It was the afternoon before we were to arrive at Machu Picchu. We were driving through the Sacred Valley near Cusco, headquarters of the Incas back in the 13-15th centuries. The Sacred Valley is very narrow and the massive mountain ranges on either side form 5,000 foot wall barricades against any intruders to the capital of the war-minded Inca empire. We were looking straight up these mountains, remarking how seemingly fake they seemed, like out of a war video game or something. Then we spotted something that looked out of place way up high in the valley.
Natura Vive Skylodge Adventure Suites
Natura Vive is an adventure company that managed to build three hotel “capsules” suspended on the side of a cliff 1,200 feet above the Sacred Valley, with access limited to those willing to climb straight up the cliff. As crazy as they are for building the place (called Skylodge Adventure Suites), apparently there are people almost as crazy who pay good money to climb up there and sleep for a night.
You probably know where this is going…my adrenaline-junkie wife insisted we do this. There was no debating. We were going up there.
We arrived at the base of the cliff and went over some (important) safety measures with our guide Guillermo, which was nice because neither of us have any climbing experience whatsoever (it’s okay Mom, we had a safety line). I must admit that Alison wasn’t the only one excited for this adventure. But after the first 20 feet of ascent up the cliff, I remembered how much I hate heights. It sounds ridiculous but for some reason I was so fixated on just being up in the capsule that I forgot we’d have to actually climb up a cliff to get there.
Natura Vive has done a nice job of making the climb pretty manageable with “ladder” steps all the way up, so it’s not actual climbing, more like ascending a curved vertical ladder with a few rocks and obstacles in between. If this were a climbing wall close to the ground it would be easy. But as we climbed further and further up, my jitters were making it more difficult, and I kept falling further and further behind Alison.
But we were making progress. Guillermo stopped us about halfway up when we reached “the foot bridge.”
We had to inch our way across a tight rope “ladder” suspended 600 feet above the valley. At this point I was pretty scared but tried not to show anything. I think Guillermo picked up on my apprehension and casually mentioned that an EIGHT YEAR OLD had done this climb not too long ago. He may as well have just kicked me in the balls. (We later found out the eight year old took an alternative hiking route)
The second half of the climb was similar to the first, just higher. I just tried to keep up with the adrenaline junkie.
And then we arrived at the capsule!
The first thing we noticed inside was how efficient they were with the space. We had a separate bathroom and toilet, a 5 gallon jug of filtered water, a living/ dining area, and a big, comfortable bed. Not to mention the 360 degree views.
Things got better with a 4 course dinner and open wine bar. And all at 1,200 feet above the valley. It’s remarkable what they’re able to do.
Then we had a bit of a turn for the worse…
After a few hours of star gazing from our bed, Alison got a nasty case of food poisoning. Won’t go into too many details but it was a long night and being trapped in a capsule suspended above a cliff is not exactly an ideal a place to get a stomach bug. Luckily our guide was super helpful with medicine and other, umm, items, and by the morning Alison was doing a little bit better. The issue was getting down, which we had to do via climbing, a series of 5 ziplines, and a rappel.
Alison somehow managed to push through everything, which couldn’t have been easy with 500 meter ziplines. But she did it.
The final rappel was also really cool.
In all, this was one heck of an experience. So many emotions – excitement, fear, accomplishment, contentment, then more physical stomach issues, joy, and relief. It was quite the 24 hour experience. We would HIGHLY recommend this to anyone visiting Cusco/ Machu Picchu/ Sacred Valley area. After all, when else can you sleep in a capsule on the side of a cliff?