Scary? Yes - absolutely. Incredible? Definitely. Set 380m on the side of a vertical limestone cliff in Peru's Sacred Valley cling four pods - three bedrooms and a restaurant. And how do you get there? You climb!
The Via Ferrata
This 'via ferrata' (meaning iron way) was set up seven years ago for adventure seekers searching for their next adrenaline rush. Fixed firmly into the cliff are steel hoops with a steel rope running alongside that you carefully clip yourself onto. Using these, plus rocks, crevices, tightrope bridges and every single limb, you make your way up to your lunch spot.
Did I mention I was slightly scared of heights?
Standing in awe at the bottom of the cliff, legs shaking and heart pounding, the detailed safety briefing comes to an end. Harnesses are secured, hard hats are clipped on and we begin!
Initially, my main emotion was terror, knowing that the only way down is to keep going up. But once I started to trust the equipment and my own strength, I slowly and carefully made ground, taking one hoop at a time.
About a quarter of the way up - dare I say it - the fear subsided and it was replaced with pure enjoyment. To add to this, every now and then, a flat surface appears, where you have enough space to rest, turn around, and take in the stunning valley views.
The route is very cleverly designed and as a result it is extremely safe, yet also physically demanding, exciting and rewarding. Each section varies, meaning you continuously encounter different obstacles and challenges using almost every muscle in the body.
A well deserved lunch with a view
After about an hour's climb (and a big sigh of relief!), we make it to the top. Depending on the experience you have decided to go for, you can either head into the restaurant pod for lunch, get acquainted with your bedroom pod before eating, or you can also skip lunch and start the descent straight away.
We went for the lunch option, which we thoroughly enjoyed. It is incredible how a makeshift, tiny kitchen, perched on a cliff can produce such delicious food. On the menu were plenty of local specialities, including dishes such as quinoa soup, fresh trout from the river, crispy guinea pig (trust me, it is actually quite nice!), and alpaca.
This meal (served in foil takeaway trays) was an unforgettable experience due to a combination of an amazing atmosphere, the happiness at our huge achievement and the camaraderie between guides and guests.
With full tummies, we put our safety equipment back on to once again take to the mountain to zip line back down to the ground. I approached the first zip line with a bit of trepidation as we were still extremely high up and we were about to use a new piece of kit we hadn't yet practised on.
Although I had my eyes firmly shut for the majority of the first zip line, making it to the other end safely meant my confidence was boosted. I could relax a bit and really enjoy the following five flights. With speeds of up to 60km per hour, and lengths of 800m, each zip line down the mountain towards 'terra firma' was exhilarating.
I'm not going to beat around the bush, this really isn't for the faint-hearted or for those with vertigo. As mentioned before, once you commence, there is no turning back as reversing down a cliff is close to impossible. Having said that, if this sounds like the sort of challenge you would enjoy, I would highly recommend it, and it's an experience that I will never forget.