What can I say about Machu Picchu?

It is one of the New 7 Wonders of the World and certainly lives up to this title. Machu Picchu is a pre-Columbian 15th Century Inca site. “Pre-Columbian” meaning before the Spanish invaded! (actually the term commonly refers to time before any European influence).  It was an Incan estate for an emperor, built on a mountain ridge on the Urubamba Valley at 2430m altitude. It was abandoned during the Spanish conquest: decades of fighting that caused the collapse of the great Inca Empire. In the 12th Century, the Inca were originally a pastoral tribe in the Cuzco region of the Andes, who began expanding after victoriously defending themselves against an attempted overthrow by the Chankas, another Andean tribe. (This they did by mythically turning stones into soldiers – they dressed stones as soldiers to deceive the aggressive Chankas – but that is a whole other story)

The interesting thing about Machu Picchu is how long it remained hidden from the outside world, including the Spaniards! It was only in 1911 that the American Yale History professor: Hirram Bingham, discovered the site and bought it to the attention of the rest of the world.  He was actually seeking the last Incan refuge from the Spanish conquest, and after years of exploration in the region, an 11 year old Quechua* boy led him to Machu Picchu. He began excavation work as well as notoriously taking back many artifacts to Yale University, where they are still stored and being fought over to this day (Yale’s argument being they only they have the facilities to safely store said artifacts). Bingham called the site “The Lost City of the Incas” and the National Geographic devoted their entire April 1913 issue to the site, paving the way for its fame.

Wayna Picchu (Young Peak or Huanya Picchu) is the mountain overlooking Machu Picchu that has a trail built by the Incas for the high priest to climb each morning to welcome the new day.  It is 2720m high and only 400 tourists may ascend each day, necessitating the need for advanced booking. We climbed in the second session – 11-2 and were forewarned that any sign of rain would cause the mountain to be closed.  Once reaching the top it was easy to understand why.  The summit is a pile of boulders that would no doubt be dangerously slippery if wet.  We “encouraged” all the students to climb and all agreed it was well worth the effort, as these pictures will testify.The very last section of the climb entailed scrambling through a narrow rock cave – it was nearly enough to stop me making it up but my two lovely Indian students coaxed me through.

After descending back to Machu Picchu, Emmett and I headed out to the Intipunku – a sun gate that marks the end of the famous Inca Trail and served as a guard post. Sadly I cannot find any information on the Intipunku but it was explained to me that a certain time of the year, the sun shines through in a special way that aligns the first rays with the gate and a feature on the Machu Picchu site. The views from here gave a whole new perspective of Machu Picchu. We were also treated to being the only people on the path as it was near the end of the day, with the added benefit of us view some interesting birds.  Walking along the path to the sun gate it was easy to see how Machu Picchu had been so well hidden. The vegetation is very thick and dense, as I have tried to show in one of the photographs. You can also see the zigzag path up the mountain, taken by the buses bringing thousands of tourists each day.

We stayed 2 nights in Aquas Calientes – the town near Machu Picchu (the only town – so everyone has to come through here). It is a very interesting town with many markets, hotels and great restaurants. You just need to be aware of the trains!

*Quechua is the collective term for the indigenous Andean people of several tribes that speak the Quechua language. This includes the Incas, Chankas, Huancas and Canaris and other throughout the entire Andes.

1 Comment

Filed under Places of historical interest

One response to “MACHU PICCHU

  1. Sonia Matthews

    Great entry! You’re catching up with me in the quest to see the Modern 7 Wonders. By the way, I like the new slideshows, especially when you include captions. S x


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