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Report 2008: Peru - Land of the Incas

By Paula G. Cullison from Arizona, Summer 2011

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Page 6 of 9: Machu Picchu

photo by pa

Machu Picchu - Panorama

Arriving at 11:30am enabled me to grab a sandwich and coffee, and talk with the other visitors, before I enjoyed my first leisurely day hiking about the ruins. As you can imagine, I took plenty of photos of the site and some of the other tourists.

One of the new Seven Wonders of the World as designated in 2007, Machu Picchu (Old Rock in Quechua) is a magical place. It is a true Pre-Colombian 15th century marvel. I read that most archeologists believe that it was built as an estate for the Inca Emperor Pachacuti. This ‘City of the Incas’ is a familiar symbol. It is incomprehensible how this site with its complex maze of passages and rooms was created by using manual labor to strategically position huge rocks. A higher purpose must have driven the inhabitants to design and complete such a special place.

Rediscovered by American Historian Hiram Bingham in 1911, Machu Picchu was named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1983. The Centennial anniversary celebrations in 2011 attracted additional tourists. American scholar Johan Reinhard believes that Machu Picchu is a sacred religious site, especially since it is in alignment with astronomical events of great importance to the Incas. Moreover, its location was in a mountainous area sacred to the Incas.

The Intihuatana ("hitching post of the sun") is believed to have been designed as an astronomic clock or calendar by the Incas.

Before my journey, I purchased Stone Offerings, a book of photography by Mike Torrey with introduction by Peruvian born Marie Arana. This is a must have for anyone planning a trip to Machu Picchu. It enabled me to feel familiar with the incredible ‘terraces of enlightenment’, as Mike calls them. The wonderment of it all needs to be experienced and digested; one needs time. I felt sorry for the visitors who were hurried through by their tour guides – never to return.

The first day Noon - 5pm, I devoted to the West section and on the second day also Noon - 5pm to the East section. The two sections are divided by wide open areas. The vistas were spectacular form every spot. Yes, there was plenty of climbing, so I suggest you get in shape before you go. However, it was all very doable – even at 7,970 feet. I did not hike Huayna Picchu. That would have required another day, so as not to have felt rushed and stressed. I am not the ‘been there, done that’ type of person. Also, only a limited number of hikers are allowed on the Huayna Picchu trail each day (400) with two designated climb times.

Hiking the steps up and down the terraces, marveling at the aqueducts and various temples, especially the Temple of the Condor, as well as the Sacred Plaza, I was happy that I was able to experience this wonderful place at my own pace. I highly recommend two full days; even three if you can.

In spite of the numbers of visitors each day (2,500), Machu Picchu is well-maintained under the ever watchful eyes of guards. This is quite the under-taking. To make the visit official, passports can be stamped at the exit.

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