Taking a walk into a fantasy

PERSONAL JOURNEYS

February 09, 2003|By Special to the Sun

A Memorable Place

City of the Incas rises from the clouds

By Brian Andrews

SPECIAL TO THE SUN

At 5 o'clock on a dark, chilly morning in the Peruvian Andes, I woke to a symphony of raindrops on my tent. My tour group had completed a 25-mile, four-day trek through the mountains, and another few miles this morning would find us at journey's end -- Machu Picchu -- the legendary city of the Incas that I had aspired to see my entire life.

I threw on my poncho and stumbled out into the darkness. The rain was coming down steadily, and in the distance, phantom outlines of surrounding mountains were materializing through the mist. I walked toward the golden glow of our breakfast tent.

Half an hour later, we were scrambling across slick rocks and dodging low-hanging branches, our flashlights on our heads, peeking out of soaked ponchos. If we kept pace, we would be the first group to Machu Picchu that day.

When I stopped to catch my breath, I realized that, in my haste, I had darted ahead and lost my companions. The rain continued, gathering on the tips of leaves and falling into immense puddles on the trail. I was filled with gratitude for the experience, but for years, I had held a clear picture of how this morning was to play out, and it did not include rain. I slipped the flashlight off my head, shoved it into my bag and shot off into the drenched greenery.

At 7 a.m. I came to a set of stone stairs that ascended into the sky. The climb was treacherous. At the top, I walked through the ruins of Intipunku, the "Sun Gate," the first point on the trail from which Machu Picchu is visible. Unfortunately, an immense fog sat on the mountain below, concealing the city I had come so far to see.

I continued on, frustrated and excited, energetic and exhausted. Soon, the mist cleared and I saw a tiny cloud hanging over a ridge that jutted out from the mountain. I sat and took off my hood, unaware that the rain had stopped. As if by magic, the cloud lifted and there, in a stony bald patch on the green ridge, sat Machu Picchu. I was unsure how long I had been sitting entranced when my group arrived. Joining them, I noticed the sky brightening. I felt something wonderful coming.

We stood on a large rock as the sun peeked over Intipunku, shooting streams of gold through the mist and throwing a rainbow into the middle of the city. Our guide said that in more than 330 visits to the site, he had only seen one other rainbow. Perhaps it was a sign. At the very least, it reminded me to open my eyes to a world that is more surprising and infinitely more beautiful than we often realize.

Brian Andrews lives in Elkridge.

My Best Shot

Taking a walk into a fantasy

Marsha Satisky-Gamerman,

Baltimore

Last fall, my family and I had the wonderful experience of visiting Grounds for Sculpture, a 22-acre sculpture garden and park located two and half hours from Baltimore in Hamilton, N.J. With more than 160 outdoor sculptures, the park provides a treat for all the senses. It's an imaginative place, and feels almost like walking into a fantasy. I photographed this sculpture as we strolled around the park. We encountered something new at every turn.

Readers Recommend

Rhyolite, Nev.

Larry Ey, Bel Air A most unusual outdoor museum is located in the Nevada desert, near the ghost town of Rhyolite. Abandoned in 1919, the town fascinated a group of artists, including Belgian Albert Szukalski. Together they created seven outdoor sculptures -- one of them is this interpretation of Leonardo da Vinci's painting The Last Supper.

Santa Barbara, Calif.

Pat Messick, Ruxton

Although there is an elevator leading to the top of the courthouse in Santa Barbara, my husband and I climbed the stairs to get the magnificent, panoramic view of the city. We enjoyed an afternoon strolling the streets of downtown, and had a wonderful lunch at a sidewalk cafe. This is one of the many beautiful places we remember from our 18,000-mile trip across the United States.

Let Us Hear From You

We want to know about your travels, your experiences, your pictures. Here's how to participate in this page:

* My Best Shot -- Send us a terrific travel photo with a description of when and where you took it. (Cash value: $50.)

* A Memorable Place -- In 500 words or less, tell us about a travel experience that changed you, about the nostalgia a certain place evokes, about the power of a favorite beach, the mountains, a city cafe. (Cash value: $150.)

* Readers Recommend -- Briefly tell us about places you've recently visited that you'd recommend to other readers. (50 words or less; photos are welcome.)

Because of the volume of responses, photos and manuscripts cannot be individually acknowledged or returned. Submissions from all categories may be used for Readers Recommend, and upon submission become the property of The Sun.

Send by fax to 410-783-2519, or write to: Travel Department, The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore, MD 21278, or e-mail to Travel@baltsun.com. Be sure to include your name and phone number.

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