September 1st, 2015. I can hardly contain my excitement. Today is the day that I see Machu Picchu! I wake up at 4:00 am to get ready to set out around 4:30 so I can see it at sunrise after a short hike through the dark. As I try to get my things out of my dorm locker, I forget to remember that the locker itself is a light weight aluminum and I accidentally pull the whole set of lockers off the wall. As I immediately let go once I realize this, the entire thing crashes against the wall to which I’m pretty sure I woke up everyone in my dorm room. Oops, sorry folks. My bad!
I head downstairs to get pancakes for breakfast. Yes, Pancakes! A taste of home far away. Though, once I look around all I see are bread rolls, butter and jam. I ask the hostel worker, “Donde esta el pancakes?” to which he points at the rolls. Disappointed yes, but nothing could stop my excitement of seeing a wonder of the world! Before I set out I hear a couple of other hostel guests speaking to each other in English. Because it was pitch black out and the directions to the Machu Picchu trail weren’t rather clear, I ask them if I could join them. These 2 young people, who I thought at first were a couple, from California more than happily lets me in. Also, for confidentiality purposes I’m just going to leave their real names out of this and later you’ll understand why if you haven’t gotten the hint already.
We embark on the dark trail out of Aguas Calientes across a bridge and up the humid mountains before Machu Picchu. Not only is it humid, this trail goes straight up. I’m talking a full blown stair master hike here. We don’t stop, we just power through because once you stop it’s that much harder to keep going. Also worth noting is that everyone was getting eaten alive by some little annoying bug. After the whole experience, some peoples legs were just covered. I guess I didn’t taste as good, though I had bite marks to last me for a few weeks. Being a brand new explorer of course occasional thoughts of some jungle disease creep in your head, but heck with it, I have no insurance anyways so what does it matter.
After about 2 hours we summit to the base before the entrance to Machu Picchu!… to which there’s a massive line of people waiting to get let in. After about a 10 minute wait we all walk in. The Californians and myself decide that we’ll stick together and help each other with pictures. We walk in and… Machu Picchu is barely visible. There’s cloud cover almost everywhere. I could tell the clouds were rapidly moving and would possibly lift through the day as it warmed up. So as this is happening we decide that we will walk up to the sun gate together to pass some time. The couple told me prior that there were some pictures they specifically wanted to take at Machu Picchu. About half way up to the sun gate the male of the couple says that this is the perfect place for his pictures and asks if I can watch the trail for them…
If you haven’t already figured it out, this young man starts to strip down completely. He stands on top of this rock and his friend snaps some pictures as I have no choice but to watch the trail up and down in hopes I don’t get in trouble being part of what they’re doing. After he’s done, she decides to do the same thing. “How do I end up with these people? They’re both butt naked on top of Machu Picchu!” I’m wondering… Once she was done they ask me if I wanted to do the same. I respectfully decline, stating that whenever I usually do something stupid I’m the one who gets caught.
Not even a minute after explaining this to them, I hear a whistle from far away. I turn around and see a man with a red coat on far away, sprinting up the trail, blowing his whistle and yelling. I knew what was coming. When this man gets to us, not to my surprise he’s a park official, he starts yelling at all of us. I’m thinking in my head, “I’ve not even been here for 10 minutes and this guy is trying to kick me out? Hell no!” He tells us all in Spanish that we have to leave. I also hear him say something to the effect of, “NO REMOVA LA ROPA AT MACHU PICCHU!” Ropa is clothes if you didn’t know.
The Californians look really scared. I’m kind of laughing because I’m just happy for once I’m not the one to do something stupid. I’m also wishing in this moment I knew better Spanish so I could help these 2 young people not get in as much trouble as I was fearing they may have just gotten into. The official points to our cameras to see if we have any naked pictures. After I show him mine, I say gracias and start to walk away which he was NOT having. After a little bit of arguing another official comes down and simply asks me if we are all together. The Californians and I say no and we part ways. I continue into the park, they get escorted out, and I’m thinking more about them the rest of the day rather than this beautiful place I’m in.
I already realize that my Machu Picchu experience is better than what most people will ever get. Sure, there’d be some bragging rights to say I got kicked out for being naked, but for 1. getting naked in public isn’t something I ever partake in and 2. I knew it was a sacred place and didn’t want to out of respect. Though thinking back, I’m sure the people that lived there may have been plenty naked during their time there. Anyways, I walk around, take a bunch of pictures, think about how my 2 Californian friends are doing, take more pictures, find some llamas, explore the ruins, think about my friends, more pictures, and just decide to relax. I find a nice spot to take it all in.
“Every day has been new, different and has a unique story to it. This trip hasn’t even been a week yet. Already it’s quite something. Sign of things to come? Probably. I seem to attract the most random craziness life has to offer, yet I don’t wonder why. I left my job, my love, my friends, and everyone to travel for God knows how long. No worries about getting a job either, well a little. Anyways, a random crazy life encounters random crazy things. Yet, this is what I need to do to settle down and move too. Well Machu Picchu, I’ll miss you. To my Californian friends: I hope you’re not deported or behind bars.”
After leaving Machu Picchu, which truly is an amazing beautiful place, and returning to my hostel, I wait for hours to hear if anyone has any news on my friends. Finally, they return. I give them a huge hug and of course ask what happened. Turns out the officials interrogated them for about an hour and a half, and were threatening calls to the embassy, deportation, etc… After they did a lot of apologizing, the officials decided to let them back into the park to do their hikes but with a very stern warning. Ha, lucky kids. I was happy to see them back safely and to hear they still got their experience in.
So yea, just something in mind for any of you curious about getting naked at Machu Picchu. I guess it’s a semi common occurrence too. Of course when I’m there not only does it have to be a couple of American’s but it also has to be a couple of kids from Cali. Not surprising when you think about it.
Next chapter of my trip. The highest lake in the world, Lake Titicaca. The beautiful sights just keep on coming.