Monday, May 14, 2012

Machu Picchu – Peru, May 13-14, 2012

We departed Ollantaytambo by train, early in the morning, destined for Aquas Caliente which is the closest neighbouring town to Machu Picchu and only accessible by train, there are no cars.

We checked into our hotel, the Inca Town, and by 9:30 am our guide had arrived and we were on our way up the mountain via shuttle bus.  The 30 minute switch back ride took us to an elevation of 2,430 meters (above sea level) and the entrance to the Machu Picchu site.

Quite interestingly, Machu Picchu is not mentioned in any of the chronicles of the Spanish Conquistadors.  Apart from a couple of German adventurers in the 1860’s, who apparently looted the site with the Peruvian government’s permission, nobody apart from local Quechua people know of Machu Picchu’s existence until American historian Hiram Bingham was guided to it by locals in 1911.

You can read about Bingham’s own account of his “discovery” in the classic book Inca Land: Explorations in the Highlands of Peru, first published in 1922 and now available as a free download from Project Gutenberg (
FYI, I just opened up MSNBC website and read of the 10 most sacred and endangered spots on Earth and there was Machu Picchu... I copied a portion of the article for your reading pleasure below,

“any moment now, we could lose Machu Picchu, Peru"

UNESCO called Machu Picchu's problems "urgent," and rampant tourism is the biggest threat to Peru's main attraction. Last year marked the centennial of Machu Picchu's "discovery" by Yale history lecturer Hiram Bingham; 1 million visitors descended on the site, up 30 percent from 2010. With more visitors comes more construction in nearby towns like Aguas Calientes (already packed with hotels and restaurants), straining the fragile land: riverbanks are erosion-prone, and landslides and fires also threaten the site.

Ironically, Peru's economy depends on visitors. About 90 percent of the country's tourist revenue comes from this region and 175,000 local people make their living directly from Machu Picchu tourism. When heavy rains and landslides forced the site to close for two months in 2010, a $200 million loss ensued. Losing Machu Picchu is more than economic. Built as an Andes Mountain retreat for Incan ruler Pachacuti in 1450, the stone city is packed with clues that shed light on ancient Incan civilization. Archeological efforts are still ongoing, and new discoveries include cemeteries, roads and a series of agricultural terraces.

The weather during our visit was perfect!  Despite warnings that we would need long woolly underwear this was not the case and if anything we were overdressed for a beautiful sunny day.

Machu Picchu, one of the Man-made Wonders of the World
The sun is shining on a Perfect Day!

To try to sum up our visit to Machu Picchu is very difficult.  There is just so much to see we were in was almost like sensory overloading.  The beauty of the surroundings, the majesty of the site itself and the splendor of the overall stillness was akin to a spiritual experience.  We spent one full day just viewing the ruins.  If you want to include any hiking you need more time.  This place offers a life experience and one not to be missed.  Put it on your bucket list today!

From here we return to Ollantaytambo for a nite before returning to Cusco for our flight to Puerto Maldonado our gateway to the Amazon jungle.

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