Saturday, September 13th
Continued from the previous post.
We all gathered, expect for Sandra and Christy, and went in with Nico for the historical tour of the Lost City of Machu Picchu. He walked us through every part of the city pointing out the sacred locations, the meaning of the stone work through out along with everything you could possibly learn.
I could go on and on with the description of everything we saw and learned about Machu Picchu, but that would end up being pages and pages of writing. As we know, pictures are worth a 1000 words, so I’ve put together a slideshow below. I will in the future be writing about very specific things at Machu Picchu. There is much to tell you about, the Stone work, the Water, the vastness of the city, the views from the City.
I can not say this enough, I know you have seen pictures of Machu Picchu, but they don’t do it justice, it’s Huge, built with thought and consideration on how the people will live there.
There are many places in Peru we did not go to, I hope to one day visit Lake Titicaca, Maras (Salt Beds) and so many other places, the people, the country, the history is something to behold, something we all need to see, feel and experience.
But let me tell you a little about how and when Machu Picchu was found
THE INCA EMPIRE
“Employing a shrewd combination of diplomacy, intermarriage, and military coercion, the Inca conquered a vast realm extending 2500 miles along the mountainous spine of South America. At their height, they ruled as many as 12 million people, who spoke at least 20 different languages. This fractious conglomeration quickly fell apart after the Spanish Conquest of 1532.”
Rising from obscurity to the heights of power, a succession of Andean rulers subdued kingdoms, sculpted mountains, and forged a mighty empire. Let me share with you how Machu Picchu was found.
Finding Machu Picchu
“On hands and knees, three men crawled up a slick and steep mountain slope in Peru. It was the morning of July 24, 1911. Hiram Bingham III, a 35 year old assistant professor of Latin American history at Yale University, had set out from his expedition camp on the Urubamba River with two Peruvian Companions to investigate reported ruins on a towering ridge know as Machu Picchu (old mountain in the Inca language). Nearly 2,000 feet above the valley floor, the climbers met two farmers who had moved up the mountain to avoid tax collectors. The men assured an increasingly skeptical Bingham that the rumored ruins lay close at hand and sent a young boy along to the lead the way. When Bingham finally recached the site, he gaped in astonishment at the scene before him. Rising out of the thick tangle of undergrowth was a maze of terraces and walls, an Inca ghost town hidden from the outside world for nearly 400 years.
“It seemed like an unbelievable dream,” he later wrote. “ What could this place be?”
Bingham later acknowledged that he was not the first to discover Machu Picchu – a Peruvian tenant farmer had inscribed his name on one of it’s walls nearly a decade earlier – but he was the first to study the site scientifically. With financial support from Yale University and the National Geographic Society, Bingham’s crew cleared the vegetation that had reclaimed the peak, mapped and photographed the ruins and shipped thousands of artifacts to Yale’s Peabody Museum of Natural History.
As news of the “Lost City” spread, scholars tried to puzzle out just what kind of place Machu Picchu was. A Fortress? A ceremonial site? For many decades no one really knew. A break through came in the 1980’s when historians found a dusty legal document from 1568, less than 40 years after the Spanish conquest of Peru.
Descendants of the ruler Pachacutec Inca Yucanqwui, in a petition to the Spanish Court, stated that their royal ancestor had owned lands at a place called Picchu, very close to where Machu Picchu sits today. Subsequent studies of the sites architecture and artifacts- from simple pots used by servants to bronze mirrors fit for a queen- suggest that Pachacutec lived in comfort at this mountain retreat, dining from silver plates, washing in a private stone bath, and relaxing in an orchid-scented pleasure garden.
In recent years the fate of the artifacts Bingham collected during his three expeditions became the source of bitter dispute between the Peruvian Government and Yale University. With the 100 year anniversary of Bingham’s find, Yale announced it would return all the artifacts to Peru.
Today this icon of the Inca world continues to beckon explorers and pilgrims, it recently became one of the “New 7 Wonders of the World”. Each day nearly 2,000 people pour through the entrance and behold the sight that caused Bingham to exclaim,
“it fairly took my breath away.”
*Courtesy of National Geographic
So now you know a little about how Machu Picchu was found, now a bit about my experience there.
We spent a few hours inside the city with our guides Nico and Hernan. It was very impressive how much our guides know and understand the Inca and Peruvean history. Again, this place is so big and there is so much to know and learn, I am sure I did not retain it all. But what stuck with me was the religious significance of the City and that the Royal Family used this as their home. At it’s height, there were nearly 500 people living on the mountain, serving the Royal family. To someone like myself, if I were to simply look at the place I would see a huge city and nothing more. But that would be wrong. The buildings were very significant. There are religious buildings used for specific religious ceremonies. Also, Royal buildings, and the buildings that the commoners would use, each are quite different. Specifically the stone work signified the type of building and it’s use. I will spend more time on this subject in later posts, focusing on the stone work. I want to tell you about the Condor Room, the living quarters for the High Priests etc.
We finished our tour of the Lost City roughly at Noon, headed back to The Sanctuary Lodge, here we found our “third wind”, which I like to call the Bar. We all met there to toast our fantastic achievement together. Although Sandra wasn’t able to enter Machu Picchu she was able to join our celebration. By this time, the Porters and Cooks had already left down the mountain on their way back to Ollyantambo. Nico and Hernan joined us at The Lodge for a toast. At one point we had asked then how did we do? They said “that it is unusual to have a group in their forties that were so strong”. Of course we all laughed and give him shit for it. The youngest of our group was 36 and the oldest, 56.
Nico went on to tell us how impressed he was with our groups drive and determination to do this Trek.
I want to tell you that if you get the chance to do this Trek, pay the extra and stay at The Sanctuary Lodge, you won’t be disappointed. This was an all inclusive program, I mean everything. Alcohol, Food, Laundry you name it. After trekking for 4 days, this was like heaven. I can tell you we took full advantage of the “All Inclusiveness”, some more than others. Although it was a bit expensive to stay, it was well work it. We opted to stay here so that we could spend more time at Machu Picchu the following morning when it is quiet and peaceful, then climb Wyna Wayna, the mountain directly behind Machu Picchu.
But this is getting long, and for now, a picture is worth a 1000 words, I hope you enjoy some the photos we have taken at Machu Picchu.
“The spiritual purpose of this place is being scoffed at by some. But I, and many others with me, will continue to return for the healing and peace which is the signature of Machu Picchu”.
Gracias Por Todo!
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