“Few romances can ever surpass that of the granite citadel on top of the beetling precipices of Machu Picchu, the crown of Inca Land.” – Hiram Bingham
Peru is a spectacular country comprised of captivating culture and unmatched landscapes. It's creative inspiration and energy will greet you the moment you arrive. I understand why people visit and then make the decision to stay permanently. I know a few. My trip was planned to photograph the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu for the one hundred year anniversary of the discovery of the settlement by Hiram Bingham. A guide, a group of porters, and creatives – with our bags packed with heavy equipment – set out to document the trail on a six-day hike condensed to three days. Ambitious, yes. By doing so, we were able to avoid other groups traveling the path which meant capturing better imagery. Then the realization of what that meant set in – countless more miles to trek per day, less time to stop to create photographs, and less rest in the evenings.
I will post more on the hike later on. I literally could write a novel on the experience. For this post, my focus is the destination. A place where ancient spirits float among the visitors and llamas are sacred. Welcome to Machu Picchu.
At the last camp, we awoke at 3 AM to reach the Sun Gate (Inti Punku) before sunrise. Inti Punku is the entry point from the South. Inti Punku is dedicated to the cult of the Inti, the Sun God. As we climbed the last few steps the whole sanctuary opened up to us. It took our breath away. When you look up images of Inti Punku, you will see people sitting on the stairs quietly gazing. You are so utterly awestruck this is all you are capable of in those first moments. From this location, you can see the sun rise over the entire mountain ranges surrounding Machu Picchu.
Giving the volume of tourists that are bused up to the site daily, we were fortunate enough to have some time alone amongst the ruins. It was a privilege and honor. Sitting in silence on the agricultural tiers of Machu Picchu (which feel like they drop down into oblivion) I was alone with the echoing of my thoughts. The undeniability of spiritual energy and stillness enveloping me was the most emotional collision I have ever experienced.
The jungle works desperately to reclaim the ancient sites throughout the region. Our guide informed us that archaeologists cannot operate fast enough to preserve what has already been discovered and simultaneously uncover what remains. It is believed that only a fragment of what was built by the Incas has been unearthed. Looking out over the endless mountains the understanding of just how much is still hidden, still unlearned of such a prosperous and advanced civilization for its time, is enigmatic.
For me, Peru was not a trip. It was a pilgrimage. Go. Pack a bag and a camera. Get on a plane now. I promise you will find a deeper level of your soul there.