There was one headlamp above me and 4 below. No sign of the glass pods attached to the sheer cliffs above the Sacred Valley of the Incas which we were ascending by via ferrata. The sun had been an unbelievable sight setting over the river and the steep mountains of the Andes it carved its path through. Every once in a while a small light would appear low in the valley and a train would trace the line of the river below us.
We didn’t even mind that we were still climbing these iron rungs after nightfall. When we looked up, all we could see was the Milky Way. It was as if we were climbing to the stars, and for a little while I forgot our exciting destination. If there was ever a getaway that is truly about enjoying the journey, it is getting to and from your room at Natura Vive Skylodge.
This excursion was the very first thing we decided upon for our three month ’round-the-world honeymoon. The destination wasn’t Peru, it was the luxury hotel room in a glass pod hanging on the side of a mountain with 300 degree views. We were just fortunate that in Peru, you’re spoiled for choice when it comes to activities and unique destinations.
When we passed the last rung and arrived at our pod, I was struck by how little was visible besides the stars. It was easy to believe, as our boots clanked down the metal ladder and we closed the hatch above our head, that we were descending into our own little spaceship. We even had to take a moment to get out of the gear required for us to get up to our pod: helmet, gloves, and our bulky harness with multiple carabiners and safety ropes that we’d clipped to the thick metal cable that runs the length of the via ferrata system. All the effort to climb the 400 meters of vertical rebar steps was worth it.
Once we doffed our gear, we were surprised to find just how luxurious our quarters were. The queen bed with fluffy duvet called to me after our long days of travel, and climbing to get there, but I was too excited to sleep having finally arrived at our destination! Our guide left us to get settled and promised to come back with a delicious dinner. This was great news as we were becoming aware of our ravaging hunger.
While waiting, we checked out the rest of the pod. It took about a minute. This place was the ultimate tiny home. The queen bed is set back against one end of the pod and takes up all the width and a quarter-length of the pod. There are 2 twin beds on either side of the middle of the pod and a walkway between the two of them to get to the queen. We used the twin beds as our lounge area. Small wooden tables had been cleverly attached to the beams in the pod, and could be lowered from their folded position into dinner tables.
Our guide, Lucio came back with one of the cameramen, Augustine, and they produced a three-course feast from their backpacks, complete with delicious local red wine. We were delighted to discover that it was not only the best meal we’d ever had in Peru, but also, the best soup we’d ever tasted! My vegetarian preferences were met and exceeded with perfectly cooked vegetable quinoa, and a lentil patty for my main meal. By the time the fresh salad was served, I was feeling sated. Once they presented us with the decadent chocolate brownie desert with fresh pomegranate seeds, I couldn’t believe I wasn’t sitting in a 5-star restaurant.
As tired as we were, we just couldn’t bring ourselves to sleep. We felt like kids on our first camping trip! The stars were amazing, so we spent much of the night shooting astrophotography, finishing the wine from dinner and enjoying one of the absolute highlights of our ’round the world honeymoon!
The next day, we were welcomed to a freshly made breakfast on the wooden platform above the guide’s pod below, where they’d spent the night to ensure guest safety. I had expected some bread and butter, maybe some fresh fruit, but again, I was surprised by the luxury in the sky. Our other guide, Amerigo, scrambled up some eggs which I combined with various local cheeses, and we tried our very first cup of Peru’s famous coca tea.
After breakfast, we brushed our teeth in the one-at-a-time rustic bathroom which is on the other end of the pod from the bed, cordoned off by a heavy curtain. The bathroom in the Natura Vive glass pods is something I haven’t seen anyone describe in depth, so for those asking “how the heck do you go to the bathroom 1,200 feet in the air?” This is for you: In the bathroom there is an ordinary-looking toilet. When you lift the lid however, you’ll find what looks like a bed pan, or a camping pot. This is where women can sit, and then, like the lasses of the olden days, they pick it up and dump it. A long tube comes up from the floor with a cute lid that’s wrapped in twine for a woodsy, cabin-esque feel. This is where women pour their business, and men can go straight into it. Speaking of business, if you have some more serious business to conduct, you lift that bed-pan/pot back out, and grab one of the black trash bags that is sitting below. Then, you set the trash bag up around the toilet to catch your, eh, business. At this point, I’d recommend peeking through the privacy curtains and taking in the view. It could be one of the best bathroom trips of your life. Once completed, you tie the bag tight and throw it down the chute inside the toilet. Someone hauls that off the mountain for you…so don’t forget to tip the maid (who ziplines into work everyday, I might add)!
After a wonderful vacation, there’s the inevitable let-down when you have to leave, but with Natura Vive, the best way back down is with more adrenaline-pumping thrills, so there’s no time for disappointment! There’s only one way to end such an epic experience: zig-zag ziplining down the mountain on seven different ziplines!
After an unforgettable, dream-like journey, we were returned safely by the Natura Vive van to Cusco, a city we’d come to know. Watching people eat, drink, dance and stroll through the Plaza de Armas, doing normal daily routines, it almost felt as if we had gone to space and returned.
We’re already planning our next escape to our own little luxury capsule in the stars.
Couple a Wanderers
(Camille and Niels)