Destination Machu Picchu….This was and is one of the highest on my list of places to visit. Finally as the old year was ready to give way to a new one it was time, time to get there. My plan was to get to Aguas Calientes spend two days and unravel Machu Picchu. The Inca trail was ruled out, I did not have 4 or 7 days on hand, but I could have done the two hour from the base to the top! But that was not to be…. the Airlines had robbed me of that one day that I had budgeted for this last leg. That trek will have to wait another day!
Early morning in Cusco there was Enrique my trip plan guide who drove me to Poroy from where I would take a train to Aguas Calientes or Machu Picchu town. Booked on the Dome train I had a view of the landscape from the window and the roof dome. Rain was predicted every day I was in Cusco but not a single drop. This day however, that was not to be. A cloudy sky and a gentle rain chased me all the way to Machu Picchu. But what a fascinating ride through the countryside, where I spotted “our Bajaj” the three wheel tuk tuk- the local taxi in and around the town near Ollantaytambo. After Ollantaytambo the landscape changed – tall mountains on both sides and the Vilcanota river keeping pace alongside.
Then as the train came to a halt between Ollantaytambo or near about KM 82 the rain bid farewell. Up through the dome on the roof I saw the silhouette of a tall mountain peak framed by the remnants of some droplets on the dome window. I got that picture. The landscape was awesome- I am sure that those who take that Inca trail would carry lifetime memories of natures bounty! Finally I was there: Aguas Calientes. Enrique had a guide to pick me up at the station. But with thousands of tourists like me and hundreds of guides this was something different. Amazing how smooth that system works. I approached one guide who looked at my booking Agency and escorted me to the guide who was busy collecting his troupe. A visit to the guides favorite local food joint followed. The food is much cheaper here than at MachuPicchu have your fill. Food was furthest from the mind…
It would be an hour before I lined up for a bus ride to the top. 20 minutes up a winding road with out of the world views and I knew what I was missing, not having walked that walk. Machu Picchu is much written about, viewed on film and yet one is never prepared to see the sheer beauty of the place. What is it about this place that is so fascinating?
First the sheer beauty of nature. Tall mountains all around with the snake like Vilcanota river meandering through at the base ( Picture Vilcanota River ) . Then of- course the architecture of the habitation, blending neatly and in harmony with its natural surroundings- Inca genius at its very best. Then the two mountains Wayna Picchu and Machu Picchu in a symbolic pair opposite each other. Wayna Picchu is shaped like a crouching Puma with a symbolic bird on one side, a puma that appears ready to attack and defend! Next to WaynaPicchu the symbolic bird has half opened wings (Picture: The Bird new Wayna smaller mound and mountain to the left of the mist covered Wayna Picchu).
The Lizard has divine place in Inca history. From the waters to the land and finally to air lizards were the generators of life and mother of condors and pumas. The complex on Machu Pichhu was built in the shape of that mythical lizard. And as the myth goes this lizard (the housing complex) emerged from the sacred Vilcanota river and came to rest at the top of the mountain. (The housing terrace Lizard Picture on the right leading up to the symbolic bird mountain ).
Astronomers par excellence the Incas built an astronomical observatory of the Intihuatana (Observatory of the Intihuatana ) And in the summer and winter solstice while the rest of the terrain is dark the sunlight falls on the symbol. A carved rock tilts to the inclination of the earth and points to the magnetic North Pole.
The Temple of the 3 windows (Temple of the 3 Windows ) sits on the back of the Lizard. Rising above a series of steps is the magnificent Temple of The Sun (Temple of the Sun ) Standing out is the amazing masonry with carved rocks fit into place by design rather than accident. And in an earthquake prone zone these have survived with no damage to the shocks and aftershocks. On one side are the farming terraces as well as buildings known as guardian houses all designed to withstand all forces of nature including rain and earthquakes. ( Farming Terraces ). This sector ends abruptly on a steep cliff. (Terrace on Cliff ).
Then there is the Temple of the Condor (Temple of the Condor ) a place where crime met punishment and blood from sacrificial beheading or the result of whip lashes flow through the channel and collect near the beak. (The thirsty beak ).
By now the gentle pitter patter gave way to a torrential pour and I gave up all thoughts of climbing Wayna Picchu. That would now be another day. I knew it was time to leave. Wet but overwhelmed I made my way down to the town ready for some Chicha Beer. (Refreshing Chicha Beer ).
Late night I was back at Poroy and there was man Friday Enrique at Poroy ready to take me back to Cusco!
Tomorrow would be another day back to Lima en route to San Francisco!