One of my first calls to adventures began in a cold, dark, brick building adjacent to the Catholic Church I attended. Performing with my classmates from a small private secular school, Discovery School, I was excited to have my first leading role, as Aldonza in Man of La Mancha. I felt the urgency build as my co-star stormed the worn carpet waving his hand in the air, “My name is Don Quixote, my destiny calls and I must go.” Watching the blanket of clouds scatter as the sunlight breaks through in Machu Picchu, I wonder if historian Hiram Bingham heard destiny call as he made his way through the thick jungles of Peru in 1911 hoping to find the ruins of Vilcabamba. As Bingham forged through the steep mountains and shrubbery he unexpectedly discovered what has recently been named a new Wonder of the World: Machu Picchu. On the last leg of our tour, my family and I find wonder in this spectacle and the nearby ruins of Pisac and Ollantaytambo. Climbing through the ruins I stop to catch my breath as I calm the swelling and pain beginning to form in my chest, but it doesn’t stop me from heading upwards. Don Quixote never let setbacks stop him from seeking his dreams, and neither will I.
Our first stop is in Pisac, a city famous for its beautiful sterling silver jewelry. When our bus reaches the top of the mountainside, the doors are open to tiered rows of grass where crops were once harvested. Corn was harvested in the lower row, so that the upper rows could be reserved for potatoes to be closer to the sunlight and the Incan Gods. Behind us in the mountains are rocks forming a cemetery where dead bodies are taken after three days for their final departure. Resourcefulness and symbolism can be found in the ruins of Ollantaytambo as well, where storage rooms for food and other supplies were built higher up in the mountains to avoid bugs. Although the carvings of Puma designs were destroyed long ago by Spanish conquistadors, I can only think of the strenuous work and strategic planning to create this landscape without advancements of technology. Someone else may think I see a mirage as the beauty of these ruins has faded and all that remains are stones with patches of grass. They must think I am as crazy as Don Quixote who imagines a windmill to be a four-armed giant, a rundown inn to be a castle, and a serving wench/prostitute Aldonza to be the lady Dulcinea he swears eternal loyalty to.
What doesn’t turn out to be an illusion is my early morning view of Machu Picchu the next day. Llamas roam and jump among the levels of the Agricultural Sector as my family and I wait for beams of sunlight to seep through the grey and white thick clouds covering the tall peaks of nearby mountains. Once morning has arrived, my family joins our tour group, walking from the Intihuatana through Residential and Industrial Sectors to the Temple of the Condor. Seeking shade near the stone walls in the Residential Sector, I take a moment to look upwards, and wonder what it must have looked like with a roof and a family inhabiting the home.
My sister and I decide to take our journey one step further by hiking to the Inca Drawbridge where we encounter numerous forest vegetation and steep cliffs I have to not let my curiosity encourage me to look down into. I imagine the drawbridge to have thickly woven rope railings with slats of wood tied together, and our arrival fails to fulfill my idealistic and romantic notions. Looking at the four slats of split trees, I begin to envision the delicate balance and precision of the people who once crossed it, making their way out of the mountains back home, or perhaps into the mountains and the unfamiliar. My journey to Peru has been a journey into the unfamiliar, and at times I daydreamed situations that ended up much differently in real life. Despite my obstacles, whether it be learning Spanish, or taking on unfamiliar tasks, I didn’t give up hope. Like Don Quixote I refused to listen to doubts as I pursued “The Impossible Dream.”
My school play ended as I, Dulcinea, sat cradling Don Quixote’s head in my lap. Even as he lay dying, he refused to stop believing he couldn’t achieve his dreams, no matter how impossible they seemed. While my dreams are still taking shape, the clouds of doubt are beginning to dissipate as the sunlight shines through. Like Aldonza, I never though much of my status or believed I could be valuable, but my unexpected journey to Peru has shown me just the opposite. At first I thought my lack of knowledge of computer programs or comprehension of Spanish would get me nowhere, but from my experience with Sustainable Fashion as an Innovation Fellow with Run by Rural, I begin to see how I can forge my path to help artisans of all kinds to continue to leave a permanent imprint on the world. It may have taken me time to forge my way through the thick jungles of uncertainty, but I made my way to somewhere with new possibilities. I may have been out to seek Vilcabamba, but instead I found Machu Picchu.
This post is a part of Weekend Wanderlust hosted by A Brit and A Southerner, A Southern Gypsy, Casual Travelers, Justin Plus Lauren, and Outbound Adventurer, Our World Tuesday, Practical Mondays hosted by The Practical Mom, and Monday Escapes hosted by Extraordinary Chaos, Tin Box Traveller, Travel Loving Family, and Mini Travellers.