October 28, 2015
Today I climbed Machu Picchu Mountain. Yesterday I drank about seven hundred gallons of chilcanos and made out with a Colombian. We had a fine time, but today I was glad to be left alone to wander.
The romanticized vision I had of experiencing the ruins – contemplating the course and meaning of my life, in meditation, communicating with the cosmos and Incan spirits – could not have been a more inaccurate picture of my trek up Machu Picchu Mountain.
I did communicate with the gods, though. As I was climbing the stairs (the trail is nothing but stairs), hungry and my insides gurgling with last night’s pisco, I was struck by my first, my only, my most overpowering craving for a big, juicy hamburger. I have never in my life craved a hamburger. I don’t even eat hamburgers. But, apparently, the physical drain and the stairs and the stairs and the more stairs turned me into a carnivorous, American cliché.
In my head – the coda of my involuntary thoughts – I kept repeating, “If you put a hamburger at the bottom of this mountain…” And then, aloud, “I will…” trying desperately to think of something desirable to the Incan gods that might be sufficient for my end of the deal. “I will sacrifice a spider,” I concluded. There seemed enough to spare.
Perhaps it’s because it’s Machu Picchu and one’s supposed to feel spiritual, but there was something otherworldly about that mountain. The constant interplay: right when you’re about to die, hamburger-less, flipping and flopping down the steep side, here comes another breathtaking vista to cause you pause. And you catch your breath.
I will board the train to Ollayantambo soon. Maybe the Colombian and I will sit together again. He makes me laugh, different and strange as he is. When I get to the hostel, must shower and pray. Because the Incan spirits delivered. At the entrance to Machu Picchu, I found a café. With a hamburger. I devoured it. It was disgusting. But I had never before felt that serene, mystical, or dyspeptic a gratitude.