We arrived at Machu Picchu early in the morning to get a glimpse of the low clouds still evaporating around the mountains and stayed until late afternoon – watching the dark thunderstorms roll in until they cleared to a beautiful afternoon sun.
Machu Picchu is nothing short of extraordinary. It is an ancient town built in the Andes mountain range on the border of the Amazon Jungle. To fully understand how it was built is still a mystery today, although there are many theories.
Machu Picchu is one of the only places so far we have hired a guide – might I mention, this was the cheapest thing we did at Machu Picchu. From our two-hour walk with our guide we learned not only a brief history of the area but also some of the specific interests at the site.
Machu Picchu was built in the mid-1400’s and abandoned less than a century later during the Spanish Conquest. Very little is known about it’s construction. Our guide told stories about the majority of the materials being carried in on the backs of men from hundreds of kilometers away. Supposedly, the Inca empire was run similar to a communist one – all people were required to serve time working for the emperor in return for shelter, food and safety.
As explained in the “price tag” paragraph below and our previous blog post on Peru: When Did you Sell Your Soul to Tourism?, Machu Picchu was as extraordinary as it was extraordinarily expensive. To help our budget, we sneaked in an entire backpack of food and found some beautiful hidden places to eat throughout the day.
One of the many things explained to us on our tour was the difference between the stone work in the common areas of Machu Picchu and that in the upper royal or in sacred areas. As in Cusco, the stone work in parts of Machu Picchu is such that it has aroused world-wide discussions and countless research on how it was constructed.
Similar to the wall in Cusco with the famous 12-sided stone, these walls illustrate the ingenuity of the Inca’s with massive rocks fitted with extremely tight seams. To even imagine creating such a wall now with only the tools and resources available to the Inca’s is difficult.
Between the agricultural and civil living portions of Machu Picchu lies an open line of uncultivated land. Astonishingly, this corresponds to the fault line. How the ancient Inca’s knew this and developed their land around it is amazing.
Agricultural terraces are present throughout Peru in almost all of the Inca ruins and a true testament to how the Inca’s were able to develop self-sustaining societies on the side of mountains. Of course, our notable friends the Llamas are present in this photo maintaining the lawns.
The one ‘free hike’ within the Machu Picchu region was to the Inca Bridge. This hike, which took only around 20 minutes was well worth it. The bridge, which is constructed along the sheer slope of a shale mountain is breathtaking if you understand what you’re looking at. Take another look at the photograph above. Those stones are literally placed on a complete vertical face to form a path and bridge along side the mountain. Given today’s safety standards, even in Peru, you cannot today walk along this bridge. However, being able to view it gives some light into how well engineering and planned the Incas cities were and how well connected they were to the outside world. Their trade network based on the paths that have been found to this day covers an astounding amount of land through treacherous territory.
Price Tag (per two people):
- Train Tickets return Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calienties: 296 CAD
- Entrance Fee to Machu Picchu: 112 CAD
- Guide for Machu Picchu: 20 CAD
- Bus return Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu: 65 CAD
- Hostel in Ollantaytambo (2 nights): 86 CAD
TOTAL: 579 CAD