29 Aug Machu Picchu
Written by Jennie Lewis, 2016 Peru: Mind and Body
Our journey from Cusco to great ruins of Machu Picchu could be compared to the Andes around us – full of highs and lows, mountain peaks and valleys. The seven-hour bus ride to Hydroelectrico gave us our first glimpses into the unending beauty of the Sacred Valley. Along the way, we reached an altitude of 4,200m, which is mighty high up into the clouds for a sea-level Hostonian.
The breathing techniques I learnt during Art de Vivre definitely came in handy for getting through the unending number of switchbacks as we travelled up and down the mountains. Another lesson we learnt about Peruvian life: drivers have no fear. As the roads narrowed and our anxiety grew that one more inch to the right and we’d be in for a ride over the cliff, drivers simply gave a TOOT TOOT and traffic passed like normal.
The next leg in our Machu Picchu adventure came in a three-hour walk along the PeruRail train tracks to Agua Calientes, the town at the base of this wonder of the world. Thankfully, it was a level walk, and we were all in high spirits as we skipped between the tracks, pointed out the diverse plant life, and marvelled at boulders the size of giants in the river.
Then came the sound of thunder, and soon enough, we were trekking in a rainstorm. When we reached our hostel everyone was drenched to the core, but it was nothing that a hot meal and some laundry couldn’t fix.
The next morning, 4am came all too quickly as we groggily readied ourselves for a dark hike up to Sun Gate in the hopes of seeing the sun rise over the ruins. As we waited in a cafe for our guide to meet us, we got a taste of just being another “tourist at Machu Picchu”. He was a no show.
But our trusty leaders, Meg and Gordon, problem-solved the situation, and we were soon on our way up the steps to Machu Picchu; 800+ steps to be exact. About an hour and a half later (or 30 minutes if you’re a beast like Tom), we caught our breath at the top.
To spend midday at Machu Picchu, be prepared for crowds. By then, all of the people who have wanted to sleep in and leisurely take the bus to the top have arrived. Even so, the views at any area of the site are incredible to behold.
It’s simply mind-blowing to comprehend the physical labor it took to create a “city” in the mountains along with the attention to detail to align special sites to the solstices during the year. One thing that has stayed with me since coming to Peru is the connection that the Inkas and Peruvians have to the Earth.
What I took away from those three days is that the visit to Machu Picchu alone doesn’t quite have as much meaning by itself. It’s the journey as a whole that matters.