The air seemed fresher and cooler this morning as the wake-up call came just after 4 a.m., but I felt liveliness like never before at this time. Today my childhood dream would finally come true.
It’s still dark when we look at the same inky sky that the Incas revered. It’s a direct connection to them, and for now I can think of nothing else that can work that magic. I wish I had a better understanding of the stars, the way they move, how they make their mathematical music. I have a sense of it, but not like the Incas. They knew how to build in line with the stars, sun and endless sky. Machu Picchu is a shimmering example of loving the darkest night as much as the brightest day.
Our guide Adolfa holds a place for us as we jump the queue for the bus at 5 a.m. And we’re so thankful for him after studying the endless line of nationalities that made the same pilgrimage here.
I wonder if the 15th century city in the sky could really deliver. But once on board the speeding vehicle that bounces and zigzags its way up the mountain track towards the UNESCO World Cultural and Natural Heritage site, I begin to have a glimpse of what was going to be the experience that I hoped it would.
No longer was this a mere trip, it was an unfolding story set in mystical landscapes where events were working their way up to the grand finale.
Machu Picchu, a Quechua word that comes from Machu that means old or ancient, and Picchu meaning mountain, therefore the ‘Old Mountain’ was about to reveal itself.
Terry and I present, once again, our passports and tickets before climbing to the plateau for the first sight of one of the Seven Wonders of the World. A mysterious early morning mist floats through all the cracks, giving the site an opalescent and haunting appearance.
Adolfa explains to us how the Incas built the city of stone, without the aid of wheels or iron tools, with more than 700 terraces and roughly 300 people living in symphony with the landscape. He says it may have served simultaneously as a centre of worship, astronomic observation, and as a stop for the royal family of the Inca Pachacutec.
By late-morning, the mist crawls away and history reveals itself. I sit on a grassy ledge and look at the classic image I had admired for so many years. Across from the remains is a piton-shaped mountain known as Huayna Picchu, and I soak in the shadow of its breathtaking beauty. Slopes of roofs reflect Huayna Picchu, and temples are oriented to catch the rays of the rising sun.
Adolfa points out different stones on buildings where some are more clean cut and grand. He tells us the city was divided from residential areas to the sacred neighborhood. The sacred neighborhood was dedicated to Inti, the Sun God. In this area can be found the Temple of the Sun and the Room of the Three Windows, which represents the three stages of life – the condor (afterlife), puma (current life on earth), and the snake (underworld and beginning of new life).
Adolfa dips his finger in a pool of water that aligns with the rays of the sun from an open window and says, as he swirls the water, “These pools were used to study the constellations.”
Everything is sacred and cultural about this place, which is made up of plazas, precincts, temples, tombs, rooms for storage, water systems and platforms. For centuries Machu Picchu was kept a secret from the world. The Spanish conquistadors never found it and the Incas, who knew the location of the site, began to forget about it as the tropical forest, flora and fauna, soon covered the city from their sight.
But since the American explorer Hiram Bingham unveiled Machu Picchu in 1911, the remains and the Inca legacy have attracted the admiration of the world. Surprisingly much of Machu Picchu still remains lost under the tropical forest.
By late afternoon, sweaty and tired, we make our way back down the challenging Inca steps of Machu Picchu mountain, which overlooks the remains, as well as all the surrounding valleys and peaks.
Terry and I will always have Machu Picchu as our special place, but now it’s time to check out of Aguas Calientes and catch the beautiful PeruRail Vistadome train. The train will provide live entertainment and a full course meal, while carving its way through the rugged mountains and past gushing rivers, back to civilization.
Next stop is back to the beginning of our journey, Cusco: https://isleink.com/2018/10/26/buenas-noches-peru.