File under: travel diaries. (Also: lifelong dreams that came true)
Follow me to Macchupichu, where clouds gently caress the mountains and the sun is just brighter than anywhere I’ve been!
When I first learned that I was to travel to Latin America, specifically Peru, my heart and mind simultaneously exploded: my first intercontinental flight, and a new culture to explore!
When you grow up in a shattered country and end up with a passport that is worth virtually nothing in terms of travel value, forcing you to ask for a visa for just about any country in the so-called Western society, travelling becomes a mystical event in your mind.
Yet I am Italian now, and my European identity is worth gold: all I could think of was, no more visas, I am free to go!
The itinerary took shape very fast in my mind, and while I was frantically googling the hot sites to visit, one name topped my list without any true rivals: Macchupichu.
I remember watching documentaries on National Geographic, full of mystery and jaw-dropping scenery, which use to leave me daydreaming, and perhaps even a bit envious of those who could get to that distant country. I use to devour books about the Incas and all the theories surrounding this not-so-well-known civilisation. Hey, I was even digging the aliens stories 😀
In terms of organisation anyone will tell you Machupicchu is a complicated destination unless you’re trekking. As that was obviously a no-go for me, I decided I would take advantage of the PeruRail bimodal service offered: a bus from Cuzco to Ollantaytambo, and then a Vistadome panoramic train through the valley, up to Aguas Calientes, a little shanty town (literally) whose sole purpose now is to triple the prices for tourists. 😀
Accomodation is fairly easy, Booking is your friend (despite their questionable customer service and attitude – as long as you know they will never help you if you should need them, always finding a loophole explaining just why they aren’t able to help, because you know, they are merely the intermediary): eating is so bad that we simply skipped it. You heard me: despite my well known love for good food, I was never happy to be taken for a fool and I relied on a bakery in front of my hotel for easy and light snacks, which is good for you anyway on this kind of trip: you don’t want to be looking for a bathroom on archeological sites just because you couldn’t stay away from spicy local dishes, do you? All of the restaurants in the town – and trust me, there are almost more eateries than locals – are tourist-oriented and quite frankly 100% unworthy of their prices which are double the Peruvian standard.
While I settled in my spartan yet somewhat endearing hotel room, I prayed all deities in seven languages for the weather to be good: the clouds and the humidity were off the chain by the time the sun had set. As usual, jet-lag and excitement were a deadly combo and I could not sleep: around 2am I woke up to the dreadful sound of heavy rain. I remember thinking: Good God, did I really come all the way from Italy just to be drenched?! Goodbye pics! 😀
The original plan was to take the bus around 5:30 am and to see the sunrise at the ruins, but it was not to be: rain was steady and annoying. As I brought my sad face to breakfast, the owner of the hotel smiled and said: Don’t worry miss, just wait until around 7am and you will see: the sun will show up for your pretty eyes.
While I appreciated the flattery I was utterly unconvinced and proceeded to look outside with a sad expression, while my husband and our friend Alessandro who travels often with us shot me sympathetic glances but also laughed a bit of my affliction 😀
6am, no change. Me and my dress sat on the bed staring at the windows, thinking how true so close yet so far sounded: I would have pictures wearing a yellow plastic cover like an Asian tourist in Milan during a summer storm.
But then, half an hour later, I approached the window in time to witness an opening in the clouds and the timid arrival of the sunshine: I shrieked like a child who just saw Disneyland and run for the door, thanking the Gods and the owner of the hotel on my way out.
I’ll admit to an undignifying amount of excitement, smiles and a number of videos on my phone that I’ll never confess to a soul, all of that just for the bus ride up to the site. The jungle was green and lush, wet after the rain – as jungles should be – and the road was wild enough to fill me with promise of the adventure to come. That was partially mitigated by the sight of the gates filled with groups of tourists and the computerised entrance (sort of kills the dreamy illusion, doesn’t it), other than the rudeness of a park employee who questioned my dress choice for over 45 minutes trying to imply that I was either commit lewd acts in public, sing, dance, desecrate the holy nature of Machupicchu, expose myself in sheer clothing, do a runway show (all by myself, now that would be a wild one)… anything just to ruin my day, let’s put it that way.
Yet I won, or should I say – reason won incarnated in the superior employee who intervened.
The sight that presented itself to my eyes was definitely worth every hassle endured to that point:
The air was torridly humid as the lingering water evaporated from the ground under the Equator sun, but the clouds were still lingering upon the 2.230m a.s.l. peaks, and all together it was both an eery and surreal sight, like stepping into the past but firmly anchored in the present, fully knowing you belong to 2017 and not in the XV century.
Due to the vastness of the site and the fact that there can only be maximum 2500 tourists allowed every day, it never felt overcrowded like it normally does in archeoloical areas. Deciding to ignore the people who stared at my choice of clothes, I smiled widely and proceeded to climb around, allowing myself to live in the moment and let the famous energy of the site come to me in waves. I was never the type to believe in such things (for as much as I love the Mother Earth theories, I ain’t a tree hugger and I simply enjoy nature without profound thoughts… I’m simple that way) but Machupicchu does dance to the rhythm of its own drum and the feeling you have while climbing and descending the grounds is impossible to compare or to describe: exaltation, excitement, awe, admiration, absolute beauty, inner peace, infinite curiosity. And the smell of wet grass and pure air adds to it, you even forget just how hard is to breathe at that altitude, let alone climb: you go and you don’t question it.
I stayed there for over 4 hours absorbing every single emotion that came my way, and to this day I simply cannot believe that the images you’re looking at are mine. My love for history and mystery is well known, but this exceeded all of my expectations and then some! The only downside to it all is the fact that it’s on the other side of the globe so coming back won’t be an easy task… but I am happy, profoundly happy and grateful that I got to see one of the New Wonders of the World.
For more wonderful memories – scroll the gallery 🙂