A Soundscape Back in Time: Machu Picchu

It is hard to believe that over 400 years ago Incan men, women and children walked across the path that I am sitting on today. Surely the number of that visit the site and natural geologic occurrences have altered the landscape but a lot remains the same.

I hear the muffled sounds of the river flowing thousands of feet below where I sit resting and taking in this ancient place. After an incredible hike up Huaynapichu, or the “old mountain” this morning I feel rejuvenated. The waves and ripples echo through the mountains funneling the sounds towards me. The occasional footsteps of the people passing by me are come and go fading into the distance governed by the pace of their stride. The dry dirt and gravel scuffs briefly under their moving hiking shoes. The wind rustles the still green leaves of the slender trees nearby. The rustling is soft but definite, and comes and goes like the footsteps with the irregular wind.

Every 4 seconds a drop of water comes through a fracture in the rock face and lands into a collected puddle at the base. The sound echoes through the rock structure that surrounds me on three sides. I am also sitting cross legged behind a 2ft stone wall, leaning against my back pack that I have developed a love for on this day primarily due to the hip strap. My backpack is resting in the dry dusty dirt, I know it is collecting on the bottom of my bag but I don’t mind. A little dirt isn’t something I am worried about ever but especially not today. Today I feel more at one with nature than I have so far in my adventures in Peru.

This Morning we woke up and hiked a mountain, using stairs if you can call them that. With no guard rails it forced me to trust myself and the structures themselves. After signing in and signing what I think was a waiver we began our hike with a tradition of the Quechua people. We poured out the first sip of our drink onto the ground, a gift to Pacha Mama which translates to Nature’s Mother. We thanked her in Quechua by saying “Sulpikee”. Due to my fear of heights I threw in an extra prayer that she would hold of on any earthquakes, landslides or means of destruction to the mountain until after I was back down on solid ground. I am still not sure how but not at any point did I feel uneasy or in danger. There were moments when there was no room for error but I wasn’t as concerned as I thought I would be. I started the day on the bus praying that I could use this day and climbing experience to overcome my fear of heights. If I hadn’t known myself before that climb I would never have believed anyone who said I was afraid of heights. The group I was with and our prayers to Pacha Mama helped reassure me that everything would be ok and I was sure to thank everyone when I got back down safely

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As I sit cross legged behind this stone wall I am picturing myself carefully placing my feet on the rocks. I am picturing me watching the water pour from my bottle and hitting the solid ground that pushes up under my shoes. As I sit behind this wall the volume of sound is blocked. When I get up from this spot I move to the edge of the cliff and every sound becomes so much clearer. The river now sounds close, especially audible considering the distance between the waves and my ear. The flow changes as the water moves down the river. Pushing forcefully over the large boulders scattered throughout the river. Patterns in the water and land have changed over the the past 400 years but a lot; like the sounds of the silence and nature remains the same.


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