Dear every friend of mine who has ever visited Machu Picchu – way to undersell one of the most amazing places in the world.
After taking my own trip to Machu Picchu on Monday, I can safely say that I was blown away. It’s worth the extended coordination required to get from Cusco to Ollanta to Aguas Calientes. It’s worth the cabs and busses and trains and tired feet. And yes, it’s even worth the super high price tag.
I fell in love with Machu Picchu. And here’s why.
It makes you feel remarkably small. In my life, so much is focused on me. My plans. My dreams. My fears. My my my. But somehow, when I was surrounded by towering mountains on all sides, I became insignificant. Because I don’t matter to the Andes. I don’t matter to the swirling clouds above (and below) me. In the best way, I became less less less when surrounded by these natural wonders that are so much bigger, grander, more impressive.
While simultaneously making you feel big. Summiting Huyana Picchu as the sun rose over Machu Picchu made me feel like a badass. Like I had done something awesome and amazing. At the top of the peak, a Japanese tourist was dancing and doing victory poses, making the rest of us hikers laugh. But his celebration was justified. Hiking straight up a steep peak covered in slick rocks and mud is an accomplishment and an incredible way to start the day.
It is covered with fingerprints of a creator. As I looked around Machu Picchu, all I kept thinking was just how difficult it would be to deny a creator. That level of beauty and grandeur can’t come from nothing – it’s too much. It’s too perfect. So it’s no wonder that the Incan people chose to build their crown city in such a place, where they felt close to God. Sure, they worshipped the sun and the moon and the stars, but the concept was the same – this place points to something or someone holy and worth honoring.
And it celebrates incredible people who came before us. I cannot believe that the Incans built this masterpiece in less than 80 years. Wow. Talk about creative, innovative, hardworking people. They constructed a city without wheels or iron or any modern technology. When you look at the way the stones line up, especially on the buildings of greatest esteem like the King’s house or the temple, you can’t help but celebrate the work that went into making Machu Picchu exist. People were skilled, man. Seriously.
It reminds us that we have destructive tendencies. Machu Picchu only exists because the Incans were willing to desert the city in order to protect it from the incoming Spaniards who were traveling on a path of destruction. We humans have the ability to crush and ruin even the most amazing wonders. It would be easy to say that we are different from the conquistadors, but I don’t think we are, really. We still destroy things – often for no reason. Sometimes it’s physical destruction, other times it’s more subtle (and more painful) breaks in relationships and thought patterns and emotions. We can cause serious harm, but I think we often forget our own strength – power that enables us to destroy entire civilizations if we set our minds to it.
And gives us hope that we can salvage and restore the things that we have broken. The hope of Machu Picchu is that it wasn’t destroyed. It wasn’t crushed. And today, it’s a beacon of beauty and wonder (and tourism). It’s carefully preserved and cared for by people who appreciate the history and remarkableness of it. When Hiram Bingham discovered Machu Picchu in 1911, it was overrun with jungle. Teams of people from around the world worked hard to uncover the true Machu Picchu. The Machu Picchu thousands of people travel thousands of miles to visit every day. Their work, and the work of historians and caretakers today, reminds me that we can make things better. We can restore the broken pieces and work together to save something that is definitely worth saving. And if we can salvage and restore Machu Picchu, then it gives me hope that we can salvage and restore the other broken things, too.
So there you have it. My love story to Machu Picchu. This place is worth the hype (and the effort and the money). Put it on your bucket list, because this is an incredible place to experience.