During the night of the 23rd, we were awakened around 4 am with loud booms. Startling, to say the least. Don quickly identified them as fireworks, although many people were quite frightened and thought it sounded like gunfire or maybe a terrorist bombing! The noise continued on and off, usually starting up just as we dropped off to sleep. Turns out it was the start of a festival that goes on for several days. We were fortunate that the celebrating the following night was only around 10-10:30.
On to more of MP.
We lucked out on the weather, big time. I’d been checking the weather forecast for all our stops, and there was a 60-70% chance of rain for our MP visit. Instead it was sunny and warm, even a bit hot at times. I cannot imagine how slippery these rocky trails would be in the rain, not to mention how clammy and uncomfortable it would feel to be even a little damp while climbing around.
When Hiram Bingham arrived at Machu Picchu, he found three families living on the site, an amazing complex of more than 700 terraces, small stone houses with steep roofs covered in thatch, ramps and walkways, and sacred sites. By design it blends into and with its mountainous landscape, on the eastern slopes of the Andes, the upper part Amazon rain forest.
The terraces not only prevented erosion and promoted agriculture but also were part of a water distribution system.
Because the Incas had no written language, scholars have had difficulty researching the site’s history and significance. It appears to be at the center of a network of trails and was carefully designed to align with astronomical events such as the solstices. We are not sure why the Incas built MP. Theories include ceremonial site, military stronghold, or a vacation getaway–far, far away!–for the ruling elite. There is no question that the site has many sacred sites, even if it was built for another reason. We also don’t know why it was abandoned in the 1500s–only that because it was, the Spanish didn’t find and destroy it.
Let’s now explore Machu Picchu’s different areas. As we walked all over the site, our guide explained the differences in the buildings we saw. It was hard to take notes as we walked on the narrow trails, so I’ll have to rely on my memory. The structures with coarser stonework, as this picture shows, were for “ordinary” residents. They are still amazing buildings, constructed using no mortar (as were all the buildings).
Contrast these walls with the fine work reserved for high-status citizens. The stones are cut more finely, with straighter sides, and fit together extremely tightly–so tightly you cannot wedge even a credit card in between them. (And yes, we did our own tests!) Here you can also see the pegs on the steep roof to which the thatch was attached.
Now for a human interest side story. Can you please tell me how someone climbs up MP, along narrow stone pathways that I’ll show you, dressed like this? The flip flops are tough, but a sheath dress as well? Boggles the mind! We did see a few others in flip flops, and even a young woman in high wedge heels. While it looks from this spot as though you can stick to better paths, even the walk up from where the bus from the train leaves you is not so easy. I wore trail sneakers and was very pleased with how stable I felt, even going down. (And thank you, dear friend Suzanne Quayle, for lending me your walking sticks! Using one (so I had a hand free for taking photos more easily) made it a lot easier once we started down.)
This is typical of the paths we walked; it’s a wider and easier one. In several places the path was one-third the width with walls on each side, as the other photos show. The spot at the rear above the terraces (first photo) has a sundial. We hiked up to it later–or rather, one of us did!
We saw several sacred sites. The Temple of the Sun was situated in harmony with the winter and summer solstices. Notice the very fine stonework.
So much about Machu Picchu is magical. Our guide pointed out how these stones were placed to echo the lines of the mountains behind them. The clouds cut off the big peak. See the flat topped rock and the green mountain just behind it?
Here’s another important site, the Temple of Three Windows, probably built later because of the different architectural style. The number three was important to the Incas. I loved the way the clouds cap the mountains in the background–the “eyebrows of the mountains.”
And finally, the Temple of the Condor, placed here because the huge multicolor triangular stones that the incas found on site form the wings. The flat triangle on the ground is the body, with the beak incised, and the white crescent is the neck feathers. The Incas revered the condor, which was symbolic of the sun, which was especially sacred to them.
On the way down we saw this adorable little animal. Doesn’t he resemble a rabbit? However, he is an Andean squirrel, who was kind enough to perk up his ears for me.
After our wonderful visit, we had refreshments at the Sanctuary Lodge before boarding the train back to Urubampa. The ride home was lots of fun. We had Pisco Sours during cocktail hour–yum!–and a lovely dinner. Our musicians started playing oldies, and they were really good. Didn’t take long before we were rocking it out in one of the club cars. Esther, our fearless leader, can really move! My pictures of the dancing didnt’ turn out. Fortunately (or not? You can imagine how we looked after the very long day of climbing), our professional photographer Jay was snapping away. We will be getting a DVD of his pictures, so you may yet get to see some of the action! Here we are taking a break from the dancing action. Esther is in the white shirt.
Hope you enjoyed your day at Machu Picchu with me!