Bucket list always sounds negative to me. I have a list of places to see. Machu Picchu is a UNESCO Heritage site. It is seen,rightly, as a wonder of the world. A couple of families were living here and calling it home long before westerners decided it was a “wonder”. The Inka people knew where it was. Resting majestically at around 2,900 metres (9,800 feet) above sea level. The engineering, planning and complexity of it all are breath-taking before the views hit you. These places were built with the Gods in mind. In homage and in “thank-you” to them. Machu Picchu lies amongst the snow-capped mountains of the Vilcabamba Mountain Range. It was built in a great geographical, security and spiritual location. A hub of administrative, ritual, artistic, cultural, religious, residential, agricultural and storage spaces. With a key concept of Inka planning. The sun is the primordial source of life and power. The rooms are orientated to the sun for maximum sunlight. And the buildings are in a graduated layout to prevent shadows being cast on other buildings.Why didn’t European empire builders, when they came upon these ancient, magnificent and classical African, Asian, Latin and Southern American citadels. These wonders of the world. Not just stop!! And sit in awe and wonder and amazement at their beauty. Their technological marvelousness. Their ingenuity. The engineering skills and craftsmanship. And look for what was embedded in so many of these cultures. Harmony. And take the chance to live, work and thrive alongside. And sit in wonder and the joy of this taste of paradise. And recognise how close they were to the spot where the heartbeat of man touches the face of God.

The wait. The lines. The chatter. The hustle by a guide. The lines. The walk up the gang way. The splendour. Everything the photos paint and more. For today I am taking no photos and the camera is stored away. Just my eyes and everything spirit and soul can find and digest. For once I was in the splendour of the moment.
The drive in the bus up to Machu Picchu is breath-taking. Such views. And as you climb higher. More. And more. The valley swims below and above glimpses of the sights to come. Those heart jumping moments when you can look over the edge of the road and see down. Hoping. Actually, knowing that the driver has it under control. By my side-left and right. Behind me. The spirits of my mum, my grandmother, my cousin Don and my ancestors. And my Inka ancestors. All getting live feed of my ascent to my destination. They didn’t all get to see here in their lifetime. But today they will. So peaceful to know my mum’s spirit was close. And at the gate they left me to adventure. Because they know I can.
God at work. No selfie sticks are allowed in some areas because of a fall. Just the endless parade of – take my photo with my arms outstretched and this place behind me. I never understand it. Do you send your friends these photos of you? Surely the place, the view, the colours, the magnificence of it outstrips you.
My gift for the day. Taking a bottle of water someone forgot at The Sun Gate to the bin. And sharing “hellos” and “not much further” and “it’s worth it” to others as I descended from the awesome Sun Gate. Well, one photo of the newly engaged couple who sat arm in arm. We chatted and the next thing, he was kneeling and slipping a ring on her finger. She said yes in their fairy-tale moment.
Visiting Machu Picchu is an equal opportunities activity. There were people of all sizes, shapes and ages. There were families with granny in tow. Such a gorgeous sight.
After lunch and a rest, the walk down was enough exercise to last the year. Then like something from a folk tale, I could her a little music as I manoeuvred my way down the steps. I saw a little figure in black on the steps below. Heard her say” Hola” with every day casualness. Just like two people passing on the street. And like a saviour for lost explorers on that long journey to coffee and cake. She bore refreshments. She was selling oranges. Two sol each. She peeled it too. What fantastic entrepreneurial insight. Ingenuity. The Inca spirit alive and well in Aguas Calientes.

MACHU PICCHU TAKE TWO – “You were meant to be here”.
The wait. The lines. I know where I am going. The Inka Gate – steep, heart pumping, scary – a long drop down. That guy said it wasn’t anything much and he was wrong. The engineering and the will to build that? Built to make it easier for local villagers to access Machu Picchu. It must have changed peoples’ lives – gifting them a shorter journey. And as I sat there just in awe and wonder, a mother, daughter and son passed me. She told the daughter how much she loved her. Proud because she had made the scary hike to the bridge gate. And they prayed. And then the guide beside me started playing his flute and the most beautiful notes pushed tears out of my body and whatever else the spirits wanted to take from me. And give to me. I gave the family my onyx New Year horse from Hong Kong and that gift set it free on another journey. And me too. Something has finished. And something has begun. My photographic eyes are wide open and I am filling up with great images. I could feel these ancient Inka people and we waved to each other. It’s real for me. I,well my spirit and soul more, found a home. And with them full it was time to leave. Farewell my long-lost friend, until we meet again.


Keith Stewart – from Sheffield, South Yorkshire, England. A qualified TEFL teacher, Murder She Wrote and Colombo aficionado. And a Presuntos Implicados fan. Happily teaching TEFL from Peru.

10th NOVEMBER 2019 BLOG #58