Offering more than just Machu Picchu, the Sacred Valley in Peru provides multiple jaw-dropping views and epic adventures that every visitor should add to their bucket list, including a weekend stay at the SkyLodge and zip-lining down the cliffside with Natura Vive.
We only a had a few short days in the Sacred Valley during our trip with Race2Adventure, in the Spring of 2015. The first day involved all 250 of us racing down a foot path, passing the famous salt mines in Maras, to the beautiful grounds of Restaurante Tunupa. The next day, we ran another race alongside the Urumbamba river, noticing the sunlight glinting off two glass pods floating at the top of the cliffside across from our route. Little did we know that in two days we would be climbing over and past those pods, also known as Skylodge.
We continued to climb up ancient steps to the village of Ollantaytambo, where we joyfully distributed children’s backpacks stuffed so tight with brand new school supplies, that the zippers and seams were ready to burst. Together as a group, Race2Adventure was donating these supplies to the local town as a thank you for hosting us. We were crying with delight as the local kids squealed and celebrated their gifts with enthusiastic hugs and many tears.
So it was kind of a surprise when, after spending our third day at Machu Picchu with Race2Adventure, we would be spending our fourth and final day split up into smaller groups for extra-curriculars. Our chosen adventure took us straight to those glass pods we’d seen 400 feet in the air: we had signed up for zip-lining with Natura Vive.
Zip-lining with Natura Vive is not for the faint of heart. The adventure began on the ground alongside the Urumbamba, about 10 minutes from Ollantaytambo. Here, each of us got geared up with helmets, harnesses, gloves, a pulley, carabiners, and lanyards for safety.
From ground level, scanning the cliffside above does not reveal much of what is about to take place-- you really only gain a sense of how high you are going once you've passed Skylodge at the top of the climb, and you happen to look down.
As soon as everyone was wearing their gear, we were given a quick safety demonstration preparing us for the next 40 minutes, followed by clicking into the via ferrata route with our carabiners to the steel wires lacing up the cliff.
This last detail was extremely important: without that essential safety feature, the slightest stumble could result in a fatal fall... in some cases along the way, being harnessed in was our only way of staying on the mountain.
At one point along the climb, there was a gap in terrain at least 20 feet across, where we had to balance both feet on nothing more than two wires with a sheer drop to the river below. Again, having the carabiner clipped in to the via ferrata wire was the only difference between life or death!
This section took sheer willpower to shuffle along, praying to keep our balance and make it to the other side. It truly defied all logic to step out onto nothingness and put trust into those thin steel wires... thankfully, they held up!
The climb was awesome, to say the least. Although much easier than actual rock climbing, good physical fitness was required to make the journey via ferrata. You certainly can’t be afraid of heights or be prone to vertigo. A good heart is also recommended, as the sheer velocity gained while zip-lining down the mountain is borderline terrifying, at least for me.
Others may call it “exhilarating."
The seven zip-lines altogether cover 2,800 meters, or over 9,000 feet of wire, traversing back and forth down the enormous cliffside. There are no hand brakes to slow your speed on the wires, but the engineering of the ride slows you down just enough to not crash into each landing. It is incredible fun, your body fueled with adrenaline as you cascade down each slide!
Once back on solid ground, we high-fived each other for surviving an amazing morning of gravity-defying fun! Natura Vive provided a lunch box to satisfy our intense hunger, and we eagerly consumed every morsel before heading back to our hotels for a shower and bragging rights to the rest of the Race2Adventure group.
We had such an incredible time with the team from Natura Vive that we invited them out to join us for the evening at our Race2Adventure Finale Celebration! A night of dancing, eating and drinking ensued, and memories forever ingrained after a full week of intense travel and physical exertion, racing across epic landscapes at breathtaking elevations!
Want to read about another experience with Race2Adventure?
Check out A Race Across Sand Dunes with Race2Adventure and read about an earlier challenge on our Peruvian adventure!