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Machu Picchu

Written on: Monday November 5th, 2007

A journal entry from: Kevin and Julie's RTW

Location: Machu Picchu, Peru

Author: Julie

Napaykullayki (Hello in Quechua)!

Machu Picchu here we come! We woke up really, really early at 3:00 AM so we could be the first group at the checkpoint to Machu Picchu. The gate opens at 5:30 AM and the earlier you were the faster you could get through, on the trail and into the complex. Our luck with the weather had held the last 3 days, but the clouds in the sky the evening before had become mist. We arrived at the checkpoint at 3:30 AM and lucked out by being the first group to be there and could sit out the rain under a protective roof. As the minutes passed, more and more groups arrived till at 5:30 when the guard arrived we couldn?t see the end of the line. Orlando got us through within 5 minute then it was a quick sprint down the slippery trail and stone steps to Intipunku ? The Sun Gate. This is where the world-famous postcard shots of the complex are taken but the rain had intensified and the site was completely shrouded in clouds. We were all starting to be drenched. I thought it would clear anytime, since for the past few days the clouds had burned off as the sun had risen, so I kept my poncho in my bag which was a bad idea. By the time we arrived at Machu Picchu I was drenched from head to toe. My rain jacket which was supposedly 100% waterproof proved to be otherwise. Kevin arrived at the complex about 15 minutes before as he was a lot more confident and balanced on the slippery trail than I was. I finally met up with him at the entrance to Machu Picchu with the others huddled under the only roofing available. It was 6:30 AM and the complex had just opened to visitors who had not come by the trail but by bus from Aguas Calientes at the bottom of the valley.

We spent an hour under wet parasols waiting out the rain. Orlando brought us all chicken sandwiches to eat while we waited. Around 8:30 PM, the rain slowed down enough that we could venture out to the complex with the occasional blue sky peaking out from the clouds.

Machu Picchu is 70 kilometers northwest of Cusco, on the crest of the mountain Machu Picchu, located about 2,350 meters above sea level. It is one of the most important archaeological centers in South America and the most visited tourist attraction in Peru.

Machu Picchu was constructed around 1450, at the height of the Inca Empire, and was abandoned less than 100 years later, as the empire collapsed under Spanish conquest. Although the citadel is located only about 50 miles from Cuzco, the Inca capital, it was never found and destroyed by the Spanish, as were many other Inca sites. Over the centuries, the surrounding jungle grew to enshroud the site, and few knew of its existence. On July 24, 1911, Machu Picchu was brought to the attention of the West by Hiram Bingham, an American historian then employed as a lecturer at Yale University. He was led there by locals who frequented the site. This explorer/archaeologist began the archaeological studies there and completed a survey of the area. Bingham coined the name "The Lost City of the Incas", which was the title of his first book. He never gave any credit to those who led him to Machu Picchu, mentioning only "local rumor" as his guide. Bingham had been searching for the city of Vilcabamba, the last Inca refuge and spot of resistance during the Spanish conquest of Peru. In 1911, after various years of previous trips and explorations around the zone, he was led to the citadel by Quechuans who were living in Machu Picchu in the original Inca infrastructure. Bingham made several more trips and conducted excavations on the site through 1915. He wrote a number of books and articles about the discovery of Machu Picchu.

Machu Picchu is a UNESCO World Heritage site. As Peru?s most visited tourist attraction and major revenue generator, it is continually threatened by economic and commercial forces. In the late 1990s, the Peruvian government granted concessions to allow the construction of a cable car to the ruins and development of a luxury hotel, including a tourist complex with boutiques and restaurants. These plans were met with protests from scientists, academics and the Peruvian public, worried that the greater numbers of visitors would pose tremendous physical burdens on the ruins. A growing number of people visit Machu Picchu (400,000 in 2003). At this time, it is estimated the site is sliding a centimer per month due to the amount of people who visit daily. It is designed for 600 when there are over 2000 people per day visiting. For this reason, there were protests against a plan to build a further bridge to the site and a no-fly zone exists in the area. UNESCO is considering putting Machu Picchu on its list of endangered World Heritage Sites. Damage to the site due to usage has occurred. In September 2000 a centuries-old sundial called Intihuatana, or "hitching post for the sun," was damaged when a 1,000-pound crane fell onto it. In early 2007, the operator of the crane was sentenced to 7-years in jail. No one else, including those responsible for managing the film crew were arrested or brought to court on charges.

According to the archaeologists, the urban sector of Machu Picchu was divided into three great districts: the Sacred District, the Popular District, to the south, and the District of the Priests and the Nobility (royalty zone).Located in the first zone are the primary archaeological treasures: the Intihuatana (the sundial), the Temple of the Sun and the Room of the Three Windows. These were dedicated to Inti, their sun god and greatest deity. The Popular District, or Residential District, is the place where the lower class people lived. It includes storage buildings and simple houses to live in. In the royalty area, a sector existed for the nobility: a group of houses located in rows over a slope; the residence of the Amautas (wise persons) was characterized by its reddish walls, and the zone of the Ņustas (princesses) had trapezoid-shaped rooms. The Monumental Mausoleum is a carved statue with a vaulted interior and carved drawings. It was used for rites or sacrifices.

We toured the complex for 2 hours with Orlando. Afterwards, I sat in the sun to dry my clothes and feet with Lisa and Ken while the others climbed Huana Picchu. Kevin said the views from the top were incredible and I have to agree after seeing his photos. I wish I had gone but my feet were beginning to blister and I thought it wiser to allow them to dry.

We stayed at the site till 1 PM when we had to leave to meet our group at a restaurant in the town of Aguas Calientes based at the bottom of the mountain. The site was starting to become too full of people and we had seen enough to satisfy our curiosity. We took a tourist bus which leaves the site every 10 minutes and works it way down Hiram Bingham highway. We were starved by then and couldn?t wait to get to the restaurant. We sat down as a group one last time, enjoyed the buffet meal, tipped the guides and watched everyone go their own way. We were sad to see everyone leave but we exchanged email addresses and we would all send emails with photos to share later on.

Note: 1 CAD = 3 Soles

1 meter = 3.3 feet

Historical facts about Machu Picchu were copied directly from wikipedia.org.

 

From Nicolas on Nov 17th, 2007

I wish i was there .It is so beautiful. Keep up the good stuff you two.Nicolas & Andrée . We love you xx

From mom on Nov 17th, 2007

just love your pics of Machu ....really really awesome...

From Michel R on Nov 23rd, 2007

Wow! The blog and the pictures. Can't really say anything else. Wow!