An Adventurous Graduation Present
Since my nephews could walk, I have been dragging them along on adventures whenever they visited. As a self-professed adrenaline junkie, I considered it an honor to teach all three how to ride their bikes, sea kayak, kneeboard, zip line and whatever else I could coerce them in to trying.
Having no children of our own, my wife and I made a commitment years ago to give our nephews memorable and life enhancing high school graduation gifts. After much contemplation, we decided an international trip to a historically and culturally rich destination would be perfect. Machu Picchu, or the lost city of the Incas, has always been on my short list of must see places. So, I decided to share the experience with them. I have been backpacking for over 30 years. Much to my dismay, I realized that I had neglected to share this type of adventure with them. Our motto is ‘go hard or go home’, so appropriately their first backpacking experience would take them high into the Andes!
This trip of a lifetime did pose several challenges, like suitable gear and apparel. While I had given them plenty of outdoor adventure apparel over the years, their gear closets were still in need of a makeover. After months of logistical planning along with gear research and acquisition, my nephews now had some of the best gear and apparel on the market. They had everything from synthetic underwear to outerwear, high performance weekend packs, high warmth to weight sleeping bags and more. As I told them, I was in my thirties before my gear collection compared to the haul they were receiving!
After a four-hour long packing ‘seminar’, we hopped a plane from Atlanta to Lima. A day later we arrived in the former Incan capital of Cusco on June 15. Once there, we spent several days acclimating to the altitude in preparation for our four days en route to the ancient citadel. We departed on the Inca Trail on June 18. We arrived at daybreak in the legendary city of Machu Picchu on June 21, the winter solstice. It is one time of the year when a beam of sunlight will illuminate the window of the sacred Torreon sun temple. It was a breathtaking sight and worth the 28 miles of hiking and the 13,000+ foot mountain peaks and passes we had to persevere! The trek was an epic bonding experience for this uncle and his three nephews. It was an expedition that I hope sparked a life long love of adventure travel for them. At such a formative time in their lives, I hope they learned that ‘life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.’