Who wouldn’t want to see an ancient Inca temple? We know Machu Picchu from popularity but what is it really?
So What is Machu Picchu?
Over a hundred years ago in 1911, Hiram Bingham, an intrepid explorer from Yale University stumbled on what he thought was the Lost City of the Inca. Today it is called Machu Picchu, a UNESCO world heritage (1983) and was named one of the 7 wonders of the modern world in 2007.
Bingham made two more trips to the site and removed many artefacts that were taken back to his Alma Mater. Yale University agreed to return many of the artefacts in 2012 and they are now on display in Cusco.
Ironically Bingham did find the original Lost City of the Inca, Vilcabamba, but he dismissed its importance and focused on the Machu Picchu find. In 1964, another explorer, Gene Savoy confirmed that Vilacamba was the last stronghold of the independent Inca rulers who waged a years-long battle against Spanish conquistadors. source
The Train Station
The entry point into Machu Picchu from Cusco starts with a car ride to Ollyantambo, at least during the rainy season when we visited. The train extends to the village of Poroy in the drier season. Ollyantambo is a transit point for the train and we did not stay very long which is unfortunate. It turns out that it was one of the last of the capitals of the Inca empire during the fight against the Spanish. I’d like to visit again in the future to do some exploring.
Also known as Machu Picchu Puebla, the town is situated in a valley surrounded by picturesque views of the mountains and on the banks of the swollen meandering river Urubamba. My initial thoughts of the town is that it is a Mecca for backpackers, filled with cheap hostels and lots of bars and restaurants competing for your last dollar. Although we found a good hostel with nice bones the perks were lacking – like more than bread for breakfast.
The Trail to Machu Picchu
The bus ride from Aguas Caliente to Machu Picchu is best summed up with the word – absurd. It is probably the most expensive bus ride we never took as the prices were shocking and we knew that you can walk. The walk is not easy, it is long, up hill, and requires some fortitude. We all walk fairly quickly and we took about two hours to make the trek. The views were worth it; although I will put one advantage on the bus – you could spend more energy on getting to the Sun Gate as we ran out of time during our visit.
The City of Machu Picchu
Once we arrived at the top of the trail we were meshed in with the ‘bus people’ who took the easy route. There were options for a bathroom break, food, and hiring a tour guide. We moved on and went through the entrance to see the most famous city in Peru.
The Sun Gate
We followed the signs and headed further up the mountain to get a better view. A trail sign indicated the Sun Gate so we started walking … it was long … and spoiler … we ran out of time. We made it to one of the intermediate stops. A young couple from the Netherlands passed us and told us it was at least 40 minutes to the Sun Gate. But they smelled like weed so I didn’t trust their judgement. In hindsight they were right about the distance.
Entering the City
We returned from the Sun Gate and entered the city proper. The walls have a cut line which was made as a barrier for earthquakes according to one of the guides.
The Walk Home
After we finished the fantastic visit to Machu Picchu it was time to head back to Aguas Caliente – which meant a walk down the hill. Normally going down a hill is easier than going up – but I am not convinced that was the case for this trip. At the bottom we enjoyed a couple of cold drinks (beer for me) at a local restaurant before heading back to our room and a very deep sleep.