Monday, June 21, 2010
A Peruvian Pilgrimage
I just returned from an amazing 6 day hiking trip in Peru. The first 5 days involved high altitude hiking above 13,000 feet and the last day focused on a 4,500 foot descent on the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu.
Although the famous ruins at Machu Picchu was the goal of this trip, the journey to MP was equally stunning. We took in awesome views of Salcantay, a peak of 20,000+ feet and sacred to the Incas. We hiked down a scenic valley filled with Llamas, sheep, cattle and Andean dwellings. We hiked up and over Salcantay saddle which was 16,000 feet in elevation (the photo above is of me and a fellow hiker on the saddle--I'm the one in back).
This journey fit the classic definition of a pilgrimage: a sacred journey to a sacred place. In a pilgrimage, the journey is as important as the destination. Throughout this journey, I and my fellow trekkers expressed awe, wonder and gratitude at the magnificent beauty of Andean Peru. We were overwhelmed by the brilliant night sky and the stunning sunrises.
I learned that the Inca people believed that all aspects of creation were infused with sacredness: mountains, rocks, trees, stars and, of course, the sun. After walking in their footsteps, I can readily identify with this belief in the sacredness of all creation. We don't need to go on a Peruvian pilgrimage to experience the divinity of the natural world, but the value of a pilgrimage is that it takes us away from our normal routines and enables us to see things from a fresh perspective. I returned home deeply grateful for this wondrous journey.