130' up, 2000' wide - Via Ferrata and Zip-Lining the Andes, Peru - 3

Via Ferrata and Zip-lining the Andes

We arrive at our hotel after touring the expansive Sacred Valley of Cusco. Our stay was at the San Agustin Monasterio Hotel, a delightful hotel conversion from a 17th Century Monastery  After the Conquistadors razed the lands, the Spanish sent in the religious sect to indoctrinate the villagers. Our hotel once hosted the Order of the Agustin Monks and within housed a large sanctuary. Much of the period artwork remained, now badly in need of restoration; nonetheless, representative of the dark past forced upon this beautiful setting. 

Our room was quirky, the headboard incorporated the natural earth retaining wall and the bathroom had a large window area viewing same retaining wall. This section also had 3 other bathroom windows of other rooms facing out like a 4-square. Great in idea but if any other guest turned their bath light on, it actually shined onto the pillows of our bed, at 2am. Difficult to explain and what is worse is we could hear all forms of bathroom usage. Actually, we found that there is very little standard building code practices and most our stays had terrible noise control. At this hotel, the beds were a bit like a Incan sacrificial alter. The mattress as hard as the white granite we were about to clamber-up.

This morning, we were escorted by a local guide to the Skylodge. A climbing hotel with 3-pods cantilevered off the side of a mountain. The idea is you climb up and overnight in the clear bubbled, nearly 360 degreed observation rooms. The hotel company, realizing this was severely limiting those who could stay, decided to build a via ferrata, or “iron way” and then a zip line escape, so you did not have to repel down. I do believe there is a supply road above, but what’s the fun in that? Nonetheless, this company decided they could also make money on tourist wanting to climb and zip but not stay at the lodge. We were the latter.

The iron way is a series of rebar steps driven into the granite to replace climbing foot and hand holds. A cable is also secured by iron eyelets and strung in tandem along the entire route. Basically, “climbing for dummies”. You are then harnessed with carabiners and up you go, running your tied-in carabiners along the cable, until the next eyelet, where you exchange them to the next section. Always one attached to the cable. There is also a suspended bridge one must death-defy cross. A narrow cabled flyover with a supporting hand wire. The whole suspension is approximately 15 feet long, tied from one cliffs edge to another. Think high-wire circus act over a 75 ft drop. The middle child saying “look ma, one hand!” And not to be out done, the youngest: “look ma, one hand and one foot!”. As if I wasn’t already having my own heart attack.

The whole climb was a challenge to my senses. Hanging above the earth, 100’ by just a rudimentary iron ladder. At some points, just focusing on putting one hand or one foot above the other. In my college days, I had taken a climbing class. My brain reminds me how strong well set-pro is, let alone the rebar deeper inside the rock than what is exposed. I calculate how much weight a carabiner can hold, and they are all double safety set. Scary but fun!

“Only one carabiner needs to catch me, don't let go, don't fall”, I mantra. The whole climb is ~130 ft vertical. My shins are bruised and my shoulders ache. But nonetheless, I persisted and I showed my girls who they can be on the back half of 40 years old.

There was one way down, zip lining. 6 lines in total. One so long you must ride tandem to have enough weight to “make it” across, 2000’. Thankfully, each girl was paired with a guide and my boy with his dad. Unlike Mexico, the equipment did not have a built-in hand-break, so they give you leather gloves to create friction on the cable to slow you down, and you hope your hand is not yanked-off by inertia. Exhilarating is an understatement, but I think I am maxed on my need to experience this attraction from here on out.

I do intend to climb the Via Ferrata in Ouray just because I still can.

We returned to our hotel in Urubamba and made reservations at El Huacatay. Apparently, the chef/owner is very good friends with the #1 Chef in the World (2017) out of Lima (Chef Virgilio Martinez). The dining was excellent and the waiter was extremely friendly. He is an immigrant from Venezuela. (See not all are flooding the Southern Border of the US, some come to Peru). He shared how each sauce and side should be eaten in order for the highest culinary pleasure. And he was right.

To be truthful, we have found Peruvians and their counterparts to be incredible friendly. It is also a very clean country. There seems to be a pride in keeping the streets free of trash. Garbage exists but not like our experiences in other Central Americas'. This is a fairly prosperous Country, with some major natural features, and free public education all the way through to university. I do wonder if that will change as we travel into the bigger cities or the countryside.

Look Ma, One Hand! 

One Hand, One Foot

Lunch Ledge