7th Annual Nomadic Journey: Trekking the Incan Citadel of Machu Picchu

Experienced by Kimatni D Rawlins

For my 7th Annual Nomadic Journey to enlighten the mind, body, and soul, I adventurously explored the remote citadel of Machu Picchu by way of trekking the awe-inspiring Inca Trail. Consisting of continuous miles of stone paths and thousands of original rock-strewn Incan steps carved from the Andes Mountains centuries ago, the short expedition was spiritually uplifting and full of awakening sustenance.

The Journey

You will fly into Jorge Chavez International Airport outside of Lima from your home destination and then take a short flight into Cusco to prepare for the adventure to Machu Picchu. In my case, United Airlines routed me on a direct Business Class flight from Newark. It is advised to enjoy Cusco for at least two days to acclimate to the altitude before hiking. But please make sure to visit Green Point while in Cusco for some of the most delicious and purest vegan food the city has to offer.

Whether you decide to engage in an extended 4-day hike to Peru’s 7th Wonder, or ride lavishly aboard the 1920s-styled carriages of the luxurious Belmond Hiram Bingham train through the Sacred Valley, the enchanting experience will replenish your temple with restorative Andean wisdom and vitality. More affordable options include either IncaRail or PeruRail from San Pedro station in Cusco. I chose the 1-day Inca Trail trek with Sam Travel Peru, which required me to train it to stop 104 (common hiker’s drop-off point) for a deeper understanding of the archeological site. This option was about $400 from the experienced Peruvian tour group. My guide Miguel educated me on the history of the Incas and vicariously showcased the ways of the ancient world.  I also met some new friends from London, Marta and Nuno, who were just as adventurous.

Restorative Incan Vitality

Built atop a mountain utilizing large stone walls without the use of mortar in the Andean jungle, and overlooking the Urubamba River, Machu Picchu remained hidden until adventurer Hiram Bingham III rediscovered the royal city in 1911. The hike deep in this jungle was fun and life-changing. More importantly, it was fitness-focused, especially when it came time to climb the stone steps. We also encountered a few social llamas that were grazing the land and enjoying their day. Once we reached the once lost city, which some say was a retreat for the Incan elite, I was hypnotized by the mountain views and commanding structural presence. Of course, hundreds of tourists were omnipresent upon arrival, but only a small percentage chose the path of a few. Unfortunately, and cruelly, Spanish conquistadors led by Francisco Pizarro González wiped out the Inca Empire in the 1500s with their then modern weaponry and cavalry.

Machu Picchu Pueblo

Thankfully, I was fortunate enough to be accommodated at the distinguished five-star Sumaq Machu Picchu Hotel, where I inherited some of the rich knowledge and heritage at the heart of the Inca Empire.  In perfect position, the Sumaq is just a 10-minute walk through Machu Picchu Pueblo once you reach the Aguas Calientes station from Cusco. The eclectic and vibrant town is ripe with artisans specializing in cultural replicas and omnipresent restaurants to entice your pallet with Peruvian cuisine. Please make sure to walk the historical Circuito de las Cronicas en Piedra, which is a series of 37 granite sculptures that highlight the identity of the Andean world view and folklore.

Sumaq Machu Picchu Hotel

Upon arrival at the luxury resort — situated at the bottom of Machu Picchu — my host greeted me with fruit parfaits, fresh beverages, and impeccable hospitality. Recently renovated, the property features 62 suites and rooms, which include the majestic Imperial Suite that captivated every one of my senses. Sufficiently adequate for a family of five, or romantic enough for a honeymooning couple on the trip of their lives, the suite features a wine bar, jacuzzi, lounge, living room, dining area, two large screen TVs, dual bathroom sinks, travertine marble, and beds outlined in Inca wall décor. The other two room types are the Junior Suite Deluxe and the Sumaq Deluxe, with each — as well as the hallways, lobby, and specialty rooms — radiating the luminosity of the traditional hues of the Inca: orange, purple, red, and yellow (gold). Minor but significant design touches include the placement of the Chakana, or the Inca cross, throughout the resort to represent door handles, closet openers, desk knobs, and more. Operations Manager Victor Gavidia iterated that all decorations and portraits indicative of the culture are exclusive to Sumaq Machu Picchu.

Each morning meditative states of mind from idyllic environmental vistas woke my consciousness to new levels of nirvana. How so? The purifying incantations and enchanting view of the salient Rio Vilcanota (river of the Incas) flowed just across the way from my balcony. Look up, and Andean Mountains, along with sumptuous landscapes, set you in another dream state where life is peaceful, simple, and magical. On a few occasions, I sat and wrote poems such as The River and The Rock, while observing the harmonized dynamics between the river’s steady flow and the stones’ grounded stance. To reach Machu Picchu from this same location, visitors can either hike up two hours or catch a 25-minute bus ride.

After my venture, I was ready for a stimulating massage at Sumaq’s Aqlla Spa. I found myself at peace with the native elements of Machu Picchu by selecting the coca and muna essential oils body massage. Afterward, my temple was just at ease and relaxed as I lounged to entrancing music while sipping on organic tea in the lounge.

Saving the best for last, the veggie culinary experience featuring the aromas and tastes from the southern region of Peru was amazing. There were various meal selections and sugar cane drink specials the Sumaq offered during my stay. For its sustainability focus, the resort received a Rainforest Alliance certification, so the provisions were fresh and locally sourced. First up was a Ceviche demonstration since this dish is one of the region’s typical delicacies. Usually prepared with fish or seafood, chef Melissa used mushrooms instead since I’m a vegan. Other ingredients included salt, chili, red onions, cilantro, fried corn, sweet potato, lettuce, baby corn, ice, and lime. The preparation of the appetizer is rather quick and served immediately. Wow, so delicious I recall!

In the evening, I dined at Qunuq Restaurant to the vibes of Los Peces En El Rio, a beautiful holiday carol that made me smile while recalling the youthful memories of my two teen daughters. One of my favorite meals on the menu consisted of three courses featuring an avocado salad, rice pasta, and sorbet with Ginger tea. For those who love a good spirit and wish to sip the native flavors of the Cusco region, then head to the Suquy Café & Bar on the first floor for a fermented corn drink dubbed chicha de jora. The Incas discovered this technique after taking home wet corn and indulging. It usually ferments for a week, but the longer it sits, the higher the alcohol content becomes. Locals mainly utilize for parties and ceremonies. Other drink specials at the Sumaq include Saqra, Inti Raymi, and Tonic Andino.

The following day’s lunch was exceptional. One of the Sumaq’s chief chefs, Carlos Pardo, demonstrated the art of preparing pachamanca, which translates to “pot in the earth” in Quechua. Characteristically, meat is the main ingredient, but I was up with mushrooms and various Incan corn and potatoes, of which there are over 1,000 varieties in the area. Preparers bury the food with hot rocks, cover in banana leaves, and then cook for 30 minutes. After unearthing, the chow was topped with unique sauces and served immediately. Ah yes, life reimagined.

I was sad when it came time to check out of the Sumaq, yet I felt blessed returning home with a higher perspective on the Incan way of life and heightened respect for Peru’s indigenous culture. Furthermore, the Nomadic Journey leaves me with just three more “7 Wonders of the World” to explore to complete the historic circuit. For more information on the Sumaq Machu Picchu Hotel, please visit Live the life you love, love the life you live!

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