March 17, 2009
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Rain pouring down through the open roof. Lightning level and below us. So close it feels like you can reach out and grab it. Looking down on the clouds below, constantly lighting. The storm all around us.

During spring break of 2004, my family and I went to the radiant country that is Peru. One of my favorite places in the whole country was the Sacred Valley. Everything is green and lush, towering mountains and short, rolling hills make up most of the terrain, and the Urubamba River runs all the way through the middle. One of the towns in the Sacred Valley, and the town that we stayed in, was Ollantaytambo. The town is close to Machu Picchu, one of Peru's biggest attraction and cultural locations. Although the small town is the closest town and train stop to Machu Picchu, it is not very touristy. We stayed at a small, plain, homey hotel. It wasn't very technologically advanced (there was no heat), and it didn't have all of the accommodations that many hotels today have, but it was one of my favorite hotels that I have every stayed at. There were willow trees in the back, with Hispanic-style hammocks and a little stream. The people there were incredibly nice and the food was amazing. Unfortunately, we only stayed here for one night, and we left early in the morning after that night to visit the ancient phenomenon.

We left early in the morning from our hotel to get on the train. After a long ride on the train followed by a winding bus ride up the mountain, we reached Machu Picchu. As we arrived at the mortar-less city, the first thing my brother and I saw, besides all of the ruins before us, was the neighboring mountain, Huayna Picchu.

We climbed all around the city, looked inside the houses, took pictures of the llamas, soaked in the scenery, and learned a lot about the Incans. After a couple of hours of visiting, my brother, my mom and I decided to attempt to make our way up the steep trail to the top of Huayna Picchu, leaving my sister and my father behind. The hike up the mountain was not too difficult. It was a little steep, but everything was dry, so slipping was not too much of an issue. We ended up hiking with two other groups of people. One was made up of native Peruvians, and the other of Englishmen. We walked at a fairly brisk pace and stayed focused on reaching the top. As we were about to achieve our goal of making it all the way up, there was a huge bolt of lightning quickly followed by a clap of thunder. We hurried up the remaining part of the trail, about one hundred yards, and took the nearest and only shelter, which was a roofless ancient Incan house. We decided to remain in the house and wait out the storm. As time went on, more people arrived at the top and entered the house. The house quickly turned into a cultural mixing bowl, with people from all over the globe. There were native Peruvians, Europeans, Americans, and many other people from different countries from all around the world.

The storm was extremely fascinating and yet scary at the same time. The lightning was level with us or below us, and seemed like it was going to strike the ancient structure, and us, with every bolt. We could look down and see the storm and see the rain falling from the clouds. And yet we could still look up and see the top of the storm that brought the rain down upon us. We passed the time by watching the storm and talking to some of the Peruvians around us. We talked about our trip and they recommended some places to go, as they passed around some cacao leaves for us to chew on to help deal with the altitude. After about a half-an-hour, the storm subsided. Most of the people in the house, included us, decided to take our chances and hike back down then, instead of wait and possibly get caught up in another storm.

The hike back down, although much harder, was really cool. All of these people, of all different countries, who had never seen each other before, were helping each other make it down the mountain in one piece. After a slow-paced hike, we finally reached the bottom. We said goodbye to our new friends and tried to locate the rest of the family. We found my dad and sister in a large Incan dwelling and began to relay to them our whole experience. As we were talking, it occurred to me that they had seen the same exact storm as us. Yet, to them it was just a plain old thunder storm, aside from the fact that they were at one of the wonders of the world, but to my brother, my mom and I, it was one of the coolest things that we had ever experienced. The only thing that was different was point of view. The way you see something can change everything about an experience. Point of view can change something ordinary into something extraordinary, just as it did that day in the Sacred Valley of Peru.

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