I began my journey towards the so-called “navel of the world” from Lima. After a flight, which lasted over an hour, I arrived at the city of Cusco, where a magnificent rainbow greeted me displaying the colors of the Tahuantinsuyo flag. I knew it was going to be a great trip.
It took me over an hour and a half to get to the train station at Ollanta, followed by a train ride of almost 2 hours, to get to Aguas Calientes, a small village located on the outskirts of the mountains that hold Machu Picchu.
Every part of the trip was delightful: nature in the purest of states, green valleys, overflowing rivers, and snowy mountaintops adorned by sporadic ruins that tell stories of over 500 years ago.
The next morning, almost at sunrise, I finally started my expedition towards the lost city of the Incas. Its pleasant to see how all these people exude kindness and care for tourists: they keep the buses clean, they are gentile, and go the extra mile with a smile on their faces, saying random words in almost every language.
My last stretch to get there took an extra half-hour bus ride, on a meandering and almost improvised road. Finally, I had arrived to this Peruvian Historic Sanctuary, a title it has rightfully acquired since 1981. The trip was exhausting, even with all the luxuries we have in the year 2014.
It seems incredible to think that just a little over 30 years ago, in 1983, this Inca sanctuary was declared a World Heritage Site by Unesco. It was re-discovered in 1911 by Hiram Bingham, a Hawaiian explorer from Yale University (USA).
But it seems even more improbable to think that the Incas not only reached such a remote and hidden place, but skillfully domesticated it and made it their own in just a couple of decades.
Upon arriving, I climbed what seemed like thousands of stairs made of rocks from the same mountain hundreds of years ago. The trail was slippery and the morning mist covered the landscape completely. When I reached the lookout at the top of the mountain, I turned around and saw a dense cloud that covered the ruins totally.
I could not help feeling a little disappointed. My expectation on being able to appreciate its majesty as soon as I arrived was immense. Nonetheless, being able to appreciate how the dense cloud of mist moved gently through the mountaintops, displaying the secrets of this empire, was even better.
The creation of the navel
The navel of the world, as it was called during the Inca Empire, was built in the mid-fifteenth century. There, the Incas were able to show their prodigious skills as engineers, farmers, architects and astronomers.
They managed to break huge rocks in the quarry mountain only by temperature changes. They polished them impeccably, assembling them perfectly, one over another, without leaving enough space between them for a razor thin.
They mobilized these huge stones without having invented the wheel, and created strong, earthquake resistant structures that remain in perfect conditions until this day.
The Incas diverted water that came from nearby snowy mountains through sophisticated systems to irrigate their crops, domesticated plants and animals gradually until they thrived at 2,400 meters above sea level, and took full advantage of the place where they were.
Furthermore, they carefully observed the behavior of the sun, moon and stars, and created several observatories and temples used to worship their gods where sunrise and sunset on the summer and winter solstices were clearly observed and enhanced.
Time to go back
After touring the majestic ruins for hours, it was time to leave. I knew I had a long trip back home, but I also knew that my journey would be joyous, as I took with me memories of an entire culture, as well as an incomparable feeling of magic that could never be erased.
Undoubtedly, the navel of the modern world may be thought of as cosmopolitan cities like New York, Paris or Hong Kong. Notwithstanding, if anything can be said about the navel of the Inca world, it’s that the magic created in these remote mountains almost six centuries ago still exist and is transmitted to each and every one of its visitors. The efforts of hundreds of years of a civilization can be distinctly seen and felt today, with such intensity that can only be understood by living it firsthand.