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Our "Summer" Travels To South America, Part 18

Our intrepid traveler's three-month journey on a cruise ship: Getting ready to travel to Machu Picchu

By Armando F. Sanchez, Contributing Writer
Published on LatinoLA: March 29, 2013

Our "Summer" Travels To South America, Part 18

So why spend so much resources, time and energy to travel and visit Inca ruins on top of some distant mountains in Peru for only three brief hours? Machu Picchu is thousands of miles away from home. What drives one to come and visit them?

One is exposed to foreign lands, unfamiliar territories, possible foreign illnesses, and safety of home for what? What does one seek by leaving the comforts, familiarity, family and friends at home?

As I am writing this article I can hear a presentation in the next area in French. It's a group of around 30 persons and I can make it out that they are talking about pre-Columbian history of Mexico and So. America.

Are we like salmon driven to leave the familiarity of our birthplace to enter and travel the oceans?

Are we running away from the familiar or are we seeking something part of ourselves as we travel? Do we do these trips for bragging rights or are we seeking something within ourselves and walk around the world looking for "it"?

I realize I offer many questions and provide few answers.

We have now been traveling through South America for 40 days and tomorrow we begin our travels to Machu Picchu. We will leave the familiarity and safety of the ship for four days. We will begin our travel into the interior of Peru by bus, plane, train and walking in order to visit ruins on top of the high Andes mountains.

We will be provided and invited to chew on raw coca leaves (the basis of cocaine) to help us adapt to the thin air and altitude of the mountains where the ruins are. One is not required to take them and they are not illegal. Of course I will chew them even though I don't think I'll need them. Two years ago we traveled and climbed the pyramids in Teotihuacan in central Mexico and did quite well with the thin air in these high altitudes. Yet, I do remind myself, our trip to Mexico was two years ago and I am aging. It's not that I focus on my finite life but rather I wish to focus on my sense of insatiable curiosity to see and experience as much of the world as I possible can.

As I look out of the side of the ship and all I see is ocean in all directions I begin to understand that we have labeled the oceans with names (Pacific, Atlantic, etc.) but in reality all the oceans are interconnected and are one. The land on Earth does not divide the oceans. It's the other way around since the oceans dominate the planet. We must also remind ourselves that time past is not over there and we are now in the present. They are interconnected by time and space. We use terms like "here and there" or "in the past and the present". Yet as we see pictures of Earth from space we gain a new perspective. It's all happening, past and present, in the same place. Let me share what I am getting at.

Machu Picchu is not a place way over there that represents ruins of a civilization that was once there. The questions about the meaning of life and how each of us fit in that order is still with us. The builders of these ruins are still with us today. Their dreams and doubts are still in us today regardless if we think about them or not. We are still thinking as we reflect on our own lives of our own place and meaning in the universe.

It may seem like we are in a different ocean but in fact they are one on this planet. We may think that we are divided by past and present but in fact they are all the same. The Incas made buildings to represent how they understood the world and perhaps we expend a great deal of energy and time to see if we can make sense of our own lives. As for me, I am hopeful that their understanding of life through their civilization and symbols can help we understand my own journey on this planet.

I want to remember that the world is not a collection of separate parts. This ocean and that ocean. This part of the world versus that part of the world. This period of time versus that ancient period of time. I think it is false to think in terms of divisions. Rather, I sense clarity in thinking about how everything is connected rather than being decided by time and space. It's all part of this planet and all the parts are connected and one. The present, regardless on what part of the world one stands on, is all the same. And the present is the child of the past. It's all One Unit!

For me the travel to Machu Picchu is part of the larger overall experiences of travels to try to make sense and come to terms and understand how others in the past have responded to the question that touches me as to "why am I here?"

As we begin our trek to the Inca ruins I go with the purpose to get close to what the Incas thought about ourselves and the heavens and thus have a clearer understanding to this great mystery call LIFE. Exploring the life of others who have lived before us is an attempt to explore ourselves and our time and place in the universe.

We begin our journey to the highlands of Peru for tomorrow.

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