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Machu Picchu on the Solstice

Ruins of Peru
Ruins of Peru
We didn't quite make the first bus, but as we stood in line we were in awe of a full moon and a glowing Venus shining framed in the sky by the black silhouettes of the mountains. It was one of the most magical moments I've ever experienced. As we rose, the sky lightened. We were on top of the mountain by 6:20 am, an hour before the sun would rise over the central peak on the east, casting a shadow on the sundial and a triangle shape on a flat rock just beyond it. Before that, it would shine through one of the windows in the temple of the sun. We were a bit too late to get in position to see this so we decided to head for the sun dial.

As I rushed to keep up with Edwin, I heard Dave yell; he had dislocated his knee cap. I ran to him and after being somewhat reassured, I went on to the sun dial. I was torn; this was most likely the only time in our lives we would see the sun cast its rays on this mystical site on the winter solstice, and tears came to my eyes. After a few minutes Edwin went down to see how Dave was doing. I followed some minutes later, feeling that Dave's welfare was more important than even this once-in-a-lifetime event. When I got to Dave, he already had a walking stick procured by Edwin. We moved to a rock where Dave could rest more comfortably. As we watched the sun rise, a falcon passed right overhead and perched on a high rock just behind us; another witness to the solstice. Edwin soon returned with an ace bandage.

After a while, with Dave's assurance, and seeing that the sun dial was not too crowded, I went up as well. We had missed the initial ray as it hit the stone, but we saw a triangle of light form on a lower stone. Edwin and I then returned to Dave. We all agreed it was best for Dave to move to the sheltered bench we had enjoyed the day before, and that we'd meet him in the lobby of the mountaintop hotel in two hours. I would climb the Inca Trail to the Sun Gate with Edwin. This I did at the greatest possible speed; we made the trip in 1.5 hours. We thought about climbing Huanu Picchu but there was a line for this climb because only 200 are allowed on this peak at one time, so we went in search of Dave, assuming that he was waiting in the hotel lobby.

We actually got there before Dave did; while sitting he had enjoyed conversations with various visitors, including James Arrivera, a striking figure with long hair, dressed in white. He is the author of a book about the site and gave Dave some post cards. We took the bus down the mountain. It being too early for lunch, we rested a while in the hotel lobby, where Edwin procured an ice pack for Dave's knee. After lunch we boarded the 1:30 train back to Ollantaytambo. On the way back, I became very teary, moved by the intensity of the experience Dave's injury, the winter solstice and the majesty of the mountains, exacerbated by lack of sleep the night before.

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