Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Machu Picchu

In The Motorcycle Diaries, Ernesto ´Che´Guevara writes:

´High above the city another Cuzco can be seen, displaying
the destroyed fortress: a Cuzco with coloured tile roofs,
its gentle uniformity interrupted by the Cuppola of a
Baroque Church, and as the city falls away, it shows
us only its narrow streets and its native inhabitants
dressed in typical costume, all the local colours.
This Cuzco invites you to be a hesitant tourist,
to pass over things superficially & to relax into
the beauty beneath a leaden winter sky´(p. 104).

I believe this is an incredibly apt and evocative description of the city we grew to love so much. Standing upon the brilliant shoulder of the hill, we saw this face of Cuzco. The crumbling bodies of Christ. Vestiges of colonisation, sprouting out of the paved streets: the stolen limbs of Saksaiwayman. We stood in subtle confusion. Disgraced by the desecration of cultural artefacts, yet mesmerised by the elegance of what lay below us.

We took the long, cheap route to Machu Picchu, on a bus which wound its way through the precarious faces of cliffs. I think all our hearts were in our mouths, as the mist grew thicker and we crossed the torrents of rivers and waterfalls. The large crack on the windscreen an imminent sign. Alas, we arrived unscathed, with any previous fears of heights well and truly gone.

You cannot fathom the magnificence of Machu Picchu without having seen it. Even then, it´s hard to imagine its existence, because it has such an dreamy quality. We arrived in the paleness of daybreak. Rebelling against the usual flow of human traffic, we walked down the terraces and found an isolated pocket of ruins to explore. There, on the moist grass, we watched the morning mist dissipate and our surroundings become tangible. We were encased by the badly groomed heads of mountains. Their immensity brushing us with feelings of mortality. Through the remaining strings of mist, the broken pelvis of the river whispered far below. It paused for a moment, all pensieve and stuff, before getting lost in the matted knots of jungle.

We entered the many rooms, not only marvelling at the endurance of the architecture, but how the Incas managed to construct such a work atop a mountain, surrounded by impenetrable jungle. We fathomed the different vibes elicited by the rooms, some warm, some sombre & we imagined all the people who had walked here before us. The stories that the walls and the grass and the birds knew of. The utterings of history played out in this place.

Looking out over Wayman Picchu (the mountain pictured in all the famous photographs), we witnessed many tourists posing in various, awesome and tacky poses. After laughing for a while, we decided to take our own tacky tourist shots. Even pedro (my toy llama) posed for the occasion. Then, we wound our way up to the terraces and hung out with the llamas. Bellies aching with laughter as we tried to replicate their rotten toothed, wok-eyed grins.

Ahhhhhhhh what a day hey! On a final note, i´ll just say that it has been amazing reading literature such as ´The Motorcyle Diaries´, Pablo Neruda´s ´The Heights of Machu Picchu´and Isabel Allende´s Ínis of My Soul´. These writings have helped to colour our experiences of the places we have visited, because they speak so honestly and creatively about the history & the culture, and encourage our imaginations to fill in the other hidden details.

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