Lost City of the Incas.....

Well, I came to Peru to see a famous Inca temple out in Andes that is one of the wonders of the world, like I’ve been to China to set foot on the Great Wall & Australia to see Uluru.  Of course I came all this way to see Machu Picchu.  I’ve been dreaming of photographing it since I was a kid while learning about the Incas in primary school.  That dream has come true & it was quite the adventure out of Cusco to get there for my overnight adventure.
Aguas Calientes
Someone who walked me to catch a bus from the hostel in Cusco to Ollanta where I caught the famous Peru Rail to a tiny mountain town called Aguas Calientes, which means “hot springs”; again I was meant & walked to the hostel. Back in the 1980’s going on Peru Rail Peru Rail was out of the question cos tourism was not really allowed.  Now it’s booming. Well, I scored a tourism price ticket for thirty dollars each way. There is a baggage restriction & I had to leave my big pack at the hostel storage & only take the necessary items.  Don’t worry; every traveler has to do it. The ride was very beautiful along the famous “Inca Trail” & got to see a few Inca agricultural centers along the way.  The coach had panoramic windows for site seeing on the hour and half journey.  It was a wee bit rocky. It reminded me of being on a roller coaster at Walt Disney World or positing to Costa Rica. It was hard to read that book of mine. Peruvian hospitality was surperb with a non-alcoholic beverage & a snack was provided, you don’t get that while on an Amtrak coach.  Tourism has really caught on in Peru & they have a fantastic backpacker network. Aguas Calientes reminds me of photos of the streets of Kathmandu (I haven’t been yet, but its on the list) with alleyway shops selling everything you will need for your expedition to Machu Picchu & not to forget every souvenir of your journey too.  I had every intention for a relaxing afternoon at the hot springs, but I heard from another guest at the Pirwar B&B Pirwa B&B Machu Picchu that I’m staying at that a landslide close the springs.  Oh, yeah it’s rainy too.  I’m in the rainy season what am I expecting, burst of sun do shine threw though.  Reminds me of that awesome afternoon I just had in the Galapagos snorkeling in the rain.  However, I found myself taking a wee walk around grabbing a bite to eat where I munched on a huge portion of popcorn (the kernels were huge, the corn in Peru is bigger than its North America cousin) & a nice vegetarian set meal at the tourism price.  Got to love scoring a barging with food. I walked around a bit before I found myself getting a half hour massage. Boy, did I really need it.  I think it was an Andes style that incorporated hitting those acupuncture points. I only paid like thirty soles for, which is like fifteen dollars & with American prices that’s a barging for one. My guide meant me later that night to go over my schedule for my long day of exploration & return to Cusco via the same route I came from. Oh, it’s going to be a busy to for the wait & compose shot & hopes to see lamas. I found out that there is roughly 5,000 visitors per day & only 400 can get permits to hike Waynpicchu.  Well, I’m one of those 400 who scored a permit to hike the famous peak.  I heard that it takes an hour up & hour down.  Just a wee bit nervous cos of the altitude, I got to hike slow & steady to win the race. They do divide the group of 400 into half & allocate certain times for the hike to main preservation of the trail.
Machu Picchu was built somewhere in the 1450’s at the height of the Inca Empire, but it was abandoned just over a hundred years later as a result of the Spanish Conquest.  It’s possible that most of its inhabitants died of smallpox that was introduced by the Spanish Conquistadors who arrived in the area.  The latter had notes of a placed called Piccho, although there is no real record of the Spanish visiting the area. There are types of sacred rocks defaced by the Conquistadors in other locations are untouched at Machu Picchu. It wasn’t until 24 July 1911 that the Yale Scholar, Hiram Bingham, founded the lost Inca city.  He had been searching for the city of Vilcabamba, the last Inca refuge during the Spanish conquest. He had been searching for years in pervious expeditions in the area before he found Machu Picchu. An eleven year Quechua boy, Pabilto Alvarez, led Bingham up to Machu Picchu was where some Quechauas lived in the original structures. Recently archaeologist scholars claim that Machu Picchu was an estate of the Inca Emperor Pachacuti. The site has been selected due to its position relative to sacred landscape features such as its mountains, which are purported to be in alignment with key astronomical events important to the Incas. Also, Machu Picchu is on a magnetic center of the universe, like the Great Pyramids of Ginza are & other well known world wonders. Hiram Bingham claimed that the complex was the traditional birthplace of the Inca “Virgins of the Suns”. In 1983 UNESCO “The Lost City of the Incas” was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Machu Picchu is located eighty kilometers northwest of Cusco in the Andes Mountains at an altitude of about 2,450 meters above sea level that is 1,000 meters lower than Cusco. It has a milder climate than the Inca capital.  It’s one of the most important archaeological sites in South America & the most visited tourist attraction in Peru. Recently, there has been controversy with Yale University on the treasures of Machu Picchu that were housed in the museum there, but the artifacts have just recently been returned to Peru. 
Machu Picchu
The famous ruins are divided into two main sections known as the Urban & Agricultural Sectors that are divided by a wall.  The Agricultural Sector is divided into an upper & lower section while the Urban Sector is dived into an East & West Sectors that are separated by a wide plaza. The central buildings use the classic Inca architectural style of polished dry-stone walls of regular shape.  It has been known that the Incas master a technique, called ashlar, in which blocks of stone are cut to fit together tightly without mortar. These stones are defiantly earthquake proof & not even a strand of grass can fit between them.  It’s quite impressive.  The interior of the Inca structures features trapezoidal windows. The main stone is granite that was used to build this fantastic man made wonder. The structure is composed of one hundred forty structures that include temples, sanctuaries, parks & residences, which included houses with thatched roofs. There are more than one hundred flights of stone steps & numerous water fountains that were used for an irrigation system. Research suggests that the irrigation system was used to carry water from a holy spring to each of the house in turn. In the first zone are the primary archaeological treasures: the Inihuatana, the Temple of the Sun & the Room of the Three Windows that was dedicated to Inti, the sun god. The royalty area that was for the nobility class is a section of houses located in rows over a slope & the residents of the Amautas (wise persons) had reddish walls, but the section for the Nustas (princesses) had trapezoid shaped rooms. The Monumental Mausoleum is a carved statue with a vaulted interior & carved drawings on the walls that was used for sacrifices. It’s been noted that the people of Machu Picchu were connected to long distance trade that can be seen by non-local artifacts that were found at the site. No one really knows the history of this place cos it was lost for many centuries & it continues to fascinates archeologists & historians to find the truth to it.
Since the Incas were big worshipers of mother Earth & the solar system, the Intihuatana stone is one of many ritual stones in South America. These stones are arranged to point directly to the sun during the winter solstice, 21 June. The name comes from the Quechua language: inti means sun, wata is the verb to tie or hitch, translate in English means “The Hitching Post of the Sun”, Hiram Bingham supposedly coined the term. The Incas believed that the stone held the sun it its place along its annual path in the sky.  The stone is located at 13°9'48" S. On 11 November & 30 January the sun stands almost above the pillar, having no shadow at all. During the winter solstice the stone is casting the longest shadow & during the summer solstice it castes a much shorter one of the northern side. I heard that this stone was used in an Inca Cola commercial & some how it got a wee bit damage during the commercial shoot.  Researchers believe that the stone was built as an astronomic calendar. This place is fascinating with the rich history to the metaphysical world. No wonder why you see New Age & Spirituality tours celebrating the solstices here.  Fantastic healing powers are in the works here & one is in connection to the universe. Let your spirit be free!
Center Part of Machu Picchu
View from Waynapicchu
It was a very busy day for my exploration with an early start by bus to the entrance of this iconic world wonder that I will be quite nacker after. My day was bright & early again with another continental breaky at the hostel.  However, I found myself having a strange inappropriate cultural chat with the night watch guy who pointed out at 6AM that I had a pimple on my chin.  If my sister were with me she would have told the guy that it was rude. He said sorry, but I’m like saying to myself why do you point out such a thin.  I was polite about the apology & got my things to & went on my merry way. I found my way to the bus.  However, the ride was something else another rockin’ rolla ride with numerous switch backs up the mountain to the main gate to Machu Picchu.  It only took like twenty minutes & I was getting a wee bit nauseous. At around 7AM I found myself inside the gate of Machu Picchu enjoying the morning fog & a light mist taking a few photos before I had to go meet the group for the guided two hour tour.  Well, it was crazy finding the right group cos everyone was out side the main gate waiting for theirs & of course there’s other guides trying to make a sale & selling you a personal guide. After a while I ended up in the right group that spoke English of course & proceeded threw the gate once more to climb like ten minutes to meet the group for the tour. I saw the most amazing view of Machu Picchu at that point with the beautiful mountain in the background that any famous photo would tell.  I quite enjoyed the tour & guide for the two & half hours wondering around all the major places until it was time to make the famous climb to Huaynapicchu.  I meant some people from LA the other day on the city tour that I meant again at Machu Picchu & went on the strenuous one hour climb to Waynapicchu. At this point the sun came out & it was scorching hot.  I had to delayer from my rain gear.  At the gate you got to sign in with your name, age, country, time you begin & your signature.  When you’re done you just find your name sign & clock out.  It’s the park services way to keep a count of the 400 people who were issued permits for the day.  I was #105 in the second group. Funny a group of Brits asked me if I gave my real age & I told them yes, but I could easily pass for nineteen. One of the Brits tried to take off my sunnies to see if I was lying on my age & actually agreed that I look much younger than thirty three.  I also got chatting with some Japanese hikers & asked if they were “genki” & they were in deed. I told them “Shimane-ken no ALT desu”, explained that I taught English in Shimane Prefecure & also, said “yoroshiku onegaishimasu”. My Nihongo skills do come out from time to time & it doesn’t matter how basic they are cos the Japanese are just impressed that I can speak their language. Well, the trail wasn’t overly difficulty; I’ve done worst in Juneau with the West Glacier Trail & in Yosemite National Park. There were numerous switchbacks, climb up granite stone & not to forget hanging onto wires as a railing at points. Once I reached the summit the views were spectacular. I got chatting with a German & couple of American girls at the top about Canon’s & lenses. Got to love talking photography when you get the chance.  I also gave my camera to a few other photographers to take photos of me on the ledge over looking Machu Picchu & of course I was working the camera on my wee bit of a personal photo shoot. Strike a pose there’s nothing to it Machu Picchu. The hike down wasn’t too bad. The sun was shining bright though at mid day & luckily I had a hat to block out the sun in my pack. I’m happy to have done the hike when I got back to the trail’s entrance. I was relieved that I found the inner strength to make it. I was looking at the mountain thinking that I’m crazy to go up & hike it, but I’m really not.  It’s been rather an unique experience to enhance my overall experience at Machu Picchu. I spent my afternoon wondering around looking at other sites of the city & composing my shoots threw the viewfinder.  At one spot I quite enjoyed just sitting on a ledge inhaling the beauty of the place & being at peace with this amazing peaceful vortex on Earth.  The lighting has been superb today. Can’t really complain.  Just knacker & read to find some vegetarian food before I catch the train & make it back to Cusco later this evening the same way I came yesterday. It’s definitely been a unique & beautiful experience at Machu Picchu.  Oh, I also got the stamp in my Passport as well.  Time to rest the soul before enjoying more of the beauty of the Inca world tomorrow. I also found out that Inca means “king” today.

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