Details of Life on the Road: Street eats, cheap sleeps, budget travel experiences

Conquering Huayna Picchu

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The clouds and mist finally broke for the first time, and the sun managed to peek through the sky and briefly settle on the ruins below. Three days of hiking across jagged mountain cliffs, trekking through deeply carved valleys and exotic vegetation, and suffering the constantly changing temperatures had paid off. The moment was literally breath taking, at 2720 metres above sea level. After nearly one year of traveling the globe, as I found myself standing on top of Huayna Picchu (the mountain overlooking Machu Picchu ), I finally felt a little closer to feeling like I knew what life is all about.

It was 2:00pm – the time to start climbing from Machu Picchu up Huayna Picchu mountain. I had just eaten most of my pineapple, bananas, and granola bars. I placed a few more dried coca leaves in my mouth to add to the already moist marble-sized ball so that I would have a lot of energy for the climb, and have a better chance of avoiding altitude sickness. The hike was very steep; when I would tilt my head upwards to view the track ahead, or look below to see how far I had advanced, the route, at times, seemed almost vertical. The slowly moving, eerie fog was present, so I was unaware of the altitude, as well as the ever growing distance between myself and Machu Picchu. I started to jog up the historic steps that the Inca people built long ago, being ever so careful not to miss a step, for the fall could easily be fatal. At some points I was literally running. I was full of energy. I felt alive.

I stopped often to look around and remember where I was and what I was doing, and to look at my surroundings and smile. I was so alive, so full of an almost weightless energy that I had never felt before. Although the climb was surely demanding, it sometimes felt as if it was seemingly effortless, like I was merely drifting up to the top. I had soon scaled up and around the mountain and had finally reached the summit.

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There, at the top of Huayna Picchu, lay the remains of abandoned stone huts, where Inca ceremonies were once held. The crippled hut that caught my eyes most, from its position close to the edge of the cliff and from the view through the light haze, seemed to be teetering on the edge of oblivion. That was when a creepingly silent fog rolled in and, in a careful manner, thoroughly covered the summit. I felt utterly alone. Standing on top of a mountain in Peru, the fog seemed to prevent any distant voices, even bodily presences nearby, from entering my ears and eyes. I saw nothing to my left, nothing to my right. Above me were only fog and clouds with only the faintest beams of light trying to break through. This was the top of the world. I felt my breath; I watched it leave my body. I was higher than I have ever been.

Then, the fog had broke. Hundreds of metres down sat Machu Picchu, all of its hypnotizing beauty and history, staring right back at me. I did not have a worry in the world. I was completely living in the moment, with no past or future to worry about. While standing on the top of Huayna Picchu, weeks before I would return to Canada, tears of joy in my eyes, I felt a little closer to knowing who I am.

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