This is the third and final part of my Peruvian Memory Stream Blog Posts. If you missed parts one and two then stop reading here and find them directly under this post! Thanks and Enjoy!
After four days of battling extreme altitude sickness there was one thing on my mind: getting to Machu Picchu alive. I wanted to be able sink my hiking boots in the earthy soil, taste the crisp morning mountain air and appreciate the marvelous magnitude of Machu Picchu.
After a day off the hiking trails, a few hours curled up in a hammock in a jungly oasis and some Quechuan mountain medicine I was finally feeling a bit like myself again. My head stopped swelling, my blood pressure ticked downward, and heart retained a more normalized beat. I finally saw the light at the end of this hellish tunnel. Alas, I would escape this sewer of sickness and have a chance to relish in my accomplishment.
Here’s the memories I cling to from my Machu Picchu experience:
I’ll remember the night before our summit arriving via locomotive to the noisy mountainside city of Aguascalientes, the launch spot for all tourists to Macchu Picchu. I’ll remember entering a dingy hotel room in a daze, thankful for a warm shower, toilet paper and a mattress where I rested in a dull dusk darkness as my sickness slowly lifted from my body.
I’ll remember my final supper with the trek group that night where we clinked glasses of Pisco, knawed on alpaca meat and rejoiced to our resilience; by the end of which half the group had slumped into a sleepy state while the rest laughed deliriously into their cervesas.
I’ll remember falling to sleep that night with a silent smile on my face. I had survived. I had overcome the sickness. I would be able to enjoy Machu Picchu, both mind and body together.
I’ll remember the next morning waking up feverishly at 3:30AM to beat the tourist swarm to Machu Picchu. While darkness swam over us, the city was alive as others were clamboring to begin their ascent.
I’ll remember entering through the park gates during the twilight hour, the ancient city tucked cozily into the mountainside, wishing to sleep a bit longer.
I’ll remember the ornately carved stone structures built into the mountside; a design that defied gravity and common sense. I’ll remember the smooth surface of the temple steps, the trapezoid shaped bricks that formed the city’s foundation, and the distant allure of the Sun Gate fixtured atop a nearby mountain.
I’ll remember the dense morning fog that hummed over the city in a smoky glaze. I’ll remember my group gathering for photos as the white fog parted over the surrounding emerald mountains and the shy sun rose to greet us.
I’ll remember the lessons from our trek guides who educated us on the true history of this Incan city; lessons untainted by our westernized history books. I’ll remember the shiny smiles and stares of wonderment on my companions as they too absorbed our sensational surroundings.
I’ll remember then parting ways with my trek group as they set on to summit yet another mountain while I stayed back to celebrate Machu Picchu my own way. I’ll remember finding a quiet spot on the very back of the ancient city, on a cliff in the shade, tucked away from the crowds, this would be my place of solitude.
I’ll remember propping up my bag as a pillow and digging my boots into the grass so that I wouldn’t roll off into deep abyss of the mountain valley. I rested there for hours with my headphones plugged in drifting in and out of a sleepy meditation as I watched the mountains waiver in the distance. I’ll remember thinking that this was truly MY spot on Machu Picchu, no one else’s.
I’ll remember meeting back up with my trekkers later on in the day as the sun began to fade into the early afternoon, our journey complete, our trip fulfilled. Machu Picchu was ours forever.
I’ll remember the long winding drive back to Cusco with the web of stars hovering above us, the rocky roads that we sputtered along on, and the dimly villages that bid us goodbye.
I’ll remember returning to my hostel and gliding over to the bathroom mirror. I splashed my face with water as I blinked at my sunken cheeks, scratchy beard and blood stained eyes. Although I did not look like my “normal” self, I didn’t care. I had survived the sickness. I had made it to Machu Piccho. I had lived to tell the tale. What an adventure.
I’ll remember smiling at myself at the wonder of it all.
I realize now that when I reflect back on this trip years from now, the sickness that I experienced will be but a footnote in my greater journey. It will be overshadowed by the beautiful landscapes I witnessed, the new cultures I experienced and the friendly faces I met along the way.
Each day was exactly what I wanted… full of new experiences with people who were willing and eager to understand me, the real me. I did not have to hide behind the mask I put on for my day job. I did not have to muster up the fake polite smile I wear to cocktail parties. I did not have to lie about who I am now or what I want to be. I could be me. I could be free.
Note: Shout out to Emily and Leah who were instrumental in planning this trip. Without both of your guidance I would not have survived (seriously)! I owe you both big time. Thanks again!