Another week, another inspiring solo female travel story. For those who don’t know, Women Who Wander is a travel series I have on my blog where other bloggers can share their stories of Solo Female Travel. It’s something I personally have not done enough of but reading all these incredible stories inspires me to no end! This week, Jen is sharing the empowering story of her solo climb of Wayna Picchu. If anything has ever made me want to go on a mountain hike RIGHT NOW, it’s Jen’s story!
Jen is a full-time lawyer, writer and solo female travel blogger on a mission to complete 12 trips in 12 months. Join her as she embarks on a year of adventure on her blog Jen On A Jet Plane
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Early Bird Catches the Bus
I woke up at 4am thinking I’d be among the first in line to catch the bus to Machu Picchu. I wasn’t.
By the time I had my hair in the perfect fishtail braid and retrieved my pre-ordered sandwich from the front desk, it was closer to 4:45am and the line was a half mile long. Not the orderly lines you see at Disney, but a cluster of groups and latecomers trying to squeeze in unnoticed.
As I secured my position in queue, I overheard a nearby guide explaining how the site went undiscovered for so long. “This is a sacred city,” he said. “Only the most elite had access. It’s not easy to find, and it looks mystical enough to scare away those who believe the legends.”
His eyes roamed to the mountains in the distance and as I followed his gaze I couldn’t help but agree. The peaks were covered in a thick morning fog. The air was damp and cool against my skin. The vultures cawed ominously. It felt eerie, like if I was one of the unsuspecting boat passengers about to disembark on the island of Kong.
Still I continued, because it’s 2017 and I didn’t come all this way to not get a picture.
The Trail to Wayna Picchu
I boarded the 8th or 10th bus to depart. I lost count. When I arrived I was expecting to encounter the most epic sunrise view–and out maneuver crowds to get the best shot–but it never came. There was light, but no sun visible through the fog. I walked around the immediate area but didn’t see anything. Was I missing it??
A little confused and disillusioned, I decided to head to the Wayna Picchu entrance. Machu Picchu is the name of the site but it is surrounded by several mountains, including Wayna Picchu, which you can access from the ruins. Guests sign up weeks, if not months, in advance to reserve one of 200 entry spots available at both 8am and 10am.
In an effort to beat the crowds, I chose 8am. Before you enter, you have to sign a guestbook, noting your time in and leaving a space to sign out when you go. “Why do we have to do this?” I asked the attendant in Spanish before signing. “So that if you don’t come back, we know,” she replied with raised eyebrows and a look that said from here on out, I was on my own.
I trepidatiously stepped forward, ready to conquer this mountain, having no idea what I was in for.
Solo Travel Doesn’t Always Mean Alone
I was traveling alone but made friends along the way. Some shared their coca leaves to help me combat altitude sickness. Others engaged in small talk during one of my many sit breaks. But the one who kept me motivated the most was a 6 year-old boy. He was there with his mom and dad and they were all visiting from China. His parents seemed to be struggling, like me, but their son was like the freaking Energizer bunny. He had boundless energy. It seemed whenever I would limply plop down in defeat, he’d simply cruise on by, practically skipping with ease.
You don’t know this about me, but few things motivate me more than little kids showing me up. Sure, they’re reckless and act without thinking about consequences. But a prior showdown with 6 year-old got me off an unsuspecting stranger’s shoulders and into the water with stingrays in the Cayman Islands. I couldn’t let this kid reach the top before me.
So I persevered. I carefully navigated slippery moss-covered rocks, even as the stone stairs became a stone ladder, requiring you to rise vertically on your hands and feet. I could hear my own breathing keeping pace as I trekked along. I felt the drops of sweat converting my once tamed braid into frizz, but pushed the thought aside.
A View to Envy All Views
When I reached the top, everything I had gone through was worth it. It was like I’d been invited to a secret cloud party. There were jagged boulders jutting out and the fog lingered in the air, enveloping us in a final hug. I sat to watch it clear and catch my breath. About 15 minutes later, I finally saw it. Machu Picchu, there it was! The moment I’d been waiting for and the view that took my breath away. Needless to say, I got great pictures.
Wayna Picchu was my first solo mountain climb, but it would not be my last. There’s something empowering about hiking alone. You find a piece of yourself in nature, when you have to push through the elements and your own internal limitations to reach your goal.
My advice? Climb every mountain. Take a solo trip even if you’re hesitant to book. Learn something new about yourself by interacting with others in a foreign environment. You never know–reach for the stars and there’s a good chance you’ll end up amongst the clouds.
Finally, If you are interested in writing for Women Who Wander, you can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Can’t wait to share your stories
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