We had a very early start for Machu Picchu (pronounced “Pick chu”) today. The bus ride up was about 30 minutes and on some serious switchback roads but it wasn’t bad. (You can see the road in some of my pictures) Then we got in line to go in and Cliser started us in a sort of Village area of Machu Picchu. He talked about how it was found by Hiram Bingham. Actually, he was the only one who told others about it. There were at least two others before him as both left carvings saying that they were there, apparently carving your name on the rocks isn’t a new thing! One of the two earlier explorers was the one that brought his, the, or a family to live on the site, he is said to have died trying to cross the river during the rainy season. They think that Hiram Bingham was the first to actually document and tell others about the site.
The current theory according to Cliser is that it was a site never found by the Spanish as it is the most complete site in the area. Also that it was not complete as it is not known to have had the gold plating in the temples that other sites had, possibly because it wasn’t at that stage of construction yet. The story is that the last Inca King took a right through the valley in Ollantaytambo, which lead the Spanish the opposite direction from this site so they never found it. Though they did find the village at the bottom of the mountain.
Interestingly they are still finding sites because across the valley you can see a recently cleared Inca trail that they have discovered that goes the top of an adjacent mountain!
Machu Picchu is sort of like Herculaneum compared to Pompeii in that you can see more of what it actually would have looked like. This is because the Spanish didn’t ransack it and there are some more complete buildings that you can still see. The Inca didn’t build the top of the buildings the same way they built the bottoms of the buildings. So the close carved stone walls are foundations with a more rustic brick on top then a thatched roof which would only last about 5 years.
We climbed Wayna Picchu which is the mountain that is sort of pointy and on the 10 Sol note. It’s only about 300m up but it’s basically straight up. So it’s lots and lots of stairs. It was tough but doable. The altitude wasn’t as big of a problem compared to our trek since it’s only 2600m. We stayed at the top for about 10 minutes took pictures and then started down. Down was okay but rough on the knees after all the trekking we’d done.
The train ride back to Cusco was a good way to see the countryside and even included a bit of a dance and fashion show.