I climb that last, extremely steep, 30 or so steps, pass through some castle like walls and there is magic in the air!
Not having that much experience as some other members here, this time I'm also trying to take you in a tour to the Inca Citadel of Machu Picchu in Perú.
I arrive at the Sun Gate (Intipunku) early in the morning, before the sun starts to shine on Machu Picchu, on the 4th day of trekking the Inca Trail.
We got out of our camping tents it was still dark nigh, at around 4:30AM, to be here in time for the show.
The sight, aestheticaly, is not that amazing. Appart from the snowed Andes peaks at a distance everything is blueish grey. Nevertheless, the feeling is almost overwhelming. It's truly amazing to see Machu Pichu from this point of view, turning gold when the first sunrays hit the walls. The most beautiful show is when there is fog all around the citadel and it dissipates after the first sunrays.
Today is a clear day and we can't see that, but still some people break into tears!
Yes, that strong. Maybe because of the effort of the last three days, maybe someother thing.
We are still one hour away of Machu Picchu, down in the mountain line. By this ancient inca path, we can see some huge wild orchids (Sobralia sp.). I know some about Wild Orchids
, but never heard before of these with stems longer than 3 meters! We also have the company of many friendly birds, lizards and insects.
We arrive at Machu Picchu close to the "postcard" point but there was so many trekkers there that it was quite impossible to get a clear shot. Well, but getting some 10 ou 20 meters aside would avoid most of the crowd and then a lot of photoshop work at home did the rest :)
The place is bigger than it looks, deeper, much deeper, but before we continue we have to go to the main entrance to clear our tickets.
The guide then take us through the Qolcas (inca storage buildings) and we stop by some terrace to learn a bit of History.
First of all, Hiram Bingham did not discover Machu Picchu in 1911! It was "discovered" many years before by others and locals always knew about it. However, Bingham did let the rest of the world know of Machu Picchu and the scientifical discovery of the place is what peruvians attribute to him.
There's a wall surrounding the city core and a number of temples and important places inside and we then are lead past the most important ones.
The Sun Temple where black llamas were sacrificed. Black llamas were the ultimate sacrifice made to the gods before a human sacrifice was considered.
The three windows temple. Intiwatana, the Inca astronomical observatory. Several ceremonial stones, all representing the 3 levels of live the Incas believed in: Hananpacha, represented by the Condor and the place of high spirits and spirituality, Kaypacha, represented by the Puma and that is our eartlhy level, and Ukupacha represented by the Serpent and that is the underworld where dead people dwell. This last one does not represent the place of doom the western world thinks of. It's rather a place of wisdom, counseling and introspection.
The sun was terribly strong and, near the earth equator, there's almost no shadows. Some people were not feeling that well around midday. Sunglasses and sunblocker are a must.
The next day I came back again (the entrance ticket is not cheap, but it's not everyday that we are in this place). Left my tired travel companions in bed really early and went on climbing the Wayna Picchu, that steep mountain next to Machu Picchu. Wayna Picchu means something like Young Mountain (Machu Picchu means Old Mountain).
This was a great day, probably the best I had in all this trip to Perú.
I was alone but soon ran into some people I had met some days before in another part of Perú!!
Then, afterall I didn't get there in time to get a entrance to climb. It's free for Machu Picchu visitors, but there's a daily limit on the number of people that can go up and I'd had to get there even earlier to get my ticket stamped. But, when talking about it with that people I met, a person from a german tourist group overheard us and came to me offering to switch tickets with a person on her group that had her ticket stamped but didn't want to go up!
Can you believe this? And I've always thought of german people as not being that friendly!
Wayna Picchu is not that much of a hard climb. Well, for someone that went trough the Inca Trail, it's a breeze. But it is important to be in a minimal physical fitness and pratice some common sense care going up.
It was a great climb, great companion, great view and when comming back down to meet again my tired travel friends, I decided to take a shortcut I didn't know and I found them right around the corner, still way far from our arranged meeting point! Machu Picchu magic again, all day through.
Then we went visit the Inca Bridge. A bridge of logs built in the mountain vertical wall and also a security point. If enemies were coming through that way they would just remove the logs and no one could pass anymore.
On the way there we have seen, in my opinion, the most spectacular view of Machu Picchu, showing all the depth of the place ranging from the guard-house, the agriculture terraces, the main citadel, Wayna Pichu and finally all framed in the mountains around.
In the end I still visited the Three Doorway Group of ruins, the Condor Temple and finally had great view of the famous Machu Picchu fountains.
More time I had available and more I could had visited: The Machu Picchu mountain is an interesting, unlimited, alternative to Wayna Pichu. Then there's the Moon Temple at the base of Wayna Picchu and lots more of terraces one and the other side of the core ruins.
So far, this was really the trip of my life :)
My complete Dreamstime Machu Picchu collection
And, if you care to read a little more, my chronicles of that Trip to Perú
(work in progress)
And a great 2011 to all of you! :)