“Life turns to dust and rain it turns to rust. Gossip is a truth and money pays for the lies we trust. Your love is a surprise, hopeless saints are in disguise. I’m just trying to find a nice place for you and I.” – The Strokes, Machu Picchu
A portentous cluster of clouds swallowed the mountain as the hooded figured slowly approached the peak. The haggard man hobbled wearily, his free hand blocking the exposed skin on his face from the violent winds, his other hand tightly gripping the wood of his worn walking stick. The thick beard of the figure quickly grew speckled with the lightly falling snowflakes of the oncoming tempest. Step by laborious step, after a seemingly years-long trek, the exasperated man reached the peak of The Mountain of Seven Colors, or as it was more commonly known, Rainbow Mountain.
Amongst the tribe of bedraggled pilgrims that waited atop the peak, one turned his attention to the hooded figure.
“Oh, what’s up Dane?” Kyle smiled as Dane reached the end of the hike.
Dane pulled down the hood of his alpaca sweater.
“What’s goin’ on, Kyle?” Dane greeted Kyle with the same wide smile and they shook hands.
On this day, Dane, Kyle, and I traveled with a small group to hike to one of Peru’s lesser-known wonders, Rainbow Mountain (a mountain that is so named for the colorful cascade of minerals visible on its surface as a result of erosion). If you’re wondering where I am in the dramatic opening paragraphs, I never actually made it to Rainbow Mountain, the story above is simply a recounting of how it was told to me. I had traveled with the hiking group to the start of the trail, and according to Dane, I had actually hiked about 60% of the trail. After about an hour and a half on the trail, though, a trail that was almost entirely uphill, I began to grow somewhat lightheaded and I noticed that my heartrate had spiked dramatically. A few moments after this, while I was having a discussion with Dane, I began to slur my words.
“Oh my g-garsh, Dane. I can’t ttttaaa… I can’t taaarlk!”
At the moment, Dane thought it was quite hysterical, and I’m sure that I did look quite comical slurring every other word, but after of few more moments of this odd ailment (in addition to the fact that my hands had become sickly white), I got Dane to tell our guide that I had lost the ability to talk. Our guide looked at me and listened as I tried to tell him, and failed to tell him, that I was having trouble speaking, although I demonstrated it rather nicely. He said that I was suffering from altitude sickness and that it would be best if I returned to the starting point and waited in the car. So our guide asked one of the many people who were standing alongside the trail offering snacks, water, and horse rides to the top, to escort me back down. After descending and resting at the starting point, the lightheadedness dissipated and I eventually regained the ability to speak, although the rest of the day I was left with a whomping headache that didn’t leave me until I fell asleep.
Despite the fact that I didn’t actually make it to or even see Rainbow Mountain, the portion of the hike that I did complete rewarded me with the view of a majestic mountain landscape consisting of rolling green hills and snowcapped peaks. So to me, the money spent on the trip well worth it.
It’s quite a good thing that my altitude sickness only lasted the rest of that day, because the following day my friends and I fulfilled the main purpose of our trip; a visit to Machu Picchu. The day began quite early with our train leaving Cusco at 5:45 AM. The train ride provided us with a brief, but powerful glimpse of the Peruvian Andes as they transitioned from their stark and rather barren state in the area surrounding Cusco to the thick, lush jungle state characteristic of Machu Picchu. The train ride finished at about 8:45 with our arrival to Aguas Calientes, Peru, where we began the quick, completely uphill 1.5 hour hike through the sweltering jungle up to Machu Picchu. I am usually strongly opposed to listening to music when I hike, but as a fan of The Strokes, the trip to Machu Picchu wouldn’t be complete without listening to The Stroke’s Machu Picchu. After a relatively exhausting hike that had left all of us moderately soaked in sweat, we made it to the entrance of the ancient city where dozens of tourists from all over the world were gathered with their oversized hiking bags and eager faces.
This was it. We had made it to Machu Picchu.
Our hearts pounding with anticipation, we showed our tickets and passports and entered the gates to the city.
Machu Picchu is a city of another world. The fusion of the archaic stone architecture, the skyscraping mountains enveloped in heavy blankets of Peruvian jungle, and the nebulous, nearly omnipresent clouds that encompass the mountain on which the city rests instill within the location an aura of the divine. This is a place where the spirits of mankind’s greatest civilizations reside in the air, the stones, and the grass. Machu Picchu is a modern contact with a past, and epic era. It is a mystic and beautiful place, but above all, it is a sacred place.
The hours that we spent there were undeniably some of the best of my life. For the rest of the morning and the greater part of the afternoon, my friends and I traversed the sprawling ruins of the city appreciating the ingenuity of the Incan people for forging the masterpiece that is Machu Picchu. Although, not only were the ruins themselves wonders to behold, but so too were the mountains surrounding us. Never before have I seen mountains the likes of those. They were not long and wide like the majority of mountains that I have seen in my life, but it seemed that many of them were tall and skinny. Tall and skinny mountains adorned in deep green jungle that jutted out of the ground like lanky figures cloaked in green robes.
Simply put, Machu Picchu was beautiful. It was a magnificent spectacle to behold, one that was worth every hard hour spent earning the money to go there and one that I will hold in my heart forever.
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<p>Hello and welcome to my blog! My name is Matt Osche and my two greatest passions are my writing and my travels! I’m just your average 20-year old college student trying to “carpe diem” while balancing my studies and my passions. Having grown up in Penn Trafford, PA, a small suburb of Pittsburgh, I’ve come a long way from my humble beginnings as my semester in Santiago, Chile, is my second adventure after my junior year of high school spent in a small town outside of Oslo, Norway as a foreign exchange student. Take a look at my blog and read about my adventures here in South America!</p>