Day 3: Ziplining
After biking, rafting and trekking, we’ve done a nice family triathlon on land and sea, but today we add another dimension and go airborne. For sensation seekers out there, the Urabamba river zip line is a real adrenaline kick. A series of five ziplines crisscross the 500 yard width of the roaring river, while suspended at a breathtaking height of 800 feet. Yali and Maya opt for the most extreme option and do the zipline upside down. Just imagining the blood rushing to their heads gives me a headache. Noga weighs less than 90 pounds so she zips tandem with an entertaining guide who encourages her to hold her arms out like superman. For dessert, we must cross a rope bridge which swings drunkenly above the tree tops, and we are sent on our own to traverse the obstacles while secured with a harness and “lobster clips” which run along a thin metal cable. After a thorough safety briefing comprising of the single word “go”, Yali and Maya run ahead. Sounds familiar, I know. As they reach a point on the rope bridge where the wire ends, I realize that we must undo and redo these clips multiple times on our own, while suspended 50 feet above ground. I yell at the kids to wait so I can supervise them during this potentially dangerous procedure. Any country with proper regulation would never allow a traverse like this to occur without a guide. Yet another reminder that we’re not in Kansas anymore.
Safe and sound, back on the ground, we continue hiking along the river valley which leads us to the quaint town of Aguas Calientes, the closest spot to the revered Machu Pichu.
Day 4: Machu Pichu
The alarm clock blares at 3:30 in the morning, and we try to wake the kids. Not an easy task at all, but the Machu Pichu peaks their interest and has them crawl out of their beds in anticipation. At four a.m. the dark alleyways of this quiet town are abuzz with puffy eyed hikers who have one thing in mind- getting to the peak with hope of seeing the sun rise above the long lost ancient city of the Inca civilization. There are two ways to get to the peak besides for the rugged Inca Trail which descends upon it . One can climb 2000 steps or ride up by bus. We had planned for the kids to experience the climb by foot, and the subsequent sense of satisfaction. After their minor rebellion, we decided at the last minute to take the bus to the top in order to leave some strength and motivation to enjoy the site itself. I must admit as an ultra marathoner that this bummed me out, but I also realized that there would be many moments like this where we would have to part with our parental fantasies. Our kids are super sporty and love adrenaline, but have not yet discovered the joys of a tough climb. We are planning some challenging treks in the Andes and the Himalayas, so hopefully they will learn to enjoy it. We will report next week after we hopefully return from a four day trek at 14,000 feet.
The bus brings us to the site’s entrance booth at five o’clock. Noga fell asleep on the bus and this attempt to awaken her does not go well. She cries for half an hour, and only the cute lamas on the path manage to calm her down. Noga excitedly photographs them, and forgets the prior hardships.
The entire site is blanketed with fog, and sunrise comes and goes without a hint or a glimpse. Only at eight o’clock do the skies clear, and then we discover for ourselves the city that was lost for hundreds of years. The sight is magnificent, and while facing the ancient city set on a saddle between two dramatic peaks, one understands why it has earned the title of “wonder of the new world”. Actually, it is the only one of the seven wonders which earned the title in both categories, as historical and natural wonder. As I marvel at the beauty of the site, I notice a group of hikers aged over sixty, descending towards us with their heavy packs and Nordic sticks, panting, pointing and photographing the ancient city exuberantly. I realize that I am witnessing the moment when they have finished the entire length of the 50 mile Inca Trail, roughing four long days of trekking, without any attractions like rafting, biking or ziplines. A couple in their seventies catch my eye as they hug and euphorically whisper to each other, “we did it”! I photograph the woman as she points her camera, documenting this dramatic moment. Tears well up in my eyes as I imagine the physical and emotional rollercoaster she must have ridden on her way here, and the sweet elation of this moment.
Memories of my first Ironman competition come to mind, together with the tears that filled my eyes after seeing the finishing line on the distant horizon, towards the end of a brutal 140 mile course. The Eilat course is rated the 7th most difficult Ironman length course in the world, with steep mountain terrain, and notoriously strong winds which funnel down the Syrian-African rift valley until the Red Sea. My first Ironman would go down in history as one of the most difficult races in Eilat ‘s history, due to a fluke storm that brought hail and gail force winds of over 60 m.p.h. on to the racers. International competitors with podium dreams abandoned their bikes out of fear, making me feel that the race was getting really interesting now. The wind was so ferocious that I didn’t dare take my hand off the aerobar even for the few seconds needed to sip some water or pop a power bar. Bikers were hurled to the asphalt and bones were broken until the bike course was shut down. Luckily, I finished the 112 mile bike course moments before it was closed, so I managed to continue on to the final segment, the 26.2 mile marathon run. So you can imagine what I felt as I saw the finishing line finally approaching. Orit and the kids were lined up cheering and waving, and I couldn’t stop the tears as I scooped the kids up while crossing the finishing line into Orit’s long awaited hug.
Looking back to this elderly couple, I think to myself that I would like to come back to the Machu Pichu at their age together with Orit, and do it the way they did.
Noga pulls me back to reality by yanking my shirt tails and asking me for a roll with chocolate spread, reminding me that at the moment I need to be focused on our family adventure.
After these action packed days along the The Inca Jungle Trail, our next challenge will be to see if we can enjoy not just “doing”, but also “being”.