Feet appear and reappear beneath my knees,
inching forward through the pass.
Breath swamps my lungs,
takes its toll of exhausted gas,
spreads it round Peruvian hills,
in rhythm to my steps.
Twelve thousand feet above the sea,
a thousand meaningless miles away.
Still climbing, routine now,
until I reach the peak.
Thoughts wander to those Incas
who first climbed skyward valleys
to build this place, and still a day away.
I wonder why.
The peak is reached.
They’ve hewn steps down the mountain side.
Knees now take the strain from thighs,
breath easier but the hurt’s as deep,
How did they know, these Incas,
where and how far to go?
Camp overnight and another trek
brings ravines and thick morning mist.
We wait. Then, like a blanket
a mother lifts off her child,
clouds fade and before us are roofless ruins
saddling a ragged hilltop
surrounded by pristine, silent peaks.
A sugar loaf hill sits behind,
its theatre backdrop.
I climb its walls and survey the scene
like a cat on its favourite fence.