Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Machu Picchu

Entonces en la escala de la tierra he subido 
entre la atroz maraña de las selvas perdidas
hasta ti, Macchu Picchu.
Alta ciudad de piedras escalares,
por fin morada del que lo terrestre
no escondió en las dormidas vestiduras.
En ti, como dos líneas paralelas,
la cuna del relámpago y del hombre
se mecían en un viento de espinas. 

Aquí los pies del hombre descansaron de noche
junto a los pies del águila, en las altas guaridas 
carniceras, y en la aurora 
pisaron con los pies del trueno la niebla enrarecida, 
y tocaron las tierras y las piedras 
hasta reconocerlas en la noche o la muerte. *

Pablo Neruda
Alturas de Machu Picchu

It isn't easy to travel to Machu Picchu.  You have to really want it.  Some people go by bus and train, some people make the 4 day hike up the Inca Trail, and some are coming up the backside of the mountain and biking down.  We chose perhaps the least physically strenuous way to find the Inca city, but it was still a lengthy journey, which began when the bus rolled away from our hotel at four o'clock this morning.  It was freezing cold in the van, and it felt like most of the city was still asleep.  The tops of the mountains hid behind clouds, and the only living things we saw for miles were dogs, digging through piles of garbage, looking for their breakfast.  After two hours bumping and winding our way through Peruvian highways, we arrived in the city of Ollantaytambo, a picturesque village with a river rushing through its center--the Urubamba.  It was still dark when we reached Ollantaytambo, though not as pitch black as when we left Cusco two hours before.  Then, we boarded a train, complete with skylights and a MUCH appreciated beverage service, so I sat back and sipped my café con leche (coffee and milk) as I watched the sun come up over the mountains and trees that rushed by the windows.  They played music over the train's speakers, traditional Peruvian flutes that played songs by Abba and Shakira - an oddly fitting juxtaposition as we journeyed toward the ancient city.

We met our guide Fernando at the train stop in Aguas Calientes, at the bottom of the mountain. He gave us tickets and then boarded a bus with us - our third mode of transportation, just to get to one place!  The roads up the mountain were so winding and narrow that when another bus approached, one bus had to back up until the driver could find a place to move out of the way just enough so the other bus could pass.  Finally, we could see it out of our window - Machu Picchu.  I've never seen an ancient city so large and so completely untouched by modernity.  It's almost lucky, in a way, that the city was lost for so long, for so many other precious sights around the world are lost to conquering cultures.  We were able to enjoy a large-scale view of the ruins, thanks to the bus path, and I couldn't wait to be set free to explore all around it.  The sun was completely up by now, and it illuminated not only the ruins, but also the jungle that surrounded it.  We finally got to the top of the mountain and unloaded from the bus, and then we were ushered into the massive world that is Machu Picchu.

We began by taking a tour with Fernando, who gave us some of the history of the city and brought us to some of the important sites within the city.  Then, when we were done with that, we had a few hours to explore the ruins on our own.   After doing some exploring, Hannah and I sat and took in the view of the ruins and the mountains.  It was nice to be able to spend some time relaxing after spending so many days constantly on the go!  Then, it was time to head back down the mountain for lunch.

After lunch, we hurried through the rain to catch our train.  It kept raining as we rode, the drops splashing and fogging up the windows.  We passed rural homes without windows, miles apart from one another, purple corn fields, and Inca ruins.  The train was out of milk, so there was no leche for the cafe, and they handed it to me cold.  I had a sunburn on my face and chest that deepened as we rode.  And yet, I felt privileged as we journeyed back to the hotel.  Privileged for the moments we shared in the ancient city, and for being able to see and be a part of something so amazing.  It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and I'm so honored to have been a part of it. 

--Katie Nuss

*Then on the ladder of the earth I climbed
through the lost jungle’s tortured thicket
up to you, Macchu Picchu. 
High city of laddered stones, 
at last the dwelling of what earth 
never covered in vestments of sleep. 
In you like two lines parallel, 
the cradles of lightning and man 
rocked in a wind of thorns.
Here men’s feet rested at night
next to the eagles’ feet, in the ravenous 
high nests, and at dawn 
they stepped with the thunder’s feet onto the thinning mists 
and touched the soil and the stones 
till they knew them come night or death.

Machu Picchu is awesome!

The Machu Picchu stamp on my passport

Ms. Nuss sunbathing on the heights of Machu Picchu

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