Wednesday, April 18, 2012

We Reached the Top…

…Both literally and figuratively. Upon entering the gates of Machu Picchu, we not only arrived at the end of our painstaking 400 meter vertical climb up the mountain, but also the zenith of our entire trip. This is what it had all been for, everything else was just mostly filler to get us to this most famous and well-known Inca site.

And it was all worth it; the 4 hour bus/train trip from Cusco, the 3:30 am wake up, the 1.5 hour hike in pitch black Peruvian jungle, the $50 entrance ticket. All worth it just to see the mist clear revealing the magical scene of ancient ruins set at the apex of breathtaking mountains. It was even more impressive in person than any photo; the grass greener, the cliffs steeper, the stonework more intricate.

Train along the Urubamba River toward Machu Picchu
Urubamba and beautiful Andes Mountains
What’s interesting and also unusual about Machu Picchu is that no one really knows why it exists. It was occupied for only about 100 years, its inhabitants taking with them their goods when they left. The Spanish never found and conquered it, which isn’t all that surprising since until you actually arrive there, it’s impossible to tell from below that exists. Some think it may have been a testing ground for agriculture, its various terraces providing microclimates for different crops. It’s obvious by the huge temple structure and location that it was a sacred spot, situated among the most pristine mountains in the Andes. 

Ruins shrouded in mist
Nolan at the gate to the city
Llamas hanging out on the terraces
We could have stayed forever just taking in the views, but the afternoon rain clouds were rolling in so we headed down. Note to fellow travelers: rain gear is essential and take the bus unless you want to punish yourself. We were slightly soaked and completely exhausted by the time we made it back to town and on to our train.

City and farming terraces
We spent the night in Ollantaytambo on the way back to Cusco which was worth a brief stop to see their unique ruins which feature another temple, water fountains and multi-story storagehouses. 

Ruins at Ollantaytambo
View from ruins - storehouses in the distance

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