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Published: November 3rd 2009
The Sun Gate, let's get through it!
We awoke in darkness, and some were far more awake than others. I’ve never been a morning person, but waking at 4am to start hiking in the dark for an hour or two is pushing the limits of my civility (unless it’s a race, and therefore competitive!). Poor Penny has to deal with whatever fragile mask of humanity I can put on until my mind catches up with my body and manages to wake up around 8 or 9ish. As it was we hiked with about 30 or 40 other tourists for around an hour to the Sun Gate, sadly the views were pretty much limited to 10 feet up the trail or behind the trail. As we were at a reasonably high altitude, we were in cloud/fog for most of the walk to the Sun Gate. To the right of us was a cliff that rolled down to a valley, but we couldn’t see much of either the cliff or the valley. There was one really fun section of the trail that had stairs that went almost vertically up, they were hewn out of the rock of the trail. The challenge for me was to get up
The Sun Gate!
We made it (along with a few other tourists!)! Machu Pichu should be in view, with the sun over top any minute now......or not.
without using my hands, for others it was to get up by any means necessary, and more than a few were on all fours scrambling up. Once we were up we were pretty much on the same level as Machu Pichu, and that was the end of the climbing. We then came to the Sun Gate. It was a spiritual place that was designed to observe the sun in it’s morning climb up into the sky. Sadly, all we saw rising that morning was the cloud out of the valley. We waited for about half an hour, but there was no sign of the cloud/fog burning off so we headed off for Machu Pichu. We passed a few ruins along the way, and also met up with the couple that had to descend after the first night. One of the ruins had a large rock about 30 feet high which we were told was used as an altar, there was also a rock near it about the size of a car, with a section that was carved out like a gutter. This we were informed, was for the llama’s blood to run down and gather during ritual sacrifice. Nice. We
Finally Machu Pichu
After a disappointing Sun Gate, we walked towards Machu Pichu and slowly watched as Machu Pichu slowly materialised through the clouds.
resumed our walk, which cantered slowly downhill and as we looked ahead, straining to see something through the fog…..like a ship slowly and mysteriously revealing itself in an ocean fog, Machu Pichu was unveling itself, brick by brick. Every step revealed more and more. In some ways I was disappointed that we couldn’t see the whole of the site, yet at the same time this presentation certainly added an air of mystery, and intrigue. We all posed for a photo in front of a Machu Pichu veiled in cloud. The sight of Machu Pichu like this left me feeling very much like an explorer finding a sacred, and spiritual place for the first time….well, apart from the 100 or so other tourists we could see. As our guide explained a little about Machu Pichu and we made our way down to it, the fog/cloud started to lift a little and gradually the sun climbed above the clouds to reveal Machu Pichu in it’s entirety. It was amazing to see how much still remained, and really didn’t take much imagination to figure out which buildings had which purpose. Machu Pichu was built around 600 years ago, and was built in such
a manner that you can’t even slide a piece of paper between the brickwork. The building blocks were hewn and made to fit on top of the rock below it. So basically where there was a lump on the top of one block, the block meant to go above would have a recess or hole to snugly fit on top. In this manner the whole of Machu Pichu was built. Unfortunately, there is movement in the hills and mountains surrounding Machu Pichu and this movement is slowly tearing Machu Pichu apart. In some areas you can see mortar and clay which has been poured in between blocks to try and solidify some of the buildings. Machu Pichu remained relatively undiscovered for hundreds of years, except for a few locals who had come across some of the stonework which had not been reclaimed by the surrounding jungle. However in 1911 an American named Hiram Bingham an archaeologist with Yale University spoke to a local farmer who took him to the site. As a result Hiram uncovered more and more of the site, along with various artifacts and mummies. There is some scandal involved in this as some feel that Hiram “stole”
Um, Machu Pichu?
So um, 4 days, 3 nights....where exactly is Machu Pichu?
from Peru by removing many of these items and returning with them to America where many remain to this day.
The overall layout of Machu Pichu is that of a town. In the upper sections there are buildings which housed people, terraces used to grow potatoes, corn and other vegetables, a stone quarry which still holds unfinished projects (Machu Pichu was abandoned 100 years after it was built possibly due to sickness introduced by the Spanish) and some temple like structures and a section that contains a sacred rock which is said to transmit positive energy to those who are near it. Also in the upper section is a small section of carved rock a few feet tall, which has been hewn out so that looking at it mirrors the shape of the mountains behind it. If you align your eye correctly you can line up the mountains in the background, then the stone carved rock to match it in the foreground ( see the photo to better see what I mean.). The lower section of Machu Pichu holds more terraces, some of which were retaining walls rather than farming terraces, and a series of buildings, courtyards, and passages.
Walking a little further down, another group photo worked out a little better.
One unique feature of Machu Pichu is that there were small stone shelve areas carved out for idols and other religious artifacts. These areas have a unique acoustic aspect in that if you speak into one with your head inside you get an amplification and echo effect distorting your voice. Pretty cool, I’m not sure if Pearl Jam lyrics have echoed in Machu Piccu before, but they have now!
At this point (although we wouldn’t have time to discuss it until the bus ride to Lima) Penny and I were overwhelmed by the beauty of the Inca trail, the spirituality of the ruins, and the organised and majestic structure of Machu Pichu. We both felt that there was a sense of tranquillity and peacefulness in spite of the many tourists, and a huge sense of accomplishment that we both were able to complete this unique, and much anticipated experience, and do achieve it together. We both felt that everything leading up to us standing on top of Machu Pichu, looking at this citadel in the clouds built 600 years ago, was worth it.
We walked around with our guide getting a very good tour before we came to
Sun's up, MP is out...
After the sun started to burn off some of the cloud, we then were able to finally see the very impressive Machu Pichu.
the end and Penny, myself and the two English gals Ally and Jo decided to head down. So we caught the train down with our guide Miguel while the others stayed to spend more time in Machu Piccu and we headed for a hot springs where Pen, myself, Jo and Ally soaked our weary bones and muscles, and had a cold beer in the hot water and toasted our successful hike….bliss, pure bliss. After soaking for a while we had to go meet the others for lunch and a few beer before catching the train back to Cuzco. We got back, and met up with the girls again for a few beer and to be honest I don't remember alot about the end of the night....but I do know we all slept well that night. The next morning Pen and I treated ourselves to a massage the following day before heading back to Lima via a 24 hour bus ride. Next stop, one week in the Jungles of Iquitos, near the mouth of the Amazon…bring on the tarantulas, scorpions and piranha!!
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