Hiking Machu Picchu

E23.5 The Lost City & The Last Soul 

Machu Picchu is a mountainous citadel hidden deep in the Andes. A citadel is a “little city” with a fortified area situated as it’s core. Anthropologists believe that it was originally a place where the ruler of the Incas would take vacations but was repurposed once the Conquistadors arrived. It is rumored that Machu Picchu became a hideout for the Incas from the bearded men on horses who arrived from the sea because the Spanish left no written record of Machu Picchu. There has always been the omnipresent myth of the lost city of the Incas, but the Spanish never got there. It is still not considered the lost city of the Incas- that is another place, Choquequirao, which is even deeper in the jungle that is STILL difficult to get to. The Inca’s ability to live in such hidden places is evidence of human endurance and adaptability.

Machu Picchu slowly deflated in population after being exposed to western diseases and the Conquistadors plundering their land and people; however, the jungle continued to protect this sacred space from outsiders as it remained isolated from the rest of the world for hundreds of years, tended only by a few remaining families and llamas.

It was discovered by the Western World almost 100 years ago and since then it has become a place of spiritual refuge and inspiration. In 1911 American historian and explorer Hiram Bingham traveled the region looking for the old Inca capital and was shown to Machu Picchu by a local farmer. Bingham brought Machu Picchu to international attention and organized another expedition in 1912 to undertake major clearing and excavation. He returned in 1914 and 1915 to continue with excavation. It has since then been overtaken by tourists, trekkers, and explorers from every corner of the planet.

It was 6:30 am by the time I arrive at the base of MP.  I sat for a minute to collect my breath and watched the rested passengers get off the buses. I walked around some of the city, made eye contact with an alpaca, and decided to keep hiking before the other mountain closed off for the day- another hour and a half hike directly up.

Once I arrived at the top, I ignored the loud Canadians and Americans taking shots of pisco at 9am, found myself a ledge to sit on and just stared out into the sky, the mountains, and the world below me. I turned away from them and blocked out the sounds of the world, I sat in awe of what was before me. I was at eye level with the apexes of the Andes-some of the most paramount accomplishments that our earth has to offer- and became hypnotized watching a distant bird playfully swoop in and around the azure mountains magnifying their magnitude-like a plastic bag caught in the wind. This was the closest I had ever been to the sun without flying.

But sitting in solitude upon that mountaintop- with the world below my feet- the feeling of loneliness evaporated and I had never felt more connected to the larger universe. It was a moment of pure acceptance of my position in the collective consciousness- a word in a larger story- a neuron in a mind- a spec of dust on a clover shouting out “We are here, we are here, we are here.” An energy that ebbs and flows, with no particular direction, and there is nothing to do but go along for the ride. I was overcome with everything I had done in these past five months-traveling alone, being humbled by the world over and over again, and chiseling away at the slab of stone of who I was and wanted to be. I was fully present- knowing the only thing I have is this moment.

I cried, more accurately, I wept. I am frequently overwhelmed with my own existence and when the daily dynamics of the mind have subsided and I am present, everything becomes illuminated. Is when for a flashing moment my brain tries to fathom how expansive this universe is and zooms out to observe the world, then zooms out to our solar system, then zooms out to our galaxy, and zooms out to our universe. I feel tiny, and insignificant, but peaceful, knowing that I am part of a larger, complicated system that is so unfathomable to my species. These moments are what I call “emotional orgasms” being in the presences of something so beyond me and being humbled by it, expressing itself through tears of acceptance and peace with the universe. The universe is in no position to explain itself to you. The silence of the mountains was deafening.

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