Travel Quote Tuesday | Machu Picchu

“It’s an irritating reality that many places and events defy description. Angkor Wat and Machu Picchu, for instance, seem to demand silence, like a love affair you can never talk about. For a while after, you fumble for words, trying vainly to assemble a private narrative, an explanation, a comfortable way to frame where you’ve been and what’s happened. In the end, you’re just happy you were there- with your eyes open- and lived to see it.” ~ Anthony Bourdain

One of my strongest childhood travel memories is our family trip to Peru in 1987, during which I visited Machu Picchu for the first time. By some wonderful chance of fate, tourism to the magnificent site was almost non-existent when we were there, so we shared the extensive site with what felt like only a scattering of fellow tourists. We stayed at the small and simple Hotel Turista (long since replaced with a luxury lodge and huge tourist restaurant), at the top of the winding switchback road up to Machu Picchu, just a few short paces to the ruins themselves. Aged 15, I was thrilled to be allowed to explore on my own, clambering around the site with my precious SLR camera.

I loved picturing in my mind the city as it must have been in its heyday, after it was constructed as an estate for Pachacuti, the Inca emperor from 1438 to 1472. It’s hard to imagine the sheer scale of effort needed to build this mountain-top city, deep in the mountains and forest.

Historians believe it was abandoned only a century or so after it was built – the Spanish conquest in 1532 introduced Smallpox which killed huge numbers of the native population, and although there’s no evidence that the conquistadors ever discovered Peru, the disease may still have reached it via travelling Inca.

One day, I must try and find the film negatives from that trip!

My second trip to Machu Picchu was in 2005 – I wanted Pete to see the beautiful sites of Peru. Our main trip was a wildlife-focused one to the Galapagos, but it’s such a long way from London to anywhere in South America that it made total sense to add Peru to the itinerary – that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it!

I was worried that Machu Picchu might not live up to my memories, not least because the volume of tourists would be so very much higher. Certainly, on a visual level, a little of the magic of the site was diminished by all the people, tricky to exclude from photographs taken from most of the key viewpoints, not to mention the pedestrian traffic jams when traversing popular pathways and stairs. But I still found the site breathtaking, and loved being able to share it with Pete.

Angkor Wat is still on my ever-growing wishlist, as are many of the world’s most amazing places… the Great Wall of China, Chichen Itza, and so many more.

Which place does this quote put in mind for you, and which places do you still dream of visiting?

Machu Picchu - “It’s an irritating reality that many places and events defy description. Angkor Wat and Machu Picchu, for instance, seem to demand silence, like a love affair you can never talk about. For a while after, you fumble for words, trying vainly to assemble a private narrative, an explanation, a comfortable way to frame where you’ve been and what’s happened. In the end, you’re just happy you were there- with your eyes open- and lived to see it.” Anthony Bourdain

This photo was taken on our 2005 trip to Peru, in the first few years after I switched from my film SLR to a digital one, making it far easier for me to find and browse through my photos from the trip and choose one to share!

More Kavey Eats Travel Quotes.

You are welcome to save or share via Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. Please do not alter the image or crop out the attribution text.

Please leave a comment - I love hearing from you!
36 Comments to "Travel Quote Tuesday | Machu Picchu"

  1. Eva

    I have just returned from Angkor Wat and I do agree. All the time I was there I was awed by the civilization that built all of that. As an Italian I tend to always take for granted the marvelous testimonies of ancient civilization that my country still displays. It’s not like you don’t appreciate it, but you get used to it in a way, living side by side with such monuments. Then tourists arrive and they’re in awe, and they seem to see something that you hardly pay attention to. Visiting Angkor Wat gave me back that feeling. That feeling of marvel at what we as humans have been able to accomplish over our time on this planet. The grandeur of the past, the architectural development, the will to leave something meaningful behind. It was a feeling I will never forget.

    Reply
    kaveyeats

    I think it’s true that it’s easier to take for granted those things in your own locality, as you see them more often and almost become immune to how amazing they are! Angkor Wat is somewhere I’d still love to visit.

    Reply
  2. Soumya Gayatri

    I truly love how you start this piece with Anthony Bourdain. And then I am like “Oh my God, she went to Peru in 1987 and then again in 2005!!!” I haven’t been there even once and I am dying to go. I have pictured the heydays Machu Picchu like a hundred times in my mind. So you can imagine how much this post means to me. I can almost see Machu Picchu through your eyes. Thanks for sharing this.

    Reply
  3. Sreekar

    I too agree. Some places really defy description. Some on my list that fir the definition are Hampi, Taj, Angkor Wat, and Petra. And so many more I’m sure in the big wide world!

    Reply
    kaveyeats

    I would agree about both the Taj and Petra, stunning in such different ways. The others are still on my wishlist!

    Reply
  4. Jen Morrow

    What an amazing experience to visit Machu Picchu multiple times. That must have been an incredible adventure as a 15year old traveler, and no one around! I hope you find the old photos and post them.

    Reply
    kaveyeats

    It was formative for me, I think! Though I was already a huge travel lover by then as we travelled a lot during my childhood. Thanks, I’ll see if I can find them!

    Reply
  5. Hendrik

    This photo looks like a postcard to me. Something so beautiful that you want to send it home to family and friends to share such fantastic impressions with them. Machu Picchu always fascinated me. And yes, just to imagine what it took to build such a place somewhere up there in the mountains… for me somehow unimaginable. I hope to see this place one day also with my own eyes.

    Reply
    kaveyeats

    What a charming compliment, thank you. I also hope you are able to see it with your own eyes.

    Reply
  6. Jen

    I agree with Angkor Wat, but my experience mirrors your experience with Peru a bit. We visited over ten years ago, so the town itself was different. There were few tourists, fewer hotels. The restaurants were tiny and the I remember one little strip of bars where we sat in chair on the street. Most of us that were there had local guides to tell us the tales. Even then, it was rare to actually run into more than a handful of other groups of people while wandering around the temples. It stands out so much in my mind, but I’m apprehensive about going back. It’s nice to know though, that some things are so stunning, no matter what changes around it, they will still be as breathtaking as they ever were.

    Reply
    kaveyeats

    Yes, I think that somehow the sheer spectacle of the site, the imagination about what they must have been like in their hey day, the history and cultural significance, help to overcome a big crowd. It’s relative though, I think there’s a point when I can’t handle it!!

    Reply
  7. Daniel

    Machu Picchu has always been on the top of my bucket list. I have always wanted to visit and these quotes make me want to visit even more.

    Reply
  8. Annick

    How great to find another photo from your 2005 visit to Machu Pichu. I have yet to visit Machu Pichu but it’s one of the few places my mom is still in awe though she’s been several times. The power and beauty of this place is amazing.

    Reply
  9. Amar singh

    Wow such great memories of an equally great destination. I have Peru and South America in general as a bucket list place to visit and Manchu pichu would be on top. So much history and a wonder to visit. You are lucky to have visited it. Thanks for sharing your experience.

    Reply
  10. Yukti

    Peru in South America is always on my wishlist and I loved reading your post. I have read so much about Machu Pichhu that this trip is on my upcoming agenda. You have done Peru trip during childhood in 1987 is such a great memory, you had. I always love your traveling spirit since childhood.

    Reply
  11. Cynthia

    Some people prefer not to go back to a place they’ve visited before, but there are some spots I love to return to! Especially where there has been a stretch of time between visits, it’s so interesting to see how things have changed – either due to world events, economy, tourism, or even just how I myself have changed and what new perspective I am bringing to the visit now.

    Reply
    kaveyeats

    There are a couple of places I’ve consciously chosen not to go back to, but in most cases, when I love somewhere, I’m very happy to go back. Kyoto is a good example, we’ve been three times, the last visit for a week, and still I am yearning to go again!

    Reply
  12. Ani Spee

    We’ve never been there, but reaaaaally want to go! I mean, that’s one of the wonders of the world that’s just a must see for everyone! It’s really amazing that you had that experience when you were just 15, and remembered it so well. I can imagine the amounts of tourists has definitely increased!! I heard they are changing the way they do tourism there now, so that only a set amount of people can go up at a time! Love the image you posted with the quote, it’s just stunning!!

    Reply
    kaveyeats

    I’m so lucky and yes the memory is a particularly strong one. They have reduced the numbers permitted in each day, but it’s still much much higher than numbers during my first trip.

    Reply
  13. Sally - My Custard Pie

    Love this account of then and more recently. Lucky you to have visited twice. The view as you step out of the Siq in Petra in Jordan is one of the most breathtaking experiences I have been lucky enough to do twice. Beautiful country

    Reply
    kaveyeats

    Our visit to Petra was an incredible experience, not least because tourism to the country had virtually ceased when we visited, and while that was a tragedy for locals working in the tourist industry, for us, it meant sharing Petra with only a tiny number of fellow tourists. It was awe-inspiring, beautiful, other-wordly! I would love to go back and see the night-lanterns which I’ve seen featured in photographs.

    Reply
  14. Anna

    Both Macchu Picchu and Angkor Wat are super high on my wish list! Also the Great wall of china was one of those places that I will never ever forget.

    Reply
  15. Dominic

    We visited MP back in 2013 and tackled the Inca Trail. It was amazing but obviously full of bus loads of tourists. How awesome is it to see this site pre-popularity – must have been magical. Deffo find those negatives and send them around. The other places you mentioned are stunning as well. We preferred Angkor Wat over Chichen Itza – obviously explore both if you get the opp.

    Reply
  16. michele h peterson

    I was in Bolivia and tried to get to Machu Picchu by plane three times but we got turned back from Peru several times due to bad weather! I wish I’d tried again as it sounds amazing.

    Reply
  17. Sandy N Vyjay

    So many places in the world are beyond the frontiers of words or even pictures. They can only be experienced. Machu Picchu and Angkor Wat are both places that figure in our dream list and we hope we will be able to experience them sooner rather than later.

    Reply
  18. renata green

    I totally understand that you were worried it might not live up to your memories. But I think, this cannot happen with Machu Picchu. When I got up there, I turned and saw the peaks in the clouds – I started to cry! I was so overwhelmed! Maybe I wouldn’t cry again, but I would definitely be deeply touched – no matter how often I’d go up there.

    Reply
  19. Nicola Hilditch-Short

    Wow, visiting such a place at 15 must have really been an amazing experience. This is why when we have kids we really want to travel with them, open their minds in this way and show them the world!

    Reply
  20. Carmen Edelson

    I just returned from visiting Machu Picchu for the first time actually so I LOVED reading your thoughts! So great you’ve seen it multiple times. Also, love that Bourdain quote. RIP 🙁

    Reply

Leave a Reply to Cynthia Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *