Machu Picchu is stuffed to the gills with people. I show my passport to the guard at the entrance and pass through the turnstile. I’m in. I hate to admit that I’m tired and a little grouchy. I’d bought an espresso at the train station and had a cup of coffee on the train, and yet I’m still not feeling a buzz. Being in the midst of a crowd is not the way I want to experience this Incan wonder. I want my first glance of the place to enlighten me, but it doesn’t.
I’d bought an all-inclusive package which includes a two hour tour and I’m bustled around, shuffled between groups, and, about the time I’m going to go explore on my own, finally end up in the proper English speaking tour.There’s four of us; me, an American man, and a German couple whose male part is a tall blond specimen wearing a bright red shirt and whose elbow ends up in many of my pictures.
|Behind me the tall red-shirted German|
Our guide is Darwin, a very enthusiastic historian who has worked at Machu Picchu for thirty-one years and has written five books on the Incan culture and Machu Picchu. His smile is infectious. “Dear friends,” he says at the start of each new fact and I feel I am his friend. When he shows us the water that the Incans utilized he tells us that the water came from two springs, only he says it “esprings.” “Two esprings,” he says, “AMAZING!”
The Incan trail goes from Cusco to Machu Picchu and the Incans would travel the fifteen day trip in order to reach this religious site. Darwin tells us that there were about three hundred permanent inhabitants and thirty residences. The ones who lived there were people specially selected to look after the holy site. He tells us that the Incans built Machu Picchu using their own system of terracing. They built the retaining walls from the bottom up in order to avoid rock slides and flooding. They also used stone tools made out of non-magnetic hematite (for one) to cut the gigantic stones into such precise shapes to fit one on top of the other. The site’s construction does nothing to destroy the natural environment around it; the Incans worked in harmony with the earth and the sky. I wonder what went wrong between them and us.
“Dear friends, Machu Picchu is unfinished,” Darwin says. “The Incans abandoned it before finishing. There are three reasons for this. The first reason is that when the Spanish invaders came in the year 1500 they brought small pox with them and millions of the Incans died. The second reason is that in the year 1529 the two Incan prince brothers fought and the country was thrown into a drastic civil war. During the disruption the civil war caused, the Spanish joined forces with one of the brothers and attacked the Incans. After defeating the one side they betrayed the other victorious Incan brother, beheading him in the square of Cusco.”
Darwin gets a twinkle in his eye.
“The Spanish never found Machu Picchu. How do we know this? Dear friends, it’s because here you do not see a Catholic church. Machu Picchu is the only example of an original intact Holy City of the Incans.” All around me stand gigantic stones that the Incans used to trace the path of the stars, to chart the days of the year, to establish their holy days, to worship the Pachamama (the earth), and to worship the water that helped them sustain life. This is a place that allowed them to live and worship between the earth and the heavens. I’m glad that the Spanish did not make it this far.
I follow my guide around a corner and suddenly I see them. My two Colombian friends, Juan Jose and Diego. A smile comes to my face from a wellspring of joy in my soul. My dear friends, I think, well met!
“Amanda!” Diego calls out as he grabs me into an overjoyed embrace. We exchange quick updates and how-de-dos. “I’m on a tour,” I say sadly, but then brighten, “It should be over in about an hour.”“Okay,” they say pointing, “meet us up at that casita in an hour.”
I agree and hurry after my vanishing group. I’m eager to meet back up with my buddies, but I encourage myself to stay in the moment. And I’m glad I do. We come to a strange stone—the Inti Huatana (the sun dial). “This is the holy rock,” Darwin says, “the holy rock the Incans used to set their holy days. This was not a stone to set the hours or minutes by, but a stone to set the significant days.”
Another group crowds up the Inti Huatana. The guide tells them something and I watch as the people rub their hands together and place their palms over the stone.
“Why are they doing that?” I ask Darwin.“Some people believe this stone has a special energy,” he explains. “They say that if you rub your hands together and touch the stone--only it’s not allowed to touch the stone anymore, so if you rub your hands together and place them over the stone you might feel the energy.” He looks at us and his tone is slightly skeptical. “If you believe in that kind of energy then you too (dear friend, I interject) may try for yourself to see if you feel anything from the stone of the energy.”
I don’t mind skepticism so I step up to the rock and rub my hands together.
I hover my left palm over the stone. Sharp electric sparks tingle through my fingers, into my hand and travel up to my elbow. It may only be static electricity. I don’t care. No longer do the crowds matter. No longer do I feel tired or grouchy. I felt something there in Machu Picchu and it was magical.