Mystical Machu Picchu
They say Machu Picchu was discovered in 1911 by Harim Bingham. An American explorer “stumbled” upon the site and exposed the secret to the world. So the people came from everywhere to see the city built on top of the mountains.
One of the seven wonders of the world, Machu Picchu was considered an archaeological secret, but I can’t help but question that. I questioned that as I took step after step up the mountain. Panting, heaving, sweating with the altitude change. Once on top, once breathing in the ancient city, staring down at the citadel, standing a mile and a half above the sea, I could feel the breathing.
I could feel everyone who had stood there before me — the rush of modern tourists now, the clamor of historical explorers then, but then even further back. In Machu Picchu you can feel the generations and generations of locals who must have made the climb, who saw the beauty and wonder and never told a soul. Maybe kids running away from home, lovers escaping the city, sportsmen attempting an epic adventure. Their stories collect in the stone.
Then history flies back even further. The whispers become even deeper. You hear crying from the Spanish invasion that caused the Incas to abandon the city. You hear the war and the flee and the city dying, but behind that you can hear it thrive. You can hear the bustle of the urban center Machu Picchu once was to the Incan Empire — music, laughter, footsteps, parties, hard work, prayer, and construction. On Machu Picchu you can almost hear its initial construction. Listen to the Incas place stone after stone on the lush green mountains, hundreds and hundreds of years before your grandparents were even born.
The stories that have accumulated in that city surround you the moment you reach the top and take in that first deep breath of shallow mountain air. The wind circling you, the clouds constantly moving, swirling around you. You stand in the center of green mountain tops, your heart beat attaching to something greater. Your story, right then and there, is added to the city’s epic tale for future adventurers to breathe in.
In Machu Picchu, you feel part of history.
Machu Picchu cannot be explored in a couple hours. We spent two days led by a guide named Ruben, learning the city’s history while admiring the mysterious architecture. With over two hundred structures, milling llamas and clouds that occasionally engulf the city, the atmosphere is mystical and otherworldly. Even the route to the landmark is epic. We flew from LA to Lima, Peru. Next, we boarded a plane to Cuzco where we got on a train to Machu Picchu, where took a bus up the mountain, clenching the sides of the vehicle with every bump and wavy turn, until being thrown into the terrain where we hiked up giant rocks until we reached the top.
The journey was worth it. I had wanted to see Machu Picchu for years and the experience was beautiful. The morning was spent excavating, the afternoon spent meditating and before sunset we descended the mountains. We headed into Aguas Calientes where our hotel, Inkaterra, was located. There we would rest in the cozy atmosphere, but the allure of Machu Picchu kept me antsy, reeling, alive.
At one point I sat on a rock at the peak on Sun Gate in silence, staring forward, encircled by mountains. I felt grounded, at peace. I paid respect to the people who had sat there before me. I admired what man can make and what nature has given us. I breathed.