Trip Report #4 Machu Picchu
Machu Picchu (MP) is a difficult and complicated place to get to. Yikes, we had to take a ship, a plane, a train and a bus to get there! And without a guide, you’d be lost. There is no printed information to tell you what you’re looking at.
Once you get down into the Sacred Valley of the Incas (by train), you are at the place where you can catch the bus to MP, which is up on a mountain. The buses are the only vehicles allowed on the Hiram Bingham Highway, and for good reason. Just take a look:
That’s the road on the left. Buses shuttle back and forth all day long. Hiram Bingham, by the way, was the guy who gets the credit for discovering MP in 1911, although others had already been there. They are building a museum in Cuzco to house the artifacts that were found here and which have recently been returned.
Here’s a zoom-in of the iconic peak, Wayna Picchu. You can pay extra to climb up there, but they only allow a limited number of people to go each day because it’s very treacherous. Only experienced trekkers need apply.
This is a view from the peak looking down at the site. I stole this photo from the internet to show you because it’s not a view you often see. Obviously I did not climb up here. Dizzying, isn’t it. Why all the terraces? Two reasons: To grow food and to keep everything from sliding down the mountain.
So what happened to the people? MP was abandoned; it was not conquered by the Spanish. Some say it was a plague, but no one knows for sure.
This is the Temple of the Sun, and an engineering marvel. All the walls slant in, and the windows and doors are trapezoidal in shape. This site has withstood earthquakes of 8 and above and is still standing. Wow.
Just look at how these rocks were hewn to fit together. They used no tools and no mortar whatsoever, and you cannot even insert a business card between the rocks. On the morning of the summer solstice, the sun shines through this window and illuminates a sacred rock.
We are both exceedingly grateful we had the foresight to bring trekking poles. The steps were high, and going down (and up) was tricky and downright scary—it ain’t for sissies. If you fall, it’s a long way down.
Next time we’ll visit Sacsaywaman and see some more incredible stonework.