Machu Picchu

On the third day of Alan and Bradley’s trek I got up early to take the train to Aguas Calientes. Not as posh as the famous Hiram Bingham Express, the Expedition Train is very comfortable, has panoramic windows plus complementary snacks and drinks.
Aguas Calientes seems only to exist to serve the needs of visitors to Machu Picchu. As the name implies there are some hot springs but the entrance to those looked pretty seedy to me! There are loads of restaurants and hotels – almost certainly too many – plus overpriced souvenir shops. I had a look round but when the heavy rain that the walkers also experienced arrived I returned to the hotel and went to sleep..
Next morning I couldn’t do justice to the best breakfast we have had so far, served from 4.30am! I joined the queue for the bus up the zigzag road to Machu Picchu and arrived just before 7am. The sun was shining and, despite the numbers at the bus stop, the site looked pretty empty. I wandered up and down taking photos and also looking for the meeting point where the Inca Trail enters the site. The map wasn’t helpful and everyone I asked gave a different response! Just before 8am I turned a corner and there they were walking towards me, bedraggled and weary but elated by their achievement!
After a shore rest Ruben gave us a tour.
The Inca civilisation lasted for about 200 years until the arrival of the Spanish in 1532, so is not especially ancient in archaeological terms. Unlike nearly every other site MP was not found by the conquistadores and not subject to destruction, just decay and return to forest. Until 1921 when it was ‘discovered’ by the American explorer, Hiram Bingham (led there by local Quechua people who no doubt had known about it all along.)
The Inca view of the universe divided the world into 3 sections represented by 3 creatures, condor – the top level, puma – our level and snake (below ground). The design of MP reflected these 3 elements. At ground level the terraces were cultivated to feed the population. There is a quarry from where some of the stones will have come – it is amazing how the rocks were transported over such difficult terrain and the exactness of the stonework especially in the upper zone is truly amazing.
Incidentally, although we talk about the ‘Incas’ there was only ever one Inca at a time, the supreme leader or king. He ruled over the Quechua people whose descendants still inhabit a vast area of Peru and speak a modern version of the Quechua language.
After some food and some time in Aguas Calientes we retuned to Cuzco by train for a well earned sleep!imageimageimageimageimageimageimage

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