Saturday, May 30, 2015

Ollantaytambo to Machu Picchu - Day 6

Thursday, May 28
I finally made it to Machu Picchu after all these years and it is breathtaking.
Most people snag this iconic image when they first come in the park. You want proof you were really here and it's not a dream.
But I am ahead of myself. I'm going to flashback like they do in the movies to this morning. On our way to the train station, which is in the village of Ollantaytambo (where we visited ruins the other day), we did a short walking tour of the village. It still has the feel of an authentic community with a central square, but has now become inundated with tourists. As a result people come down from the mountains dressed in traditional clothing and pose for photos for 1 sol (which is about 30 cents.) This woman is Elsa with her daughter Jolina. 
I fit right in here - the people are my size.
She walks 2 hours everday to the village to pose for photos. She is typical Andean because of her flat hat.  She gave us a demonstration of how you carry a baby on your back. Fascinating.
Later I found some other girls who were posing for money as well. Everyone in Peru has to work.
Then we went to the train station and boarded a business class coach to Aqua Calientes, which is next to Machu Picchu.
The trip takes about 1-1/2 hours and follows the Urubamba River, which is more treacherous than the part we floated on. It continues through the Sacred Valley and we were surrounded by magnificent mountains all the along the way. We saw a large glacier and the start of the Inka Trail.
Then we arrived in Aquas Calientes (a noisy and busy village)
and we have to take a 25 minute bus ride up a narrow switchback to the park. There is only one bus service and they are very skilled at driving on the high narrow road.
See the road!
We arrived about 1 pm which was a good time because people were starting to leave. We immediately got the iconic photo posted at the top.
Then Pepe took us on a tour of the main part. He noted that Machu Picchu means "old mountain" and the site was chosen by the Inkas because it was considered sacred land. The mountain that we see here is Wayna Picchu which is 9,000 ft. high. You can hike it, but not today.
Hiram Bingham, an academic, explorer and politician from the United States, made public the existence of the enclave in 1911 with the guidance of local indigenous farmers. He was a professor at Yale at the time and a fellow of the National Geographic Society. He returned on several expeditions and thus, the artifacts he uncovered ended up in a museum at Yale. But as of 2007 they are in the process of being returned to Peru for a museum in Cusco.
Much work has been involved in restoring the site, and it is currently about 65% done. Another interesting fact is that only 40% of the ruins are on the surface and 60% are underground as infrastructure.
Approximately 800-1,000 people lived here from about 1450 to 1550. The area has an abundance of granite which was used for the building blocks, but the soil had to be carried in from the valley.
Another point is that it is strategically located for defense. The Urubamba River wraps around 3 sides and then, of course, there are the cliffs.
There is lots of speculation why the Inkas  abandoned the site and no one knows for sure. But it wasn't because of lack of water. The area gets 80 inches of rain a year and has 16 fountains in the original plan.
Pepe toured us through a number of the identifiable ruins, pointing out important details and interesting stories. The following is a photo collage of things we saw.
Agricultural Sector
Temple of the Sun (and the winter solstice - June 21 - shines perfectly through the main window
Another Temple of the Sun where a rock has been carved out to create a little ceremonial room.
Temple of the Three Windows
Sun dial (to show seasons) not hours, with emperor's throne next to it, since he received his power from the Sun God, his father.
Main temple built on a plaza but also over a fissure and has been sagging since before Bingham saw it.
Someone asked me about how they care for the grounds. Would you believe with a weed eater? And that is Machu Picchu Mountain in the background and a plaza in the foreground.
Here are a few other fun photos

and me at the end of the day.
We stayed until closing which was fun because the crowds had really cleared out.
Tonight we had dinner at the Inka Wasi Restaurant and then early to bed for an early tomorrow.

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