A room with a view: Spending the night in Natura Vive’s Skylodge

Have you ever had one of those days where everything that could go wrong does go wrong…but because of the mayhem and mishaps the final results were even better than you could have dreamed?

That is definitely what happened on the day that Glenn and I were booked into what has to be one of the craziest hotels on earth, Natura Vive’s Skylodge (not far from Cusco, Peru).

The fortunes of travel have definitely been with us with respect to Peru. On a fluke we decided to travel to a small town about two hours outside of Cusco immediately upon our arrival in Peru. We wanted a little quiet relaxation following our busy trip in Bolivia and before we began adventuring in a new country.

We found a quaint hotel (Casa del Abuelo Riverside) in the small village of Ollantaytambo, located in the Sacred Valley between Cusco and Machu Picchu. It was a perfect spot for some downtime. We woke up in the morning to a major strike to protest a new law that would allow private companies to operate and manage certain archeological sites. Many of the protesters felt that the law was essentially selling their cultural heritage.

Protesters in the main square in the town of Ollantaytambo.

The goal of the strike was to disrupt tourism in and around Cusco by shutting town all transportation services – including taxis, busses and trains. Incoming tourists ended up stranded at the airport and had to walk to their hotels…and those that were already in Cusco were unable to travel to Machu Picchu (some 3,000 tourists visit there per day).

Our hotel was full of people that were going to have to go back home without ever seeing the iconic site they had come to Peru for. It was heartbreaking. There was one Italian couple that was so determined that they planned to walk the 7+ hours along the railroad to try to reach Machu Picchu on their own – with no idea how they’d get back.

All of the stores and restaurants were closed in our little town, and the roads were blocked off preventing anyone from coming or going. All tourism services came to a halt. By some estimates the two-day strike cost over $3 million in losses from the tourism sector.

While this situation was horrible for most everyone else, it worked out in our favor.

There are some major Inca ruins in and around where we were staying – and because all of the tourists were stuck in Cusco we had them essentially to ourselves. The ruins that looked like an ant hill because of all the tourists scurrying around the sites the day before were all but abandoned when we visited.

The ruins in Ollantaytambo, normally crawling with tourists.

Glenn enjoying our private view of the ruins. 

On the second day we hiked up some other cliffs to these Inca granaries. We had them to ourselves…until a park ranger came to kick us out because they were closing all of the ruin sites due to the protests.

On the second day of the strike we were supposed to be picked up from our hotel at 2:30 PM by the Natura Vive Skylodge staff. But because the roads were blocked by huge boulders, downed trees and protesters, they were unable to reach us. Glenn and I spent the afternoon anxiously checking for update emails from the Skylodge folks. Tick-tock, tick-tock. Our 2:30 PM pickup time became 3:30 PM, and then became 5:30 PM. Rain and thunder began rolling in and the electricity in the hotel went out.

By the time the Natura Vive staff got past the roadblocks to pick us up (~7:30 PM) we were sitting in the lobby, in the dark (after hours with no electricity) with several hotel staff and guests staring at each other by the light of two tiny candles.

Needless to say, I had some serious second thoughts about what I had gotten us into.

You see, the Skylodge consists of three glass pods hanging on the side of a sheer 1,300+ foot cliff. Guests climb the cliff to their pod via ferrata – or “iron path” – a series of metal cables, rungs, steps, ladders and bridges. Of course, this adventure is meant to be done in the daylight…not in middle of the night!

You can barely see the tiny sleeping pods up high on the cliff (top, middle/left of photo) which was briefly illuminated by the lights of the taxi that dropped us off! Gulp.

Before I knew it we were being suited up in harnesses and safety gear. A headlamp was slapped on our foreheads and we found ourselves at the base of the cliff with two guides and another couple (Percy and Arelis), ready to begin our climb.

Glenn getting suited up in his climbing gear.

Glenn and I have no climbing experience and scaling this cliff in the dark of night was a crazy experience. Our guides have been doing this multiple times a week for three years – one of them had never climbed it at night and the other had only done it once before.

Beginning our climb to our ‘hotel room’ somewhere above us in the darkness.

Climbing in the dark meant our once-in-a-lifetime experience became even more remarkable.

On the upside, I couldn’t see how high off the ground I was…on the downside, it was very disorienting to be surrounded by a void of darkness on all sides. I stayed focused on the rocks and metal rungs that were illuminated by my headlamp, took several deep breaths, and slowly climbed one step at a time.

The scariest part of the entire climb was inching across this suspension bridge (as Glenn is doing here), surrounded by complete darkness and knowing you were high above an abyss. The cables started swaying when you got to the middle and flipping over backwards felt inevitable. This is the closest to tightrope walking I ever care to get. So scary!

Glenn and I making our way up, up, up.

Our first glimpse of our sleeping pod…and the metal rungs we needed to scale to reach it.

Once settled snug and safe in our pod, the guides made us dinner. A glass of wine never tasted so good!

Arriving to our pod in the dark of night meant that we were treated to an amazing view as the sun rose above the horizon, slowly illuminating the valley below. It was truly breathtaking.

My view (from bed!) of the valley below at sunrise.

Buenas Dias!

Yup, we climbed up that cliff in the dark! This was the view looking down from the head of our bed. That little white rectangular spec on the right side of the road is where our climb started.

Pretty comfy accommodations.

Who needs coffee when this is how you start your morning? Glenn is working his way over to the guide’s pod for some breakfast.

Pretty amazing place to enjoy breakfast with some new friends, Percy and Arelis – the couple that stayed in the other pod.

The culmination of this amazing experience was zip-lining from the pods down the cliff back to the valley floor.

Here is a video of some of the climbing and the ziplining – as the pictures don’t quite capture how amazing the experience was.

Climbing up toward the start of the zipline course.

Arelis had a big smile after her first zipline trip.

Glenn needed a tow from the guide on one of the ziplines.

A view of sleeping pods as we were working our way down the cliff via the ziplines.

In the end, our late start made this adventure a truly remarkable experience. There are very few people that will ever get to say they climbed the 1,300 foot cliff to Peru’s Skylodge in the dark. It is definitely at the top of my list of most amazing things I have ever done.

My partner in crime. Thanks for giving this a go Glenn!

P.S. – But what about a bathroom?

Because I know you want to know…yes, there was a bathroom! It was a dual system, liquids in that funnel looking thing (a chamber pot is used for the ladies) and solids are collected in a plastic bag that gets sealed and put into the shoot coming out of the bottom of the toilet into a collection bin below the pod. It was all very civilized.

Can’t beat the view from this seat!

 

10 comments on “A room with a view: Spending the night in Natura Vive’s Skylodge

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  3. This has been my favorite part. That pod is so awesome, I would never make it up to it….especially in the dark! I would be sick.

  4. Another adventure that had such meaning for me, as I loved Ollantaytambo when there three years ago and met some lovely local people. They suffer from floods there too. It is, I think, the oldest inhabited Inca village. Did you love all the oxen “roof ornaments”? They did not have the pods then, and, even though I have done some climbing, I don’t think I could ever do what you did. Oh to be young!

  5. Another amazing experience! Cheers to you two for taking this adventure to the highest and most scenic levels. Thank you for sharing your amazing adventure with all of us back home. Continue to enjoy every day to it’s fullest!

  6. Thanks for sharing your adventures with us. How do you plan to top this experience? I can tell that you are having the time of your life! Have fun!

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