Saturday, May 18, 2013

I'm a Passenger

The grand observatory that the Incas built more than 700 years ago and that Hiram Bingham tripped over in 1911. A significant portion remains unearthed and undiscovered.

What hasn't been written about Peru's great wonder of the world, Machu Picchu that hasn't already been written? The answer is obvious, which is why I'm not about to even remotely attempt to describe the things you can perhaps, already imagine, even if you've never before stepped foot on the 2,430 m high mountain. You see the massive terraces and try to picture what it must have been like for the ancient Incas to carve them out of thick jungle vegetation-covered granite. You picture men literally falling off the mountain while trying to tame it. You see the giant granite boulders on the mountain-top "quarry," some weighing dozens of tons, and you can't help but imagine a man being crushed under its weight during the process of transporting the stones to their final position. Then, you can't help but feel pain for these people who were forced to flee from their sacred home in the night while the Spanish closed in on them, with the promise of death, destruction, and the hording of their precious metals.

I'm not going to describe standing on the mountain as the the sun breaks through the clouds, revealing the massive peaks that surround me, their presence looking almost fake. Like a brilliant projection flashed up onto a gigantic screen. You must fight the urge to reach out and touch these peaks, as if that were possible, only to feel yourself losing your balance. Should that happen, and you go over the side, the only thing that awaits you is a one way ticket to the Gods.

I'm a passenger these days. An observer. A mover. I don't rest. I don't sit down. I stand. I walk. I run. I'm never still, even at home. The itch to explore is sometimes so great, I think it will never be scratched. The itch is located in a spot along my spine that is impossible to reach. Or perhaps it's located in my brain. So the only cure is to keep on moving. I'm coming down from Machu Picchu after one of the most breathtaking hikes I've ever experienced. My body and clothing are soaked in sweat that's mixed with the mist from the clouds that move in and out of these Andes Mountains like foamy waves constantly and never-endingly lapping a seashore. Soon I'm seated on a bus that transports forty passengers too rapidly for the narrow mountain roads that hug cliff-sides thousands of feet high. One false move on this rain-soaked gravel road and we're done for.

You can't take in a life-experience like this one all at once. It has to upload, like a computer program. One day you can be doing the most mundane thing, like the laundry for instance, and it will hit you. I've hiked Machu Picchu...I've entered into the Third Pyramid in Giza all alone...I've jogged Tienanmen Square just a few years after a young man defied bullets and held back a tank with his frail body...I've visited a healer in the Austrian Alps and seen the sun come up on the basin in Venice...I've ridden a Ferris wheel with the one woman I truly loved in Paris...I've been stranded in the African bush and been accused of killing many men by a voodoo Beniois...I've ridden the metro in Moscow and somehow found my way around...I've touched the Parthenon and walked over the Mammar Bridge in Turkey...I've touched the English Channel with my bare toes on the sandy beaches of D-Day's Normandy...I've four-wheeled in the Tuscan mountains with a best friend who's always yelling at me to learn the Italian language...And on and on and on...But that's not enough.

I'm a passenger on a journey that is not only never ending, it's speeding up. In my mind, I'm planning the next stop. India. I haven't yet been to India. I need to see India. So many of you have been there and I am as envious as I am curious.

On the way back into Cusco, the driver of my van tries to negotiate the relentless traffic. After a day on a magic mountain, we're stuck in traffic. Then comes the near deafening and horribly heart wrenching squeal of a dog as a tourist bus runs over one its legs, crushing it. I don't want to look but I have to look. When I see the small brown, furry dog limping away on three legs, my heart sinks into my stomach. Tears cloud my eyes. No one in the van speaks a word about it. Not the driver. Not my guide. No one. But you feel the pain like the mist that still soaks your clothing.

I'm a passenger.



1 comment:

  1. Vince you are a nomad for sure and I'm loving reading about your travels. I love traveling myself and I guess for now will have to settle for armchair traveling but my goodness this sounds so adventurous. Sad to hear about the dog though. ;o(