Category Archives: Places of historical interest

MACHU PICCHU

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.

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Yungay: site of the biggest avalanche in history

Yungay is located in the  Callejón de Huaylas on Río Santa at an elevation of 2,500 m. East of the small town are the mountain ridges of snow-covered Cordillera Blanca, with Huascarán, Peru’s highest mountain, no more than 15 km east of Yungay.

On May 31, 1970 a debris avalanche caused by the 1970 Ancash earthquake buried the whole town of Yungay, killing 25,000 people. The earthquake triggered an unstable mass of glacial ice about 800 meters across at the top of Nevado Huascarán to fall. More than 50 million cubic meters of debris slid approximately 15 kilometers downhill at an angle of about 14 degrees. Speeds between 200 km/h to 400 km/h were achieved. Only 92 people survived!  The few adults who survived where at the cemetery and the children who survived were at a circus in the stadium just outside of the town, up on a hill.

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