Machu Pichu, Baby!

We saw Machu Pichu today. Words fail.

Amazing. Beautiful. Hot. Exhausting.

We left Cusco at 4:30 a.m. in a car. With a maniac at the wheel. We had to dodge stones, big and little, scattered in the roadway every so often by the strikers of the previous two days. But he got us to the train JUST on time; we boarded at Ollantaytambo station, around 6 or 6:15. Then an hour and a half of train ride, through absolutely beautiful country. When we thought we had arrived at Machu Pichu, we hadn't. We got onto a bus, and it took us up the mountain for 20 minutes or so. Then we thought we were at Machu Pichu. We weren't. We joined our group and our guide led us up roughly a bajillion steps to the top, where this sight greeted us:

But that was just the beginning. Within a few minutes, our guide took us to the point where we could take this view:

No matter how iconic it is, no matter how many photos I've seen before, it's nonetheless breathtaking to see it in person. Sheesh. Did I mention that words fail?

Machu Pichu (the phrase means, "Old Peak") is one of the most familiar symbols of the Inca Empire.The Incas started building it around AD 1430, but it was abandoned roughly a hundred years later, at the time of the Spanish conquest of the Inca Empire. Though the Spaniards never laid eyes on the site (apparently never even knew about it), the Incas abandoned it to move further away from the conquistadors. It was "discovered" in 1911 by Hiram Bingham, an American historian.

The guide said no more than eight hundred people lived in Machu Pichu at its peak. Though other theories have been advanced, he said it was a sort of university for noble Incas...they were sent there to be educated in the traditions and teachings of the Incas. It seems so strange that it was so relatively small, and its lifetime as a city was so short. It's just too majestic and impressive to be such a modest flash-in-the-pan, as cities and civilizations go.

But the accomplishment of those who built it is a monument. The stonework is breathtaking in quality AND in scope. I mean, look at the terraces they built, stone by stone:

They go on and on. And they've lasted most of a millenium (in fact, farmers throughout Peru--in Arequipa, for example--still use the terraces AND the irrigation canals the Incas created!).

Those Incas sure were hardy types, I'll tell you that: climbing step after step, even up to an archaeological platform, said our guide, on the highest peak (some of our group took the trek up there....I would have gone, too, if it hadn't been so...vertical). And the Incan trail--oh, my (you can actually see the trail in the upper left portion of the photo above, if you can look closely enough). I would have loved to have hiked to the gates of Machu Pichu (the two flat-topped columns in the far upper left in the pic below, in which you can likewis discern the Incan trail, slicing the top third of the photo), but Robin was tired...and I didn't want to leave her waiting the hour or two it would have taken....and, okay, I was tired, too.

Instead, we rode the bus back down the mountain to the Hanaqpachu Inn for lunch by the Urubamba River (pic below is the view from our table), and then shopped for souvenirs until our train left.

An exhausting day, but so exciting and rewarding, even after a total two hours in a car, four-and-a-half hours by train, an hour in a bus, and a few hours of walking up and down steep stone stairways. And, all that to travel a mere fifty miles from Cusco, when it's all said and done.

What a blessing this day--this whole trip has been! Even in the midst of this tribute to an ancient culture, a people who worshiped nature, and who even today inspire many to emulate their religion, it was impossible to escape the grandeur of Yahweh's Creation! It reminded me of the juxtaposition we witnessed yesterday when we saw a statue of Christ (modeled after the Rio de Janeiro statue) overlooking Cusco a stone's throw from the Sacred Valley:

No comments:

Post a Comment