Thursday, May 05, 2011

Day 12: Machu Picchu!

Note: Because I had no internet connection on the boat, I'm posting these about a week after they actually happened. I'll post one Galapagos post each day, followed by Machu Picchu posts, so you can live vicariously through my diaries and photos.


We took a bus from Yucay to Ollantaytambo, then a train to Aguas Calientes, then another bus up to Machu Picchu. At first, I thought the tales of Hiram Bingham trailblazing through the jungle to find Machu Picchu were grossly exaggerated. The Sacred Valley is nothing like a jungle; it is all farmland, and probably has been since the time of the Incas. It wouldn't be hard to find a site like Ollantaytambo because it's a city in the middle of the valley. But on the train, we saw the landscape change from arid farmland scrub brush to lush greenery, making its way to the jungle. So one of the things that makes Machu Picchu exceptional is its remoteness from modern civilization.

From Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu is also incredibly big, well-preserved, and beautiful. Being there reminded me of the day my friends and I decided to hang out at the Getty Center after school. We brought some peanut butter and jelly and a loaf of bread, and had dinner atop a mountain from where we could see a panoramic view for miles. Machu Picchu was 100 times better, but the feeling was the same: peace at the top of the world.

From Machu Picchu

Of course, Machu Picchu was built with security in mind. It's well-hidden, but it's also a fortress with the Urubamba river on three sides, and lookouts in every corner. It was a city where royals and peasants alike lived and worshipped, if separately. It's where several portions of the Inca trail converge, but it's not the center of the Inca empire (that's Cusco). It's at once grand and intimate.

From Machu Picchu

At some point I began to question the interpretation of the site. For example, there's a temple of the condor, which supposedly looks like a condor with its wings spread, and was a place to worship the condor. I didn't really see it, and how could they know this? There must be some evidence, but it's hard to believe.

From Machu Picchu

There are several hikes in and around Machu Picchu, but we didn't do any. Some people in our group were talking about returning tomorrow to hike either summit, but one of them is restricted to 40 people each day (which means it's usually sold out by 5:30am) and I guess the other was more than was needed. Our one day on top of the world was perfect, and going back to try and replicate it would only ruin the memories.

From Machu Picchu

Tonight we stay in a hotel in Aguas Calientes. The hotel is right on the Urubamba River, which at this point is more like a waterfall than a rapids. My windows are closed, but I can still hear the water flowing loudly enough that I thought it was the air conditioner.

From Machu Picchu

Click here for the whole day's album.

See vacation summary (with links to each day).

No comments:

Post a Comment