December 16, 2011 · 8:55 AM
I’ve always wished that I could fly. As a child I loved flying foxes in playgrounds and swings at the fair, as a teenager the rollercoasters that left you dangling facing downwards and whizzing through the air as though free from gravity. Zip lining was something I’d done only a little bit of in the UK, most recently as part of a fun day with friends at Go Ape, Exeter. When given the choice to spend the morning walking for three hours to our lunch spot or going ziplining, well, it was a no brainer.
At $30 it wasn’t a cheap option (in Mindo, Ecuador, for example, you can do a similar round of cables for just $10) but this was supposedly the highest canopy experience in South America and I was happy to give my legs a rest.
No such luck. To get to the first run involved a twenty-minute steep scramble up mud paths through bushes and trees. People stopped regularly, puffing and red-faced and sweaty in the strong sun. My legs hurt like hell.
The guys at Cola de Mono Canopy Peru had given us a quick briefing and kitted us out with all the gear. The gloves freaked me out. We were expected to slow ourselves down with our gloved hands by pressing onto the cable. Really?! I expected the worst: sparks and smoke, or at the very least some serious sores to the hands. (Nothing happened).
The first run was a gentle start building up to the fourth, the longest, where creativity was encouraged (spin, turn upside down, video, photograph or just cruise with your arms out).
I wasn’t the first or last to try a run upside down… but what a rush
On the fifth, the fastest of the lot, I nearly crash landed, mistaking the guide’s gestures to slow down as a sign to stick out my arms and legs. I arrived at the platform full speed, nearly knocking a few people out. It worked out okay, really, some nervous laughs and disbelief but no one was hurt. All good.
A bus ride later and we arrived at a little random office in the middle of nothing else near the Machu Picchu National Park to register our entry to Machu Picchu before taking a short walk and climb up to a restaurant in Hidro Electrica.
Taking a lunch break near Hidro-Electrica
Some people found the afternoon walk boring: a steady pace alongside the rail tracks with little variation in scenery. I loved it (even if I did lose the second sun hat of my travels so far). Maintaining the momentum was easy with nothing to cause serious pressure on muscles or joints, and at only 1,000-2,000m, no altitude problems to worry about. Ideal. Sometimes there was a pathway, sometimes just gravel, and sometimes you had to walk on the actual train tracks.
Along the railtracks to Hidro Electrica
The path didn’t deviate from the track, trees lining one side, lush mountains and a fast flowing river on the other. It was nature at its truest: calm and ferocious and powerful all at once.
Approaching Aguas Calientes
And after nearly three hours, we arrived into Aguas Calientes accompanied by the gentle patter of rain. Supposedly an ugly little town, I was surprised by how much I liked the place. It was dusk and lights shone out of the damp mistiness from a host of hostels and hotels and tiendas that lined the high street.
Machu Picchu, I’m ready for you.