Machu Picchu

“Machu Picchu” – plein air field study in alkyds on birch panel 8×10″ by Margie Guyot

You’re only getting to see this because of my new sauna. Yes, I ordered one — and have been rooting through junk and cleaning out the spare bedroom – soon to be the sauna room. Maybe I should clean house more often?

Back in 1994 I went for a yoga workshop at the Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, NY. The very last morning, I was in the bathroom and in walked a most unusual-looking woman. Where are you from? “I’m from the Andes,” she said, handing me a brochure with a photo of Machu Picchu. It gave me goosebumps. I’ve learned to never ignore goosebumps — or unusual-looking women! I signed on for her next year’s tour to Machu Picchu.

Sunshine Eagle was also a shaman. I met her and a young potter in Cusco the following May. It was necessary to hire a cook and porters for our treks. And to buy food. “Would you like to go with us to the market?” she asked. Of course I would! It was an open air affair, filled with exotic fruits and vegetables, chickens squawking, strange sounds, odd smells. One vendor’s table had 2 large, glass bowls, with dozens of tiny frogs floating in water. Who eats tiny frogs??? 

To get to Machu Picchu, you must take the train. It stopped at every little burg along the way, allowing local women to leap aboard and run down the aisles, hawking boiled corn (not at all like the sweet corn here) and little plastic cups of Jell-O. It paused in the mountains to let our group out. Between us and the Inca Trail lay a very deep gorge and a rickety, wooden suspension bridge. There are some people who freak out at this kind of thing, but thank goodness I’m not one of them.

The trail goes up and up, winding around steep mountains. It’s also very narrow, with no guard rails. I quickly realized it’s essential to pay attention to every step! The air grew thin. The sun beat down. We’d been chewing cocoa leaves religiously for days, so it altitude sickness wasn’t a problem. Still, when we came upon a stream, Sunshine Eagle waved the guys off and we got buck-naked and had a most refreshing splash. Exhaustion sure helps reduce shyness!

French easels get heavy! Note to self: in my next life I’ll just do embroidery! Every so often, Sunshine Eagle would urge me to stop and give some blasts on my conch shell.

The Inca Trail goes for thousands of miles, but the segment we were on would only take two days to reach Machu Picchu. Camping was restricted to certain areas. We stopped for the night at a trailside bar/restaurant compound, pitching our tents beneath the wall at the edge of the patio. That night a group of happy Germans partied hard — peeing joyfully over the wall, down onto our tents. OY!

Taking off before dawn, the trail took us through heavy fog, forests of giant tree ferns, bromeliad-laden trees and lichen-covered rocks to Machu Picchu. Yes, I did find time to do a few little plein air studies. This is the only one I’ve unearthed so far. It’ll be framed – and hung in my new sauna room.

For weeks I dreaded the return flight. This was back in the days where you could fly with huge suitcases. I had 2 giant duffel bags filled with my tent, easel, paints, hiking boots, etc. But still — over the course of three weeks, I’d added two 4-foot long flutes, shells, crystals, rocks, cooking pots, etc. But aye no problemo! EVERYBODY on the plane had four carry-ons!

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