A Piece of Land that is Worth While: A Wayfarer Study's Guide to Peru

Growing up in Colombia I knew that “Colombia is passion” because I felt it. It’s like the country’s motto was imprinted in my DNA—part of my bone marrow. However, I thought that this applied only to Colombia. I thought, surely no one else in the world could have reason to be this passionate about the land that they are from. That idea was definitely debunked when I started exploring the rest of  the South American continent. I understood that South America in its entirety is the type of land that becomes a part of your core.

In 2011, I traveled to Peru with friends for the adventure of a lifetime. We spent six months planning our trip to the majestic land of the Inca. The anticipation was unreal!! Finally the time came!! The places we covered were: Lima, Cuzco, Ollantaytambo to begin the hike of a life time—the Inca Trail--, Arequipa where we saw one of the most well preserved mummies in the world, Puno where we visited the floating islands of the Uro people on Lake Titicaca , spent time with the people of Taquila Island, and took some chill time the dessert of Huacachina.

I knew going into this trip that this would be an encounter that would be forever written in my memory, but I didn’t account for the deep connection that I would feel with a land that wasn’t necessarily mine. This is when I realized that all of South America is a land of secrets that captivates those who choose to be in tune with them. The secrets the land tells are filled with a pure native history, culture, and their incredible advancement, which was fragmented and destroyed by the European conquest, and finally the merger of two worlds through its mestizo offspring.

We began the Inca Trail on the third day of our trip. This four-day hike through the Andes altered forever my understanding of what it is to be Latin American. The land deepened my culture. It deepened my love for exploration.  It deepened my desire to know history. It was transcendental.

During the first day we met our tour guide and the “porters”. Our tour guide was a young law student who got into the Inca Trail business because of his love for his country, its history, and hiking. The porters are native Incans who still inhabit the Andes and make a living by carrying the hikers tents, food, and supplies. We bonded with these men through the days. They taught us words in their native Quechua, but most importantly they became our comrades during the long days of hiking.

Time was lost during the Inca Trail. There was no rush to get things done and be at a certain place at 14:00 hours. It was all about the journey and the personal “wealth” that could be gained during that journey. The main prize was to reach Machu Picchu, but along the way the preliminary encounters with smaller scale ancient ruins and people on the same path prepared us for the majesty that would be Machu Picchu.

When we reached Machu Picchu on the fourth day the sky was blue and the clouds kissed the mountains. Never had I witnessed so much glory. I was on cloud nine. The scenery was so spectacularly majestic that as soon as the group’s eyes saw it there was immediate silence. After the initial reverent reaction the setting began to incite conversations about history, politics, astronomy, medicine, agriculture, and religion. Everyone was in a higher place of wonderment and thought.

All of Peru touched my heart in unforgettable ways, but it was the Inca Trail experience and seeing Machu Picchu that brought me to the realization that ALL of Latin America is passion and worth while. It seeps through your pores and into your bloodstream.


Helena Souders is a traveler, writer/blogger from Bogota, Colombia...raised in Miami...and currently living in Washington, DC. Follow her