I’ve been in Peru about three weeks and nearly every conversation in that time has included Machu Picchu. Have you gone? What did you think? Isn’t it amazing?
Because Joe started his trip with the 4 day Inca trail before I arrived, I planned to end my trip with Machu Picchu after he left. This meant there was three weeks of incredible build up. I grew concerned that there was no way it could live up to the hype. And then I started to think there was no way it couldn’t.
The day finally arrived when I was going to see the World Wonder. I barely slept the night before, terrified of sleeping in and missing my big day. The hour finally came to wake up and begin the final adventure.
Unless you hike the Inca trail, the only way to get to Machu Picchu is by train, and then by bus up cliff side switchbacks. As the train began to move, I began to reflect on the last year. It has not been the best, to say the least. In certain aspects, it has definitely been the worst.
So as I reflected on the last year, and the last three weeks of my trip, I decided it was time to move on. That this train ride was going to be my last few hours to wallow in self pity and then I was going to leave it all on the mountain. Machu Picchu probably had religious and spiritual significance for the Inca people, and I hoped to tap into that to once and for all heal me.
Next, was the bus ride. I ended up sitting by the same couple I had sat by on the train. They began telling me about their other travel, and even showed me pictures of Cambodia. As nice as they were, I was a little annoyed. Didn’t they know I had issues to work through? Between their pictures I tried to catch a glimpse of the peak from the bus. Finally, we pulled up to the front gates.
After months of planning, three weeks of build up, and my grand plan to be healed by the mountain, I turned the corner and saw…..
It was like someone was playing a cruel joke. It was pouring rain, you couldn’t see anything, and there were just people everywhere. Not exactly the serene, majestic, soul inspiring scene I’d been hoping for.
Not knowing what else to do, I started hiking to the Inca Bridge a 20 minute walk or so in the opposite direction of the mountain. Whenever I was alone on the trail, I found myself crying. The emotions of the last year, the last three weeks, and the last half hour just came bubbling over. I found a couple terraces to the side of the trail and sat down. I was overlooking what was sure an amazing view, but for now it was just clouds.
I pulled out some Oreos I had bought at the train station, because chocolate, even the fake Oreo kind, cures all. Yes it was overdramatic, yes it was stupid, and yes I knew this.
Eventually, I wandered over to the Incan bridge, which may have been more interesting if I had been in a better headspace, and then headed back to the main complex.
As I walked, I just started to laugh. It was all so ridiculous. I had put so much pressure on myself and this site and this moment, that there was no way anything could ever deliver. Even so, this was extra bad. Pachamama (Mother Earth) was playing a joke and the only choice I really had was to laugh at it. I was tired of crying, I was tired of feeling bad, and I was just tired.
I found a rock near the top of the complex and sat down. As I watched, (and as you may have already guessed), the clouds cleared out of the way and I got the whole picturesque view. I made someone snatch a quick picture of me in case it didn’t last, but it did. The clouds never came back.
Even after I was able to see Machu Picchu, I didn’t feel some profound spiritual awakening. I didn’t feel fixed, I didn’t feel as though my problems were solved. Instead, I saw a gorgeous mountain landscape with a 500 year old architectural marvel built in.
I found a quiet, empty alcove, that was probably once someone’s home or place of business, and sat staring at the mountains. There, I realized that a place can not heal wounds. A place is just a place, a mountain is just a mountain, people are just people, and circumstances are just the way they are. All we can do, and all I could do, is accept them. Mist and all. (Or, say scatter brained lost cell phone and all.)
What I realized is that Pachamama, the universe, whatever you want to call it, was teaching me a lesson of acceptance. When I left that mountain nothing was going to be different. Everything was going to be the same. It just was. And I needed to just accept that. Once I realized that, a lot of the hurt did melt away. Things still aren’t perfect, and they probably never will be. But they are what they are. And I am who I am. And I can accept that.
I blew off my tour and just wandered the complex alone. It was huge and gorgeous and wondrous. Four hours after arriving, I was sad to leave. I don’t know if I’ll ever see Machu Picchu again, but my experience there will always be cherished.