“You’re going the wrong way!”
“¿Adónde va, señorita?”
“If you’re headed to the Sun Gate, there’s nothing to see.”
Now that I was nearing my destination, I began to pass groups of trekkers disappointed by the lack of that famous sunrise promised them on their final day of hiking into Machu Picchu. It seemed nearly everyone had a comment or some wisdom to impart as I trudged along in the drizzling rain that morning on my way toward the scenic overlook known as Inti Punku, or the Sun Gate.
I already knew there wouldn’t be a view. It had been raining since I woke up at 3:40am, and upon entering the park at 6am, I had hardly been able to see the path in front of me. But I didn’t care.
I wished they could see what I saw. The cloud covering gave our surroundings such a hushed mystique that only hinted at the secrets it held. I knew that, once it cleared, I’d lay eyes upon the famous site–that much was all but guaranteed. But for the time being, my imagination convinced me the fog was somehow protecting its famous fortress, forcing its visitors to prove themselves worthy.
Yes I was soaking wet and my teeth were chattering and I was running on barely two hours of sleep. But I also had a huge smile on my face. Nothing was going to detract me from this experience.
I spent a full eleven hours at Machu Picchu that day, from the time the gates opened until they quite literally had to shoo me out. Toward the end, I begged a guide to let me up to the overlook to watch the sunset. “Diez minutos. ¡Te prometo!” Ten minutes. I promise!
I knew it would most likely be my only visit, and I wanted to enjoy it fully. I hiked every trail, explored every ruin, and climbed every mountain (cue The Sound of Music). And throughout the day I was able to find precious minutes away from the hoards of tour groups and obnoxious selfie-takers. Completely solo atop little Huchu’ypicchu or the slow meander to the so-called “unimpressive” Incan bridge…tiny pauses from the madness were definitely treasured.
But I think those moments of morning solitude were my absolute favorite. Honestly, my reaction to the less-than-ideal weather conditions surprised me; I thought I’d be angry or upset, or at the very least disappointed. But I felt nothing of the sort. Something about the gentle rain and surrounding mists filled me with such absolute peace. And for a brief instant, I found it. Finally. Perfect and utter contentment.