I don’t think there are enough words in the world to describe the beauty of Machu Picchu, the city on the “old mountain”. No picture can do justice to the majestic landscapes and architecture of this Inca city.
History, geography, and other
To go into a little bit of history, the city was officially brought to the world’s attention in 1911 by Hiram Bingham, an American researcher. It was built around 1450 and although many historians agree that the city was a summer residence for the Inca emperor Pachacuti, our guide told us it was an university and research place. I tend to believe our guide more as he was Quechuan.
When the Spanish conquered the Incas, the later decided to hide this city from the former and they abandoned it. They even destroyed parts of the Inca Trail coming to it. However, to the Quechua community, this place was no “lost city”. It was well known, and families lived here even in 1901 when some archeologists stopped by this area.
From a geography perspective, Machu Picchu is surrounded on three sides by the Urubamba River, similarly to a horseshoe. It is located at 2430m height on the Machu Picchu mountain and it faces three other mountains that were considered sacred by the Incas.
The brilliance in architecture of the Incas is proven by the way the city is built with terraces that not only serve for agriculture, but also for preventing land slides.
The tour we got had us waking up at 3 am. As any respectable traveller we got out of bed at 3:15 am, which only left us with 30 minutes to get ready for the adventure. However, as any respectable backpacker we had everything ready to go so the motions of the morning went by very smoothly.
At 3:45 we were picked up from our hostel by a tiny bus, already filled with people to go to the Ollantaytambo town for picking up the train. From Cusco to there the bus ride was approximately 2 hours. I wish I could say I saw fascinating things on the road, but I can’t because I completely passed out and woke up in the train station.
Our train left at 6:40 am and it was one of the touristy ones owned by Inca Rail. We got on in a very organized way after showing our passports and tickets multiple times. Good tip for anyone going is to take the passport. I almost left it home. Issue avoided by a second impulse. Yay!
The train ride there was one hour and 40 minutes and it was spectacular. The rail follows the Urubamba river and twists with it on the edge of the mountain. It is fascinating to look outside and see the tops of the mountains covered by clouds as the vegetation is changing from arid to jungle.
The last stop was Aguascalientes, a small town from where you can get to Machu Picchu. We hopped on another bus to take us up to the ruins. The road there is not paved and it kept twisting like a serpent on the side of the mountain. As we went higher and higher the peaks of the mountains were becoming more covered with clouds and fog. We had hope that when we got up the clouds would vanish and sun would make its appearance.
We arrived at the site of Machu Picchu half hour later. The sun was still hiding but that didn’t stop the views from taking our breath away. This old city is spectacular, with its ruins open to the mountains and it’s multiple levels of architecture. We spent an hour going up and down the stairs while taking pictures. We even made some friends, the lovely llamas eating the grass. We decided to name them Mone-llama, Miche-llama, Llama-da-vinci, and Van Goat.
There is a certain feeling of greatness that surrounds this place. The way the mountains open for sun to brighten it’s aged stones and it’s new ones alike, makes this place powerful and imposing. At the same time, serenity overcomes those who spend a minute to just enjoy the view. The beauty of its surroundings, the history, the lost deities and rituals, and mostly the strong spirit of those who inhabited this place, they all come together to make us pause and just take everything back home with us…
As I said, there are not enough words to describe this place. But, I will try to let the pictures to speak for themselves, and hopefully a piece of the great feelings it inspires will transfer who those who see them.
Back to Aguascalientes
This small town is filled with souvenir shops and restaurants where owners almost kidnap you in. But the best part of this place is it’s hot springs! One can never go wrong with natural hot water.
Machu Picchu is a life moment that anyone should experience. However, the site has been degrading due to the increasing number of tourists and many organizations are urging the Peruvian government to do something about it. Some stories we heard include building a cable car, limiting the number of visitors, or closing it altogether. It seems that the Incas did not foresee that every day around 5000-6000 people will be visiting their small city…