thin places: machu picchu

**background: In 'thin places', I wrote, "a thin place “is a place where the boundary between heaven and earth is especially thin. It’s a place where we can sense the divine more readily.” In essence, a “thin place” is a way of saying “God is especially present here.”

 
I wrote in that post of the garden being a thin place for me. And I got to thinking later about all of the other thin places I've set foot upon, basked in, relished. Felt something transcendental, sacred.
 

Machu Pichu was one. **

In my last post, I took you as far as the village at the base of Machu Picchu. Left you with us in our hostel with an early-morning climb awaiting us

***
My friend Dreama and I woke up in our hostel at around 4 in the morning – it was pitch black outside. I mean, pitch-black. There is black, regular black, or dark, regular dark of the pre-dawn sky in most places and there is the type of inky, thick black in which you can't hardly see your hand in front of your face. This was that type of black. I am mentioning this as we realized not 50 steps away from the little village road (and street lamps) that we couldn't see squat and we were supposed to hike up the WHOLE FREAKIN' MOUNTAIN with the Inca stone steps and all.

Right, like that was going to happen. When we couldn't even see our feet.

 

a good piece of stairway, much, much later (when it was light)

 

We ended up following a guy who had a head lamp, until it was light enough to see and we could slow down. I remember that. Gasping and panting through my charred lungs, feeling the burn as they screamed for mercy.

Smoking and trying to hike up the mountain to Machu Picchu really don't mix.

 

yes. tis I, gasping for breath. I'd like to note that the white stuff is a CLOUD, not my smoke

 

I don't remember how long it took. The hours sort of blurred together, much like childbirth. But I assure you they were hours; it took a long time to climb that mountain.

 

But we did it, we were done and it was exhilarating to stand at the entrance, sweating and panting and look at the wimp-asses that took the bus up (you know, like I had wanted to).

I admit, I was excited by this point. Whereas I had initially only wanted to go to Peru because of the irresistibly cheap ($400 round trip!) tickets, the country had slowly worked it's irresistible charm on me – and by the time I was at the entrance of Machu Picchu, I was wholly in it's grasp. And this is the thing: when you are in love with someone, you are interested in what they love. I was in love with Peru; Peru loves Machu Picchu.

We walked in. Stood among the (small) throng of fellow tourists, each of us taking our *must have* shot; our mug in front of the famously recognizable backdrop.

Dreama and I split up; each in our own sort of wonderworld. She went and climbed the mountain across the way (Wayana Picchu?);

 

behind the tree; that's the one Dreama climbed

 

I just went where there were no people. Which happened to be immediately behind the entrance.

No people. Just Alpacas.

 

he came around to check me out

 

 

 And their poop.

 I found a path and followed it. Up, up, up, up and away.

"the path" was sometimes suspiciously like rock climbing..

It was a little like Hansel and Gretel, only with Hansel and without a candy house or wicked people. So maybe it wasn't really like Hansel and Gretel. Anyway. I was being slowly lured up, up and further up

by the tantalizing flora and fauna.

This stuff was insane!

 

Made me clutch my heart and sigh in delight.

 

Such neat-ness!

 

Beauty!

 
I felt like I was in my own little magical world, chock-full of living creatures that might just start to speak. 

 Climbing, climbing, up, up, ever up

Looking at everything, breathing the clean (perhaps rather thin) air

Gorgeousness

Awesome-ness

Grace.

I stopped at some point, prayed. Felt the universe, Source, God – whatever you want to call it – right there, so there. That I could close my eyes and my being hardly existed except as a speck of infinite, eternal light.

I cried my heart out on that mountain and it was all joy. The best kind of cry, the kind where you are like, I'm alive! This is what it's all about! This is my magic, my joy, my Source, my everything!

I wrapped up, finished my prayers. Had a quinoa bar or whatever it was that I brought with me to eat. Smoked my remaining cigarettes. Looked around, dusted off my pants (black jeans, perfect for hiking, no?) and the reality of my situation hit: YOU ARE HELLA HIGH UP, MERIAH.

 

 

I was inches away from the top of that mountain. I have no idea how high that was but there were clouds all around me as I freaked out and started my descent, crawling on my butt. Yes, I was too scared to take photos or do anything other than grapple what I could of the ground as I slowly slithered down.

You see, I am terribly, horribly scared of heights. 

Any open spaces had me paralyzed in fear. I had to focus on the plants to stay even-keeled enough to even move, I was that scared. Falling under a fauna-tastic spell and being shit-scared of heights just…bad mix, man. Bad mix.

When I finally saw this, I was crying again, this time from relief. OH! Was I happy to see firmer footing in sight! And people too!

Happy, happy, joy, joy! DOWN!
 
Only, I suppose "down" is all relative when you are talking about the Inca, who evidently were like that tribe from India that are hired in New York to clean the windows of skyscrapers because they are born without a gene link for a fear of heights

 Because Machu Picchu is built on the top of a mountain. Yeah, I've said it and talked about the climb up, but it was impossible for me to grasp how *very* "top of the mountain" this is until I was walking around there and saw that peoples' backyards were literally hanging on a cliff

 What did they do for "child proofing"?

You see the little rung-things in the picture? Those were "stairs"

Just looking at the pictures again is making my belly tense up.

 

You know how you feel after you get off a thrill-ride at the amusement park? That peculiar mix of a need to vomit with a worn-out tensed-up innard-system? That's how I felt that day, up there, looking at those backyards.

 
The views from the windows were much easier on me
 
 

  I walked around

Noticing the stones
 
 

Mind-boggling workmanship. Each stone, so carefully and expertly placed. 

I struggled with little ones for my tiny garden; this… I can't even wrap my mind around this…

 

 This is the part that typically hits people, I have heard – when it comes together that the whole, entire place is made of stones, fitted together. That's it: stones upon stones upon stones upon a mountain make for an ANCIENT CITY

 
 

 How did they do it?

 
 
 

How long did it take?

 It is so well-built that the fountains still work

 
 
 Although there were others around, they were few, far away. There was really a feeling of space, of privacy. A feeling that each of us were there to bask in that space in the way we felt most comfortable.
 

 I ran into my friend at some point, as the day was winding down, as people were making motions to leave. It was good. We talked. Walked down the long, high mountain, walking the spirals of the bus route, letting the buses pass us, we didn't care, we were dazed.

For me, Machu Picchu itself was a source of complete astonishment. The mountain behind it was a thin place. Pure magic.

Meriah
is a deaf blogger, global nomad, tech-junkie, cat-lover, Trekkie, Celto-Teutonic-peasant-handed mom of 3 (one with Down syndrome and one gifted 2E).
She likes her coffee black and hot.
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