"It's not that great"
Or at least that's what people told me before I set off on my Incan journey. I shoved the negative review as far back in my mind as I could as I handed my passport to the Immigration officer in Cusco.
Machu Picchu is one of the seven wonders of the world after all--how can it possibly be underrated?
However, after returning from the highly instagram-ed ancient ruin cradled in the Andes, I've come to agree with the review that I tried so hard to forget. But first, give me a chance to explain myself.
I set on the four day Lares trail carrying quite a bit of weight in the pit of my stomach. The past year had been torturous, carrying me through an emotional rip current that left me tattered. Somehow in the midst of it all, I found myself in the heart of the Andes, starting the journey with 1.5 friends (1 guy was just an acquaintance when we started) and ended it with 7.
I've never considered myself to be extroverted, but there is something about the outdoors that catalyzes the "clicking" process of a friendship. I ended up sharing my tent with a stranger, an Australian woman traveling alone through South America, recovering from a far more harrowing life experience. After those 4 days, I could no longer call her (or any of the other hikers in our group) a stranger. The mornings spent sipping coca tea, laughing to the point of aggravating our sore muscles, huffing our way up to 15,000 feet, tearing up at the sight of massive glaciers on our trail, questioning the point of spending time in a cubicle, stuffing our faces with the feasts our porters would prepare all felt like ointments, treating my bruised esteem.
And as sadistic as it may sound, the physical pain of the hike was relieving. It sewed a bond among a group of 7 strangers, all who had been on a separate path of life prior to the hike. We intersected paths at beautiful yet physically harsh moment that we all look back on with pride.
Suffering induces cementing of a bond. In those four days trudging through the Andes, my mind was focused on the next step and the people around me (and finding a shower).
So Machu Picchu itself wasn't my fondest memory from my trip to Peru--the journey there was one of my seven wonders of the world.