The Magic of Machu Picchu

Katherine Lanpher was at a point in her life when an empty vacation week loomed as a threatening accusation instead of a giddy prospect. There was only one solution: a journey to the top of the world. Solo.

By Katherine Lanpher

The answer was on the top of the mountain. At least, that’s what I thought. I drank in the overview of the citadel city, its elegant stones shimmering in the sun, and when I was rested, I began my descent. I was feeling good, a little cocky even, as I swung on the rope banisters like a character out of The Jungle Book. At one point, there was a blessedly fl at plain of path and I charged onto it with relief—and that is when I fell, hard, on both knees and my right thumb, the pain so intense that I couldn’t right myself. I sat for a while, contemplating the fact that I had fallen on the only level portion of the path.

"This is so like me," I finally say out loud and laugh. If I had wanted to find a home truth on this trip, it would be this: It’s rarely the stuff you think will be hard that gets you. It’s the stuff that’s supposed to be easy. And I find, as I limp back down the mountain, that I am already crafting the stories I will tell about the llamas that blocked my path at Machu Picchu, about the Catalan woman who sells sweaters in Cuzco, about the orchids I saw at the tea plantation in the village of Machu Picchu.

On my next trip, I would like to see the Amazon. Solo.

Originally published in More magazine, December 2005 / January 2006.

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