If you know me, you know that I am not much of a morning person. I have missed out on a lot of things in life that take place in the AM. You know, plane flights, breakfast, sunrises at Angkor Wat, trips to the Mekong Delta. This is one thing I struggle with while traveling, especially when I’m traveling alone and have no one to drag my ass out of bed. And this is most of the time. Plus, there’s a lot of gorgeous stuff to see when, you know, the sun is shining.
In 2005, I spent a month in the lovely country of Peru. When I moved to Argentina, I didn’t know much about South America, but I knew that I would visit the Incan ruins that date back to the 15th century. My 23-year-old body had knee problems, so I wasn’t able to walk the Incan Trail (I’d love to go back and do so), so my travel partner and I went from Cusco to Urubamba to Aguas Calientes. At the god-awful hour of 3am, we were on a one hour bus ride up the hill to Machu Picchu. My eyes were so puffy I could barely see, and my brain was cursing me for being adventurous. But there we were, on our way to see this magnificent place I had dreamed about for years. Up to that point, throughout my backpacking journey through Argentina, Bolivia, Peru, and beyond, I half-joked that I couldn’t do risky activities until I saw the ruins. “After I see Machu Picchu,” I said, “then I can die.”
And so, as we arrived, climbing the mountain step by awkward step in the dark, the excitement overcame my grumpiness. What I would see would overwhelm me to the point of tears. The sun rolled in, highlighting the low clouds, contrasted with the vast, dark nothingness on the cliff’s edge. Birds flew about the void, and on the mountain, llamas were everywhere, chewing on grass, mingling with each other and the tourists. “Machu Picchu” means “Old Mountain” in Quechua, and it was like a time warp. I was in the present, yet in the past, my soul together with all of the Incans who had constructed this amazing structure by hand, building around the curves of the earth, embracing the beauty of nature while creating an intricate, stunning, uber-efficient village where the empire would thrive.
I have seen many ruins throughout Latin America and Asia, but never before, and never after, have I felt so spiritually connected to a place as I did in Machu Picchu. I was one with Pachamama, or Mother Earth. I felt the love of humanity, nature, civilization, and the respect for a people so advanced who were demolished by European ignorance and greed. I walked around the different sites, feeling the dirt, grass, and rocks beneath my feet. I was grounded, but in such awe- it was as if I were in a trance.
Needless to say, getting up when I usually go to bed was most definitely worth it (that day). Machu Picchu is pure magic, and if you ever get the chance to visit, you shouldn’t think twice. The old Incan souls and colorful llamas will be sure to greet you.
Have you been to Machu Picchu? What was your experience like? Were you able to do the Incan Trail? I’d love to hear about it!