That was the chant that our group was reciting as we climbed Huana Picchu Mountain at Machu Pichu. Huana Picchu, translated to English, means young mountain in the indigenous Quechua language. Machu Picchu is a spectacular Incan city built atop the Andes mountains in Peru. Historians believe Machu Picchu was built at the height of the Inca Empire, which dominated western South America in the 15th and 16th centuries and was rediscovered by American archeologist Hiram Bingham in the 1900s.
I travelled to Peru in 2013 along with a class at my university focused on global health policy and practice. While I learned so much from the class, the cultural experiences were priceless. It was my first time in Latin America and I wanted to make the most of my time there. My time in Peru was divided between a remote mountain village and Cuzco, one of the larger cities of Peru.
We travelled from Cuzco to Aguascalientes, a town just on the border of the Amazon rain forest that served those that visited Machu Picchu and spent the night there before heading out on our climbing adventure the next morning. We wanted to get there in time to be the first ones setting off to climb to the tippy-top of that mountain in the beautiful city in the sky.
Initially, I opted out of climbing the mountain. For sure, I wanted to visit to Machu Picchu but climbing the mountain was a different story. However, after doing some more research and reading the book about Hiram Bingham’s journey to find Machu Picchu”Turn Right at Machu Picchu“, I decided that it was not an experience that i could not miss out on. My original reason for not doing it was that I am a little afraid of heights. By the time I had finished the book it had already been a while since I made my decision to not climb. But I desperately sent him an email asking if it was too late to change my mind. I love my professor for what he told me next. He had already signed me up for it anyway! Needless to say he was and still is one of my favourite professors.
I stayed with a group of girls from my trip and we encouraged each other all the way up. It took us a while (around an hour) to ascend. We had all been taking altitude sickness medication for a few weeks but breathing was still difficult. Also, the route to the top was also primarily one giant staircase, so we definitely got a great workout. It was definitely worth all of the physical exertion.
But, when we go to the top, it was breathtaking. Looking down at Machu Picchu, looking DOWN at the clouds and all of the morning dew rising from the forest below, is an experience that is hard to form into words. It could not have been a more perfect moment. We were also one of the first groups to make it to the top so we had a few moments to enjoy the moment in virtual solitude.
After we spent at least another hour just soaking it all in, we made our way down, encouraging everyone we passed making their way up, assuring them that they would soon be to the top.
When we made it to the bottom, we had a tour of the city of Machu Picchu. Our day was cut short because the heavens opened up on us, obviously pouring tears of joy and pride at the day’s accomplishments. Alas, the rain forced us inside, but the magic of the day remained unblemished.