The Final Steps of the Inca Trail

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  I felt renewed energy as I climbed the final steps. The Inca ruins we had seen and the history we had heard over the last four days, all built up to this moment. I looked through the sun gate over the valley towards Machu Picchu. There was no...

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I felt renewed energy as I climbed the final steps. The Inca history we had seen and heard over the last four days, all built up to this moment. I looked through the sun gate over the valley towards Machu Picchu. There was nothing but cloud. A thick fog had consumed the jungle and we could not see more than a meter in front of our noses. An early morning wind chilled the perspiration on my arms. I stood and tried to focus on a shape, an outline in the white. There was nothing.

     The group was silent. We were reconciling our disappointment. We had seen the pictures in travel guides, magazines, infinite postcards in the base-camp town, Cusco. Our muscles and bones ached to see it with our eyes. I reminded myself, the Inca Trail was about the journey. I would still head down to the site and walk amongst the ancient paths. I would still touch the slanted dry-stone walls with my hands. “Earthquake-proof construction, amigos,” said Johnny, our inexplicably tall Peruvian guide. He repeatedly reminded us of this engineering feat in a hushed tone, as though this was a secret only he knew. 

    At least the altitude was bearable. I could breathe easily there amongst the clouds. Two days ago, we had struggled through the thin air, one arduous step at a time towards ‘Dead Woman’s Pass’, the highest point of the trek. To my embarrassment, I had to borrow my girlfriend’s trekking pole to power through the last 50 meters as a porter jogged passed me with an entire kitchen on his back.

    Now the air was thick with a mist that shrouded the Inca site. The weather was playing it’s part in the mystery. What a story, that this place was dreamt and built and lost. Only to be discovered hundreds of years later, like a sunken galleon at the bottom of the ocean. 

    The group rallied and we made our way down towards the Machu Picchu site. Descending the uneven steps through the damp fog was far more agonising than walking upwards. Each step forced my body weight down on to open blisters, humid and sticky under useless plasters. 

    Then the perspiration on my skin began to warm. Bright rays broke through the thinning cloud. The group stopped. The clouds burnt away and the postcard view was revealed through the mist. Dark shadows fell under the green terraces cut into the mountain, like a giant staircases leading to a cathedral. And the cathedral was the statuesque mound of Wayana Picchu, funnelling into the heavens, a wisp of cloud still dancing around its spire. Inti, the sun God, had kept us in suspense, before pulling back the curtain on the finest work of man and nature in harmony.

    My calves began to cramp. The Inca Trail weighed heavy on our bodies. We had worked for this view. We earned it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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