South America Part IV - Machu Picchu

The day was perfect with sun and light clouds. We were among the first to arrive at the summit, but this was to be short-lived. Again we regret that we cannot share more of the 39 photos taken that day. It sure is hard to choose which ones to include.

The site is located at the top of a peak and surrounded by a river valley that meanders through other peaks. In the early morning the mist from the clouds is just beginning to rise and adds to the mystical flavor of the surroundings. Cloaked in mystery, this site is not mentioned in any of the Spanish chronicles, probably because it had been abandoned by 1532 when the Spanish began their conquest of the Incas in Cajamarca. Discovered in 1911 by Hiram Bingham, the site has been skillfully recovered and tastefully cared for. The function of Machu Picchu is now guessed to be that of a ceremonial center, considering the exceptional stone work and the abundance of the ornamental rather than the practical.

At a later time in our trip in the city of Arequipa we would learn more about the ceremonial importance of Cuzco, and perhaps of Machu Picchu. The testament to the engineering feat of Machu Picchu are the buildings made of blocks of stone so perfectly cut and fitted together that no mortar is needed to complete the job. The second photo shows Jane standing along one of these walls. If you look closely at the bottom layers you will see wavy lines. Then you will be amazed as your eye strays to the top layers and you see that the original engineers managed to bring the top of that wall to a straight horizontal level line. Somebody had a really good eye to manage that one!

One of the sections of the site is called the quarry and gives some insight to the reason that the blocks fit together so well. Huge boulders were scored in certain places and then stressed until broken along certain lines. These parts were then carried to the places needed in the constructions and fitted back together. Pretty smart… About 10 AM the first bus loads of people start to arrive and soon the place is crawling with folks.

During the high season as many as 1,000/day will visit. The international community does do a lot better in the area of respect than do the Peruvians themselves. One wants to shake the locals and assure them of the treasure that they have there. Instead there is much running on the walls and shouting from the children and lots of trash left about which must then be picked up by the park officials. There is a tremendous amount to see at Machu Picchu; however, to see it all means climbing up and down lots of steps.

Towards noon Jane wanted to take a short hike outside the site to see the “Inca Drawbridge”. No other takers? OK, I would do it by myself.

The 20 minute walk skirted the opposite side of the peak from the ruins. When finally at the end, it was difficult to comprehend what was there. At the foot of a wall cliff was the basis for continuing the walk to its final destination. One cannot approach the drawbridge but who would want to!? How was it ever built? Why was it built in this place? Photo #3 will show you what we mean.

About 2 PM we were all totally bushed and happy with our visit. This had to be the highlight of our whole trip around South America. All four of us feel thankful that we were so privileged.