Friday, December 28, 2007

Machu Picchu and Health

If you have not been to Machu Picchu, I hope to inspire you to go there someday, hopefully with someone you love. These braindroppings about health and Machu Picchu might be a bit of a stretch, but hear me out:

You have to be in good health to go there, especially if you want to climb the steep peak you see behind the ruins on those PBS documentaries when there is nothing else on TV. Waini Picchu, the peak, takes about 45-60 minutes to climb. In some spots, you have to hang on to steel-like ropes to prevent a very rapid descent back to the valley.

The altitude makes the climb a bit harder. My recently failed thyroid made it even more interesting for me. Luckily, my clinic called me with the results of a routine thyroid test I had taken the day before leaving. They reached me as I boarded the plane to Lima, so I couldn't buy any thyroid replacement until I got to Cuzco, the ancient Inca capital, which is 4 hours away from Machu Picchu by train.

[The history of the whole area came alive for me as I read Isabel Allende's book "Ines of my soul," which I highly recommend, especially if you are on your way to Chile, my native land. Ines Suarez was Pedro de Valdivia's lover. They were the main people responsible for the colonization of Chile, which is rather unique, since the Spaniards never defeated the Chilean Indian, the Mapuche. After a 100 year war, they settled on a truce that lead to the eventual displacement of these valiant Americans, who were the only tribe on the Western hemisphere to put up such a fight.]

But, the most impressive thing for me was not the ruins of Machu Picchu, which were quite a show, especially looking down from Waini Picchu, but the people I met at the top of the climb. There were Americans, Peruvians, Spaniards, Israelis, Koreans, Chinese, Italians, Argentinians and French. It seemed to me we all left our baggage down below: flushed with the excitement of having made a difficult climb, looking down on the magnificent ruins, we delighted in each other's company and experiences and similarities. We experienced the "brotherhood of man," for a few moments. And that is a very healthy thing to feel these days.