One of the amazing benefits of working for company like Flight Centre is getting to travel to some of the most amazing and remote places in the world. But what I was afraid would happen is seeing the wonders of the world would become so normal I’d see it as just part of my (albeit irregular) 9-5. At some point you find you’re travelling so often you’re able to pack a 40 liter backpack with the same thoughtless speed and efficiency as a hardened military man assemble an AK-47 in a bad war movie.
I remembered my first solo trip – three months backpacking around Europe and Africa. I planned and prepared for months; language tapes and maps littered the floor, and my backpack lay open and consistently packed and repacked for weeks. Now; on the eve of a two week South America trip I was nonchalantly packing 6-hours before I was to head to the airport. Where was the nervous energy? Why wasn’t I hyperventilating with excitement?
After recently returning from my Peru with Intrepid Travel, I have to say that the unexpected pleasure of travelling with no pre-conceived expectations was the best lesson from the road I could ever learn! Peru taught me to let things surprise me and catch me off guard and let myself learn things about a destination by experiencing them; not from relentless guide-book memorization.
Of course certain things are hard not to have some contact or previous knowledge and expectation. You can’t experience the Louvre and the Mona Lisa without previously seeing her millions of times before getting to see her in real life. For Peru the most notable example of which is Machu Picchu. No one who is planning a trip to Peru hasn’t at least gotten a glimpse of this magnificent archaeological treasure at least a few times. Even on site in Peru I probably saw Machu Picchu a hundred-thousand times as the backdrop on commercials for cars, fast food, makeup – you name it! If it can be photographed and it’s in Peru; it’s going to be photographed at the Sun Gate at dawn in Machu Picchu. Pair that with an education in archaeology and I walked into Machu Picchu pretty prepared for how amazing it was going to be. Even though I had done a bit more homework on Machu Picchu than the average bear; my guide Ali J blew my mind with facts, figures and the most amazing sense of national pride of the destination that I could never get out of a guide book. Nothing could prepare me for the scale of the site; how huge and majestic it was – and when the clouds burst open and the entire site became one big puddle; no single factor or figure could compare to the real life double rainbow that stretched across the sky over the ruins and ancient mountains!
But for me nothing encapsulated the importance of letting a destination surprise me more than my time in Puno in Peru. For me – my only knowledge of Lake Titicaca was that it is:
- In Peru (also Bolivia)
- The highest navigable lake in the world;
Lake Titicaca and the nearby Sillustani Towers blew my mind. The first completely un-researched, guide-bookless adventure I can remember! The locals called the Uros are a pre-Incan people who live on a dozens of self-fashioned reed islands floating on the gorgeous mirror-like Titicaca. So much of their life is derived from the island and the reeds themselves which they use to weave their homes, boats, even dinner!
Their simplified and unique lifestyle has been attributed to the longevity of their lives – many Uros living to see their centennial! Not too far from the shores of Lake Titicaca are the often overlooked Sillustani burial towers. Your first site of these remarkable monuments is a strange one – they don’t look like any of the Incan foundations of Machu Picchu or Ollyantantambo. A handful of round towers (chullpas) stand abandoned and isolated from the landscape around it on the top of a large hill. There is no two ways about it – these look like giant chess rooks or ancient versions of the pipes from Super Mario. The stunning remoteness of the site compared to the crowds at Machu Picchu made this a really stunning and special discovery.
All in all; from the alpaca pizza and coca tea to the joys of altitude sickness; my travels in Peru are going to forever be memorable because I finally took my nose out of a book and tried a Real Life Experience!
For more info on travelling to Peru or with Intrepid Travel, contact Chantal who is an Adventure Specialist at our Flight Centre Adventure Annex location in Toronto and can be reached by calling 1-855-240-4352.