Inka Pilgrimage: Hidden Treasures of Pachamama
Excerpt from Chapter 13:
We started our final hike on the Inka Trail to Machu Picchu in the dark. Flashlights were lit all along the trail. The various groups were lining up for the final ascent to Intipunku (“the Sun Gate”). The anticipation of what I would see, how I would feel, and all the emotions of having waited so long for this moment to arrive came rushing through my mind and body like a bolt of lightning. It was like a personal Pachacuti – an inner world transformation. The sky was starting to brighten up, signaling that the dawning of a new day was coming. We didn’t need flashlights anymore.
Our group congregated at the final checkpoint, and then we walked together through the final stretch of cloud forest and up the final flight of 50 steps leading to the final pass at Intipunku (“Sun Gate”). We passed through the stone gate, and we stood facing a cloud covered scene before us with a barely perceptible peak of Wayna Picchu Mountain above the clouds in the background.
Suddenly, the first rays of the sun beamed down on the ridge area where we expected to see Machu Picchu. And like a theatrical presentation about to begin, the beam of light signaled the start of the performance, and the clouds slowly rolled away like a curtain, revealing the Crystal City of Light.
It was about 7 AM when the first rays of the sun reached Machu Picchu. Hilbert, our guide, led us down to the end of the trail at a series of terraces, where we had a classic view of the entire city of Machu Picchu (“the Old Mountain”). It seemed to belong to an ancient age and time when the seekers of wisdom and light made their pilgrimage to this sacred mountain.
It took a while for the realization to sink in that we had finally arrived at the place we had dreamt of for such a long time. And then, like a bulb of light going off in the mind, the epiphany arrived and revealed the Crystal City of Light in all of its brilliant glory: “the Old Peak” (Machu Picchu) and “the Young Peak” (Wayna Picchu) were the polar opposites, the duality within which all opposites (masculine and feminine, left and right, up and down) existed in a complementary (symmetrical) way; the sacred Urubamba River encircled the sacred peaks like the cosmic serpent encircling the cosmic egg; embedded in the natural formation of the young peak was a gigantic puma, and spreading its wings across the ridges of both peaks was the celestial condor; and at the center of the saddle between the two peaks was the “Old Bird” (Machu Picchu’s ancient sacred name). This was the sacred place that emerged from the womb of Pachamama at the dawn of space/time; this was the sacred place where the three worlds of the snake, the puma, and the condor coexisted. This was the sacred place of Chakana: Ukhu Pacha (the underworld, where the water of the river, the ancestral spirits, and the serpentine energy moved); Kay Pacha (the present world, where the strength and power of the puma moved in Nature and in all of its living creatures); and Hanan Pacha (the upper world, where the flight of the soul upon the wings of the condor went between heaven and earth). All this was Pachamama.
And we were part of the whole scene that day. I felt a heightened sense of awareness as we assembled as a group to take a picture of us and the classic view of the city of Machu Picchu. The sun was shining bright on our faces, and the clouds had almost all dispersed. We had helped each other make it to the end of the Inka Trail. We were a team of eleven hikers who had gathered together from different parts of the world to undertake a special journey – for me, a pilgrimage – on the marvelous trail that led over mountain passes, around terraces and ruins, through tunnels, and finally to the grand mountain and city of Machu Picchu.
“Before I tell you about the special sacred cross that’s here, I want to tell you a little bit of history,” said Hilbert, as we looked at him and at Machu Picchu in the background. “The great Inka Pachacuti built this sacred city for himself as a palace and retreat, and also he built it for the Inca people as a religious center where they could come to learn about the Inca religion, about the three worlds, the Apus (mountain spirits), Pachamama (mother earth), and the Milky Way (Mayu) in the sky. It was like a royal city and a university. Pachacuti wanted to bring the Golden Age to the Inca civilization, to enlighten the people. So all the symbols of the religion were built here: the Temple of the Sun, the Temple of the Condor, the Temple of Pachamama, the Temple of the Three Windows, the Intihautana, and other sacred places. . . .
“And now, I will show you the special sacred cross of Machu Picchu. Remember, I showed you the other cross of the Sacred Mountains and the four directions. I will draw it for you on the ground. Here is Veronica in the east, Pumasillo in the west, Machu Picchu Mountain in the north, and Cusco in the south. Now watch closely as I draw this special sacred cross of Machu Picchu. Here is Veronica in the east and Pumasillo in the west, but now we have Wayna Picchu Mountain, the young mountain, in the north, and here we have Machu Picchu Mountain, the old mountain, in the south. And right at the sacred center you have Machu Picchu city. We are standing right at the sacred center.
“And that, my friends, is the end of my lesson. Now we will go down to the city, and I will show you a few special places, and then you’ll be on your own to explore.”