Home » South America Bike Tour 2011-12 » Machu Picchu, Mom, and Mike!!!

Machu Picchu, Mom, and Mike!!!

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My mother surprised us big time about three weeks ago, when she told us over the phone that she wanted to come visit us for her birthday in Cusco, Peru to see Machu Picchu together. We were ecstatic to see her and as we rode along open stretches of road or tough climbs, we made a list of goodies from the States including snickers, peanut butter, and cycling gloves. We have a problem with gloves – we take them off when we stop in a small town or village to grab a snack, place them on our back panniers, and then proceed to forget about them. It is not until a couple miles up the road that we remember our now long gone gloves. After telling this story to mom, she decided to not only buy us each three pairs of cycling gloves, but she brought velcro to sew to the gloves and our clothes to fix our forgetful glove issue.


We were making great time on the bicycles at the end of September, so we decided to continue on past Cusco and head to La Paz, Bolivia by bike. On October 4th, after summiting Huayna Potosi near La Paz, we took an overnight bus back to Cusco and arrived the morning of the 5th at 4am. Groggy-eyed after the bus driver woke us up, we grabbed our packs, climbed off the bus, and proceeded to wander the streets of Cusco before sunrise. Not a person in sight, the only noises we heard were taxi drivers looking for late night discotec revelers and stray dogs battling over their street corner turf. We made it to the Plaza de Armas, the town’s center, around 4:45am, and sat taking pictures of the calm before the hustle and bustle of this busy town took off.


After a morning spent puttering around town, we excitedly made our way to Cusco’s airport and waited for my mom to exit the tiny terminal. Justin and I impatiently moved back and forth between the outside area where all the taxi drivers held names of passengers and a glass door on the inside where you could see passengers pick up luggage.

“Do you see her??” I asked Justin.

“No, not yet,” He replied.

9 out of the 10 flights coming into Cusco came from Lima and we were worried we may have missed her on an earlier flight. Finally, I saw her passing through a luggage check line and ran outside to the taxi area to wave.

“Wait… that’s Michael!” Justin said shocked.


I heard him say it but it felt like it took about five seconds for my brain to register what he said as I looked up and saw Mike, my brother, walking up right beside my mother. I was so excited to see both of them, I started screaming and crying at the same time as I ran past the security “gate” and hugged them both! It was my brother’s first time out of the United States and I was so excited to travel with him. My mom, immediately after deciding she wanted to visit, called my brother and told him he had to go get a passport and expedite the process! It was also my mother’s first time in the Southern Hemisphere.

We hugged, met our taxi driver, and headed to our hotel. After settling into a crazy new third world culture, we all headed back to the Plaza de Armas for pictures of the historic churches built by the Spaniards who conquered the Incas in the early 16th century. It was so nice sharing time with my brother and mom – It reminded me of our adventures in Yosemite when I was a kid. In the past few years, we have rarely been able to spend time together as a unit. It was very special.



A major highlight of our five days together was visiting one of the seven wonders of the world – Machu Picchu, which means “Old Mountain.” On October 7th, 2010 we woke up at the crack of dawn and took a taxi to the train station near the town of Poroy, a bit north of Cusco. My mother treated us all to a very special day visiting Machu Picchu. We rolled along through the Sacred Valley on the VistaDome train. Beautiful views of the Sacred Valley and Inca ruins flooded our windows as we enjoyed beautiful music, good food, and each other’s company from our train seats. I admired the misty fog sailing the canyon walls as we descended lower and lower into the jungle. Once we arrived in the small tourist town of Aguas Caliente at the base of Machu Picchu, we took a bus that switchbacked up a steep mountain cliffside to the entrance of Machu Picchu.

Check out our video of Machu Picchu!

What a surreal moment walking up the stairway to the ancient city and feeling the power of the Inca civilization surround you. Our sweet guide Allien took us around the entire hillside, pointing out what the use of different buildings are believed to be. Machu Picchu was considered a temple for those who were closest to the gods. In the Inca belief system there were three levels life – the Condor represents the heavens, the Puma (which is the shape of the city of Cusco) represents the present life, and the Snake represents the underworld. At Machu Picchu, the Incas saw a Condor in the stone and built around this representation of their gods above.


We were all blown away by how steep the cliffsides were that these Incas were able to build this city on. These brilliant architects built walls at a 13 degree tilt leaning into the mountainside to make them earthquake safe- one of the many reasons the city stands strong today! The Incas only lasted about 300 years from 1200-1500s. This peaceful civilization was either turned into slaves or brutally murdered by the Spaniard Conquestadors. It is astonishing the amount of cities, with their precise stonework, they were able to create in that time frame. Machu Picchu survived being destroyed by the Spaniards because no Incas ever let them know where it existed. In 1911, a Yale professor “discovered” the ancient city when locals lead him to it through the thick jungle. Unfortunately, he did not leave the city in its pristine state, but rather took many artifacts from the site.


Check out our video of Mike with Alicia the Llama!

We breathed in the magic of these unfathomable ruins and laughed as we watched Mike make friends with a Llama named Alicia. The site is slowly repopulating Llamas, and due to the 2,500 to 4,000 people who visit the site daily, they have become extremely comfortable with humans. Mom and Mike visited with Alicia before we bid farewell to the old mountain city and headed back down to our vista dome train and rolled back up the valley to Cusco.


We enjoyed October 8th, my mother’s birthday, at our beautiful hotel overlooking the Plaza de Armas. A parade, celebrating the Virgin Mary, came marching by and mom smiled as she sipped coffee and enjoyed the views. In the afternoon, we learned how to make chocolate at Choco, a cute chocolate store and museum, and even made our own personal bars of chocolate!


I am so happy for the time we had with my family. Today they started their journey back to California and I already miss them. We went back to our S2.50 (.93 cents) dinners at little tiny local restaurants and now await our overnight bus back to La Paz at our old cycle friendly hostal.

The next two weeks are going to be a bit insane. Southern Bolivia lacks roads – sounds like quite a bit of pushing our bikes through sand. But with the sweat and hardship comes spectacular views of the largest salt flat in the world, the Salar de Uyni, beautiful lakes, flamingoes, and breathtaking sunsets on the remote altiplano. We are excited… loading our bikes with food and water for longer stretches without civilization. We will be in touch soon.


We want to thank you and Ron for the gift of an Ipad while on our travels (not to mention all the food, electrolyte powder, gloves, bandanas, and medicines my mother filled a suitcase with for us!!). Thank you for giving us a gift that will help us tremendously with sharing our stories with all who wish to read about it. I love you very much and I am blessed to be your daughter.

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