Machu Picchu keeps it mystical.
Deeply tucked away in the Andes mountains are the ancient ruins of Machu Picchu. Once you’ve treked through the misty jungles of the Sacred Valley and make it to the top, a view like this takes your breath away…partly from the lack of oxygen at that altitude, but mostly because this Incan masterpiece will leave you in awe.
As you begin to wander the paths through the terraced ruins, and see the stone walls at arms length, you find yourself walking in silence, absolutely bewildered, constantly looking left and right, trying to understand how it’s all possible. You can’t even fit a sheet of paper in between the cracks! I tried, failed, and immediately got reprimanded by a guard on duty.
Although Machu Picchu draws in a massive crowd every day for most of the year, my sister and I decided to go up on Christmas morning, hoping to escape the daily hordes of gringos with selfy sticks. Up before the sun, we were among the first 20 people to start the trail at 4:30am.
While climbing the trail drenched in sweat and waiting for the clouds to clear, I found myself constantly wondering, “Why on Earth, would the Incas pick THIS location, of all places?”
But once you see it, it all makes sense.
If there’s one word to describe Machu Picchu, it’s mystical. No matter how many world wonders you’ve seen, or incredible sights you’ve visited, once you’ve laid eyes on this piece of work, you’re overcome with this unfamiliar, extraordinary energy… You feel it in the air, the way the clouds loom overhead, and the way pockets of light scatter the rugged but lush mountainside. And if you’re able to catch a moment by yourself, you’re transported to the most peaceful state of mind.
The Incas knew exactly what they were doing when they decided to build here.
Being as isolated and hard to reach as the ruins are, “Difficult roads often lead to beautiful places” should be the slogan for Machu Picchu. After a 6 hour drive weaving through the Sacred Valley, with a Peruvian driver who insisted on speeding at all times, once you step out of that van, you’re grateful for the 2 and a half hour walk ahead. As you walk along the railroad tracks, you’ll notice you can’t stop looking up…every step of the way you are completely mesmerized by the massive, green peaks that are towering above. And once you’ve reached the end, you realize the last mountain standing is home to the ruins you’ve been longing to see.
A restless night builds with excitement until you spring from bed before dawn, ready for the last trek. With every step, you get closer and closer, until you are rewarded a view so extraordinarly jarring, you’ll have to blink around 25 times to make sure it’s real.
Those hours spent in the middle of the Andes with Machu Picchu in plain sight was a Christmas morning for the books, forever stamped in my mind and passport!