Inca Trail Reverie

A Twenty-Six Mile Moment

There are moments in life that fill you with gratitude and a sense of great privilege. The weight of the moment invariably strikes at the time. I know, as it’s happening, that it will be something I remember forever. Something my mind’s eye will always recall in full, saturated color. The sounds crisp, the smells present. It fills my chest until it catches in my throat. A child taking it’s first breath. Villagers in the African bush singing as they work. A mourning son in white at the steps of the River Ganges.

Maybe they are brief moments, or maybe, it’s a three day hike through the Andes mountains to Machu Picchu.

Now I sit in seat 14 on the B car of the Peru Rail and watch the Andes pass as we leave Machu Picchu behind. I can’t see from here, but I know my feet have touched those mountainsides as I trekked the 26 miles along the Inca Trail. Laundry hangs, colorful banners flapping in the wind against snow capped mountains. A dog waits. Passengers in the passing train wave. Crumbling brick buildings hide from our eyes the life within. And there it is, the dirt path that crosses under a sign and across a bridge, over the river and a sharp right turn up. I see the Andean woman and her donkey making their usual journey up the steep mountain side. Maybe she too will pass the little school girl in the village doing her homework. The one that walks an hour each way to attend school. Maybe she will meet people like me along the way and sell them a much needed refreshment. She doesn’t know what the trail meant to me.

It was another early rise this morning – three AM. An eager band of weary trekkers made their way to the sun gate to catch the sunrise. In the grey of dawn I pear over the thick jungle below me and watch the clouds waft in slow motion up the mount side. Passing through the gate, gilded rose gold edges of thick white clouds come in to view. The sun can’t be seen but for the dramatic shift from dawn to day.

The hard part was behind us. The 13,779 foot summit scaled and the many more miles of steep steps both up and down traversed. Past the gate we wait. Slowly, magically, the clouds rise, the mist thins, and Machu Picchu comes in to view. An illusion at first but gradually revealing itself. And I marvel that I’m there for the spectacle. Me. I hiked the 26 miles for this. I dreamt it and I did it. My heart is full.

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