Machu Pic­chu ad­ven­ture

Rated in the top five treks on the planet, our three and a half day hike here has been spec­tac­u­lar and ar­du­ous. At Machu Pichhu we open up­wards and out­wards to the in­fi­nite cos­mos, and it feels fan­tas­tic.

Living Now - - Contents - by Raym Richards

It is dawn and I have been hik­ing by torch­light, along a steep, shiny and un­even and slip­pery stone path, since 4.30am. The sun seeps through clear­ing clouds, warm­ing my damp clothes as I gaze down at the mag­nif­i­cent, empty, an­cient city ca­ressed by mist, be­neath me. Af­ter three and a half gru­elling days of high al­ti­tude hik­ing, cul­mi­nat­ing in one last steep de­mand­ing climb, I am stand­ing at the Sun Gate, the high and right­ful en­trance of kings and priests to the an­cient and myth­i­cal ‘lost city of the In­cas’, Machu Pic­chu.

Trekking up to 4,200 me­tres above sea level, we have fol­lowed the pil­grim­age route taken by In­can roy­alty and priests un­til the mid-six­teenth

cen­tury, when the city was aban­doned, hid­den from the ap­proach­ing Spa­niards by jun­gle and tight-lipped lo­cals. The city was built for an In­can king, 100 years ear­lier, al­though be­ing in the the city and walk­ing along this trail, it feels like this place has been used for sa­cred cer­e­mony long be­fore that.

Iso­lated, sur­rounded by rain­for­est and steep ravines, Machu Pic­chu lies at the con­ver­gence of seven high al­ti­tude val­leys and trade routes. The shapes of the sur­round­ing moun­tains are hon­oured by the ar­chi­tec­ture and strate­gic place­ment of large boul­ders around the city. Much of the im­pres­sive en­gi­neer­ing in this city is out of sight, in the form of un­der­ground aque­ducts, gul­lies and chan­nels that keep the lush green ter­races fed year round with an abun­dant sup­ply of spring wa­ter.

Priv­i­leged to be the first to en­ter the city, we ex­plore the flaw­lessly built Tem­ple of the Sun which aligns with the sol­stice sun­rise and the Pleiades star sys­tem. Be­low is the Royal Tomb, a small and se­cret cave with steps that lead nowhere, where the In­can priests ac­cessed the spir­i­tual heart of the moun­tain for cer­e­monies and rit­u­als, away from the eyes of the unini­ti­ated.

We en­ter an­other tem­ple with three large win­dows, which, like many sa­cred places world­wide, face east, to wel­come the ris­ing sun. The sanc­tity of this mag­nif­i­cent city is tan­gi­ble. We walk around in si­lence dis­cov­er­ing pri­vate nooks and cran­nies, ly­ing against the great stone walls soak­ing up the en­ergy, be­fore the ar­rival of the ma­jor­ity of vis­i­tors, in­clud­ing colour­ful lo­cals, who ac­cess the site from the lower lev­els, eas­ily ac­cessed by rail and bus.

In our still space we be­come one with the en­vi­ron­ment and grasp a lit­tle of what the an­cient Inca found here. Lulled by the ever-present sound of run­ning wa­ter we en­ter a time­less space that has been loved by the lo­cals since they first set foot here. We do not sit amongst the ru­ins of a lost civil­i­sa­tion but in the liv­ing breath­ing cen­tre of a spec­tac­u­larly beau­ti­ful, cos­mic vor­tex, which is still hon­oured by those who live and work here. Like Stone­henge, this place was sa­cred be­fore any build­ings were con­structed here.

I have led pri­vate cer­e­monies within Stone­henge, and the en­ergy there is quite dif­fer­ent, heart open­ing to the mother be­neath. Here we open up­wards and out­wards to the in­fi­nite cos­mos, and it feels fan­tas­tic.

Rated in the top five treks on the planet, our three and a half day hike here has been spec­tac­u­lar and ar­du­ous, eas­ily the most de­mand­ing hike I have ever done. Two of our group were air­lifted to Lima, suf­fer­ing from al­ti­tude sick­ness. A third had 14 stitches af­ter a dawn tum­ble left him with a nasty head wound. The year prior to our visit a young woman died, fall­ing off the stone trail in the fi­nal pre-dawn hike. In her en­thu­si­asm to get to the Sun Gate for dawn she over­took the group ahead and slipped into the void on the right of the path. Hik­ers on this trail earn their ac­cess to the sa­cred en­trance to the city, and the ex­pe­ri­ence is not for the un­fit.

The Peru­vian gov­ern­ment al­lows a max­i­mum of 200 trekkers per day on the Inca trail, sup­ported by 300 porters, who earn every cent of their pay and tips. They run ahead of groups with 25kg back­packs, to set up lunch stops and overnight camp­sites, where the cooks con­jure two-course, sit-down meals out of thin air.

Machu Pic­chu can be ac­cessed via a scenic rail ride from Ol­lan­tay­tambo, which has its own spec­tac­u­lar Inca build­ings. The near­est city is the an­cient Span­ish set­tle­ment of Cusco. Both are worth vis­it­ing as part of your trip of a life­time. ■

In our still space we be­come one with the en­vi­ron­ment and grasp a lit­tle of what the an­cient Inca found here.

Raym is a shaman and teacher of teach­ers. He teaches his Crys­tal Dream­ing™ tech­nique world­wide and takes an­nual tours of sa­cred sites in the UK. More true sto­ries in his new book Spirit World.

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