Friday, May 6, 2016

Machu Picchu: The journey

The climax of our adventure was our journey to 
Machu Picchu....

Here is what the students had to say:

(Playing with a puppy at a pit-stop market on the way)
I am in a van for seven hours of discomfort. Once off the van, another three hours of mental and physical strength through the jungle. We all converge in the village of Aguas Calientes for dinner--the best dinner of my Peruvian experience.The next morning at 4 a.m., I'm on another bus to Machu Picchu National Park. Once there, I experience a line of tourists from all over the world. After exploring for a couple hours, I come to the conclusion that this it is a Peruvian Disney World.  The atmosphere seems somehow ingenuine. Basically, it seems like a historical jungle gym.  However, from the "Sun Gate" I see authenticity in the mountains--much the same as New England except much taller and jungle-like.

After my Machu Picchu experience, we walk down (I run) the mountain to have another nice dinner. I can't walk.  Once in a food coma, I enjoy a long sleep, to be awakened for another long hike, followed by another long van ride.  Now... I'm writing a blog.

When I passed through the front gates of Machu Picchu and saw the ancient ruins, I was filled with a sense of awe. Walking through the old stone buildings made me think about what it was like to live here thousands of years ago. I found it quite amazing that the Incans could send so much stone up the mountain and were able to build such a large complex in the span of a couple hundred years.

I also traveled to the Incan bridge, which was a winding path along the mountain side that offered a great view of the valley below. Overall, I had a very grand experience at Machu Pichu.

I am leaning on a rock in the shade at the top of the "Sun Gate."  After hiking around Machu Pichu since 6:30 this morning, the walk up here was tough, but James insisted that it's the most beautiful place, and I reminded myself that I'll likely be here only once.

I'm watching a little bird pick up seeds off the ground, left by a previous tourist. I can see the center of Machu Picchu and its cascading terraces continuing so much further down the valley than have been recovered.  The mountains start suddenly and stop.  From the bottom, I'd have to crane my neck to see in every direction.  Snow-capped mountains peek up from above the closer ones. What a place.

Looking up at the trail ahead, I feel my legs start to burn, my forehead starting to sweat and I ask, "why am I doing this?" Is walking up to the "Sun Gate" worth it? I am so tired.  Should I just wait here while Nina, Lylah, and James finish this walk?  I ask James, "how much longer until the top?"

"About ten minutes," he replies.

I weigh my options: I'm about twenty minutes from the base of the trail, so I'm two-thirds of the way there.  I can do this!  It's the final stretch, and I can see the terraces as I look over the steep edge.  I look to my left and there is Machu Picchu. What a beautiful view. James, Lylah, and I sit down and gaze at the beautiful mountains.  I look at my friends' sweet, sweaty faces and smile.

I stop to catch my breath at the top of the stone stairs. The sun hasn't risen and the blue-gray morning air creates a hush that sweeps across each mountain peak. I look at my shoes and turn to face the open air. The view is so shocking and vast that I can't put it into words and I can't stop staring. Mountain tops are at my eye level, snow caps in the distance behind me, and steep vertical peaks stretch up regally for as far as I can see. I peer down, my eyes following the trees that coat the mountain like an enormous chocolate-dipped strawberry. I can see cliffs, valleys, long vines hanging off jagged rocks, and a river carving between mountains, so far down that it looks like a restless little earthworm. Birds at eye level soar between the peaks. What a wonder.

I am sweating. I am in the midst of a 7 hour bus ride and I am sweating.  I hop off the bus ride and the next challenge is to hike along the train tracks for 3 hours to Aguas Calientes. I am overjoyed by the concept of the perspiration that is to ensue. The next 3 hours consists of extreme sweating. Then we get to a sweaty town and I eat a sweaty dinner. I am awoken at 4am to get on a sweaty bus that arrives at Machu Picchu. The view there is cool. There might have been literally 1000 other people there taking selfies and standing in the middle of the walkways, sweating. Small Peruvian men in vests keep blowing whistles at me because they make up fake directional rules for the stairs that I seem to violate. I am definitely sweating. Then it is time to leave and walk down the hill. The view is great. AND I'M STILL SWEATING. It was nice.

Machu Picchu was built entirely of stone, as I remember it. The buildings were different from any I have seen before.  Waterways were constructed in the ground.  The mountains were more beautiful than the city, to me.  Perhaps the Incans built their city in the mountains for the view.

One thing I noticed about its architecture was the construction of stairs.  They did not seem to be built for  taller people, as they felt awkward to walk up. One of the best parts of the day was the walk. While walking to and from Machu Picchu, I saw mountains and trees that I had not seen in New England.

I am sitting on a cold rock in the shadow of a tree, staring down at Machu Picchu. It feels like it's been forever since James continued to the top and my body begged to stop as my chills increased.

Watching the tourists, adorned with selfie sticks struggle up the steep path,  I counted only ten tourists without camera devices in the hour I waited.  Tons of tourists, speaking many different languages, climbed the stairs carved the rock I was sitting on. The amount of people with fancy jewelry and impractical shoes seemed more ready for a photo shoot than hiking in the Andes mountains.

Finally, James returned, hugging me as he presented me with an Excedrin. (Lylah)

I met Ryan and Julia and they told me about the top of the "Sun Gate."  We planned to meet at the entrance at 1:00 p.m, so I wasn't sure if I could make it all the way up and back in time. I rested for about fifteen minutes, staring down at Machu Picchu before I got up.  I wanted to see the view of a lifetime.

I got to the bottom of the long path to the "Sun Gate"  already tired and started to the top.  With a back pack on, it was harder to go uphill, so I stopped many times. The path got thin and had no railing. If I fell, it was over. My fear of heights was trying to turn me back and my bag was making it worse. I felt the weight of my bag would throw me off the edge, so I took it off and stuffed it beside the path.  I looked at the time and I knew I'd be late if I didn't go down soon, but I had to see at least a glimpse of it.

I got about two thirds of the way there and saw the beautiful view.  My leg hurt long before I started going up, but it ore than worth it. There were fifteen minutes before 1 p.m., so I turned back.  I was already going to be late, but I took a lot of breaks on the way down.  My legs were aching more than before, but I wasn't going to let that stop me.  I picked up my bag next to the edge, still terrified of falling. I would have gotten to the top with more time, but I don't regret any of it.

I am peering through a stone porthole in Machu Picchu, watching the first rays of sunlight shine from behind a neighboring peak. we've arrived early, before most of the crowd. At this moment, I've stuck my head into the stone window to look at a glistening spider web and I can hear the valley's wind echo within this chamber.  It's beautiful.

I am tired. We awoke at 4 a.m., and I didn't eat shower or eat breakfast. We stood in line for a bus that took us to the entrance of Machu Picchu. We stood in the cold for an hour, and after we got through the entrance, the security people asked for our bagged lunches (we hadn't carried them in our back packs), so I had no food.

Once we got in, I walked with Mathew because we're both slow. But we eventually split up. I walked to a secluded spot and gazed at the Andes. Then I lay back, put the sun hat over my eyes, and took a nice long nap. When I woke, I realized that I should do some journal writing. So I took out my notebook and started writing furiously.  I wasn't happy. When I looked up, I was face to face with a llama. I jumped, as it took me by surprise.  Another tourist witnessed it and laughed. Soon after another llama showed up, and more people came, with their selfie sticks. The quiet spot became not so quiet.

Flowers from the hike


  1. Hurrah Compass!! I am so proud of you all !!

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  3. Beach again in Lima May 8th Happy Birthday Nolen !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (sunscreen) We love you. You are with ideal classmates, great teachers. Safe trip to Vermont! Compass

  4. I wonder how many of you will be there again in your lifetime ?!?!

  5. I wonder how many of you will be there again in your lifetime ?!?!