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Trekkin' In a Lost World

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The Temple of the Sun also functioned as an observatory for the Incas
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Dougal and me at the top of Dead Woman's Pass - despite the cold, I was sweating in shorts!
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Machu Picchu, the Lost City of the Incas, is South America's most spectacular archaeological site. It wasn't even discovered until an American historian, Hiram Bingham, stumbled on it almost by accident on July 24, 1911. Now, it is a popular destination where it's all about walking. About 300,000 trekkers hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu every year. That means hiking thousands of stairs. If that many people can hike 40 km, I surely can too. Even if it takes me a long time!

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A smile on my face...in the rain...before daybreak!
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It's pretty nice to be on top of the world...
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Time for adventure preparation!
I packed a light backpack with a sleeping bag, long johns, shorts, two shirts, toiletries, and first-aid supplies. I didn't want to carry too much, otherwise I'd never make it to the top. We started out Day 1 at 4:30m! There were 20 other people in our group and we chatted as we walked. Our guide, Cesar, pointed out some of the 84 different types of potatoes that grow on the mountains. We ate mashed potatoes and lots of potato soup. By Day 2, I felt like I was climbing up the stairs of a building with two thousand floors. The hiking made me tired, but the beautiful terrain inspired me. By Day 3, I started to feel dizzy from the elevation and I had to lie down. By Day 4, I couldn't wait to reach Machu Picchu - our destination, at last!

The Andean people hold a deep respect for the Mother Earth, which they call Pachamama. They pray to the earth before they hike Machu Picchu and they make her an offering of coca leaves for safe passage. As an Inca, you take three nicely shaped leaves and hold them in your palms over your mouth, breathing in their scent and praying. One leaf represents the lower world, Ukhu pacha, signified by the snake. One represents the middle world, Kay pacha, signified by the puma. The last leaf represents the upper world, Hanaq pacha, signified by the condor.

The Andeans also have other rituals to show their respect for the environment and Pachamama. For example, there is the "T'inka" custom. When drinking alcohol, one must always drop a little liquid onto the ground or soil before drinking. This way, Pachamama "drinks" first. There is also the "Ch'ura" custom where the Incas dip their fingers in alcohol, then shake their hands, scattering the alcohol over a particular object as a blessing (like onto the floor of a house). As another custom, the Incas ask permission from Pachamama before digging a hoe or tool into the earth.

It has been a difficult hike, but I am happy that I made the journey.

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A rainy tea break!
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Monica

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