Sorry for the delay on part 2, folks. I made sure to get in the first part on the evening of our return from Machu Picchu while in our hotel, but we left promptly the next morning for the next adventure (Amazon exploring). I’m currently at a bar in an Amazon resort/lounge with no wifi drafting this while enjoying a pisco sour… just wanted to paint a picture.
Day 3 of the Inca Trail put us past the highest point of the hike so no more exhausting uphill, but the daunting task of 3,000 steps downhill was on the agenda today as well as other Incan ruins before reaching Machu Picchu the following day.
All the sites that we visited were also discovered by Hiram Bingham in about the 1911-1915 date range. I’m including the name of the most memorable site since I’ve promptly forgotten the others. Phuyupatamarca is the site that is included in the pictures above. This is located at 11,930ft above sea level and was just so beautiful. I hope the pictures do it some justice. The intended purpose of the individual sites can only be assumed and for Phuyupatamarca, the assumed purpose is two-fold: 1. strategic protection and 2. place of rest and worship. As this was located on the way to Machu Picchu, the assumed religious mecca, there was in place a relay system where Quechua runners would deliver messages from Cuzco to Machu Picchu.
Our group stuck together for most of Day 3 as we had these sites to visit and I’m sure our guides wanted to avoid giving the descriptions multiple times. We split apart at the 3,000 step decline to the campsite for the night. Those steps honestly felt like the end of a marathon, where, you know, you just have to push through and get to the end. I just tried to zone through relying on my walking poles to save my knee some of the pain. One of our guides, Marco, was pretty limited in his English so he stuck with me and we had a little mutual Spanish/English lesson swapping vocabulary and learning about each others’ lives. Also, some wild llama jumped right in front of me. They’re so fuzzy!
The final morning was a 3:00am wake up call. The goal is to be the first ones at the gate to go in and see Machu Picchu as the sun is rising. We were super blessed with weather all throughout the hike, however this morning it was super foggy. It was definitely beautiful in its own way and helped build the anticipation for Machu Picchu’s unveiling. These were our first views:
And then slowly, as the sun started coming out, you could see little bits here and there:
Then a little more:
So we got a little closer:
It was absolutely unreal. How they could have built this in the middle of the mountains and with such limited technology is just mind boggling. Of course, as with most ancient structures, there must have been an unthinkable amount of slave’s lives lost in the making of this fortress, but it’s beauty is undeniable.
I will include a few fun facts that I learned while I was there. Machu Picchu was definitely a religious center but there is also evidence of agriculture (their primary economy), a school system (studying astrology) as well as residences. The terraces that cascade down the mountain grew various different crops, while the top levels of the structure have remains of a sun dial and other objects that used the sun’s rays to create images. There is also evidence that Machu Picchu was not finished given the attention to detail they would give to “completed” structures. For instance, check out this wall:
Religious structures would have wall finishes such as this without any mortar, just stone that was perfectly aligned using only chisels and other stone cutting tools. That is some serious attention to detail. Many of the gold and silver found here is on exhibit either at Yale or Cuzco/Lima so will probably have some pictures of those when I visit some museums.
Alright, I’m off. We just got back to civilization after the Amazons and wanted to post this really fast. Will post the Amazon bit in the next day so hopefully I can catch up on days lost. Cheers, all!