The Sacred Valley held so much mystery and beauty for me and I was excited about spending some time there to soak in the energy of the place and make some plans for the next steps. You see, Machu Pichu had been a fixed point for me – all other places held interest, as I love exploring places I’ve never been before, of course – but after Machu Pichu, I didn't quite know which way to go next.
Also, there were reasons I had come on this adventure and things I wanted to accomplish – not just the joy of experiencing the travel. I wanted to understand a few things about myself and to find clearer paths to the things that I knew would give me fulfilment. And the paths I wanted to travel down involved three things: to write; to launch the Yes, Let’s app that I had been working on with my dear friend Allison since late last year; and to explore working in sustainable, ethical – good – fashion and in doing so, help others. In all things to help others. The travel is largely a passion I have but also a means – a catalyst – for the directing me to these paths and make the changes necessary to enable that.
So I needed to start making some firm plans for these other things and, once I’d seen Machu Picchu, I needed to steer my attention directly towards them. In a beautiful environment. And all by myself.
I thought my place would be Ollantaytambo, as my friends had recommended it, so Mark and I stayed there after arriving back from Aguas Caliente. We had our last meal together and said goodbye in the morning – he going back on the road and I was obviously staying. It was so sad to say goodbye to him – he’d been such wonderful company and had become a dear friend – but such is life when you’re travelling. I made my way to the hostel I’d booked – the Full Moon Lodge – which had a lovely large backyard with the mountains rising far above it and hammocks to relax in. This is my place I thought! I went into town and bumped into Alejandro, a friend from Aquas Caliente and we ended up spending the afternoon together and going to a very strange, very fun little bar with a fireman’s pole separating its two floors, and having some esoteric, fascinating chats with a trainee shaman - a middle aged, bubbly American housewife who had found her calling after her last trip to Peru. Alejandro walked me back to my hostel afterwards and my key didn’t work in the lock, so he had to scale the wall and jump over the other side to open the gate for me. I was so glad he was there – lord knows what would have happened had I been alone at that time of night.
The next morning, I decided to move to another hostel as I didn’t want a repeat experience, particularly as Alejandro was leaving that day, so I checked into his hostel. It seemed nice – a family-run affair, with a young couple and an adorable new baby. As the manager was giving me a tour of the place, though, he became quite… handsy… and, after showing me the roof terrace and trying to kiss me, I knew I had to beat a hasty retreat. I’d already paid and dropped my bag though, so I was unsure of how to go about it and quite upset although trying to keep a measure of cool, particularly in front of the rest of the family who I’d had nice chats with earlier. I left everything there and headed straight to a café with wifi and consulted my dear oracles – my brother and two of my best friends – had a bit of a cry and then toughened up. I walked back, grabbed my things and took the first bus out of there to Pisaq.
I wasn’t meant to be in Ollantaytambo it seemed, but the moment I got to Pisaq, it all seemed clearer and easier. I went straight to the Chaska Pisac hostel, which too had a beautiful backyard with a pagoda in the middle and magnificent views of the mountains. I originally booked for a two nights and stayed for a week. I loved it there – I found places to go in the town where I could sit quietly by myself and work some things out. I met some wonderful people who seemed to be on similar paths to mine. I learned so much about the energy of the place and valley itself. I was surrounded by beautiful nature and had realized how much I had missed it from when I was young, growing up in the Blue Mountains of Australia.
It was exactly what I needed – and although it was difficult at times as I felt my first real pangs of loneliness there and also moments of extreme self-doubt - I ended up finding the direction I needed. Having space from other people meant I could write again – being able to observe, quietly and anonymously, the world go by and, really, myself. It’s always such a comforting thing for me and I was glad it had returned. Then, Allison and I finalized the detailed scope for Yes Let’s and hired some great developers. And I found – and was subsequently offered – a volunteering role in La Paz, Bolivia for the ethical, sustainable clothing charity Artesania Sorata.
As soon as I had heard back from Artesania Sorata, I had less than a week to get down to La Paz, so I packed my bag – so difficult after a week in a place – and said goodbye to this wonderful place where I had been able to regroup and refocus. I jumped on a local bus back to Cusco that afternoon and started making travel plans for the next chapter of my South American adventure....