Published: August 25th 2009August 25th 2009
OK, I went to Machu Picchu twice, once with Rupal and once with Annu. Rupal and Annu did not overlap very much, so we only managed to have one trip to Lake Titicaca together.
The first visit was definitely chilled out as we took the taxi-train-bus option. The second, much more hardcore, as it involved camping and hiking. More on these adventures later. Ollantaytambo
The train leaves from a town called Ollantaytambo. Somehow, it is much faster to go to Ollanta than taking the train from Cusco itself due to a combination of steep terrain and Perurail. Ollanta itself is a cute little town, much more than a thoroughfare to the Sacred Valley and the Inca trail. It has been built on top of original Inca foundations, and I believe is one of the best surviving examples of Inca town planning.
Ollanta is at the foot of a hill that contains some spectacular ruins and is the only place to have successfully repelled the Spanish invasion (well the first attempt anyway). The temple was never finished as it was being constructed during the time of the conquest and, as all Inca monuments, is a feat of engineering
with huge rocks carried from miles away. Machu Picchu
Machu Picchu was rediscovered by the American Hiram Bingham in the 1910s. He did make off with all the gold and treasures that he found there, and a lot of the treasure can now be found in Yale. The Peruvians are still bitter about it.
After leaving Ollanta, we arrived at Aguas Calientes (AC as Rupal calls it), which is an unattractive and highly touristic town at the bottom of the Machu Picchu. We stayed in a nondescript hostel and woke up the next day at 4 am to catch the early bus up the mountain, before the hoardes of tourists arrived. I have to say this about Peruvian drivers, they know how to drive buses and trucks in the most steep and difficult places. We arrived just after dawnbreak and the place took my breath away. It was slightly misty, which added to the air of mysticsm and magic. The beauty and majesty of Machu Picchu can only be inferred from pictures and postcards. I am so glad that I had the privilege to see it TWICE!
Again, I was awed by Inca engineering. The place
is also huge - there is an adjacent mountain, Wayna Picchu, which can be climbed with some difficulty! We spent a good few hours there. The sun came out, and added another dimension to before we got frustrated by all the tourists who were there.
UNESCO recommends that no more than 200 people a day should be admitted to the site - it receives more than 1,500 a day during peak season. It must be a difficult choice for the Peruvian government - hard dollars or the preservation of its cultural heritage.... There are two anectodotes that the guides will tell you about the "stupidity" of some officials: in the 1980s, the King of Spain visited Machu Peru and they knocked down an obelisk in the main square to create an impromptu helipad; in 2000, whilst a beer commercial was being shot, a crane fell over and damaged Intihuatana, the astronomical stone indicating equinoxes and other such celestial events.
In any case, it is a site out of this world,
There are more photos below