At four a.m. I saw the steam from the aromatic maté tea rise up from my mug. I packed light, ate bread and butter, and sipped my tea in a zombie-like manner. My host mother and I gave swift, yet tender hugs goodbye as I zoomed out to Ollantaytambo’s plaza in the Sacred Valley of Peru. From there, I left on an excursion to Machu Picchu with my “Walking Tree Travel” group.
After a curvy nausea-inducing drive to the Camino del Inka trail, my group and I began our three-day hike. We faced hours of steep hills, creaky bridges, cart zip-lines, rugged caves, and slippery rocks. My heart pounded through my neck, humid sweat consumed my light clothing, my feet cried of stinging pain, and my quadrilaterals ached from uphill exertion. My head, however, was in another worldly state while engulfed in heaven-like greenery, misty mountains, dark rustic trees, and the calming aura of rushing streams.
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Finally at Santa Teresa’s campsite, I soaked myself in the hot springs, feasted on Peruvian “cuy” (hamster) dinner, I laid in my tent immersed in anticipation, and crowded with thoughts of Peruvian adventures thus far: salsa dancing, playing soccer, and trekking through Incan ruins with my host family were precious moments that made me feel like one of them. Also, I diligently worked side by side with Peruvian foremen, covered with mud, exhausted, and gratified while constructing the “cocineta” (small kitchen) for the local village school. Now, about to experience one of the “seven wonders,” I felt transformed, on the edge of poignancy and culmination. I was not the same California sophomore. I was part of something bigger. Not just American, not quite Peruvian, but I had come to feel as one of a greater family, and part of a world community.
We awoke and hiked all day to Aguas Calientes, where I stayed the night before the final hike. Walking along the lush Urabamba River valley, hearing only footsteps, attuned to my surroundings; tiny insects crawling, bird songs, misty mountaintops, and a never-ending view of railroad tracks and emerald terrain. Silence swept my emotions aloft, awash in the simple beauty.
The third morning I climbed nearly two thousand steps in deep fog and rain,enduring the physically taxing, rigorous ascent carried along by the reverie of what lay before us. Then came a culminating reward; the top of Wayna Picchu, the river view from seeming heavens, literally and figuratively the pinnacle of my Peruvian adventure. The pink sun rose along with a rainbow and clouds overlapping colorful mountain peaks. Once again beauty overcame exhaustion. Now beyond a feeling of world community, this was my communion with earth, with sky, my personal connection to everything and everyone that ever existed, and the powers of creation. I was energized, unnerved, awe-struck, and finally peaceful, accepting, joyous, at one with the universe.
Making our way down, Machu Picchu was there to greet me, with verdant vegetation and massive man-made structures of gray stone. I could only believe it by the journey that took me there. It was eloquent blending of man and nature. I thought of the time my host family first introduced me to their Incan roots, winning my heart at an ancient moon shrine, while vividly describing how their ancestors worshiped. Such deep connections to their surroundings evoked my nostalgia while looking at the historical grounds of Machu Picchu. After reaching my so-called destination, it then occurred to me that my hike had yet to end. With so many other wonders the world had to offer, my journey was just beginning.
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