Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu is one of the New 7 Wonders of the World! Rising majestically 7970 feet above the mean sea level from the Sacred Valley that is situated 80 kilometres northwest of Cuzco, Peru, Machu Picchu is considered as the lost city of the Incas, the most prominent tribe that ruled large swathes of South America before the arrival of the Spanish. Built in the 15th century, the wonder was oblivious to the world until it was discovered in 1911 by Hiram Bingham, an American historian. There is no unanimity on the nature of this wonder. Archaeologists have divergent opinions on what Machu Picchu is, and the most accepted one is that it was an estate built for the Inca emperor, Pachacuti.

The first day of my visit to Cusco in March 2013 was spent on sightseeing in the city – detailed in the blog: The trip to the mountainous marvel was on the next day. Cusco city is set itself in a valley, so one has to go uphill to reach the Inca citadel. I was on a package tour, and we started the journey in the early morning by boarding a bus. A 30-minute bus ride through the serpentine mountain roads took us to Poroy railway station. The beauty of the journey began from the very boarding of the train that climbed through the hilly terrains to Aguas Calientes railway station in a 3 hour 15 minutes of wheeling, covering a 69 km mesmerizing stretch of unadulterated nature.

The uphill journey was through a panoramic-carpet rolled out by nature, with the train and passengers being the only human interventions in the abutting natural ambiance. The train passed through different backdrops of mountains, valleys, etc., with a stream, which was so white in color that it looked as if snow were rolling down, being beside us most of the time though the train was travelling in the opposite direction. Although the trip was done 7 years back, I still remember a few things like the train running through the ravines, with mountainous walls on either side being very close to the train.

From Aguas Calientes station, we took a bus – I remember so – to reach the mountain base to start the climb to the site.  

As we reached the site, I took an aerial view around and was amazed at the beauty of the magnificent mountains encircling the site. The mountains were cloud-blanketed on that day.

Breathtaking views of Machu Picchu:

The big mountain, as seen in the picture below, in the backdrop of the Machu Picchu is the Huayna Picchu mountain, which has an elevation of 8,920 feet. This mountain is steeper and has lesser flat summit compared to the Machu Picchu mountain.

Machu Picchu was built in the classical Inca style of Dry Stone method, a building method where no mortars were used, instead, interlocking of stones that lie one above the other was done. Cusco  and Peru are located in the Pacific Ring of Fire – the global seismic fault line – and had experienced many seismic shocks in the past. But no earthquakes affected the Inca-built structures, including Machu Picchu, due to this building method. I had explained this technique in detail in the blog: Machu Picchu remains as the most popular icon of the Incas. How did the Incas bring boulders and other building materials to the mountain summits? Were the stones carved out of the mountains? Many such secrets continue to remain shrouded in mystery. The artistry of the Incas draws awe.

Many archaeologists are of the view that Machu Picchu was not completely built. They believe that the construction got stopped around 70% level due to the collapse of the Inca Kingdom from the Spanish invasion.

Let’s take a tour of the site. Small door! Were the Incas short?

As we walk into structure:

Machu Picchu is a treasure of surprises. There is one rock which defies the dynamics of compass. In normal case, north comes on top and south at the bottom in directional compass. But on this, it comes in the opposite way! Our guide demonstrated it by keeping a compass on it, and it showed the north at the bottom and the south on top!! This piece of rock is curious!!

The Temple of the Three Windows is another treasure! It is located at the Sacred Plaza of Machu Picchu. There are many theories about the Three Windows. One says it represents three worlds: the underground, the heaven and the present world. It represents sunrise, another theory says.

A replica of a mountain, located near to the Three Window, built by Incas:

The following three structures depict a bird: the first picture is the head of a bird, with the next two pictures being its wings. Behind the head, the body is in the form of a cave that has platforms for human sacrifice – we passed through the cave – and the wings are structured out from the pelvic of the cave. Archaeologists unearthed human remains of children from this spot, suggesting that they were offered to Gods. Twelfth Inca King abolished the human sacrifice system prevalent in the kingdom.

A downward view from the site gives spiraling sights of the Urubamba River that encircles the mountains. There is a hydroelectric power project, the only source of electricity in Machu Picchu, built up in the river.

The Happy Mountain is one of the three main mountains of Machu Picchu, with the other two being the Huayna Picchu mountain and the Machu Picchu mountain.

The Happy Mountain:

Words about Machu Picchu are incomplete without mentioning Lamas and Alpacas, the domesticated animals of the Incas, which were sources of meat and woolen cloths.


Incas with Alpacas:

Beauty, peace, serenity, and I am short of superlatives to explain the goodness that nature had showered on this place in their most pristine forms. As a visitor, one will feel these blessings of nature at Machu Picchu. I spent around 4 hours at the site, and many moments of that short-stay are still afresh in me. A memorable day out!!

Another blog on Peru:

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