Machu Picchu - the Secret City


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South America » Peru » Cusco » Machu Picchu
May 4th 2014
Published: May 11th 2014
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4 May 2014 Sunday. The driver picked us up at 8 am for the drive back to Ollantaytambo where we would catch the 9:10 Expedition train to Aguas Calientes. Here we took a shuttle bus to the top of the mountain on which Machu Picchu is located. As our tour group from the previous days were split up, we had a guide, Olga, all to ourselves. She took us on the easy route from the food storage buildings at the entrance to the observatory on the other end. We learned the following:

The non-royal and non-priestly residents of Machu Picchu were carefully selected based upon their ability to work hard. They worked from age twenty to forty. Olga wasn't to clear about what happened once a worker reached age forty. As the location of Machu Picchu was a carefully guarded secret kept from the general population, presumably they became human sacrifices as returning them to the general population risked that they would tell the secret to others. That's another thing that the guides were reluctant to talk about...human sacrifices. Machu Picchu was able to sustain 250 families from the water and food produced on site. However, the workers were not permitted to have families...no children allowed, except for the king of course. Work on Machu Picchu ceased just before the Spanish arrived in 1532, as there are many indications that the site is unfinished.

Planning for Machu Picchu was thorough, with even the identification of faults identified so that no structure would be built on them. This is where the agricultural terraces are located so that there would be minimal damage to structures. The northern side of the mountain is cooler than the south side, so the crops grown on the terraces on each side reflected the temperature most ideal for that crop. On each terrace the seeds from the previous generation of plants that were most adapted to the environment were planted so that successive generations of crops were better than the previous. Incas also practiced hybridization. From these efforts to improve the performance of plants, the Incas produced a wide variety of potatoes (this is where potatoes got started), squash, corn, etc. We ate corn where each kernel was about four times the size of normal kernels.

The water table on the top was also protected and designed to continue to capture the moisture that came from the north where the Amazon rain forest was located. While Inca construction is well known for the tight fit between rocks, they deliberately used rough cut smaller rocks with many cracks that would allow the moisture to penetrate the walls where the moisture condensed and increased the ground water. An added benefit of not completely enclosing the top of the mountain was that the temperatures on each side of a wall would be nearly the same; reducing expansion and contraction damage caused by thermal forces...the same forces used to cut rock. They constructed a sophisticated drainage system to distribute ground water throughout the city. There weas no sewer system as people used their waste to fertilize the fields.

Not only did the layout reflect knowledge of climate and geography, it also was aligned astronomically. A sundial provided much information regarding the annual cycle so that crops could be planted at the right time.

Roofs were made of thatch, and attached to the stone structures by means of protruding rocks near the top of the walls. Thatch was used so that should an earthquake occur, the roof was made of a light material that would cause less damage should it fall through.

The city was organized by social hierarchy, with the royalty and priests on the upper level and the workers on the lower. There were buildings built for astronomical observations, in addition to a school that taught the next generation how to make those observations. There was an industrial area and a ceremonial field where games and special events took place.

Seven trails lead to the city, with some secret as they were completely covered by the forest thereby making them impossible to see. Watch towers nearby permitted an early warning should any unauthorized person attempt to come to the site.

I've probably forgotten more than I remembered in the list above. The conclusion is that the Incas were highly sophisticated planners, engineers, astronomers, and geneticists.

We started our tour about 11 am and finished by 2:30 pm. We had lunch at the Sanctuary cafeteria...an excellent buffet of many Peruvian dishes. We then caught a bus back to Aguas Calientes, where we bumped into Tony and Allison, our friends from the previous two days of tours. We talked about our experiences at the site, and said our farewells. While waiting for the 4:43 pm train, I found the only remaining seats; rocks in a rock garden. An oriental man had occupied one rock, but there were two left for Linda and me. I asked where he was from...Toronto...but it didn't take too long to find out that we were both born in Bangkok, Thailand...me in 1949 and he in 1950. What a coincidence.

The train ride back to Cusco took about 3 and a half hours; mostly in the dark. Once back at our hotel we Skyped our kids and then turned in as the next day's activities, a bus ride from Cusco to Puno, would start early.


Additional photos below
Photos: 25, Displayed: 25


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Water distribution systemWater distribution system
Water distribution system

note the flow from a small channel on the left side
Main streetMain street
Main street

Each step conforming to the mountain contours so that no two are the same thus making it easy to trip


11th May 2014
Linda and Bob at Machu Picchu

5 Stars!
Fantastic photo!
11th May 2014
Linda and Bob at Machu Picchu

I guess this will have to be our new TB picture
Although there are so many Machu Picchu pictures
11th May 2014

Machu Picchu
One of our favorite places in the world. We went there to celebrate my 50th birthday so my present was a night in the hotel at the top. It was amazing. After all the tour buses had left there were a few of us sitting and enjoying the ancient site until they kicked us out. I felt something there I still cannot describe. Looking forward to seeing more of your trip.
11th May 2014

Glad you enjoyed Machu Picchu
Good to hear that you are enjoying Peru. It was one of our favourite places. I guess that by the time a worker had spent 20 years lugging those massive rocks around at that altitude thay may not have had much life left.
12th May 2014

Great to hear from you...
your trip was an inspiration for ours.
12th May 2014

Great photo!
I can't figure out how to comment on the photo itself, but what a lovely photo of you both at Machu Picchu! Definitely a profile pic! What a fascinating place it is, I can't wait to visit one day.
12th May 2014

Wow
I am thoroughly enjoying being back in Peru via your blogs. It sounds as if you are having a great time and meeting some nice people. Your new profile picture is amazing. When I saw it, I wanted to comment on it, but saw that D&MJ had already done so. Enjoy the rest of your time down in SA.
13th May 2014

Fine times!
How great that you're learning so much, enjoyed your time in magical Machu Picchu and got to have that fabled buffet! As others have said, that's a great new photo of you two!
14th October 2014

Nice blog
Enjoyed reading your Machu Picchu blog. Hopefully Peru will be my next big adventure!

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