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Machu Picchu!

I am a firm believer in the power of tour guides. I may be a millennial and one who is fine staying in a hostel, wandering down random streets and alleys, even taking the bus to random little towns, but when it comes to cultural ruins, I love to have a guide. Ruins are not as fascinating to all people like they are to me, but there is one thing that is undeniable about them: their story. What makes them great or unique or interesting can’t always be heard in an audio guide, or read and remembered from a book before your trip.

Machu Picchu is a huge complex. It spans between two mountains, has about a million pathways, and building after building that has no more than perhaps a small sign and Spanish name to tell you about its history. Our guide Kol helped bring magic and life to our visit that I will be forever grateful for. Of course, the sight of the ruins at the first terrace we came across quite literally gave me goosebumps (and made Rachel cry), and I loved learning the smaller and more unique intricacies of the story behind it.  

Machu Picchu Selfie
Machu Picchu Selfie (Karen DiGangi)

Kol led us through the complex, first traveling up to get our postcard photo, and helped us meet some llamas (and even had the forethought to hold on to his banana peels which he shared that they loved – and they did). His stories and timeline never felt jumbled or forced and more importantly never lost my attention. I knew nothing about Peruvian history or Inca culture, but here I was taking in every ounce of explanation as to how these stones were used, where you can tell the precision and time were taken on certain buildings, and following Kol's directions to see the different access points through the mountains and valleys that can reach this fascinating place.

The postcard view
The postcard view (Karen DiGangi)

As a former archaeological student of ancient Greek and Roman history, the ruins themselves did not always wow me due to their (in my opinion) recent history. But the nature of the place and history and detail provided by Kol helped make the site one of my favorite travel moments.

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