This Inka city is the reason we’re down in South America. It was wonderful to finally be here, after hearing about it and seeing pictures for years.
We got in the bus line at 5:30 a.m. and reached M.P. about an hour later. We immediately headed uphill; Nancy was breathing heavily. We stopped at an overlook and enjoyed the view as Carlos gave us an overview of this amazing place. So far, this is the highlight of our trip, watching the sun rise over the mountains, first hitting Huayna Picchu, the mountain we had tickets to climb later that morning. Seeing it in the distance, I wasn’t at all sure I’d make it to the top.
Machu Picchu, and many of the stones and walls within it, are aligned with the June and December solstices. We saw many amazing things, e.g. a sacristy that acted as a sound chamber, mirrors of water which fill with light at the solstices and could be used for indirectly viewing the sun, and a stone aligned with the compass and shaped like the southern cross (which we saw one evening). We heard about both the Inka Reign and the Inka Empire. In the later, virgin girls were sacrificed to the mother cosmos. We saw leaning walls designed to survive earthquakes. This royal city was decimated by disease, probably brought by couriers from Cusco after the Spaniards arrived, and abandoned in the 1400’s.
At 10:00, we bid farewell to Carlos and headed over to Huayna Picchu. Only a few hundred tickets are issued for this climb each day. I made it up in about an hour and 15 minutes. The cables were very useful for navigating the steep steps. I caught up with Karen and Joanne at the top. We finished our bag lunches, resting and soaking in the view, then headed back down on shaky legs. We met Nancy at the bottom and learned that she made it all the way up to the tunnel-like passageway between rock walls, where I had to crawl on my hands and knees to fit through with my backpack on.
Exhausted, but ecstatic, we caught the bus back to Aguas Calientes where we enjoyed beers on a deck overlooking the river. We had an early dinner, then caught the 6:00 train to Ollantaytambo where we were met by a van which transported us back to Cusco. We reached our hotel around 10 p.m., tired, but happy.