It is no wonder that Machu Picchu is one of the Seven Wonders of the World. The name itself translated means "Old Mountain" and is often referred to as the Lost City of the Incas.
Machu Picchu made its debut in the National Geographic magazine in 1913. It is amazing to see the photos from an old Kodak camera in the hands of the man that found the ruins. (click the link below)
For centuries Machu Picchu was hidden to the world. In 1867 it is claimed that Antonio Rimondi discovered the ruins without actually understanding or knowing their significance. It would not be until 1911 when they would truly be discovered by history professor Hiram Bingham. Hiram went intentionally seeking the remains of the Inca Citadel or the Lost City of the Incas.
To start with the country of Peru to a tourist is seemingly very large, in part due to the fact that travel and the infrastructure of the country is not what we are used to experiencing here in the states. We flew from Lima to Cusco the day before our excursion, and spent 9.5 hours of travel the day of our sight seeing adventure for the pleasure of experiencing 3 hours at the ruins. Please understand it was worth it, but at the same time surprising.
Here, Sleepy and I are in the city of Aguas Calientes (now officially named Machu Picchu), which is the primary access point to Machu Picchu. We arrived in the city after a 30 minute bus ride to the train station, and a 3 1/2 hour train ride through the mountains. From this point we had another 30 minute bus ride to the site for admission to the ruins.
The site is was declared a World Heritage Site in 1983, and is protected as part of the National System of Protected Nartural Areas by the state. The site is aprox 32,592 hectares. 1 hectare = 2.47 acres. Suffice it to say, this space is expansive! Additionally, the Incas planned out the site down to the minute details that included elaborate irrigation and drainage systems, and over 600 terraces that were built to protect the city from sliding down the side of the mountain.
I believe what was most difficult for me to wrap my mind around was that it took between 50 & 70 years to construct the site, and each year it is estimated that 50,000 men worked on the project. Remember there are no steel tools, no wheels. Ropes and brute strength hauled, nudged, and cajoled massive boulders into place.
Each piece chiseled to fit snug against or on top of the previous piece. To this day the structure is still solid and even a needle can not penetrated through the cracks. Oh, and one more mind blowing piece of construction information, they used no mortar to hold these enormous and heavy boulders in place!
It is stated that this area was prepared for the king/emperor of the Inca's, King Pachacatec. He was the 9th emperor of the Incas. It is said that in 1450 roughly 300- 500 royalty lived in the current day Machu Picchu. It is astonishing to me that hundreds of thousands of men would have worked on this project and never lived to see it finished, potentially neither would some of their sons. Over the years following the death of the King, the city gradually fell away from everyone's official memory. Which is not be hard to comprehend, as there were not roads in place to traverse to the area. Only 169 human remains were found in the early 1900's and 68% of them were women and children remains once the site excavation began.
These rocks are said to be 250 million years old. History states that the rocks were formed as deep as 5-10 miles into the earth's crust. Because of the Andean uplift the rocks surfaced and were prime objects used for building materials. To stabilize these large rocks the Incas had to create elaborate terraces, walkways and platforms which lead to them creating the buildings and irrigations systems.
See a brief description of the Andean uplift, according to Wiipedia:
Andean orogeny. The Andean orogeny (Spanish: Orogenia andina) is an ongoing process of orogeny that began in the Early Jurassic and is responsible for the rise of the Andes mountains. The orogeny is driven by a reactivation of a long-lived subduction system along the western margin of South America.
Even before the site was declared one of the New Seven Wonders of the World in 2007, Machu Picchu was experiencing many visitors annually. Tourism from the 1980's until 2013 increased 700% causing the country to create new regulations regarding visitation to the site. As of July 1st 2017 (7 days prior to our visit) the government started limiting the number of guests to 2,500 a day with specific visitation hours; an am time and an afternoon time. Additionally, you are now required to have an official ticket for your timed visit and you must be accompanied by a tour guide that can only take you on pre-arranged routes, and there can only be 20 individuals in a group. You may also not re-enter the site once you begin your tour. The only restrooms are outside the ruins, so it is strongly encouraged to pay your soles and use the facilities before embarking on the tour. The only way you can re-enter is with a second ticket. The grounds have security patrolling the area. It is illegal for you to sit on the ledges, to remove rocks or greenery from the site. If you are caught participating in any of these activities you can be asked to leave the park as well as assessed a monetary fine. I asked our tour guide if you could "rent" the space, like have your wedding there, or use the grounds for other celebrations. The country forbids such activities on these protected grounds. Additionally, they do not repair or restore areas of the ruins that may happen to be crumbling or in some other state of disrepair. The idea is to keep the area as true to what it looked like upon it's discovery and original un-earthing.
While the altitude in the city of Cusco is higher than the highest peak we traversed on Machu Picchu, which is where this photo was taken from, one could still feel the affects of the 8,000 plus feet above sea level. Again, at this point I was attempting to really wrap my mind around the magnitude of what I was seeing and how it all came to be!
As with any great adventure, there has to be a fun story to share, and Sleepy gets the great memory to go with seeing an amazing site. Alpaca's roam free and because of all the tourists are somewhat domesticated. The certainly do not live in captivity here, but frequent the lush green grasses and hillsides. On this particular day, Sleepy was photographing this momma and her baby.
We were preparing to walk on by their location, which was below us as you can see, this momma got it in her mind to come on up to our layer of the hillside. Sleepy, quickly re-engaged her camera and kept on snapping some up close and personal shots of this beauty!
I had a different perspective, grabbed my cell phone quickly to captured the moment that Sleepy stepped back quickly to get out of the way of this lovely lady as she sashayed on by...
All in all, a great story for the memory book!
We finished our visit by stamping our passports with the official Machu Picchu stamp!
This is one thing that I am hopeful I never forget and the images and memories live on in my mind even in to my old age. If not I am sure glad I will have this blog post to look back on and refresh my memory! You can't make this stuff up!