After returning from this year’s trek to Machu Picchu, one of our bees shared her thoughts from the Salkantay Trek. So here is her experience of Peru coming straight from the mouth of bees!
Written by Jamie Coakley
I’ve fallen in love with these mountains.
Laura, (pronunced Lao-ra) told me she loves Peru because it is “muy rica”! That, my friends, is an understatement at best.
My first journey outside Norte America; the Andes Mountains of Peru. Her people, Mamma Picchu’s people, and her land, her fruita, are premiero. Each new day felt like a wonderful dream of sight and sound. I was in awe of the architecture in Cusco, with its cobblestone streets and haciendas. There is great attention given to clean, healthy food; the land is so rich and diverse and the rainforests surprised me with their diversity of flowers in full bloom at the end of the rainy season.
My journey, or should I say “our” journey, as I trekked for 6 days in the Andes with 15 other people, 2 guides and various Quechua porters (the longest with us, Thomas) was a filled with such kindness and beauty from this country and her people, that one often felt as if in a dream.
The stunning peaks of the Humantay and Salkantay Mountains, so high above the Earth as to kiss the clouds, overwhelmed reality and inspired tears of sincere gratitude at the blessing of being in their majestic presence.
Our trek found us hiking between 5-8 miles a day of often difficult ascents and descents. We were a motley crew of ages and fitness types overcoming so much together to make this journey.
What calls one to this place? I didn’t really know anything about Peru, its history, its geography. I had in the back of my mind stories of Machu Picchu and a repeating image of an ancient city carved from a mountain top, but other than that, I came without expectation. When the opportunity presented itself my soul sang out, Yes! You must go! And so I did.
It was not easy. There were so many logistics to conquer. So many fears of the unknown. The gear, the money, the long flights. What would the weather be and would I be prepared? What about the difficulty of the hiking? Would I be strong enough? What about the language? Could I communicate enough to survive?
In this moment, as I attempt to write down my heart as it is pure in memory today, the river outside roars, the train rambles, and children play hide and seek around me, as if I am invisible. Large windows look out to a steep mountainside covered in neon Andean green, and at times I am overwhelmed with tears, their warmth streaming down my cheeks.
We moved quickly through this majestic place. A land truly touched by the Gods, or the hand of God, whichever you prefer. We experienced so many things; fatigue, doubt, humility, camaraderie, exhaustion, elation, freezing cold, bone soaked, brilliant pink sunburnt…and we met so many local people, practicing their passions, their ancient arts, and sharing their world and their customs with us, excited and happy we cared. We passed many horses and mules carting wares over steep mountain passes, carved in these hillsides so many hundreds and thousands of years ago. Through thick chocolate mud that squished between our boots. Down slippery slate rocks, across grassy fields and past rich orchards of corn, of passion fruit; through ancient coffee groves and the most delicious avocado (pronounced by the locals as “Abocado”).
Our guides, Fernando (our lead) and Ricardo (our second) cared for us as only the most loving parents would. Working tirelessly each day to educate, protect and provide for our every need. Indeed, after only six days some of us had grown depended on their guidance, reduced to doting and somewhat spoiled children at times!
Yesterday, Thursday, March 29th 2019, we finally arrived at the famed Machu Picchu! A light rain fell consistently as the buses quickly climbed the steep mountain switchbacks, slamming their breaks to avoid head-ons and swinging their wide bodies around corner after corner. Lines of “touristas” from around the globe filled the streets and crowded the stairs leading to the entrance. Two soles (the Peruvian dollar) por “el bano” and you must go now as there are no bathrooms inside Machu Picchu! But there ARE stairs! And stairs….and stairs!
The ancient Quechua, with their creed “Don’t be lazy. Don’t steal, Don’t lie”, set out to build a city in the clouds to worship their Gods, to study astronomy and as a warm vacation spot for their Inka (King), in these misty, lush and magical mountains.
Machu Picchu IS pure magic. Even littered with modern humans, the work and care and accomplishment of this city, engineered and constructed from this impossible mountain, over 500 years ago, is an incredible marvel!
Ancient stones chiseled from the side of the mountain and stacked and mortared, again and again and again and again and again and again, with strong hands and strong legs and strong backs and strong minds, in the heat of the burning sun and the chill of the ever present rain. Year over year, generation over generation. Focused attention on this monumental task and almost perfectly preserved by remoteness and genius of planning and engineering.
What lessons are held in this journey of emotions? What large and small gifts of self found? What connections to the divinity of us, humans, have we discovered inside ourselves and beyond self? How much has the richness of this place changed us? Each in different and same ways? What lessons have we heard whispered from ancients as we toiled and suffered and rejoiced together in these sacred mountains? How much better are we, having been in touch with, communed with, and celebrated our ancient peoples and their amazing feats?
And if YOU have not yet visited this most magical of places and her beautiful people, if ever the Universe asks you if you’d like to visit Machu Picchu, say yes! Over come your fear and come find your feet in the earth and your head in the clouds. Share a bit of your beauty with the people here and relish theirs. Find your richness among the beauty of Peru, and its mountains, and its wonderful people. Muy rica!