Thursday, June 23, 2011

Almost in Heaven

I battled with the right words to begin this blog post, but I realized that words cannot do justice to the experiences of the last 24 hours. I will do my best to explain the day’s activities, but I should let the readers know that my words can never correspond with the feelings or sights I experienced.
 The day began at 5 am with a walk through Aguas Calientes, a small mountain town just outside of Machu Picchu. The air was chilly as we boarded the bus that would take us into history. Being surrounded by the Andes is quite the thrill, especially because the cloudy mist covers the grassy, lush mountaintops. Standing at 5 foot 4, I’m used to feeling relatively small. However, in a place where the surrounding mountains stand at 12,000 ft on average, I felt like an ant staring up at the rest of the universe.
 As the bus tumbled over the gravelly, winding road, the Huayna Picchu Mountain was slowly uncovered, unveiling over 500 years of history. Sprawled out at the base of Machu Picchu and Huayna Picchu mountains is the great Inca civilization that was hidden from the Spaniards and the rest of society until 1911. Due to earthquakes, only 60% of the buildings in Machu Picchu are completely original, but the pure genius of the Incas shines through the architecture. The Incas had great respect for the Sun, and Machu Picchu’s layout is based on this culture. We were lucky enough to be there the day after the Winter Solstice, the biggest celebration in the Peruvian and Incan calendar.
On this day, the Sun shines at certain points within the Incan temples, and this reflects their worship and respect. For example, the Incan sundial still shows the exact geometry of the twelve-month calendar, corresponding flawlessly with the sun's rays. Also incredible, the stones within the Machu Picchu buildings are built in a trapezoid shape to enhance strength and durability. It amazed me that the Incas were able to build ramps to transport these 20-ton stones, let alone carve them into trapezoids. We spent the first hour of our tour gawking at the incredible sunrise over Machu Picchu and learning about this incredible civilization.
As a group, we decided to take on the task of climbing Machu Picchu Mountain. This is a relatively new hike for tourists; most opt to hike the Huayna Picchu Mountain. Knowing that it would be a 3-hour trek, we set off up the mountain. After a few minutes, I knew this would be a significant challenge.  At some points in the hike, I was literally climbing up the slate rocks and struggling to make it to the next flat platform, my heart pounding.  We hiked up 10,000 ft, and there wasn’t a single step that I didn’t think about stopping. By the time I stepped on the summit, I was overcome with a feeling of invincibility. If I could climb this mountain, I can make it through anything. The view was nothing less than worth it. I was left breathless, but not from fatigue. It was the beauty of silence and the freshest air filling my lungs that left me speechless and moved to tears. If I reached my hands up, my fingertips would have touched heaven. I truly believe that completing this adventure can change a person for the better, and I would recommend it to anyone of any age. Just bring sunblock. J
I am now currently in Lima awaiting the plane ride to Piura. We finally will begin our Community Health Clinical, and I am so excited. I am ready to fall in love with the people of Piura all over again, and this time, be able to give them basic health care and education. Stay tuned, this is still the beginning!

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