I’ve moaned a bit already about Machu Picchu. Not in a ‘it’s a bit rubbish’ kind of a way because it certainly is not that. What I’ve whinged about is how hard the climb there is to an unfit, chain cigar smoking first time hiker who wouldn’t normally walk the length of himself.
Mountains are a frequent target for my scorn. Though they look beautiful at a distance – all twinkly and that – especially when capped with a layer of fresh, white snow, I know their dirty secret. They are evil. Step onto one and they slowly begin to reveal their true nature. At first everything is fine. This is easy you think; no more arduous then popping down to the shops. Not the nearby shops just around the corner, admittedly, but not the really far away shops you’d normally have to get a bus to, even on a really nice day, either.
But slowly the mountain sucks you in. After a few hours breathing becomes a little ragged and you start to admit that this is a little tough after all. By the time you are pushing onto your own thighs for leverage you have invested enough of yourself into the climb not to want to turn back. And even if you did turn around it is a long way back down, it’s getting dark and your hostel room is on the fourth floor anyway.
Finally, after a day trying to draw in the much need oxygen that simply isn’t there, the day’s unpleasantness is over and a canvas roof and a stony floor welcome your (not that) old bones into a deserving sleep well before the TV watershed back home.
So, why do this then, if it is as awful as I have just described? Well, for starters, not everyone feels this way. The young Canadian medical students, with calves the size of a small island nation, that we shared our ordeal with, seemed delighted to bound up and down the mountain like young bucks let loose at a lady rabbit for the first time.
For us there came a real sense of achievement. If we can do this then we can do other seemingly difficult tasks. Mostly though we earned the opportunity to enjoy the mysterious, ruined whatever-it-was the Inca decreed should be built in such a dramatic location. And the chance to sneer at those that took the bus up.