Machu Picchu, the Doctor, and Me

by Anevay Darlington / Nov 02, 2013 /

I walked along the worn stone path, taking in the sights of Machu Picchu - one of the Seven Wonders of the World, where the Incas once lived. Machu Picchu, meaning “Old Peak” in Quechua, was built around 1450. Many people believe Machu Picchu may have been an estate for the Incan ruler Pachacuti, but nobody really knows for sure. I can’t even begin to understand how it might have been to live here back then, with such an incredible view of the beautiful and scenic mountains…and such delicious traditional food, such as quinoa soup filled with many mysterious and delicious spices, and cuy (guinea pig), which I ate and thought was pretty good!

Machu Picchu

The scene in front of me was magical - full of birds flying with the mountains beside them, the cold wind rushing past my face, the clicks of cameras, and the sense of never wanting to leave this place. As I stood there on one of the many terraces of Machu Picchu, I thought of what it might have taken to build it. It must have been tough work, to say the least, the lifting of very heavy objects, the steepness of some areas; it would have been very easy in that time with no walls to lose your footing and fall down, down, down. The Incas also didn’t have the wheel, so it’s really amazing that they were able to build Machu Picchu without it. 

I stood there taking pictures like most of the other tourists, not wanting to forget what I was experiencing (even though it was very unlikely that I would forget the memories). The height of Machu Picchu was unbelievable and scary, at a level of 7,790 feet above sea-level. Standing on the terrace, I felt as if I was going to fall onto the next one - and then, like a slinky, travel down the many terraces one by one. I decided to get away from the possibility of falling to my death, which wasn’t my idea of fun at the moment.

I walked up to the place where people took the most iconic pictures of Machu Picchu. I took a quick pic, and left. I didn’t want to be eaten up by the angry glares of fellow tourists who were waiting for their turn (because I was taking too long). Everybody wanted to take pictures from that spot, as it had a perfect view of the main ruins of Machu Picchu.

So far I had escaped two possible deaths of mine, the first from falling to my death, and the second from evil glares. I started to wander through the labyrinth of Machu Picchu, which was made up of many walls, doorways, and steps. I then came to a room with a window, which was worn down, like all the surfaces of Machu Picchu, from the many hands that had brushed their surfaces.  I looked out of the window and saw mountains. It made for a wonderful picture: 

Machu Picchu

As I stared out the window in a dream-like state of amazement, I heard a noise. A familiar noise. A noise that I only heard from my dreams and the TV. It was the unique and beautiful sound of the Tardis (Time and Relative Dimensions in Space) from Doctor Who. The blissful noise made me turn my head slowly. I was shocked to see standing there, in the doorway of the Tardis, the one and only David Tennant, aka the Doctor.

TARDIS

The Mark 2 fibreglass (Tom Yardley-Jones) Tardis as used in the 1980s – photo Wikimedia Commons: Zir

“Hello!” he said in the voice that I had grown to know so well.

“Hi,” I replied, my voice weak and so unlike itself.

He gave me one of his classic, toothy grins and replied with a quick and familiar, “Come on!”

I followed… of course. I had dreamed of flying away in the Tardis, but had never expected it to come true. I entered through the familiar blue door and closed it behind me.

I gasped when I saw the inside, but didn’t say the standard line, “It’s bigger in the inside.” I was too speechless.

“Where do you want to go?” he asked, smiling at me.

“Umm...”

“OK I’ll choose. It’ll be a surprise,” he said, laughing a little bit at my lack of speech.

“Umm… sure.” I was making a fool of myself, I see that now. But what was I supposed to say when in the space of a few minutes I discovered that there was a Doctor (and the attendant time travel, aliens, Doctor’s companions, parallel worlds, Torchwood, and SO MUCH MORE!). It was a little overwhelming.

“Off we go!”

We stepped out of the Tardis a little ways away from the main sights of Machu Picchu. We walked a bit among the grass, dirt, and the mountains surrounding us, with the awed feeling that we were in a different time for me, but in the same place as before, with the smell of crisp mountain air, and the taste of last night’s quinoa soup still in my mouth. Then we were met with the sight of Incas placing stones atop other stones to make Machu Picchu. They wore coarse woolen clothing, and they looked very tired.

Nobody knows how the Incas brought the stones up to Machu Picchu; it’s a mystery. Something that I find really interesting is that the stones of Machu Picchu were put together perfectly, without anything sticking them together - it’s impossible to fit a credit card in between the stones as well. Crazy!

“Uh...” Yup, I didn’t make it to an umm. I was that speechless.

“You’re looking at the making of one of the coolest places on Earth,” the Doctor said, smiling.

“Wow!” (I was making my first steps toward saying something more than umm!)

I looked around at the majestic mountains surrounding us. So many things had happened in five minutes. I had met the Doctor and traveled back in time to the 1450s… Well, maybe it hadn’t been five minutes after all! In fact, it had been more like 563 years. I looked at the thousands of people swarming the mountain like ants, working to make one of the most famous places in the world.

“Ready for another adventure?”

“Where to?”

“A different time,” he answered seriously.

“Very poetic.”

“Thank you.”

We walked back into the Tardis and, with a few twists of some familiar buttons, went on our way.

“We’re here!”

“Where?”

“A time of great discovery,” he answered.

I opened the door and found myself face to face with Hiram Bingham III, the man who rediscovered Machu Picchu on July 24th, 1911.

Hiram Bingham III at his tent door near Machu Picchu

Hiram Bingham III at his tent door near Machu Picchu. Photo: Public Domain

“Where did you come from?” he said, surprised at the sudden appearance of a blue box and two strangers.

“Umm...” I said.

“It’s complicated,” the Doctor stated simply.

I stared at the man who had made history. Well, maybe that’s supposed to be in present tense. He was making history as we watched. I had always heard of Hiram - he was an academic, explorer, treasure hunter, and politician from the United States, as Wikipedia puts him.

Hiram Bingham III

Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division: LC-H25- 12847-BA

Hiram had been given a guide to Machu Picchu by the locals living near Machu Picchu who were using the terraces for agricultural purposes (the terraces had been made for this purpose). The guide was an 11 year old boy named Pablito Alvarez, who brought him out from the jungle and into the clearing of Machu Picchu where they were met with big white granite walls. These walls today are called The Temple of the Three Windows, which represent the different parts of the world: the underworld (Uku-Pacha), the heavens (Hanan-Pacha), and the present time (Kay-Pacha). Not only were Pablito and Hiram met by the windows, but they were met by us that day, as well!

“Umm,” I said, still blown away by, well, everything. The Doctor looked at me and shook his head as if he was thinking, “Really, that’s what you say at a time like this?”

“Well… We’d best be on our way,” said Hiram, obviously uncomfortable with the silence surrounding the four of us.

Hiram Bingham at Machu Picchu Ruins, 1911

View of Hiram Bingham III standing atop ruins at Machu Picchu in Peru. Hand-colored glass slide, from original image by Harry Ward Foote. Foote was a Yale Ph.B. (1895) and Ph.D. (1898), who was a professor of chemistry at Yale College, and served as the expedition collector and naturalist on Bingham's expeditions to Peru. Yale Peruvian Expedition Papers, Yale University Manuscripts & Archives Digital Images Database, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut.

“Nice to meet you,” I said, shaking his hand. He walked off quickly, not even turning his head for another look at us.

“Home?” The Doctor asked; I didn’t respond to his question. I wanted to continue traveling with him, but there are so many things I wasn’t ready to leave. Well, the Tardis can travel anywhere in time and space, but things aren’t exactly easy with the Doctor - there is always someone or something that needs to be saved or is in the way. Also, remember I was 11 at the time, and not really thinking straight. I should have gone with the Doctor.

“Home,” I agreed.

Before we left, I looked around at the mountains. It was weird to think that I had seen those same mountains three times, but in different centuries.

Machu Picchu

I stepped out of the Tardis at Machu Picchu, but this time in the 21st century. Nothing much had changed, except in the history books, it now mentioned a blue box and two strange people.

“Well… I guess this is it then,” said the Doctor.

“Yup.”

“See you,” he said, and then walked into the Tardis. The unique sound started up, and then the blue box faded, and I wondered where the Doctor would go next.

I turned away from the spot where the Tardis had faded (after standing there for about 10 minutes, just to see if he would come back) and continued taking pictures of Machu Picchu, but now seeing it in a completely new way. I looked down at some stairs and immediately thought that at one point, those stairs weren’t there, until the Incas had built them; and that Hiram had once walked these same stairs, probably thinking the same question I had asked in the beginning of my trip to Machu Picchu - “What would it have been like to build this?

It’s still a question neither of us can/could understand, with or without the Tardis.

 

 

Anevay Darlington is a member of the Youth Travel Blogging Mentorship Program

 

All photos courtesy and copyright Anevay Darlington, except where noted

 

 

 

 

 

 

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