Machu Picchu, Peru: A spiritual experienceTwo Hudson couples hiked the beautiful and challenging Inca Trail that leads to the ruins of the ancient, sacred city of Machu Picchu in September.
By: Randy Hanson, Hudson Star-Observer
Two Hudson couples hiked the beautiful and challenging Inca Trail that leads to the ruins of the ancient, sacred city of Machu Picchu in September.
Jim and Judy Freund and Craig and Nancy Shirley were still in awe of the experience when they met at the Freund’s house Monday morning to look at pictures and talk to a reporter.
“Every corner was possibly the most beautiful view you had ever seen. And then you would go around the next corner and say, no this is,” related Craig Shirley, a retired Hudson dentist.
The Freunds and Shirleys were joined by seven other friends on the 10-day trip to Peru. They flew to the capital city of Lima at sea level, and then caught another flight to the city of Cusco, 10,000 feet above sea level in the Andes Mountains.
The group toured Cusco and the surrounding countryside for a couple of days to get adjusted to the altitude before beginning the 29-mile hike to Machu Picchu.
The trek along the ancient path used by the Inca people took four days.
“The journey was not for anyone who was a little wimpy,” Nancy Shirley said with a laugh. “It gave you an appreciation that this was a pilgrimage. You did have to sacrifice to get there.”
The group climbed 3,200 feet the second day, and camped at an elevation of 12,200 feet.
The third day, they crossed two high mountain passes, the first at 13,200 feet (2.5 miles) above sea level and the second at 12,200.
They camped next to uncovered Inca ruins the first night and were surprised to see many others along the trail.
Judy Freund said it was a humbling experience.
“I’m sure cultures think they are the epitome of civilization, and then you walk there, and you realize that centuries ago this civilization was so highly developed,” she said. “It really speaks to not losing all that wisdom. There’s just a lot of wisdom that is outside of our culture.”
A former teacher of gifted students in the River Falls district, Judy Freund now provides professional development for teachers, focusing on international education.
The pinnacle of the experience was reaching the ruins of Machu Picchu, a mountain top sacred city dating back to the early 1400s and earlier.
It stands 2,000 feet above Urubamba River and holds the remarkably preserved palaces, temples, baths, storage rooms and some 150 houses.
Craig Shirley was taken by the ingenuity of the Inca people who carved notches in mountains to shine beams of sunlight that hit a sacred stone at precisely the spring and fall equinoxes. The Incas used the light beams to keep track of the seasons.
Many of the building blocks of their structures weigh 50 tons or more, and are sculpted and fitted together so tightly that a knife blade won’t fit in the seams.
Craig Shirley said the 18 Peruvian porters who carried their tents and gear reflected their Incan ancestors who lived at peace for hundreds of years before the arrival of the Spanish in 1533.
“They never stopped smiling, even when they were hauling 40 pounds along the trail,” he said.