Machu Picchu – Thursday 21 April 2011


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South America » Peru » Cusco » Machu Picchu
April 26th 2011
Published: April 28th 2011
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This was the day Tom & I have been waiting for, for many years...to see Machu Picchu (MP). We were really excited. I make no apologies for all the photos on this blog!!!!!!

We, along with 7 other members of our group, decide to get up early to either be on the 1st bus (5.30 am) to MP or walk up the mountain so that we were amongst the 1st 200 so that we could get a stamp to walk up the Huayna Picchu Mountain at 10.00 am. We decided to walk. So by 4.00 am we were walking up over 1000 Inca-made steps which went straight up whereas the road zigzagged up the mountain. There we were, with head-lamps on, walking in the dark. We had to walk along the road on the edge of Aguas Calientes and we then reached a bridge which we were to cross. By this time it was 4.30 am. We discovered a crowd of about 50 people waiting for the gates to the bridge to be opened at 5.00 am. We did not expect this. Fortunately they opened the gate at 4.45 am. We then started the really tough climb. I am not sure how many steps we climbed but it took us 1 hour. It was hot work. Even though the Incas were short people, many of the steps were double that of Australian standard height.

It was so good to come across the buildings which were at the bottom of MP. We were fortunate to be in the 1st 200 so we got our stamp even though we were absolutely shattered from the hard climb. We then waited for the rest of the group to arrive by bus, which wasn’t too long after we arrived !!!! Many of them did not get the stamp. We then waited for our guide. Unfortunately the cloud cover was heavy. Eventually the guide took us into the city of MP. We climbed up to the Guard House which was where we would get the very best vantage point of the whole city. The clouds persisted. How disappointing. The guide gave us a lot of information about the Inca people and the building of MP.

While the clouds were around, we walked through the Urban Section and heard about their building methods and their culture.

Machu Picchu (meaning "Old Peak") is a pre-Columbian 15th-century Inca site located 2,430 metres above sea level. It is situated on a mountain ridge above the Urubamba Valley, which is 80 kilometres northwest of Cusco. Most archaeoligists believe that Machu Picchu was built as an estate for the Inca emperor Pachacuti (1438–1472). Often referred to as "The Lost City of the Incas", it is perhaps the most familiar icon of the Inca World.

The Incas started building the "estate" around AD 1400 but abandoned it as an official site for the Inca rulers a century later at the time of the Spanish Conquest. Although known locally, it was unknown to the outside world before being brought to international attention in 1911 by the American historian Hiram Bingham. The whole city was covered in thick vegetation as this is the jungle area. Since then, Machu Picchu has become an important tourist attraction.

Since the site was never known to the Spanish during their conquest, it is highly significant as a relatively intact cultural site. Machu Picchu was declared a Peruvian Historical Sanctuary in 1981 and a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983. In 2007, Machu Picchu was voted one of the New Seven Wonders of the World in a worldwide Internet poll.

Machu Picchu was built in the classical Inca style, with polished dry-stone walls. Its three primary buildings are the Intihuatana, the Temple of the Sun, and the Room of the Three Windows. These are located in what is known by archaeologists as the Sacred District of Machu Picchu. In September 2007, Peru and Yale University almost reached an agreement regarding the return of artifacts which Yale has held since Hiram Bingham removed them from Machu Picchu in the early 20th century. In November 2010, a Yale University representative agreed to return the artifacts to a Peruvian university.

The city sits in a saddle between the two mountains Machu Picchu and Huayna Picchu, with a commanding view down two valleys and a nearly impassable mountain at its back. It has a water supply from springs that cannot be blocked easily, and enough land to grow food for about four times as many people as ever lived there. The hillsides leading to it have been terraced, not only to provide more farmland to grow crops, but to steepen the slopes which invaders would have to ascend. The terraces reduced soil erosion and protected against landslides Two high-altitude routes from Machu Picchu go across the mountains back to Cusco, one through the sun gate, and the other across the Inca bridge. Both could be easily blocked, should invaders approach along them. Regardless of its original purpose, it is strategically located and readily defended.

The clouds eventually cleared and....what a sight...the scene we had been waiting for. It’s a bit like seeing Ayres Rock in ‘true life’ after seeing so many pictures over your life time. It’s different actually being there and walking through the ruins and imagining how the Incas lived, while the guide tells you stories about their culture. In the Urban section we saw The Intihuatana stone is one of many ritual stones in South America. These stones are arranged to point directly at the sun during the winter solstice. The name of the stone (coined perhaps by Bingham) is derived from the Quechua language: inti means 'sun', and wata- is the verb root 'to tie, hitch (up)' ('huata-' is simply a Spanish spelling). The Quechua -na suffix derives nouns for tools or places. Hence inti watana is literally an instrument or place to 'tie up the sun', often expressed in English as "The Hitching Post of the Sun". The Inca believed the stone held the sun in its place along its annual path in the sky. At midday on March 21st and September 21 the sun stands almost above the pillar, casting no shadow at all. Researchers believe that it was built as an astronomic clock or calendar.

We also saw the Industrial area which was divided from the urban area by a green belt.

We unfortunately spent a lot of time waiting for the clouds to life. So because of that, plus the sore muscles, we decided not to walk up the Huayna Picchu Mountain. It was a tough climb. Instead, I decided to make the 40 minute climb/walk to the Sun Gates which is where the people who walk the Inca Track 1sty see MP. The whole of the Inca Trail is stone-paved or has steps. From the city to the Sun Gates is the same. Bridgette and I walked together. Tom decided not to make the walk as the morning climb was enough for him.

Half way up, we came across small ruins – took lots of photos. We then reached the Sun Gates which was amazing. The sky was clear and the sun was hot. To sit and just gaze at these amazing phenomena was incredible. How did they do it? How did they build such a complex city on the side of a mountain, with villages all along the Inca Track right up to MP. I now understand why the trekkers coming off the Inca Trail try to be there at sunrise. The Gates frame the city and the sun catches the whole city. Unfortunately, when the 4 members of our group who were doing the Inca Trail arrived at the Sun Gate, the clouds were thick. We had to catch the 1.00 pm bus down the mountain to catch to 2.55 train back to Ollantaytambo so I had to leave this scenery....but it is now imbedded in my minds-eye.

We were surprised to see Erin up at the Gates so she did very well climbing with such bad blisters.
We walked down and we were on time with the busses. We met the rest of the group at the restaurant for lunch in the town before jumping on the train again. We caught the train (and I didn’t attempt to go in
Urban SectionUrban SectionUrban Section

Most doorways are double stone
the next carriage this time!!!)

As a note, for those who want to visit MP after walking the Inca Trail, make sure you book at least 12 months before you want to go so that you get a permit to walk the Inca Track. The photos the 4 members of our group took on the Inca Trail were also amazing. If you don’t do this, you will have to walk the Lares Track, which has its own amazing features...but it depends on what you want to see.

That night, we arrived back at Cusco via Ollantaytambo (where we picked up out painting) at 7.30 pm, very satisfied at the experiences and sights we had just lived through. We were very tired but elated. One of the girls organised us to order chicken and chips and salad and drinks to have in our hotel. It was great not to have to go out to a restaurant even though we planned to go out and celebrate our last 4-5 days. Even the 20somethings stayed in. We were all in bed by 11.00 pm although many went earlier. There were 3 of our group with colds and of course the sore muscles and knees.....but it was worth it. My quads were stiff but that was all (except stiff calves in the morning until I got them going). Tom had a bit of a ‘clicky’ knee but wasn’t too bad.

The next day we had a free day in Cusco (22 April) which was good to catch up and wander around the city and relax (see blog on Cusco).



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