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Machu Picchu

Embracing Incan Culture During a Sunrise Hike to Machu Picchu

Proof that Machu Picchu is as magical as they say.

by Allison Burns
EF Ultimate Break traveler

A young woman petting an alpaca and talking to a local Peruvian woman.

The heavenly hummingbird

My favorite EF Ultimate Break memory is my first ever trip that I did solo—the Peru and Machu Picchu Adventure—specifically the sunrise return to Machu Picchu when we hiked to the Sun Gate. We woke up at the crack of dawn. I was running on an hour or two of sleep, the altitude was getting to me and let's face it—I was just out of shape! Everyone climbed at their own pace, but the camaraderie among our group was incredible. Every time someone made it to the Sun Gate, everyone would clap for each other. No one was ever left behind. Once everyone made it and we all recovered, sitting high above the clouds with Machu Picchu in the distance, our Tour Director Sally shared stories from her past to remind us that tomorrow is not guaranteed. You can make more money and buy more material things, but the only thing you can never get back is time and that's why the Incan culture is such a happy one. They don't worry about the little trivial stresses of each day because if they died tomorrow, they didn't want to waste their lives on earth unhappy for a moment.

Sally also explained the importance of the hummingbird in their culture. They are considered to be messengers from Heaven, gently nudging us to move on and release the burden of people or things that have passed. At this point almost everyone in our group was crying. My fur baby, Chester, had passed away the day before I left on the anniversary of my uncle passing away the year prior and I actually thought that I was going to have to cancel the trip on account of being a disaster. Everyone in the group also seemed to have a story as to why they were here on this specific trip and date. The only explanation for this was fate.

Tupananchikkama: until we meet again

Sally also taught us that in Quechua there is no word for goodbye because the culture does not say permanent goodbyes. Instead they say Tupananchikkama, which is the literal translation for until we meet again. Every phrase that one says at the end of a conversation assumes they will always see them again. Not only did I connect this with loved ones past, but with the people that come in and out of my life here on Earth; how every person has a reason for entering your life even if just for a moment, whether it's to provide a need or teach you something. That's how I felt about this special group of people that I was on this trip with.

A life-changing experience

After this intense moment, some of the group began the trek back down towards Machu Picchu. Two of my roomies and I stayed behind, standing on the edge of the ruins overlooking Machu Picchu, talking about the reasons we were so emotional. In this moment, a hummingbird suddenly flew down in front of our faces and just floated there looking right back at us...what will forever be engrained in my mind as a reminder of Sally's words.

From this moment on, not only did I fall more in love with travel, but connecting with other travelers that I feel like I can only get with group travel. This experience is why I have continued to book so many trips with EF Ultimate Break and travel with friends I made through this first trip who have become closer friends than some that I've known for years. It truly changed the course of my life for the better and it's an experience I wish everyone could have at least once in their lives.

All photos courtesy of Allison Burns.

Peru & Machu Picchu Adventure

10 days. 4 cities. Lots of llamas.

Up the altitude and dive into jungles, cities and ancient ruins on this adventure through the heart of Peru. After living like a local in Lima, you’ll journey to Cuzco and Machu Picchu, where you'll learn about its mysterious and magical past.

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by Allison Burns

Allison is a digital marketing specialist based out of Long Island, New York with a passion for photography and checking countries off her bucket list, hoping to reach 30 by age 30. When she's not browsing for her next EF Ultimate Break trip, you can find her petting the nearest dog, talking about The Vampire Diaries to anyone who will listen, or scoping out the best Trader Joe’s finds.

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