My eyes sting with the salty tinge of an overwhelm, disbelief that, wow, here I am!
Of all the places, all of the dreamy vistas and heights and mountains climbed, this is the pinnacle, my personal Eldorado, and after almost twenty years of imagining myself here, I pinch myself to make sure that, yes, I. Am. Actually. Here.
A fateful day, forever ago, back when things like airline tickets and travel itineraries and passport photos belonged to plucky, poofy-haired ladies behind counters in travel agencies, there with my mother and brother to plan who-remembers-what, my eyes fall upon the most beautiful and magical sight of them all–
–and since that day, I fancy myself among the stonework, the pair of words bouncing in my head, never sure which one receives the double “cc” but, really, I could condense them both down to Mecca, for that is what this place is to me, my Holy Grail of magic wonderland, a culmination of all things that fascinate me since I can remember, living, breathing anthropological mystique.
And, here I am.
I stare out the bus window, hands clutching entrance pass like Charlie and his Golden Ticket. Finally, I am the man I’ve always dreamt of being, Indiana Jones in the flesh, and every single childhood fantasy of growing up to be the archeologist-professor-turned-badass-world-adventurer-and-saver-of-all-that-is-holy stands on the precipice of materialization.
I breathe down the ball of sob-joy lodged in my larynx and release my lower lip from the bite of my upper teeth, lips finally able to smile the wide expanse of elation I feel inside.
Holy fuck, Indyline, this is it!
I float on fumes of excitement, a sleepless night the worthy price to pay for a dream realized, and this 6 AM bus ride might as well be made of caffeine, for we are a bus load of zip-off pants and breathe-right-tees aching to pass through the Incan wonder. For half-an-hour, we zig-zag the curves up the tropical mountain, itself still sleeping in fog’s embrace, and each bend pings a xylophone note of anticipation down my spine.
Armed with liters of water and our S/.8 lunch baguettes, Graham and I disembark to find our Machu Picchu enshrouded in mystery, cloud thick, beckoning us to come inside and discover one of the world’s wonders.
How surreal, I pinch myself again, re-reading the bienvenidos sign to make sure it does, indeed, say Machu Picchu.