As one of the seven wonders of the world, Machu Picchu is fondly known as ‘The lost city of the Incas.’ This stony citadel is nestled high in the mountains which is the reason it was never destroyed by Spanish conquistadors. It is simply breath taking to witness. To arrive here, you can take a plane from Lima to Cuzco and then catch the train to Aguas Calintes or Machu Picchu Pueblo. There you can spend the night and take the bus that leaves every 10 minutes to go up the mountain to see Machu Picchu. You may notice the drastic change in climate as you leave the Andes and begin to enter the subtropical zone between the Andes Mountains and the Amazon Rain forest where Machu Picchu sits. Suddenly the dry dusty climate gives way to lush green forests.
The train-ride from Cuzco was just above 3 hours long and extremely scenic. There was even an onboard fashion show that showcased Peruvian traditional wear. I recall arriving in Machu Picchu Pueblo, our base for the night before going to the the actual site the following day. I was very surprised to see how many pedigree dogs were roaming the streets. Huskies, bulldogs, mastiffs, you name it. All stray and just looking for some food and someone to pet them at that moment. I remember thinking “not another hill” when I looked at the steep incline which lead to our hotel. My father also understood my sentiment as we both stood there for a moment before ascending, knowing that we would soon be out of breath due to the lack of oxygen at this altitude.
On entering our hotel we were all quite surprised. The rooms were freezing cold and seemed a bit like a cave as not much light entered. For the rest the of that day, I remember seeing all other members of our little expedition sitting in the sun as a welcome option to being in those cold rooms. I sometimes went off on my own to explore the quaint little town but some how always ran into the others. The town is also known for its hot springs.
My father and I had a meal together that we still talk about to this day. We decided to order the “cuy al horno” from the menu while I was busy bombing wifi. Not long after the waiter brought us a little flat, four-legged creature on a platter, reminiscent of a rat. To this day I am not sure why we ate it since I had a pet Guinea pig that lived for about 10 years, but it was tasty. We laughed as we unearthed organs still in place. To be fair, it’s a local cuisine in Peru. However when given the chance to eat llama for free since it was in a buffet, I humbly declined. I cannot morally point out the difference between the two since they are such fantastic creatures and I don’t condone eating either of them.
The fun part about traveling can be the characters you meet along the way. We had dinner at a pizzaria where they played reggae music. The waiter was nuts. He told us that Stephen Marley had visited this same place and asked them to put marijuana on his pizza.
But I digress, we woke up at 4 am the following day as we were told that the best time to visit Machu Picchu would be at sunrise, when we would not only get away from the crowds but also have a fantastic view of the sunrise sans humans. I remember thinking to myself that I would look so sleepy in my photos.
The bus to Machu Picchu took off as some others began their hike. It was like something out of the movies, the roads zig-zagged through the cut-away mountains and were very narrow and dusty. Sometimes the bus would have to reverse to allow another to pass as they crossed paths. There were no rails and it seemed extremely unsafe. On arriving and beginning my ascent on foot, I remember thinking that I was not exactly enjoying the journey as I wanted to take as many photos as possible while dealing with my extreme fear of heights. I do mean extreme. As a child, I would cry to go up seemingly normal stairs. What was I thinking of going up a mountain? My brother was in disbelief of my fear as he took to it like a duck in water and simply laughed. I think a fear of heights is an unreasonable, illogical thing to have since the fear itself makes you more likely to fall in a dangerous situation. You can’t control wobbly knees when it’s needed most.
Our tour guide took us to one of the best spots for photos before walking down to begin the real tour. He explained that the entire structure was built without mortar and that not even a piece of paper could fit between the precisely placed rocks. It was thought to be built as a vacation palace for the elites and nobles of the Inca Empire. However many female mummies were found which led historians to believe that priests and chosen women may have resided there, making it a place for ritualistic worship. The stone-masonry and craftsmanship are exemplary in the ancient world as it was constructed to even withstand earthquakes. While there are about 600 terraces and 200 buildings, there are 3 main rooms worth mentioning. The Temple of the Sun, the Room of the Three Windows and the Itni Watana which houses the enigmatic sundial/ calendar. I remember walking through the ‘city’ and seeing little carved out rocks that served as alters where offerings of coca leaves were still made to Pachamama (mother earth). Many of the buildings faced the sunrise and some even cast long shadows to mark the summer and winter solstice.
One of the fun facts I never forgot was when the guide pointed out a sort of circular hinge carved high up on an entrance way. He said this was made so that a gate could be placed to keep bears from entering the city. I was mind blown as I vividly imagined a bear on a deadly rampage through these corridors. Many of the buildings and constructions have a very sacred significance represented by animals such as the Condor, Puma and Snake. The Incas believed that nature, plants, animals, rivers and every stone should be worshiped as there is an energetic connection in all life. Needless to say, the sunrise did not disappoint as the deep blue sky that seemed unique to Peru, created a beautiful backdrop for the mountains and valley’s that made up Machu Picchu. I still remember the crisp morning air and cold-almost metallic feel to the rocks as I passed my hands along them as I walked by. It is believed that Machu Picchu was constructed along an energetically powerful site on earth called a ley line and so thousands flock here as a sort of pilgrimage where they can recharge their spiritual batteries, so to speak.
The Incas even observed the movements of the milky-way and cosmos at large. The tree-of life is also represented on the Inca Cross. I would love to continue to talk about this marvelous civilization but you can learn more about them by reading some of the vast information available on the world wide web or better yet, you can visit Peru one day and see for yourself.