Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Marvel that is Machu Picchu

It was 6:15am when we first set our eyes on one of the marvels of this world, Machu Picchu. It was roughly the same time when it was rediscovered by an American explorer, Hiram Bingham, in 1911. Since then it has been flooded more and more each year by tourists from all over the world. When you actually see the old Incan city from first view instead of in a photograph it really makes sense why people come from all corners of the globe to witness the marvel of what was the Incan royalty get-away at the height of their empire in the early 16th century.

For those who don´t know much about the short-lived Incan Empire, here´s the skinny version. They were a very powerful empire that spread from today northern Chile, parts of Bolivia and almost all of Peru. Their engineering feats are still a wonder. Perhaps the most amazing characteristic of this empire was how great of engineers they were. When you are in the presence of any Incan ruin, be it Machu Picchu or another, you can witness how much damned time they must have spent building these perfect walls made of stone. Machu Picchu was jaw dropping to see the engineering feat. Studies show that about 60% of the construction done here was done subterranean to preserve the foundation of this site, largely why all of us tourists are still able to witness it today still standing. The location of this site is on the cusp of the Peruvian Amazon, lying to the east, and the Peruvian Andes, to the southwest. Large rainfalls and lush greenery surround this setting. Machu Picchu was built in between two larger peaks, Machu Picchu mountain to the south and Wayna Picchu to the north. Wayna Picchu provides the incredible backdrop to all of the famous pictures, my brother and I also eventually climbed it to get the true overhead view of Machu Picchu river and the Urubumba river. The Urubumba river wraps around the mountain on three sides and also causes a mysterious mist to pass through during the early mornings.

My mom, brother and I sat in amazement for about the first hour or so looking as the morning mists passed over this spiritual-like venue. It was that feeling where you really aren´t sure what to say, the mind´s constant search for words to label what the eyes are capturing. I feel this view was just too much for a label, it just is what it is... a marvel of this world. We then spent the next hour walking through the city and admiring the detailed stone work and the incredible water management system the Incans had created so they didn´t need to use irrigation, they really were brilliant engineers for their time.

bro and I in front of the main gate

hanging out with the llamas and alpacas, they still call this place home

exhausted from the climb, breathtaking view!

Then my brother and I decided we would hike Wayna Picchu to get the heart pumping and break a good sweat as the sun came burning off the early morning fog. Only 400 people per day are allowed to climb the steep, narrow trail to the peak of Wayna Picchu, fortunately we signed up in time to start the ascent at 10am. My brother´s quick pace up the steep trail led me to quick exhaustion and nearly a break for the quick vomit check, fortunately there were some slower trekkers in front that we caught up to and slowed our pace. Since he lives in Aspen, Colorado and is accustomed to the altitude he kicked my ass up the trail but I stayed closely behind because I hate to lose, especially when it comes to the brother. In less than 45 minutes, we peaked Wayna Picchu and saw the marvel from way above, it was as if we were looking at an architectural model of the Incan city from so high above. We could have stayed up there all afternoon and would have, if it wasn´t for the wicked mosquitos and dragonflies that harrassed us into submission until began our descent.

the sepia version of Machu Picchu from the top of Wayna Picchu

After a 45 minute descent that compressed the knee joints into that rubber-like feeling, we had to quickly rush to the exit in order to catch our mid day bus going down the mountain in order to catch the train back to Cusco. Unfortunately, our train didn´t leave until much later. Therefore we could have stayed up at Machu Picchu much longer. I can´t complain much because I was able to see the wonder but any regret that I do have is that I wish I wasn´t so rushed. It´s a place that I could have spent the full 12 hours. It was very sweet while it lasted but almost too short-lived, much like the Incan Empire itself.

Some notes about Peru in general:

The Incan empire was destroyed by the Spaniards in the 1530´s at the height of the empire, much of the death caused by the Spanish was caused by diseases brought from overseas rather than gunfire.

Peruvian food is outta this world, if you ever go, don´t forget to order: Lomo saltado, ceviche (spicy seafood dish), trucha (trout). In Cusco, they have cuy which is guinea pig. I didn´t try it but I hear it tastes like chicken, I´ll leave you to be the guinea pig... no pun intended.

If you have short time in Peru, definitely go to Cusco and Machu Picchu. Lima, you can do without, just another big city. Cusco is high altitude so treat yourself to lots of water and coca leaf tea upon arrival to battle altitude sickness. I hope you are able to go someday or have already been, its a fascinating country.

Stay tuned for more on our Patagonia trek as we see some Whales and Penguins then head to Torres del Paine for the 4 day trek in the Chilean Andes!!!

Until then, all my love!

1 comment:

jRags said...

Great entry my friend! I can just picture you and the brother racing up the mountain, haha.

I remember in my history class learning about the ancient sacrificial rituals of the Inca's - very brutal to be honest.

Looked at the pictures on Facebook - looks like a truly amazing place. I kept thinking that it would be fun to hike Wayna Pichu at dusk the night before so you can watch the dawn from above Machu Picchu - that would probably be an amazing experience.

Cant wait to hear about Patagonia!