So I realize it has been literally forever since my last blog and I have a ton of stories and experiences. What I’m going to do is to write several smaller blog entries on the different experiences instead of just writing one giant blog. I think this way I can get into more detail about the experiences themselves and everyone else will enjoy reading them more.
On October 6, I woke up at 3:30 in the morning to begin the trek to the one place on this trip I have been waiting to go to more than anywhere else, Machu Picchu. Everybody lazily woke up and dragged themselves to breakfast to get some energy for the hour long hike that lay ahead of us that morning. As we prepared to hike up a mountain at an altitude of 2,400 meters, a rush of energy came into me as I realized that the day I had been so excited for had finally arrived.
We started our hike at about 4 a.m. and it was one of the most exhausting things that I have ever done. We hiked up a stairway that was built into the side of the mountain, and many of us took several breaks along the way to catch our breaths that seemed to never come back at that altitude. When I finally arrived at the entrance to the city, I found myself not at a beautiful gateway, but at the end of a very, very long line to get in. I would be lying if I said that I wasn’t disappointed that there were 200 some people in front of me who took buses up, but this did not take away from my excitement to get in and see Machu Picchu as the sun rose.
We waited for about a half an hour, and were finally let in when the gates opened at 6, and it was everything that I had hoped it would be. The sunrise over the mountain hitting the city was absolutely beautiful, and I was struck by a true sense of awe at what I was finally able to see. I thought that this was going to be my greatest sense of accomplishment of the trip, but there was even better things to come. For about 2 hours, we toured the city, seeing all of the buildings and houses that were a part of it. The one thing that I was disappointed to find out was that a large portion of the city was actually rebuilt recently and that the original city was not still in the state that it was originally found. Even though this took a little away from my sense of awe of the great construction of the Incas, it was still an absolutely unbelievable feeling to be walking around this incredible city.
After the city tour was given, we walked around for 15 minutes until 9, when we had the opportunity to climb Huayna Picchu, a large mountain peak that overlooks the city of Macchu Picchu (it is the mountain peak often seen in the background of pictures of the city). It was another 45 minute hike straight up to get to the top of the mountain, but after hiking up to the city itself, it took us over an hour. When we got to the top, I was exhausted and pretty nervous about being that high up and walking on such narrow walkways, but when I looked at the city, I had my second great awe inspiring moment of the day. Being able to look out over the valley and see the city on top of a mountain with roads and buildings thousands of feet below was the experience of a lifetime. It was like looking down from an airplane, but with the satisfaction of knowing you got there yourself and it was absolutely incredible. My biggest hope is that I will be able to return there someday (possibly as one of the 70 year old tourists with funny hats and vests that were everywhere) and experience that sense of awe and accomplishment again.
I know that this is going to sound like a cliché, but that day was a life changing experience. Standing on the top of Huayna Picchu and looking out on the world gave me a rush and a craving to go out and truly experience life and search out those experiences. I know just coming to Latin America in general it seems like I’m searching out experiences, but seeing that truly opened my eyes to the world and makes me want to see more and truly experience life. We are not here long enough to let things wait for tomorrow, and I now believe that letting amazing opportunities slip through your fingers is something I don’t want to let happen. I’m not saying that there would definitely be regret for missing them, but what we can feel and learn from these experiences is knowledge that too many people take for granted.