After leaving the Galapagos, some of my fellow students and I decided that we wanted to try and make it to Machu Picchu before we headed home. Going to Machu Picchu has always been a dream of mine, and I had actually decided before the program even began that it was something I needed to do before I came home. I distinctly remember deciding to make the trip when I was in Spanish class the previous semester, and Machu Picchu came up in one of our exercises. I was excited to find that the site really wasn’t far from Ecuador. When I got out of class, my grandma called me, and I told her about my idea. She had always hoped to make it to Machu Picchu in her lifetime but had never gotten the chance. As soon as I heard that, I knew that I couldn’t pass up this opportunity, and promised that I would go and bring her back pictures so that she could experience Machu Picchu in a way herself.
I set off for Cusco alone, as the other students in my program all had various other plans for their time before leaving for the trek to Machu Picchu. I flew into Cusco, Peru and stayed at a hostel there to reflect on the semester, adjust to the altitude and explore the city. I was pleasantly surprised to find that Cusco is a beautiful city, alive with culture and tradition, and filled with travelers from all over the globe hoping to experience a taste of what it has to offer. While I was there I met people from all over the world that were traveling just as I was. We were able to share stories and learn from one another, and I realized that traveling alone didn’t mean being alone much at all.
When my friends arrived, we only had a day before we embarked on our trek to Machu Picchu. For three days we did a combination of hiking, mountain biking, whitewater rafting and zip lining to reach the ancient city of Machu Picchu. Each activity was more exciting and beautiful than the last, and by the time we got to Aguas Calientes, I already considered it the trip of a lifetime. We woke up at 4am to be some of the first to visit the ruins. When we finally got to the site, the early morning cast and erie light over the city. We watched the sun slowly began to rise over the mountains and illuminate the city. It was much more beautiful than all the pictures we had ever seen, and it wasn’t until you were standing within it, that you could really grasp that this was a city filled with a culture and a people that are now a mystery to us. I was blown away by the beauty and serenity of the site, and knew that I had made the right choice in coming. We spent the entire day there, before heading back to Cusco. We were also able to visit Rainbow Mountain, another incredible site accessible from Cusco. In all, it made the perfect finale to the perfect semester.
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<p>My name is Peyton, and I could not be more excited to study abroad. I love all things adventure, including hiking, surfing and skiing whenever I get the chance. I have had the travel bug ever since I spent a summer in Spain when I was in high school. I fell in love with the people, places and culture I encountered, and have not stopped chasing that feeling ever since.</p>