This past weekend was full of travel, adventure, and an experience involving one of the seven world wonders. Nine of us HELP volunteers and our country coordinator Lia took off to Southern Peru to experience the ancient natural and architectural beauty of Machu Picchu. Most of Saturday was spent in a flying metal pipe or in an airport terminal. Once we landed in our final destination of Cusco the ten of us took a bus to scenic Ollantaytambo.
Ollantaytambo is a small, thriving community that once served as the primary agricultural outsource for the Incan citadel of Machu Picchu. The town’s landscape is incredible with its steep surrounding mountains which seem to shoot straight up out of the ground for thousands of feet. Decorated among the towering heaps of rock were carved stone from the area’s past indigenous habitation. Our group arrived to Ollantaytambo late Saturday night. We found the house we rented in short time, and proceeded to enjoy a delicious and much needed dinner at 9:30 PM. The restaurant’s food was so delicious that Melina and I decided to also try their breakfast menu on Sunday morning. That was our day to enjoy all of which Ollantaytambo had to offer us, while also shopping for family at their local shops. We got to bed early that night so we could enjoy our Machu Picchu experience to full capacity.
Morning came early as we set off for the train station just after 5 AM. I am lucky the train ticket office was open and had a printer handy because I was wielding only Melina and I’s return tickets from Machu Picchu. Melina took off running towards the ticket booth upon realizing this at the gate to enter the train. Her dedication to solve the brief dilemma at such an early time in the morning blessed both my heart and our experience to come. Our train took us all to Machu Picchu pueblo, which is a festive little town reminiscent of Washington state’s Leavenworth. Not to slight Leavenworth, but Machu Picchu pueblo was far more scenic and cultural. This comparison was only used for my readers to grasp the amount of shops and restaurants in both communities that strive to maintain their regional elegance. We spent more quality time eating and exploring in the pueblo after our Machu Picchu adventure, as before was devoted to getting on our bus to the world wonder.
Words cannot contain Machu Picchu’s majesty and brilliance. Magnificent and historic scenery of this timeless realm grasps one’s every glance with captivating awe. Towering Andes mountains surround this place, and were once esteemed by the Incan’s as protection from outside harm. The setting of Machu Picchu feels like a fortress.
Us HELP amigos set off to hike the montaña trail of Machu Picchu in short time after our arrival. The trail leading up was hands down the most difficult upward path I have ever accomplished. This trek was four miles long with only about one fourth of a mile being a steady inclined path. Stairs on stairs on stairs were tread upon. None of which were even, as they were placed in the ground such a long time ago. Melina pushed me through the second half of our climb. The mountain’s 10,000 – 12,000 feet of altitude with minimal exercise in previous weeks was not a favorable combination. We endured, and conquered that painful beauty. I would do it multiple times over again just to witness the surrounding scenery which the peak offers.
Ice pack on the Andes mountains which reflected the sunshine was astonishing. Each circumambient feature of these mountains was crystal clear. Melina and I stayed atop the peak for over an hour. Gazing at God’s grandiose gifts of grace. What profound stimulation to the senses. Only total emergence into this realm of wonder could reveal it’s total allure.
Our HELP crew then took a Machu Picchu tour after the fulfilling, yet tiresome hike. The tour guide we hired was full of knowledgeable facts regarding this place’s ancient history. Some of which I will share with you in these following sentences. Machu Picchu was discovered in 1911 by a professor at Yale with the help of an indigenous, machete wielding 12 year old boy. There are contradicting stories regarding whether or not a shell of it’s former inhabitants were still residing in Machu Picchu at that time, but our tour guide assured us that the place had been abandoned for three centuries. Machu Picchu was once a place for Incan royalty. This region only had 600 inhabitants at the peak of its population; many of which were workers and concubines for the king. Machu Picchu thrived off of imports for 90 years from 1450-1540. This was made affordable for this community as the king possessed free reign over all of the land’s riches. The Spanish Conquistadors never directly drove Machu Picchu’s inhabitants out of the area. Their force was indirect and effective. Machu Picchu’s inhabitants suffered as the Spaniards conquered towns which were vital for all of their imports. Incan rulers over Machu Picchu took a logical approach to their towns of import being rendered incapable of fulfilling their past duties. The entire community began packing up all valuable belongings and vacating the town. It has been somewhere around 476 years since this once royal fortress was abandoned. Now llamas are Machu Picchu’s only full-time residents. I will give credit where it is due in saying that they keep the place nice and tidy. This experience was one that could not be given a price tag. In saying this; I am telling all of you readers that experiencing Machu Picchu in it’s fullness is well-worth the investment. I could not have asked for better company during this enriching experience. My fiance, Melina; accompanied by our wonderful HELP team made this a trip to forever remember. What a blessing it was to behold such fascination. The Lord is so good. Always.