Awe Inspiring Wonder – Machu Picchu, Peru
29 January 2020
There are few places on earth that evoke such sense of wonder as Machu Picchu in Peru, South America. It is an incredible and an unforgettable place. Nothing prepares you for it. You will not be alone if you approached it with a little trepidation. This ancient city is perched 2440 metres above sea level on a mountain in the Urubamba Valley in the Andes Mountains in Peru.
I took the above picture of Machu Picchu myself. I am sure you will agree with me that it is picture perfect! It looks like it has been lifted out of a postcard! It is the iconic photo of Machu Picchu that you see in travel guides and books. And Mollywozhere!!
You will not believe your eyes! The view is not only amazing, the air is fresh and the vegetation around you is lush. You will experience tranquility like you have never before. It is unexpectedly awesome.
When you realise that you are actually standing on top of a mountain, in a ruin built by ancient civilisation thousands of years ago, you can’t help wondering why on earth was this city built and how did they build it? The stones are expertly carved and put together without modern day mortar or tools and equipments. And each section was built with a purpose, well thought through and laid out.
You will no doubt have seen the photos and read about Machu Picchu but when you actually set eyes on it, you will be left speechless and in awe.
Machu Picchu is a destination. It is not a place that you “go pass”. It was built by the Incas as a fortress and not easily accessible, making it a natural hideout. It is not surprising that the Spaniards did not therefore find it when they invaded Peru, and it was “lost” for centuries until it was discovered by Hiram Bingham in 1911.
I was completely immersed in the place, mesmerised and actually forgot for a while to take photos. I just stood still, taking in the environment and it felt like I was in a dream, about to float away with no care in the world!
I was surprised about the flora and fauna; yet I need not have been. Peru’s Amazon forest, the Andes Mountains and the closeness of the Pacific Ocean – all contribute to the complex ecosystem in Machu Picchu, making it an ecological sanctuary. The native Alpaca were seen grazing effortlessly on the mountain. They were in better shape than us visitors who seem to suffer from the effect of the altitude!
The Incas had excellent technical skills and productivity was good and served the Inca empire well. There were intriguing buildings and terraces used for farming, with ingenious systems for drainage.
You will be guided through a number of structures on Machu Picchu; some are more significant and more important than others. And each one with its own story. The Inti Watana for example was used as a sundial or calendar for both the winter solstise 21st June and summer solstice, 21st December.
There were also the Temple of the Condor and the Temple of the Three Windows. The sun god, Inti, was amongst the most revered gods of the Inca civilisation. The Temple of the Sun is one of the most important structures in Machu Picchu. And it is said that the Temple was a ritual centre in honour of Pachamama (Mother Earth).
The Incas, surprisingly, believed in the Milky Way. This is extraordinary.
Astronomy was a well developed science for the Incas and it was closely linked to their religion and rituals. The Temple of the Sun for example served to map the movement of the sun and the moon, and they based their decisions about farming on it.
The Guard House was built on a terraced hill overlooking the Sacred Plaza and serves as a strategic watch tower over the two main entrances to Machu Picchu. It also served as security and defence, as no one could get through without first going it.
The best place to take the iconic photo of Machu Picchu is by the Guard House. And this what most tourists are told and naturally do.
This doorway caught my attention not least because of the view of Machu Picchu beyond but because of the build and design – ingenious!
Machu Picchu is strictly managed and the number of visitors are tightly controlled so as to preserve this important site. Around 500 entrance tickets are issued and even fewer, around 100, are issued to get to the very top of the mountain.Two of my fellow travellers did this treacherous climb right to the very tip of the mountain. Why I asked? Because it is there!!!
Apart from the main entrance where majority of people go through, there is also a second entrance through the Sun Gate. You can either reach it through the Inca trail or by hiking from the main terraces once you reach the Guard House. This is the easier option. I did not do the trek to the Sun Gate. Firstly, it would have been a little tough for my ageing legs, and secondly, the reward is a better panoramic view of Machu Picchu, it was said, on clear day. And I reckoned that I had the best view I could possibly had wished for already. SpI gave it a miss and spent my valuable time soaking up the atmosphere and magnificent views.
Did I do the four day hike to Machu Picchu? No, mon cherie! That is an activity for the younger ones. The 4-day hike on the Inca Trail in the Sacred Valley to Machu Picchu is the most famous and popular hike, and it follows the original route that the Incas would have taken. The alternative and the most sensible option for me was to go by train from Cuzco to the closest town of Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu. And then take the 30 minutes bus journey up the mountain to the base of Machu Picchu.
Agues Calientes, a bustling small town that has grown within 20 years as a result of Machu Picchu, is now called Machu Picchu Pueblo. It is the main access to Machu Picchu. And it is famous for the thermal baths which I did not visit but some of my fellow travellers did. There is not much to do or see other than to wander round the craft and shops selling souvenirs and goods with tourist prices. There were lots of places to eat and drink and of course loads of hotels.
It is not surprising that Machu Picchu was voted one of the 7 Wonders of the World in 2007. It truly deserves its place on the UNESCO World Heritage list. I personally would have placed it as number two after the Great Wall of China, and not no. 4.
I believe everyone must visit a place like Machu Picchu at least once in their life time.