Mysterious Machu Picchu

Whether you are visiting or living in Peru, a trip to the amazing Machu Picchu is a must-see. It seems quite unconvincing for those non-conventional travelers, because of how it is over-marketed, but I cannot express how amazing this experience is for the mind and soul. You can see a 100 photos and video clips of Machu Picchu, but it will come NOWHERE close to actually seeing it with your own two eyes and setting foot upon those once sacred grounds. The experience is mind blowing and spiritually moving in such a way you’ll never forget it.

 (Note: My posts from my time in South America are not well captured as I was a freshly graduated student, with no laptop, no digital camera and no smartphones existed yet to catch every moment. These pics are all my scanned photographs.)

When to go

Machu Picchu is open whole year. Peru has two seasons one dry and one rainy. The summer period between November and April is summer and up in the Andes it’s warm but there is a lot of rain. The overcast conditions usually mean overcast views of the valley of Aguas Calientes and Machu Picchu. The dry season is during the winter, and this season brings hot days and very cold nights.

Where is it

Machu Picchu is situated high on a mountain peak in the Andes above the Uburumba river that runs into the Amazon. It is to the South West of Peru.
The Umbarumba River below
You have two options to reach Machu Picchu, and that will either be by aeroplane or by bus to Cusco. Going by air is much faster, however I had plenty of time and took the bus from Lima. The bus was way cheaper but it will take you 18 hours to reach Cusco, which is way up in the mountains and the highest city on Earth. The best thing about going by bus, is that your body will better acclimatise to the altitude so you won’t have to worry about getting the dreaded altitude sickness. The views of the Andes on this journey are pretty cool.

How to get there

Rail or Road?

Going by train. It was much cheaper when I went

To go to Machu Picchu you have to first go to Cusco. From Cusco, you will either take the hike and do the 5 day Inca trail or take a bus and do the 3-day Inca trail or simply go by bus and then take the train to the valley. If you take the train, you can get off at one of the stops and take a short trek to the valley or walk all the way up to Machu Picchu

Due to budget constraints I decided to take the bus and train to the site. The transport cost came in a sort of package and included and buffet meal in Aguas Calientes in a nice restaurant.

 

Machu Picchu

To get to the Site, you must either trek up or you can take a bus that will wind round and round, until you reach the last bend and…BOOM! You’ll see it!

What is Machu Picchu?

I’ve decided to split my experience into 2 parallels of what I learnt of Machu Picchu on my trip and living in Peru.

The facts

Many archaeologists and historians are baffled about what this amazing site was used for. The most prominent theories are that it was a home for one of the first Incan Emperors, Pachacuti, during the 1500s, and so assume that’s when it was built. The obvious fact is that the design and layout of the construction seems to be in line with relevant celestial bodies which are present in the night sky in the ever present Milky Way which can be viewed from there. It’s also obviously used for living, with 140 housing structures, as well as having a complex plumbing and irrigation system installed for daily use and farming.

The many temples also show it was also a place of ceremony. The many well-constructed trails with refreshment stops leading to and from the site shows it was very much an active site for delivering important messages regularly from knowledge gained and given by those living on the estate. The grandeur of the construction also shows that it was a place for study, a home for the elite and religious practices. Those are the hard facts.

The Mysteries & Myth

Here’s the fun part, that makes Machu Picchu the wonder it is. Besides not knowing why, by whom, for what or when it was built, the actual construction is a mystery.

  • Machu Picchu stands over 7000 feet above sea-level in the Andes Mountains. The huge stone blocks used to create this masterpiece are not from the region, but instead can be sourced in another far away area. How did the materials get all the way up there?
  • The site is split into two sections: one for farming and another urban area which houses all those amazing temples. The farming section is much better preserved and some renovations date back to the 1500s. However, the Urban part is much more derelict and seems to have stood there much longer. Many local legends are imminent that Machu Picchu had indeed existed way before the estimated time of construction assumed by modern historians and archaeologists. In fact, nobody can truly say when the site was actually built.
  • The mystical Intihuhatan Stone which stands in the Sun Temple, is believed to be a magical stone that lets special people see into different worlds and realms when they place their forehead against it. There were many of these stones around various religious sites across the empire, but most were destroyed by the Spanish Invasion. Modern theories suggest the stone was used as a sundial.
  • The 3 windows: These windows are also within the Sun Temple and now stands open under the sun with no roof. The 3 windows refer to the ancient legend of the original ancestors of the Inca that are believed to have come through 3 windows to Earth in a cave. Today ‘experts’ think it was used for its alignment with the heavenly bodies or telling time (…now how boring is THAT theory!)
The 3 windows of the Sun Temple at Machu Picchu
  • There are strange large niches or grooves within the temples. Nobody knows what they were used for, but they perfectly fit the size of an average man to stand within them. There were also the findings of the many mummies in the temples which have now been excavated for studies. All those mummies were women, which are believed to have been sacrifices.
  • Lastly, no one knows why Machu Picchu was abandoned. It can be assumed it was inhabited twice: before the rise of the Incas and during the reign of the Incas for a short time.

The architecture

The steep steps you will find all over the city were actually farming grounds, as there was no flat land to grow produce, so the best thing was to grow it in steps.

The architecture is amazing, as it is all in the Incan style called, Ashlar, using tightly packed square stones that not even a blade of grass can go between. The techniques for the layout of the buildings are also quite profound. All buildings and even windows are aligned in perfect rows and accommodate to the changing seasons.
The Moon Temple lies on top the peak in the background

You can also take the daring walk up to the Moon Temple along the adjacent peak. This walk takes guts as you walk up the narrow stepped pathway with the mountain on side and nothing but a long fall into the jungle below on the other! The Moon temple also houses a cave used for sacred rituals and housed mummies too.

Some idiots have died taking this path, as they decided to smoke pot, get high, lose their balance and fall down to their deaths. Their bodies were never recovered.
Getting high will not bring you closer to the aliens!… as many believe have visited here.

My reflections

My personal experience says Machu Picchu is definitely a special place, and it was not created for the public or the masses. There was a reason it was so well hidden away throughout the ages, even during and before the Incan Empire era. There are many sites like this in Peru and around the Andes, and not even the local inhabitants who have lived centuries on the land can tell what they were for. This place seems more like an enlightening pilgrimage of sorts rather than your average discarded ruins. It has been one of the most awesome experiences of my life.


Travel Tips

  • As a result, due to all the foot traffic from tourism, parts of Machu Picchu have been slowly sinking lower on the peak. Government restrictions have been put in place to preserve the site better. Now is the time to visit this site. I had heard about this dilemma when I was there 8 years ago already!
  • I would do the hike if you’re up for it and have time. It doesn’t have to be the whole 5-day hike, but do some walking up to the site. There’s something extra special about it.
  • If you go in Winter, bring really warm clothes for the evening, the days are hot but it’s below freezing at night!
  • There are many guides that are awaiting groups to gather at the gate to show you around and provide info.
  • If you are not living or staying long term in Peru, I suggest you plan this trip well. When I went, the trip was quiet cheap, but its popularity has since increased even more and there are now limitations.
  • If you’re worried about altitude sickness, buy lots of cocoa leaves at the supermarket in Lima. The Incas always used these to combat dizziness. Buying beforehand saves you time and money.
  • Bring cash! I used an ATM near MP and my card and many others who used it got our money stolen out of our accounts!
  • Lastly, Machu Picchu is not for the faint-hearted or acrophobic. It’s literally on a sloping mountain peak, and you could easily fall to your death on the sloping grounds and steps. Just looking down into the river and ravines alone can be scary.

Hasta luego amigos,
Bee

 

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