Wednesday , April 9th.
At 4:30 we heard our wake up call to start out for Machu Picchu. The cabbie, pulled up outside as we finished breakfast. Following this was a bus, a train and yet another bus. We travelled for 5 hours before we reached the entrance to Macu Piccu, where we were greeted by our guide, Hector, and another couple from London. It was a dull cool day as we walked along the trail to Machu Piccu's entrance. Hector told us the history of this ancient place as the sky was just starting to brighten.
Our man, Hector, was passionate about Machu Picchu.
It is a cool dark morning and the mist is promising to burn off soon.
Machu Picchu was built and inhabited from 1450 to 1540 apparently as a residence for the emperor Pachacuti and his cronies. It has a very large number of terraces, built for retaining the integrity of the land and the buildings, for growing crops and keeping animals. It is considered a feat of civil engineering for its time, providing water canals and buildings made entirely of rock.
Machu Picchu is behind us, and towering over it is Huayna Picchu. According to local guides, the top of Huayna Picchu Mountain was the residence for the high priest and the local virgins. Every morning before sunrise, the high priest with a small group would walk to Machu Picchu to signal the coming of the new day.
These terraces go from the base of Machu Piccu, 450 metres below, where the Urubamba River encircles the mountain on 3 sides.
When the Spanish conquistadores invaded Peru, they sacked Cusco and thus supplies from this city no longer travelled to Machu Picchu. This would account for the fact that Macu Picchu was deserted by the Inca people and it became overgrown and untouched for hundreds of years. Hiram Bingham, an American historian came to this area in 1903 looking for El Dorado - the lost city of gold. Pablito Alvarez, a local 11 year-old Quechua boy, led Bingham up to Machu Picchu. Some Quechuas were living in the original structures at Machu Picchu. Once he visited and spent time studying the area which was completely overgrown and thus hidden from view, he returned home to raise support and money to start excavating. Macu Picchu ’s rediscovery is credited to him. The site was officially recognized in 1911 following its excavation. It is claimed that over 90% of the site and buildings are entirely original, built 500 years ago for the privileged class.
Our first clear view of Machu Picchu shows many of the residences in the foreground.
Heavy rains in this area necessitated the sharp peaked roofs which were thatched.
A trail from Cusco also supplied the needs of Machu Piccuh’s inhabitants, who numbered between 300 and 1,000. In addition to stone buildings with high peaked rooves on this site are stone structures, lined up with the summer solstice and with the winter solstice so that a bright band of sunlight on the first days of each solstice burns through the openings and cross the centre of one altar. Animal and plant offerings were made at the Altar of the Condor. Other flat bowl shaped structures collected water that allowed observation of the reflected overhead sky, and it is easy to imagine Inca people sitting around one of these structures in a small courtyard, observing stars on a bright cool evening 500 years ago.
This trail is the original one from Cusco. The four day hike from Cusco enters Machu Piccu at this spot.
The high peaked residences were thatched. On the right, with curving walls, is the Temple of the Sun. An altar is in its centre.
The sculpture carved out from the rock bottom of the sun temple is interpreted as water mirrors for observing the sky. There are two such structures, close together, sometimes referred to as "Eyes of Pachamama" (Mother Earth).
The Archaeological evidence shows that in this area people practiced agriculture since 760 B.C. In the 15th century Incas started building a city of stone, without the aid of wheels or iron tools. The structures were built with a technique called “ashlar”, stones that are cut to fit together without mortar that not even a needle can fit in between the stones. Machu Picchu was built between two fault lines. This location also frequently received heavy rainfall; this meant that land and mud slides in the area were also common. More than 600 terraces were built to prevent the city from sliding down the mountain. Inca walls had numerous design details that helped protect them against collapsing in an earthquake.
Mortar was not used in building these walls. Stones were balanced and tightly fitted together.
Doors and windows are trapezoidal and tilt inward from bottom to top; corners usually are rounded; inside corners often incline slightly into the rooms; and "L"-shaped blocks often were used to tie outside corners of the structure together. These walls do not rise straight from bottom to top, but are offset slightly from row to row. Machu Piccu is 2,340 meters above sea level and the best example of Inca engineering.
More recent threats have appeared in the way of tourism. In the 1980s helicopters were permitted to land in the central plaza, and campers stayed at the site overnight. Now these practices are not allowed and the number of tourists has been limited. Between 1912 and 1915, Bingham excavated treasures from Machu Picchu—ceramic vessels, silver statues, jewelry, and human bones—and took them from Peru to Yale University in the United States for further study, supposedly for a period of 18 months. As of November 2012, the third and final batch of thousands of artifacts were returned. La Casa Concha (The Shell House) located close to Cusco's colonial centre is the permanent site where the Yale University artifacts are now exhibited.
Would you like to imagine this scene with a helicopter pad and overnight campers (spray painting?) And how about a McDonalds? ...me neither!
These fellows do stay overnight.
Machu Picchu was declared 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.
Time to pack up and head back up to Cusco.
We had a 5 hour trip ahead of us when we descended from Machu Picchu. Our ride from the steps of our hotel by taxi, bus, train which included a light meal, and bus once again, then our entrance fee for Machu Piccu and our helpful guide Hector was reversed as we headed back UP to Cusco. It was a bit pricey but really first class. If you can spare $350 U.S. per person, you will go in style and not regret it. There are cheaper tours and cheaper trains, but Viatours executive option was an excellent choice. You can check out their webpage: http://www.viator.com/tours/Cusco/Machu-Picchu-Day-Trip-from-Cusco/d937-5243MP1DAY Their description of our choice is: The Vistadome option is a comfortable way to journey to Machu Picchu. Departing from Poroy train station, located approximately 15 minutes outside of Cusco, you'll enjoy beautiful panoramic windows to make the most of the spectacular scenery and allow for fantastic photo opportunities. A delicious light meal is served on the way. (We were served breakfast going there and a lunch coming back - complimentary, with proper silverware on a linen tablecloth.) We arrived back at our hotel at 8 p.m.
Back to Lima.....
Before heading to the airport, we walked around Cusco. Steep little streets! We squeezed against walls as traffic came up over extremely narrow cobblestone streets. Once checked out of hotel, we found a taxi to the airport. "One Travel" airline ticket booking gave us some trouble - we’d better book elsewhere before we have an airline ground us. Arriving in Lima, our cabbie said $40 for a ride to Mila Flores!!!!! Get real! He quickly said o.k. to $20, which considering his terrible driving, was plenty. (We knew the going rate was $20 - $25 - and he was definitely on the lower end of skilled drivers - a real cowboy!) We didn’t have a hotel, so we dropped off our luggage at tomorrow night’s hotel and went for a walk around the neighbourhood. We checked out about 8 hotels, all but 2 were full, settling for one a block away - pricier and not as nice as the one we stayed in before. We set out on foot to see more of the city. People here are well dressed, and we saw few tourists. The parks and government buildings are quite attractive, and the city is clean. Lima doesn’t seem as safe as Cusco - every bank has an armed guard standing outside. Public transportation is well used, and there are plenty of buses. This is a modern bustling city of 8 million people with a selection of all that you may wish to look for.