Machu Picchu, Peru

It is quite a trip from Lima, the capital of Peru to Machu Picchu. To start with, it is an hour’s flight up to the most beautiful, ancient city of Cusco – the capital of the ancient Incan empire. This is a sudden shift from practically 0 meters altitude, or sea level, by the Pacific to an elevation of 3,400 meters! Yes, it made the hearts of every N7W World Tour team member beat strongly. From there, it is a two-hour bus ride and another hour and a half on a picturesque train– down! – to Machu Picchu Pueblo (town) through one of the most beautiful natural settings I have ever seen. Subtropical plants and vegetation at this elevation! The train is a nostalgic diesel “steamer” with panoramic view windows that allow us to see the steep mountains rising from the Urubamba River which the rails follow. At the final stop, the train almost drives through our “Inkaterra” Hotel restaurant and bar. An intimate and beautiful encounter and setting that reminds me of some old English villages. All together a very pleasant and fascinating experience indeed.

The bus drive the next morning is another extreme experience. As we drive from Machu Picchu town at about 1,600 meter above sea level up to the Inca city of Machu Picchu at 2,400 meter above sea level, the mountain gets steeper and steeper (and I thought that in my native Switzerland I had seen it all) with a serpentine road that tops anything I had experienced before. Finally we got to our destination and already, at the bus terminal, we were greeted by New7Wonders posters inviting all visitors to vote for Machu Picchu.

In fact, near the gate, visitors are being asked to vote for the monument, votes that are being entered by half-a-dozen young men and women at the N7W campaign office of our local New7Wonders National Champion Moises on the central square in Machu Picchu Pueblo. Once back home or online, the visitors have to confirm their votes. This way, Moises has been generating something like up to 1,000 votes a day! A very good example of how one individual can generate a great number of votes with his personal passion and enthusiasm. Moises’ “day job” is as a park guard at Machu Picchu. The pre-event day blessed us with some fantastic weather and we were able to shoot all the necessary footage for our documentary. And what a place this is! It is not only an entire city built with huge, hand-carved stones up in one of the most isolated and rough places in the mountains I have ever seen, but the natural setting also blows all expectations out of the water. This is so steep that one is at the verge of dizziness when looking down to the bottom of the valley, to the riverbed.

The next day, the New7Wonders event day, looked a bit less pleasant. Had our coffee grounds prediction of Istanbul given up on us? Of course not. As we got off the bus on the top of the mountain, it was still raining heavily. Time enough to prepare the N7W balloons for the children. To get helium up there was another logistic accomplishment by the local tourism authorities, and I believe that most of the children had never held a helium balloon in their hand before. Reason enough that some of our team members feared that they probably would not let them go as I was going to countdown for the release of the balloons. By the time the balloons were ready, the rain had stopped and Mother Nature even showed some of her beauty again …

The event itself at the top of Machu Picchu, where you have the best view, was hectic and a bit chaotic with lots of media pushing themselves around in front of us. A very relaxed, sporty Minister of Foreign Trade and Tourism, Mercedes Araoz, had climbed with us all the way up with some government employee carrying a large picture of the President of Peru, Alan Garcia, who had planned to accept the official N7W candidate certificate from me, but had to cancel his trip to Machu Picchu at the last moment. It all made our hike up to the event platform look like a colorful pilgrimage. After the release of the N7W balloons (yes, all the children separated from their balloons and let them go simultaneously), a heartfelt handover of the certificate took place followed with an even more emotional ceremony in which the Mayor of Machu Picchu, Edgar Miranda, dressed in a most beautiful and colorful traditional Inca dress, handed me the keys to this fantastic Inca City atop this dramatically beautiful mountain. The rain had started again, but nobody noticed! I had rarely experienced so much emotion before.

Back at our lovely, comfortable Inkaterra Hotel, we had one of the best prepared press conferences on the World Tour. I have to admit that this very remote hotel is like heaven on earth. Not only the attention given to every detail, but also the care of sustainable tourism in its most luxurious form, with its own orchid sanctuary and Peruvian bear renaturalization programme, make this place a unique place to spent quality time. At this point I would like to thank personally Don Jose Koechlin, the founder and president of Inkaterra, and his wife Denise – not only for graciously hosting the N7W team, but also for his endeavors and commitment to developing sustainable tourism combined with top quality in an exemplary way. Well done!