Saturday, August 28, 2010

The trail ends at Machu Picchu

Bienvenidos a Machu Picchu, One of the Seven Man Made Wonders of the World.

View from the top of Machu Picchu--isn't it breathtaking! Margaret insisted we be on the mountain to watch the sunrise. It was worth the 4:45 wake-up call. We were on the bus at

5:30 am, thinking we'd be the first bus load on the mountain. Alas! We passed 5 buses going down. Each time our bus came upon a descending bus, one bus or the other had to pull tight against the mountain or precariously close to the side. Our guide Senior Will took us straight to the top, easier than it sounds. The steps (stones) were narrow, steep, and the altitude and climb left us breathless, well except for the kids who scrambled up like mountain goats.

We arrived by train in Aguas Calientes on Friday night after our day-long tour through the Sacred Valley. We had one of the finest buffet lunches of the trip in the Sacred Valley. Aguas Calientes is at the bottom of the picture. You can see in this picture the steep climb the buses must make to get to Machu Picchu.

This bus is one of a large fleet of buses that make the multiple hair pin turns up the side of the mountain. The drive is historic in that Hiram Bingham and his men hacked their way through the jungle to reach Machu Picchu which was virtually hidden from the Spanish Conquistadores. It is the only Inca city not to have been plundered.

The two-hour Vista Dome train ride from Ollantaytambo was interesting. We were served a light dinner. We arrived at Aguas Caliente in the dark. After walking through a dense market of all sorts of goods (a real tourist trap if one has the energy to stop and buy), we made our way across the train tracks to our hotel which turned out to be a really fine, small, new hotel. Our room was on the river and we fell asleep to the sound of rushing water. Margaret and Ted's room and the Kids' room was on the street/RR tracks side and they were awakened several times by trains.

Kate and Spencer are sitting on a stone cut by the Incas to match the mountain scenery. The pamplet we were given at the gate explains that in 1874, the German cartographer German Gohring had already registered the names Machu Picchu and Wayna Picchu. Also a farmer, Augustin Lizarraga, explored agricultural lands in 1900 and knew of the site. Other settlers knew of Machu Picchu, but Hiram Bingham, a North American professor, is credited with the discovery. He was interested in the military campaigns of Simon Bolivar, the liberator of Peru. He and his translator started the journey from Cusco, on foot, and following the direction of the Urubamba River, they came upon a farm where they met a farmer who had heard of the "ruins at the top of the mountain." He farmed the terraces on the lower part of the site. A child actually led Hiram Bingham and his translator to the ruins. The local farmers called the site Machu Picchu which means "the old mountain." The actual date of discovery, marked by Hiram Bingham, is July 24, 1911. In 1912 he returned with a group of archeologists. The project was funded by Yale and the National Geographic Magazine. Peru now maintains the site through the National Institute of Culture Cusco.

Mountains are sacred to the Inca. This rock mimics Wayna Picchu, a steep mountain across from Machu Picchu. In order to hike the mountain, hikers have to be in line about 5:00 a.m.

The round tower-like structure is the temple of the sun. Notice how the sunlight is reflected on the massive center stone. The Inca's sacred date to make sacrifices to the sun is June 21, the Southern Hemisphere's first day of winter. Their sacrifices were a petition for the sun not to die. This is the only temple in the city not to have been restored some.

Here we are at the top. When we were here in 2006, I wore out before we got to the top. My legs went to jelly and my heart felt as if it would pound itself out. So when Senior Will took us to the top first, it made all the difference in our tour experience for me, but even for all of us. We spent about an hour at the top taking pictures and listening to Senior Will's history, archeology, and cultural lessons. When we started down to visit the individual homes, temples, and other sites, we were rejuvenated. Senior Will even pointed out to us great photos and gave us time to take the pictures. For Stuart to be at the top so long was really special because the guide we had in 2006 must have had another tour because he hurried Dad and Jim and Joan off the mountain after just a few minutes.

Our guide in 2006 told us the green plaza to the left and rear of the picture was a playing field. Senior Will laughed at that and said they did not have time to play games. It was a plaza like the Plaza de Armas.

This picture is looking off the back side and across Machu Picchu. The city was extensive. Interestingly enough, more bones of women were found in the excavation leading Hiram Bingham to wonder if Machu Picchu was a university or sacred site for women.

I pulled the zoom in tight for this picture. It's almost haunting with the sun rays and the shadowed mountain range behind Wayna Picchu.

The Inca believed in a pre earth life, earth life, an after life. There are depictions of the tree of life in their art as well. This stone is half of the Inca Cross which reflects the different levels of life, their worship of the heavens, the sun, the moon, and the earth or Pachamama. Interesting!

The stones in the foreground end the Inca Trail from the mountain behind. We are standing at the front door or original and untouched entrance to the sacred site of Machu Picchu. You can get a sense of how high we are by looking down to the right.

These are the lower terraces and houses. The rope has something to do with agricultural testing.

This is another view of the back side and Kate who was drawing her impressions of Machu Picchu in the dirt.

They say kids listen even when they aren't paying attention. It's true. These two artists were really listening to Senior Will.

This is the energy stone. The stone is believed to store energy from the sun. I did it! I had enough energy to go the distance....hmmm

This is the temple of the condor, a sacred symbol for the Inca. The rock walls above are the wings of the condor. The right wing is visible and on top of the wing is a temple. There was no way to step back and get the full picture of a condor, but the bird was there all right. Behind it is the sacred burial tomb.

While we were waiting for the buffet lunch at the Sanctuary Lodge, we found a cool spot under a natural arbor where the guides go for their lunches. A woman provides lunch for all the guides and workers who pay her. Her little boy was so cute. He is not walking yet. He seemed to be totally oblivious to the jagged stones.

This moss covered piece of wood seems to have been carved into the shape of an animal. A horse? A dog? Who knows, but it made a cute picture.

Emma got on for "a ride."

It is late winter in Peru, but at Machu Picchu, according to our guide, it is spring. There are something like 132 climates in the world. Peru has 82 of them. This is a wild lilac in full bloom.

No comments:

Post a Comment