What I remember of many Septembers during my
elementary school years was at some point during the first
week back having to write about what I did during my summer
vacation. Invariably I would struggle with the assignment as
my family trips or my summer activities seemed to lack in
comparison to those of my classmates. My school days are long
past but I finally have a summer adventure that would match
most any. Although the entire trip was over three weeks long
the two day trek to Machu Picchu, Peru, one of the most
spectacular places on earth, was perhaps the most memorable
and the most scenic of the journey.
I travelled with my sister, her fourteen year
old daughter and a couple of Brazilian friends. Upon arriving
in Cusco, Peru, a city with an elevation of 11,000 ft. we
opted for a two day excursion to view the Incan royal retreat,
a much shorter journey than the Incans would have taken. We
travelled in an eight passenger mini bus along gravel roads
not much wider than the trails of 500 years ago, driven by a
man who appeared determined to break some sort of speed
Along the over six hour ride we crossed many
bridges made simply of two wooden planks placed at a distance
equal to that of the wheels of the vehicles travelling the
route and met, almost head on, many a vehicle driven just as
madly in the opposite direction. Our journey was capped off
with a forty-five minute train ride to arrive in Aguas
Calientes, a town whose economy is based on those wishing to
arrive in Machu Picchu before those arriving by train direct
After a relaxing evening and a night spent in a
somewhat modest hotel, we began the next day at an unearthly
hour. We awoke at 3:30 am as breakfast was at 4:00 and the
‘walk’ up to Machu Picchu would begin at 4:15. There was an
option to take a twenty minute bus ride but the idea of
walking initially appeared more appealing. Luckily we all
survived to laugh about it later but the ‘walk’ was more like
a climb and at an altitude of over 8000 feet it was no easy
feat; it was pitch black and very similar to the Grouse Grind.
However, we reached the peak as the sun appeared from the east
and every step of the climb was forgotten.
At 6:30 a.m. our group had reached the entrance
way. When I walked past the Guardhouse and the entire scene
appeared before me every dream I had had since my first day of
Spanish class over 25 years ago when I first read about this
ancient city, was realized. I had seen this view countless
times in books and there it lay before me, exactly as it had
for over 500 years. It was both one of the most extraordinary
moments I have ever experienced and one of the most surreal.
Amid the jungles of Peru, carved into the edge of a mountain,
at an elevation of over 8000 feet lies a sophisticated maze of
structures, temples, waterways and terraces.
We had an amazing Incan guide who told us facts
that the guide books fail to reveal. Yes, we saw the sacred
image of the condor, the Temple of the Three Windows, the
Temple of the Sun, and the intricate system of the sixteen
fountains but it was the personal stories he related that we
will remember. For example he told us how it was customary for
Incans to give the first drink from their glass to Pacha Mama
(earth goddess) so even today you can often see people subtly
pouring an ounce or two of their beer onto the ground to
please the goddess they still worship.
After a two hour tour, a couple hours of
wandering and time spent on the terraces with the llamas it
was only 11 a.m. but time to return to start the long journey
back to Cusco. Some of us hiked back down to Aguas Calientes
while others chose the easier option of the bus. The journey
was almost over but the memories, images and feelings will
remain forever. It is a trip that I highly recommend and I
give you just a few of the many photographs I took over those
two days. As well, should you wish more information on Machu
Picchu you can visit
www.Machupicchu.org or simply ask me—I have hours and
hours of stories I could tell you.
A stop at the side of the road, on our way to
The train ride to Aguas Calientes.
One of the first views from the Guardhouse.
My niece, our guide Freddy and me.
A view of the terraces.
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