I have done some follish things in my life, but a recent adventure Omar talked me into was right up there at the top of the list. As some of you may know, I have issues with extreme heights that have a lot of exposure. By exposure, I mean hanging off the edge of a cliff with a couple hundred straight foot drop. Well that is exactly what Omar talked Karie and me into.
Omar first said that he thought it would be great fun to spend a night at the Skylodge Adventure Suites located in the Sacred Valley near Cusco, Peru. I agreed to it without fully understanding what it entailed. Once I viewed the pictures on their website and the videos on YouTube, I knew I was in for a stressful day. Like me, Karie also has issues with extreme heights, but she agreed to go along too.
The sleeping pods at the Skylodge are located 400 meters (1,312 feet) up an almost sheer granite wall. A stay at the Skylodge means climbing 400 meters to the lodge, spending the night in a sleeping pod that literally hangs off the wall and then, the next morning, zip lining back to the starting point.
Looking up at the sleeping pods from the bottom confirmed that the climb would not be like anything I had done before. To make it manageable for a novice like me, they had installed “steps” secured in the rock face. The steps wind their way back and forth to the top. And to make it safe we wore climbing harnesses with clamps we attached to steel cable running alongside the trail. With these safety aids the most we could fall was about 6 feet. Even with these safety aids, the climb looked intimidating to me.
Once we got strapped into our harnesses we headed out with Omar in the lead, Karie next and me taking up the rear. Joining us was Jackie, our guide, who assisted when we needed help and instructed us on the best ways to maneuver around obstacles. Jackie, who was super fit and agile, would zip up to Omar to point him in the right direction, then drop back to help Karie through a difficult spot and then check to see if I was still hanging in there.
Due to the extremely steep angle of the assent, the climb required both legs and upper body strength. Fortunately, there were a few spots along the way where we could stand on a ledge and rest for moment or two.
By far the most tenuous section of the climb was a 30 ft. bridge we had to cross. It consisted of two strands of cable on the bottom and one strand about shoulder high. Below the bridge was a 100 foot drop to a rock outcrop. When I first saw the bridge, I said to myself that there was no way I was going to make it across safely. A few minutes later Omar made it, and then Karie crossed it too. Much to my surprise, once I got moving it wasn’t too scary.
When we made it to the top, we were introduced to our sleeping pods and given instructions on how to properly use the toilet. As you can imagine a toilet in these conditions was nothing like you would find on terra firma. I’ve included a couple shot of the interior of the pods to give you an idea of what it was like. They were surprising spacious and the beds were warm and very comfortable, but the best thing about the pods was the views. The views were nothing short of spectacular.
After we rested for a while, we traversed the “steps” to the communal pod, where Jackie and Efren prepared dinner. Efren guided another couple, Ashely and Oliver, who joined us at the top. Dinner consisted of a fresh salad, bread, quinoa, a veggie burger and a nice Peruvian Malbec. For desert, we had a chocolate brownie. The food was brought to the top in the backpacks that Jackie and Efren carried with them.
As we were eating dinner we hardly noticed that the sun was setting and it was getting dark outside. That posed our next challenge. We had to get from the communal pod to our sleeping pods with only headlamps to help us find the “steps.” Since I could not see much beyond my feet, the fact that I was hanging out in midair with a 1,000 foot drop didn’t seem bother me at all.
Once safely back in my pod, I spent the next hour just staring out the windows at the lights in the valley below.
After breakfast the next morning, again we had to traverse back and forth to the communal pod, we headed to the first zip line platform. Ziplining is just pure fun. All you need to do is jump off the platform, hold on and enjoy the ride. After seven runs we were safely back where we started the previous afternoon.
Skylodge Adventure Suites were far more exciting than I ever expected. And our guides, Jackie and Efren, were exceptional. If you are ever in the Cusco area, don’t miss the unique experience and adrenaline rush the Skylodge offers. You will not be disappointed.