◊ history ◊
One of the places that I wanted to visit the most during my stay in Perú was Machu Picchu, the famous Inca city, built around 1400. The words “machu picchu” are Quechua for “old mountain.” The Incas built a pathway between Cuzco and Machu Picchu now called the Inca Trail. Lots of people walk this trail, but we, like most people, took the train from Cuzco.
When we got to the train station closest to Machu Picchu, a van was supposed to be waiting for us to take us up the hill, but there was no van. That meant that we had to hike up the mountain… with our stuff! And so we bought some water in Aguas Calientes, got our backpacks, and headed on up the mountain along with other tourist and locals.
It was humid, foggy, and I was sticky. Ewww!!!! By the time we all got up there it was around 10am, just in time for a new tour to start. We bought our tickets and followed the guide for a short hike. We walked single file on a very narrow dirt path for about ten minutes. On the side of the hill where the hotel was, we made a slight left, and WOW!! There it was!!! Machu Picchu, before my eyes! The view was unbelievable. I just stood there for a couple of minutes. I just couldn’t move! For a second I thought I was hallucinating! I had seen many pictures, but nothing, NOTHING, compares to being there!
Someone finally pushed me a little and I snapped out of it. I had to jog a little to catch up to the group. Continuing with the tour, our guide would stop every so often to tell us more about this mysterious place. I was taking pictures the whole time, and tried my best to write down as much as I could in my little travel notebook.
So I learned that Machu Picchu was abandoned as an official site for the Inca rulers a century or so after it was built, all during the time of the Spanish conquest of the Inca Empire. Then the site was “lost” for centuries. Then in 1911, when Yale professor Hiram Bingham, aided by locals, “discovered” “the Lost City of the Incas.” That is when Machu Picchu gained international attention.
After the tour was over, three of us wandered off the path and took pictures of ourselves using the incredible scenery as a backdrop. There were a couple of llamas peacefully hanging out, laying on the grass in one of the many terraces. I gave my camera to Diana for her to take a picture of me with the llamas. Well, that didn’t go too well. No one told me that llamas spit! This peaceful looking animal made the weirdest sound and spit at me. I had this GREEN stuff all over my jacket. It smelled so, so bad! Needless to say, the other two fell on the grass laughing, so hard that they couldn’t catch their breath. Thanks llamas, way to ruin my jacket and my trip to Machu Picchu!!!!!
It was late last night when the plane landed in Lima. I was so tired I fell asleep on the car ride to the hotel. I think I may have been sleep walking, but I surely don’t’ remember getting out of the taxi and getting into my bed.
The next day a van picked us up and took us to the center of the city. We walked around for a while, then we went into a cathedral and joined a group of tourists led by a guide who spoke English. She told us that the San Fransico cathedral was built in the 16th century. I had never seen anything like it before. It was AWESOME! Then we went underneath the church. There were these dark and cold tunnels and spaces filled with hundreds and hundreds of human bones organized into types; so one area had a big pile of arm bones, and another had a big pile of skulls and so on. They were all arranged to form some sort of structure. This was the creepiest place I have ever seen yet I found it so incredible that all I could think of was taking lots of pictures to show my friends and family at home. Somehow I got separated from the group. I guess I just wandered off taking pictures. When I turned around I realized that I was alone. “Where did everyone go?” – I kept asking myself.
I began to search for my friends and for the group but there I was with all these bones, by myself and with no idea how to get out! I walked around for a little while, but the tunnels seemed never-ending. So then I looked up and saw some familiar shoes through a small vent on the ceiling and began to yell: “Hey!!!” I was hoping that one of my friends would recognize my voice and show me how to get out of that creepy place. I kept yelling and luckily my yell was loud enough because the tour guide heard me. She looked down and said “¿Qué pasa?” with a smile. I heard everyone behind her laugh. I didn’t think it was so funny at the time, but looking back it was hilarious!
She told me what to do to get out of that place. I had to go up these unbelievable spiral steps. The guide said that she would go get the keys that would open the door at the top of the stairs. When I reached the door she was there. I was so happy to finally get out that I gave her a twenty dollars tip! All of a sudden it hit me how cool this place actually was! I was just downstairs in a church with hundreds of bones, beautiful pathways, and a spiral staircase, ALL UNDERGROUND!
Finally, I went looking for the group, but I could not find them anywhere inside the cathedral. I thought that they must have been worried and were probably looking for me. I went outside and to my surprise they were all sitting on the steps in front of the cathedral waiting for me. I told them what had happened to me and they laughed and laughed at the thought of me being down there with all those bones spending the night! I will never forget my experience underground Lima!