Hello friend, how are you?
This postcard is going to reach you late. (Just blame the South American postal service and hope that it doesn’t take as long as it took for that care package mum sent me from Finland – I can’t believe I waited five months for a bloody cheese slicer.) Actually, I’ll probably arrive home before this card does. I’ve been doing the maths, adding up numbers like a diligent little first-grader since that is about the level of maths that has been required in order to complete my calculations. Let me just catch you up to speed:
About eight hours ago I woke up to a coughing fit that seemed to rattle my bones and the whole basis of the universe (miraculously, my roommate didn’t even stir). Although under usual circumstances waking up at 1 a.m. because your lungs are trying to emergency evacuate through your throat is very unfortunate, I was glad I did since otherwise I would have forgotten to enroll in the autumn courses. I’m enrolled in a Master’s Thesis seminar now. And to think back on the time working on my Bachelor’s felt like a Big Deal.
Exactly three years ago I met my long-term boyfriend for the first time. We’re broken up now, though. It’s almost a shame – spending an anniversary at freaking Machu Picchu would have made a hell of a day.
In two weeks, I will have been home for two days. Two nights slept in a new apartment high above the city, two sunsets that as North as Finland come deceivingly late this time of the year. Two weeks from now I will be re-starting in a job I swore I wouldn’t return to. But what can I say to defend myself? I am just another money-hungry millenial who really enjoys paying rent and eating three meals a day.
Now I know I took advanced mathematics in college, so numbers and I enjoy a certain mutual agreement between us that can’t quite be described as animosity, but these are the kind of numbers I’m not too fond of. Going home? Dwelling in the past? Stressing about future worries that have not even happened yet? Please unsubscribe me from that list. I don’t go seeking to feel sad before my time; it’s just that I tend to notice last things and with them realise just how little time I have left.
I am happy to be seeing Machu Picchu this late on my trip, though. It is a highlight I’ve been building towards, an end to a road that I have literally been walking on with just that one goal in mind (don’t worry, I did not just haphazardly toss that ‘literally’ in that sentence; I hiked the Salkantay trek, so I have actually been walking towards Machu Picchu for four days. And did I mention the part where I carried my backpack all the way up the hundreds of steps to the entrance? Yeah, I also really like guides who know where luggage storage is located). Even though I arrive to the top of the mountain pissed off, drenched in sweat and sleep-deprived, I find all that slowly dissolving as I depart from my beloved but painstakingly slow group and make the way up the mountain by myself. I spend the first hours just staring at the complex from different angles. All my negative feelings from before seem to be as far away as if I’d hopped on a plane to Europe to escape them.
Some people in my Salkantay group were worried that Machu Picchu might not live up to the expectations. After all, all of us already knew what it looked like from the kazillion pictures on Instagram, our travel friends’ photos and the postcards sold all over Cusco that look like they were designed by someone’s dad who’s just learning how to open his e-mails. I didn’t really doubt for a second. I have travelled far and wide and seen a lot of miracles, both manmade and natural, and every time the fact that i’m standing here looking at this famous thing holy shit hits me hard and makes me dizzy and happy. These ancient constructs that I chase around the world are like celebrities to me; I get star-struck.
On my way to the Sun Gate, I ran into another member of our trekking group who’d gone rogue, an English guy with a pineapple hat so ridiculous it was cool and more trekking in his boots from the past year than I had probably ever done. We sat up there in the sunshine, talking idly of the planes we’d almost missed and the kind of sports we used to do as kids, and the conversation flowed slowly but effortlessly. All the while we kept lazy watch over the complex, as if after five hundred years of standing still it might just uproot itself and sneak off if we let our eyes off of it. I remember thinking that I probably didn’t make as many friends this summer as I had thought I would. Then I thought, friends? Travel friendships can be such shallow, boring business. I didn’t want to hear another route plan or a light-hearted national stereotype which is what we result to when we try to be friends with everyone but have nothing in common. Maybe the few friends I ended up making were enough, after all, because they were worth it.
Machu Picchu is notorious for its smothering crowds, but up there at the Sun Gate with the tour groups long gone, I found temporary peace. People down, down there were so far it was easy to imagine they weren’t even there. But I was, ancient stone as my nonceremonious seat and munching on Oreos, and man, I never wanted to go down that mountain.
To end this card, I’m afraid I’m going to have to apologise for my erratic writing. I don’t believe there was much of a clear trail of thought here, and definitely no deeper truth or a lesson to be learned. But you know what, it is not something I’m about to beat myself over for; there is a storm brewing up in my mind (that sounds very dramatic, I know, but what do you expect when all everyone’s been talking about for a month is Game of Thrones?) and it is a hurricane mixture of all kinds of feelings between the joy of coming home and the desperation to just stay on the road no matter what.
I’m glad I’ve been there. Can’t wait to see you now though.