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.

After you go in the gates and make your way through the throngs of people, you are greeted by this iconic vista. We had beautiful weather, I was so grateful.

Must pause for a photo op.

Percy is saying, “Lez go family, stay close to the wall on the left and don’t fall!”

Irrigation channels on the terraces. 1-IMG_2151

Don’t fall! There’s no net!1-IMG_2145

Looking down at the Urubamba River below. How did they ever find this place! Actually I know the answer to that, the local people knew it was here all along. One had only to ask.

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.

Here’s the history in a nutshell: Pachacuti (below) built a vast Incan Empire around 1450. MP was his retreat. His royal estate.

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.

I had just said to JJ, “hey where are the llamas,” and then there they were.

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.

After a delicious buffet lunch at the MP lodge, we took the bus down the mountain and boarded the train back to Cuzco. It was a great day.

And if that wasn’t enough, there was a show. Of course.

Next time we’ll visit Sacsaywaman and see some more incredible stonework.


  1. Your photos sure pull the story of MP together. So many people on the mountain plus the llamas. Jim looks happy. Neat trip--from the ocean to the mountain. Well, Sis, take some time to rest and enjoy the memories. M.

  2. MP has always been fascinating to me. The curiosity of why it was abandoned is such an enthralling mystery! Great pics, Rian.

  3. You tell a great story and this is the best accounting of MP that I have read when friends have gone. Wonderful !! Would you please go to China so I can sit in my chair and read your synopsis? I really really want to do the Viking River tour of China.
    Looking forward to the next stop on your cruise.


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