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Ups and downs of a traveler

Searching for Machu Picchu

The information is set aside. The traveler rises up and leaves the data enclosed in his notepad. He just wants to remember, put his feelings in order and materialize them into these lines, a desperate attempt to describe his own perception of the Incan Road to Machu Picchu, that particular adventure in which the physical exhaustion is defeated by the magical composition of the Andean landscape.

     Of course it is upsetting. You are tired, fainting, your body is worn-out and, suddenly, in that pretentious slope that gives the impression that it wants to reach the sky, you see a group of young persons that are very clean and combed like models of a fashion magazine, gulping down the road with a voracity that is comparable to that of a battalion of termites.

     I'm so envious. We are pitiful in the ascent to the dale of Warmiwañusqa (4,200 m.a.s.l.), the highest point of the Incan road to Machu Picchu, and these youngsters- as robust as wardrobes- can walk easily as if they were taking a walk on a tree-lined avenue or boulevard and not in the Andean height, in where the air is scarce, where the air is never enough.
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     The "wardrobe-like youngsters" disappear in a curve; then, the anger starts vanishing and I concentrate once again in the search of my inner force (that coward might be hidden somewhere) without even imagining that my recently inaugurated walker pride was about to suffer a deep thrust.

     Probably you- dear readers- do not care about this story at all, but I must confess that I am taking the liberty of doing it because, after having walked four days running, I think that I am entitled to rebel and forget, for a moment, about the accuracy of journalistic data in order to present you other nuances of my adventure through Incan paths.

     Well, I was searching for my inner force desperately when I saw a couple of kids, whiter than milk, humping and running happily. That was too much. I felt ashamed of myself; I grabbed my photographic camera, hid my delator sedentary stomach and went back to the road. I was determined to reach the "wardrobes".

     Just as it was expected, my attempts were in vain. The rest of the journey was an authentic struggle between exhaustion and the desire to continue, a ferocious battle between the discouragement caused by physical pain and the spiritual joy that overflowed on seeing the magical composition of the Andean landscape, with those mountains dressed in green or wrapped up with snow.

     And finally I arrive at the dale of Warmiwañusqa (dead woman in Spanish). Now I dominate the panorama. I see stone steps that descend and enlarge as serpents. I see the Urubamba cordillera. I see dozens of men and women, of every race and every nation, struggling to overcome the prolonged slope.

     And I think about the contradictions of history. I think that over 500 years ago a group of men from the other side of the world also walked through the Incan roads, but they did it with disdain and even with certain despise, shielding themselves in that supposed cultural superiority, which blinded them so much that they even doubted about the "human condition" of the children of the Andes.

     Now things have changed. Walkers do not come here to conquest. They just admire and try to discover the richness that pre-Hispanic cultures inherited to this little planet piece called Peru, to these "lands of the Inca that the Sun illuminates because those are the orders of God", as it is said in the patriotic chorus of a popular song.

    That's what I thought at Warmiwañusqa, when there were still two days left to get to Machu Picchu, the maximum expression of the Incan architecture. I was tired but pleased, just as much or even more than when we started with a lot of energy- which unfortunately vanished two hours after- the journey through the famous Incan road, one of the most attractive trekking routes of the world.

     The beginning is simple. You have to cross a suspension bridge in Piskacucho (kilometer 82 of Cusco-Machu Picchu railway), you go up through a small slope and from that point everything is plain for a long time; besides, the view is gorgeous: the vastness of the Urubamba cordillera and the image of La Verónica snow-capped mountain (5860 meters high), formerly called Weqey Willka (sacred tear).

    I felt so happy, I was quite an explorer, an experienced pioneer, or rather- and I don't exaggerate on saying this- the reincarnation of a chasqui, those mythical Incan mails that walked fast through the carved-stone roads so as to take messages and products to the Tawantinsuyo authorities.

     The strength abandoned me in the afternoon of that same day and it never came back. On the contrary, not only was the situation critical- with the corresponding rancor looks at walkers with more resistance- but it turned unbearable the third day, after overcoming the Phuyupatamarka (spot above clouds) and meeting the archaeological remains with the same name.

     Before continuing with the story, let me write that the Incas were extremely accurate on naming their places, because Phuyapatamarka (3680 m.a.s.l.) is almost always filled with clouds; well, I better go back to the story, I was telling you that after overcoming the dale and meeting the archaeological complex- an important administrative and religious center- I felt a really intense pain.

     This is a disaster!, I thought desperately on noticing that my knee could not resist anymore. Bending it was a drama and the worst thing was that I had to descend an incredible huge number of stone steps. I censored the pain cries and I started walking very slowly. I became the last walker. I felt lonely in the road.

     The rest is easy to narrate. I defeated the pain; I re-inaugurated my walker pride and arrived at the camp about three hours after the expected time. The resting was refreshing, a couple of beers a word exchange with beautiful girls as red as a beetroot and the mandatory visit to the ceremonial sector and the cultivation terraces of Wiñaywayna (forever young).

     At dawn of the following day, I left towards the citadel. There were no more troubles with my knee but there were certainly some troubles with time. Mist and fog during the last steps and… what did I find at the citadel? No, I rather don't tell you that, I will leave you with the intrigue. Maybe that way you will make up your mind and get to know the fabulous road of the Incas.

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