Did you know that for all of the infamy surrounding the Incas and the Incan empire, they were only around for less than 100 years, from 1438 to 1532? It took them 80 years and 500 men and women to build Machu Picchu, but they only got to live there for 60 years.
That fact about Machu Picchu really dumbfounded Chris and I.
The moment we had been waiting for, the reason we traveled so far, was upon us. We hopped on a two-hour train ride from the Sacred Valley. Our train had open windows from floor to ceiling so travelers could see the abandoned Incan ruins and mothers carrying their babies on their backs along the way.
The train followed the Urubumba River the entire way to the little town of Aguas Calientes. Aguas Calientes is the cute town half and hour down the mountain from Machu Picchu.
From Aguas Calientes, we boarded a bus to take us to the top of the mountain where we would meet our tour guide who would show us around Machu Picchu. The bus ride felt like a death mission. The road to the top is very windy with hairpin turns and only fits one bus at a time. This meant that when a bus was coming the opposite direction, our bus driver would slam on the brakes and reverse to a wider spot to let the other bus go by. I was on the cliff side of the road, which means if I looked out of the window it looked like one false move and the bus would go over the cliff.
I reminded myself that these bus drivers do this all day and have it dialed in. Then I told myself that I had never heard of a bus going off the cliff on the drive up to Machu Picchu and that made me feel a bit better.
There are a lot of theories about what Machu Picchu is and why it was created. Some say it was the vacation home of a famous Incan ruler. Hiram Bingham found many skeletons of only women in a room at Machu Picchu and speculated that Machu Picchu may be a sanctuary for the Chosen Woman. It is now thought that the room full of women skeletons was a type of hospital within Machu Picchu.
Our tour guide Linder who led us through an entire history of the Incan Empire and Machu Picchu grew up playing hide and seek with his cousin among the ruins of Machu Picchu before they were famous. He says that Machu Picchu was a place that the remaining Incan people fled after the Spanish invaded Cusco. They built a brand new city hidden high up on a hill surrounded by even more majestic mountains.
Eighty years after they arrived at Machu Picchu, the people began dying of Malaria and the Incans fled to find a cure.
To visit Machu Picchu is a magical experience. Of course right? That is why it is now one of the Seven Wonders of the World. I knew it would be incredible because of the ruins; 75% of which are original and only 25% restored. What I didn’t expect was that the surrounding mountains would be so breathtakingly beautiful.
Everything at Machu Picchu revolves around worshiping nature. Not God. Not professional athletes. Not the Kardashians. There are temples of the sun and temples of the moon. Windows are constructed at specific angles so the sun will shine through during the winter solstice on June 21st.
Gigantic rocks inside Machu Picchu are carved to replicate the Condor, which was revered by the Incan people. In fact, if you have a bird’s eye view of Machu Picchu like we did at the top of Huayna Picchu, you can see that the entire city is constructed in the shape of a Condor.
As we hiked around Machu Picchu (about 2 miles), we discussed how much we admired the Incan culture for their appreciation of everything they took from the land and planet earth. We have lost that in our culture, as we no longer appreciate the amazing natural resources our planet provides us in order for us to survive.
I won’t describe the magic of the Incan city or the spiritual things we saw because it is too overwhelming and you must go and experience it for yourself.
Chris and I stayed that first day in Machu Picchu until the last bus was leaving at 5pm. We trekked up many stairs (as usual) and down a beautiful path to get to the Incan Bridge. The path was on the side of the mountain with the cliff on the other side.
On our way back, two llamas were in the middle of the path eating from the bushes and blocking our way. It was clear that they weren’t going to be polite and move and let us by so we had to take our chances and wedge our way behind them, running the risk of them kicking us over the cliff to our deaths. Fortunately, we made it by.
The Incan bridge is now closed and cannot be crossed, but it is said to be the bridge that the inhabitants of Machu Picchu took when they fled the city in search for a cure for Malaria (they ended up discovering the quinine compound from the Kina bark that served as a cure).
Before the bus left, Chris and I took some quiet time on an Incan terrace overlooking the ancient buildings and temples of Machu Picchu. I put my headphones in and played my favorite song Halocene by Bon Iver while I took in the beauty of Machu Picchu. As my friend Sarah and I would say to each other, it was a “REALLY” moment (from the book Sting: Broken Music- A Memoir).
I will preserve that moment in my memory forever.
Until next time, the mothership is signing off.