I climb that last, extremely steep, 30 or so steps, pass through some castle like walls and there is magic in the air!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!!
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.
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! :)