Our year “abroad”  as I am going to start calling it, cannot happen without the requisite journey metaphors. Hence the title.  To say that we’re lost may be a slight exaggeration but it seems almost appropriate. And this is the story one of the stories of our greatest trek in South America – our hike to Machu Picchu – which lends it self to a certain degree of hype.

Here’s a taste of our adventure:

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Machu Picchu is celebrating its 100th year of rediscovery. While known to indiginous people, the modern world only came upon the archeological site in 1911. This is when a local boy guided an expedition led by Hiram Bingham to the mountain top. It was largely hidden from sight.  In a 1913 article for National Geographic, Bingham wrote, “It is perched on a mountain top in the most inaccessible corner of the most inaccessible section of the Urubamba River. So far as I know, there is no part of the Andes that has been better defended by nature.” It is partly because of its location that the city remains the marvel it is today. “Machu Picchu is not only more extensive than any previously discovered Inca city outside of Cuzco, but it is in a remarkably good state of preservation, and its architecture has not become confused with Spanish efforts to build churches and villas,” he wrote.

You can read Bingham’s original article for National Geograhic here.

Natural Geographic has written several more articles on the site including one on the mysteries archeologists are still working to uncover. The New York Times has also recently sent a team down there for the anniversary which brought back some beautiful pictures and an enviable video of their own.

Here are a few other life is a journey lessons we were reminded of on our own trek to the lost Incan city.

Setting Goals Helps You Reach Them

The hike to Machu Picchu was no walk in the park. Day 2 was pretty challenging especially because of the altitude. If you weren’t used to the elevation (as we weren’t) you had to stop every 30 feet or so to catch your breath. But we had a goal, an attainable goal in fact. And we just had to set it to reach it.

A Little Comedy Can Lighten the Load

One of the things I didn’t capture as well as I would of liked on video was all the fun we had on our trip. I can’t tell you all the times we were laughing outloud for large parts of the trail. The is-it-a-mule/horse/donkey-conversation that consumed some of the guys for most of Day 1 is a comedy routine in itself.

Mule or donkey? Can you tell? Photo by Nellu

Sometimes the Right Pronunciation Makes a Big Difference

If you listen closely in the video, you can hear that I attempt to pronounce Picchu more like “pict-chu.” That’s because if you don’t pronounce it correctly, you’re actually calling the site old penis instead of old mountain.

Things Don’t Always Turn Out the Way You Planned

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I got sick on the last day of the hike. Our wake up call was at 3:50am in the morning but by 2am I was wide awake trying to figure out what I had in my first aid kit that could stave off the impending crisis. I managed the last hike and did muster up enough energy to see most of the site as shown to us by our guide but I couldn’t make it up the stairs to the sun temple.

This is how I felt the last day of our hike. Photo by Nellu

But one of my favorite parts of the day was when we were riding the shuttle down to where we had to catch our train because if you turned back to look you got see just how amazing the city on Machu Picchu looks perched all the way up on top of the mountain.

Photo: Nellu

Oh and I was thrilled to find that Nellu got a picture of me that didn’t make me look like a sleeping llama.

Life is Always Better in Person

This video and these stories pale in comparison to the remarkable journey of hiking the Inca Trail and getting to see the city revealed on the top of the mountain Machu Picchu. So the good news is, you’ll just have to do it yourself.

~ Molly

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