Day 4 of the Machu Picchu trek

Trip Start Nov 15, 2009
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Trip End Ongoing


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Flag of Peru  , Sacred Valley,
Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Day 4:

Today is my 7 month anniversary of being in South America and what better way to spend it that in Machu Picchu!!!

It was a very early morning rise today - 3:15am to get ready and pack our stuff, so the porters could get on and breakdown the camp.  Breakfast was at 3:45am and the chef had made a "champions" cake!  Can you believe it, the chef actually baked a cake at like 2am in a tent.  He's the real champ!
We set off at 4:10am to the check point where we waited at the front of the queue for an hour until it opened.  An hour's hard hike and I arrived breathless at "Inti Punku" (the sun gate) where you get an incredible birds eye view of Machu Picchu.  Another half an hour hike down and we were standing right over Machu Picchu and here is where we took our final group photo - the view was just phenomenal.  We then headed into the ruins of Machu Picchu for our historical talk.

Machu Picchu (old mountain) is 2400m above sea level and northwest of Cusco.  It is divided into 3 sectors: agricultural, urban and industrial sectors.
Machu Picchu was founded by a Peruvian farmer living in the Ollabamba valley, but it was totally covered by vegetation.  After the farmer, Hiram Bingham discovered Machu Picchu in 1911 by accident as he didn't know about the city, but as an academic / historian he had learnt about the Inca people whislt living in Chile.
In 1912 the excavation of Machu Picchu began under the watchful eye of Hiram Bingham, where many important Inca artifacts were found - ceramic, tools, human remains and more.  Hiram Bingham also found the Inca trail but discovered it in the opposite direction to us, hence discovering the other sites I described in days 1-3 after discovering Machu Picchu.  In 1915 Hiram Bingham finished his studies of Machu Picchu and the Incas and wrote books to share his knowledge with the rest of the world.  After Hiram Bingham, many scholars came to Machu Picchu to continue the excavations, finding more artifacts and human remains, which are now in the Inka Museum in Cuzco.

Machu Picchu was the sacred city in the Inca's time and was therefore in a very discreet location, hence why the Spanish never found it.  There are 4 mountains surrounding and protecting Machu Picchu:  1) Machu Picchu , 2) Wiñay Picchu, 3) Yananti mountain, 4) Pumasiyu mountain.  Machu Picchu was important to the Inca's as it was the place where future leaders, priests and other religious figures were educated.  Only the most important people, the masters, future leaders, astronomers and high priests actually lived in Machu Picchu, with their role being to keep up the ideology of the Incas.

Why was the city of Machu Picchu abandoned???
One theory according to archaeologists is because of a disease.  Many human skeletons were found no more than 20-30cm underground and dispersed around Machu Picchu, not just in one place, so this they believe pints to some sort of diseases such as yellow fever or malaria.  You see, the Incas always buried their dead as they believed in re-incarnation, so to find human remains so shallow underground doesn't stack up to how the Incas operated.
Another theory is that a messenger came to Machu Picchu to warn of the Spanish invasion and as a result the Incas abandoned the site.  Our guide leans towards the first theory.


After this brief history into Machu Picchu and the Incas, we then walked around the various sectors of the site:
1) The Water Temple
2) The Royal Tomb
3) The Temple of the Sun - the window has a connection with the sun gate and during summer
    solstice on the 22/12, the sun breaks through the window (a spectacular sight apparently).
4) The Priests House - distinguished by a double door entry, so other people knew no to enter.
5) Thatched roof's - most of the ruins in Machu Picchu don't have the roof anymore as it would
    be too expensive to maintain.  The thatched roof's lasted a maximum of 6 years.  They were 
    waterproof and built steep to help the rain water run down.
6) The Stone Quarry - the Incas use material form here to build the city of Machu Picchu.  The
    way the Incas broke the rocks was to first make small holes in the rocks, hammer in some
    wood, saturate it with salt water so the wood expanded and after a couple of days, the rock
    broke.
7) The Sacrificial Rock
8) The Inka Symbol "Chakana" - but only half of it remains.
9) The Acoustic / Ornamental Room
10) Inti Watan (the sundial) - this is the centre of Machu Picchu and an astronomical
     observatory.  The Incas observed x2 Solstices (summer and winter) and x2 Equinox's. 
     During the winter solstice on the 21/6, alpaca's and llama's were sacrificed - one black (for
     darkness) and one white (for the day) to worship the gods.  The Incas believed in duality so
     everything had a partner or another side i.e. husband & wife, light & dark etc.
11) The Temple of the Engaged - where people actually come to Machu Picchu to get engaged.


We finished the guided tour at 10am and then Steve, Becky and I explored Machu Picchu by
ourselves for the next hour and a half.  It's not until you walk around the ruins, do you appreciate just how big  the sacred city was.  About a million photo's later and 4.5 hours since we arrived at Machu Picchu, we headed for  the bus to Aguas Calientes town.  We were given a meeting point in a restaurant there, from which we could collect our duffel bags and eat lunch.  I wasn't keen on being forced to eat in a specific place and at tourist prices, so off I went with Steve & Becky to the local markets and had "almuerzo" (set lunch menu) for 6 soles (£1.50) - soup followed by chicken, potatoes, rice and veg.  We then met the others back at the restaurant for drinks.  We could have actually gone to the hot springs that were nearby but a) I've had my fair share of hot springs over the past 7 months and b) friends had said it wasn't worth going so I thought I'd save myself the bother and the expense.

We had to get the train from Agaus Calientes at 3:20pm town to Piscacucho - 1.5 hours of beautiful mountainous scenery with the railroad tracks running parallel to a white water river with huge bolders.  This was followed by a 3 hour pain-staking bus ride back to Cuzco (we all just wanted to get back and relax after 4 days hardcore trekking).  The bus dropped us at the railway station in Cuzco where we had to wait for yet another bus, well a minibus to take us back to our respective hostels, (by this time everyone was tired & agitated).  We finally got back to our hostels around 8:30pm.  What a long day - 3am start and 8:30pm finish (17.5 hours of fun!).

A cold beer went down so well once we were settled again!  What a fantastic experience though - Machu Picchu the Inka Trail - probably the best thing I've ever done in my life to date.


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