When I began my journey in outbound tours over 25 years ago, I created in my mind a bucket list of destinations and certain places in particular that I would like to visit someday. That list was topped by Machu Picchu in Peru. The aura that surrounds the place coupled with its history and legends, continued to fuel my interest. My love also for pre-history and ancient civilisations was another reason why the place was so important to me. Unfortunately, Peru is not located around the corner, and I knew that there was going to be a long wait ahead of me before I actually got there. So I just put my head down and ploughed through my career, while Machu Picchu remained a distant dream.
In 2015, this dream became a reality. That year I traversed almost the length and breadth of South America, eventually reaching Machu Picchu, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Macchu Picchu is considered to be a 15th-century Inca citadel, located in the mountains about 80 kms away from Cusco in Peru. It was brought to the attention of the world in 1911 by Hiram Bingham, an American explorer and historian. Its significance is not exactly known, nor the reason why it was abandoned. Amazingly, throughout their dominance in South America,
the Spanish conquistadors never found it. And so it remained a secret until Bingham stumbled onto it.
I arrived via a picturesque train journey to Aguas Calientes late one cold evening. Aguas Calientes is the quaint little base town for Machu Picchu. I walked over to my hotel which was just across the station. After a quick check-in, I got to my room, showered, and went straight to bed. My wake up call was for 4 am in the morning. The hotels at Calientes usually have a working breakfast early morning for the tourists intending to visit Machu Picchu. After having a relatively satisfying breakfast and a strong coffee, I walked with my guide for the day, to join the queue for the government-run shuttles which transport tourists from the town to the entrance of Machu Picchu, roughly a twenty-minute drive up the mountain. On that day, there seemed to be a few hundred in the queue already at that time, which, I was given to understand was quite normal. The shuttle rolled up near the entrance to Machu Picchu and I got off and joined the hundreds of tourists milling around, dashing off for the last loo break, picking up a cuppa hot coffee and generally bracing themselves to enter one of the world’s most sought after tourist sites.
It was a few minutes before 7 am when I finally crossed the entrance and stepped into what seemed like another world. The sun was just breaking through the clouds and in between the mountain peaks, creating a surreal atmosphere that words cannot accurately describe. One of the most photographed sites in the world, lit up in the bright rays of the morning sun tearing through the misty dawn. As I walked, I could feel my heart pounding in my head and I am sure I was oblivious to the guide rambling on about the sight in front of me. And then, just like that, there it was. The object of my dreams, the destination of my fantasies – standing silent, imposing, majestic.
I’m not sure what happened next, but I think I was a like man possessed by the ghosts of the many tourists before me. The guide had just completed his talk about the site and suggested that I spend the remainder of my time there, walking around and exploring on my own. I chose instead to go berserk and be a tourist. I posed, took selfies, got the guide as well other
random people to take pictures of me in “touristy” poses all over. And then it hit me. What was I doing? Were these poses & pictures all that mattered to me, being here in this once in a lifetime destination?
And then suitably self chastised, I picked a vantage spot overlooking the ruins and sat. Breathing calmly. Soaking in the aura of the place. Its location, nestled in the mountains with the soaring peaks around it. The grey-blue cloudy skies above, the greens of the valley, the buzz of the tourists all added to the magic of Machu Picchu. Sitting there, looking at the structures made me imagine the Incas in their prime, constructing and then inhabiting the citadel, going about their daily routines not knowing they were leaving a legacy for millions who would follow them here. At long last, I got up, dusted myself, and prepared to walk amongst the ruins. Having made it here, there was a moment of sadness knowing that there was nothing more to aspire to. But that passed, as I began trudging towards Machu Picchu – the destination of my dreams.
Savio is a career travel professional, chronic traveller and legit Aquarian, now managing a travel representation company called Benchmark Travel Representations. Born, raised, and based in Mumbai, he is the quintessential jack of all trades and master of none. He would be happy to live happily ever after as long as he has an infinite supply of single malts, good food, acclaimed TV & films, and a trip every now and then. He can be followed on Instagram and Facebook.
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