J.R.R. Tolkien writes, “Not all who wander are lost.” The heart of The Explorer exudes a desire to be surrounded by the mysterious. The indefinitely wild. The unknown. To be swept away from a city dwelling life, transplanted to the unfathomable. The breathtaking. The untouched ends of the earth and set free to wander. Tolkien’s words may be most settling to those with a spirit of exploration and discovery. And to those with this wandering spirit, a gift is brought to the rest of the world. It is through the adventuring heart of the explorer, past and present, that the rest of the world is able to know what lies beyond our grasp, just waiting to be revealed.
Such was an explorer named Hiram Bingham III. This explorer past set out through the thick Amazon jungle into the depths of the Andes Mountains to find himself standing right smack in the middle of an unfathomable—and until then, most mysterious—world. Enter, Machu Picchu, Peru: a marvel of the 1400s, mortar free limestone architecture, abandoned by its Incan creators, and left deep in the heart of the Andes. To most, the image of a large dome like mountain (named Huayna Picchu) surrounded by the Incan’s abandoned village, perched a top a high plateau deep in the Amazonian jungle—an archeological feat—is what comes to mind when asked about Machu Picchu. This majestic landscape is a destination spot to many. Accessible by train from Cusco—or for the more daring, a five-day backpacking trip deep through Andean gullies—Machu Picchu is not beyond one’s grasp any longer. And Hiram Bingham III, with his wandering spirit, has inspired explorers present and future to continue his venture in discovering this archeological spot.
Henry David Thoreau once wrote that, “we need the tonic of wilderness…and at the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable, that land and sea be indefinitely wild, unsurveyed and unfathomed by us because unfathomable.” Perhaps Machu Picchu is not quite unsurveyed any longer, but a mystery it remains.
I urge you, darling explorer, to mark Machu Picchu, Peru on your world map. Pack your hiking boots, rain slick, pesos, camera, and take note of the things below for the trip of a lifetime:
Seated very south of the equator, Peru’s seasons are quite opposite those north of the earth’s midline. If you ask a local, they’ll tell you Machu Picchu is the same temperature all the time. Which is quite on the button. Think 60s, with cool mornings and evenings. There is a dry season (May through August) and a rainy season (peaking in January through March). Book your tickets to Lima and hop on a quick flight to Cusco. But be ready, thought—the altitude will get ya’!
“Turn Right At Machu Picchu” by Mark Adams is the perfect travelogue to get you in the spirit of rediscovering the lost city of the Andes, one step at a time. This travelogue exudes adventure and is a great read up on the history of Hiram Bingham and all things Inca.
Machu Picchu is not the only Incan feat. There are so many other parts left behind by the Incas that cannot be missed. Lima Tours has great guides that will take you to these archeological parks, or you can traverse them on your own with map in hand. Valle Sagrado—The Sacred Valley—about two hours away by train from Machu Picchu, is filled with simple agricultural communities, local artisan markets, llamas, alpacas, and traditional Peruvian lifestyle. Aranwa Sacred Valley Hotel is perhaps a stopping spot after you make the five day trek up the Inca trail, or even if you arrive at Machu Picchu by train, you may still very well want to pamper yourself at this wellness retreat tucked deep in the majestic valley.
Whether you are a the next Miss Hiram Bingham III, or discovering the spirit of wanderlust for the very first time, I’ll leave you with these bold words of Mark Twain: “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” Hopefully, one day, you’ll find yourself on the road to Machu Picchu.
Images provided by the author.