April 29, 2013

May 2007 – After spending some time in Lima with family and celebrating her 65th birthday there, Mom and I flew to Arequipa to see the city and its volcanoes, which we could clearly see from our hotel window and she swore were inching closer to us all the time.

Arequipa 032

View of the “Misti” volcano from our hotel window.


From Arequipa we flew on to Cusco, touring the city and its ruins before taking the train to Machu Picchu the following morning. We laughed so much on that train, taking in the picturesque route and the goings on; at some of the stops, you could open your window and hang out of it and a street vendor would sell you a delicious snack, some nuts or (my favorite) the Roasted Peruvian Corn (those huge kernels!) topped with fresh cheese – she laughed at how demanding and American I was, even customizing a food transaction that was taking place out the window of a train that had barely slowed down.

And then, on 10 May, the pinnacle of our trip: Machu Picchu.

Machu Picchu | 10 May 2007

Machu Picchu | 10 May 2007

How ballsy she was and how embarrassing for me, to have my feelings of vertigo and acrophobia take me over almost immediately upon entering the citadel, to feel the tears rush out at the realization that we would need to let our group go on without us because I would not be able to get over myself and take the (insane, steep, crumbling) stairs.

I feel it bears repeating here that she had just turned 65 years old, had been diagnosed with the thyroid and lung cancer three years prior, and as a bonus she had trouble with her knees *which both needed replacing*.

She led me around a different way than the tour group had gone (this was her 5th or 6th visit to Machu Picchu). She bounded up those tiny ancient steps. I could barely keep up.

Have you been there? The steps are old and worn and IT’S NOT LIKE THERE ARE HANDRAILS.

machu-picchu STEPS



It remains and always will be one of the most amazing traveling experiences of my life.

She would have turned 71 years old tomorrow.