The 2,000 foot climb up Machu Picchu Mountain took me to 10,300 feet. Fortunately I’d been hiking for almost a week and was well acclimated to the altitude. The topography of the trail presented the real challenge. A more or less 90 degree straight shot up, it also involved navigating jagged granite “steps.” As I wound my way up to the summit, the path narrowed to a shelf of just about sixteen to eighteen inches wide. Sheer drops greeted me on one, sometimes both sides. For nearly forty-five minutes, my reality reduced to one carefully placed footstep after another.

It was a crash course for living in the moment.

Despite a lifelong fear of heights, I made it to the top–and that coveted flagpole–in two hours, not too shabby for a city girl.

Then of course, there was the coming down. 🙂

The next day I enjoyed exploring the main park site with my group. We began with an early morning (AKA crack o’ dawn) gathering inside the park. Several of us took turns reading from a book of poems on Machu Picchu by Peruvian poet, Pablo Neruda . It was a deeply moving, deeply spiritual set of moments.

Now I’m back in the Big Apple. Amidst the happy chaos of catching up, I’m taking time to hold onto all the wonderful lessons my journey to Peru and back has taught me. Until next time…







Going Green…

In many ways Manhattan is a very European city. For sure it demonstrates that a pedestrian society can not only work but work well. If I kept a car here, I think I’d probably end up having to shoot it like in those old spaghetti westerns when the trusty stead went lame on the trail and there was, well, nothing left to be done. (Really, did those wagon trains not have room for at least one veterinarian, for gosh sakes!).

Fortunately I don’t need wheels here in the Big Apple unless you count my shopping pushcart. Here not only the trains but yes, the subway and buses all run on time. Since moving, I like to say my “carbon footprint” has shrunk from small to minuscule. Think bound foot.

But for the next week I’m not only going green, I’m going to the Green as in Ireland. Or at least a small part of Ireland: Connemara and Galway. I’ve wanted to take this trip for more than ten years, no joke, and a few months ago I decided to make like the Nike ads and “Just Do It.”

And yes, you guessed it–I’m walking.

Well, first of course I’m flying. Once there, though, in the main I’ll be traveling not by horse power but person power. Mine. Got my back pack, got my Timberland hiking boots, and yes, my rain poncho all packed. Fortunately the seasoned guides with the tour group I signed on with, Country Walkers, won’t let me veer too far off course. At least I’m hoping not…

While I’m gone, hopetarr.com will remain in the capable hands–and under the 24/7 watch–of the fabulous folks at WaxCreative Design, so no worries there.

Many of you have emailed to congratulate me on launching Harlequin’s Blaze Historical Miniseries with Bound to Please. Thank you–and please keep the encouragement coming. It means a lot. Though I’ll be mostly offline this week, once I’m back home from the Emerald Isle I’ll be reading and responding to every single email in my in-box as I always do. In the meantime…

Happy Trails,