Machu Picchu features on many bucket lists for a number of reasons – the mystery, the architecture, the history, the culture and the view to name a few. Those who visit the Inca ruins high in the Andes, talk about its magic. They also find, unexpectedly that Peru and its people leave them spellbound. This was certainly the case for Novocastrian, Naomi Findlay.
A Peruvian trek had always been loosely on Naomi’s bucket list. In her 20's she travelled a lot, but Machu Picchu, the backpacker’s holy grail, was one destination she planned to visit but didn’t when, like so many other women, she stopped exploring the world to have a family. Then, after her 40th birthday, Naomi decided it was time to revisit ‘The List.’
“It was more than a destination to visit and tick off. I wanted to immerse myself in the experience and allow it. Our earth and its people have so much to offer and teach us, and I wanted to be a part of it,” Naomi said.
With this intention, Naomi and her friend Fi decided to visit Machu Picchu and Peru, taking a less travelled route, the Lares Trek. It is one of the alternatives to the popular Inca Trail - slightly shorter in distance and higher in altitude (the highest point is Ipsaycocha Pass at 4450 metres.) The Lares is quieter and traverses the valley of the same name, home to Quechua weavers and farmers.
“It was amazing,” says Naomi. “We were the only two tourists on the trek and mountain. Our guide understood we needed to do this alone; he would lead the way by about 500 metres. It was just me, Fi and the mountains – it felt like the mountains were alive. I talked to them and could feel them move and breathe. It was the closest I ever felt to the Universe and Mother Nature,” she said.
“When I reached the summit of 4450 metres, I had experienced a gamut of emotions. I realised it was more than physical exertion that had made this possible – it was also mental strength and friendship. Yes, it was challenging, the altitude was debilitating, and I was affected by the dizzy heights, but I made it!”
Naomi describes the whole trip – Lares Trek and Machu Picchu – as experiential. Her adventures ranged from sleeping in a tent with sub-zero overnight temperatures to seeing an alpaca born in the wild at 4400m as well as the picturesque views of the mountains, villages and secret valleys that inspired her each day. However, it was the Quechua people that captured her heart. Their openness, kindness, stillness but most of all their affinity with Pachamama – Mother Nature.
Above: Quechua mother and child, both are wearing the region’s well-known beautiful woven cloth, in their backyard.
It was also one of the overnight campsites and the pack horseman Luis’ family and home.
After this experience, Naomi is keen for more mountain magic. She has her sights set on Kilimanjaro, Everest base camp and Mount Toubkal in Morocco. Also on her list is take her children to the amazing places she has seen such as Tanzania’s Serengeti with its animals and Maasai warriors, and Costa Rica for its diversity of landscape from desert to oceans, volcanoes and beaches.
But Naomi has work to do elsewhere first, with her business (Rapid Renovation Formula) partnering with United World School to build schools in Cambodia in an effort to assist the 59 million Cambodian children who have no access to basic primary education. The joint venture has committed to building three schools in the next three years.
“Without a basic education, these children have little chance of climbing out of the poverty they were born into. They're stuck in a cycle of poverty, at a greater risk of malnutrition, illness and disease.”
In September, she plans to take six people with her to a remote community to build the first school. “It ticks a lot of boxes for me – I am a doer that is passionate about education, children, and property,” says Naomi. To find out more visit www.naomifindlay.com/build_a_school
Pictured top: Naomi and her friend Fi triumphant atthe Ipsaycocha Pass, 4450metres, the highest point of the Lares Trek.