Machu Pichu

Its been a few months since the last post, but we haven’t forgotten our dear readers!

After visiting the amazing town of Ollantaytambo we jumped in the tourist train to travel to the town of Aguas Calientes. This is the hub where you need to spend the night if you are trying to do any hiking in Machu Pichu the next day.

We arrived late at night and checked-in to our basic hotel. Eitan ran to get the bus tickets for tomorrow as the tourist office was closing in a few minutes.

We woke up around 3 am again to walk to the bus station that was going to take us all the way up the mountain. Some people hike this route as well, but after rainbow mountain and several days waking up very early, seems that we will take the comfort route this time.  The line was already pretty big, but they only let people  get into the bus if you have a hiking pass, which basically forces you to get there very early to give you time to walk to the hiking route entrance as there are specific time slots they need to keep.

The bus takes about 40 minutes to get you to the top of the mountain. The entrance is just some steps away.

A valid passport that matches your ticket is needed to enter Machu Pichu, and the tickets sell out months in advance. So if you are one of those travelers who does not like to plan, I have some bad news for you!

It was very early in the morning and it was very cloudy at the moment.  We could not see more than a few feet away.

As the sun raised, the clouds dissipated revealing an incredible sight.  There is really no photo, documentary, or story that can prepare you for what you see in Machu Pichu.

Thomas and I ran to the top of one of the temples to take a look at the Intihuatana.  The Incas had as one of their main gods the sun (inti, in Quechua language). Therefore, it was important for priests to observe the sun and understand it. So, they had an astronomic clock or calendar that indicated some significant celestial periods for them. This clock was called intihuatana. This area of machu pichu is open only for a couple of hours, so we needed to see it fast!!

The Inca believed the stone held the sun in its place along its annual path in the sky. The stone is situated at 13°9’48” S. At midday on 11 November and 30 January, the sun stands almost exactly above the pillar, casting no shadow. On 21 June, the stone casts the longest shadow on its southern side, and on 21 December a much shorter shadow on its northern side. In this photo, the stone was casting the famous “Thomas shade”, which represents good travels Karma.

There are very strict rules for visitors. You can only walk around it following the specified route and you cannot backtrack. Luckily we, as hikers, could walk around it twice because we had a ticket to enter back after our hike!

We met Sarah and Hanna at the hike entrance where only the 400 (a day) lucky few that got tickets months ago were eagerly waiting to start. They make you sign a register book in case you die, they will know who to notify.

After another passport check, we were on to start the Waynapicchu mountain hike.

So this photo was taken later in the day, but wanted to show the mountain that we were going to be hiking up. That tallest peak behind…. that’s Waynapicchu.

Machu Pichu is already 8,000 ft high, so a hike in this altitude is way more difficult than at sea level.  But we pushed through hundreds of stairs.

The views were getting better and better.

More stairs.

And the top. It goes without saying that the views were spectacular.

Group photo!!! Hanna was running a little late, but eventually, she conquered the summit as well.

Sarah loves morning hikes. You can see it in her face.

The views were better a little bit past the summit, where there were no people. Everyone crowds the top to get a photo not knowing that if you walk 3 more minutes you will get this view.  We even witnessed a proposal at the crowded viewpoint.

At the end, you need to sign out of the ledger. We made it!!!! We sat down for a few minutes to rest and eat some snacks. The rest of the day we will be visiting the ruins.

We had to exit the complex to get a guide as such a marvel requires some explanations. And also Thomas would have never let us go without one guy. We did have to negotiate with Thomas to only take a guide for a couple of hours, instead of the full 4-hour tour which he would have loved to do.

Machu Picchu is a 15th-century Inca citadel, located in the Eastern Cordillera of southern Peru, on a 2,430-metre (7,970 ft) mountain ridge.

Most archaeologists believe that Machu Picchu was constructed as an estate for the Inca emperor Pachacuti (1438–1472). Often mistakenly referred to as the “Lost City of the Incas”, it is the most familiar icon of Inca civilization. The Incas built the estate around 1450 but abandoned it a century later at the time of the Spanish conquest. Although known locally, it was not known to the Spanish during the colonial period and remained unknown to the outside world until American historian Hiram Bingham brought it to international attention in 1911.

Machu Picchu was built in the classical Inca style, with polished dry-stone walls. Its three primary structures are the Intihuatana, the Temple of the Sun, and the Room of the Three Windows. Most of the outlying buildings have been reconstructed in order to give tourists a better idea of how they originally appeared.

When the explorer Hiram Bingham III encountered Machu Picchu in 1911, he was looking for a different city, known as Vilcabamba. This was a hidden capital to which the Inca had escaped after the Spanish conquistadors arrived in 1532. Bingham spent most of his life arguing that Machu Picchu and Vilcabamba were one and the same, a theory that wasn’t proved wrong until after his death in 1956. (The real Vilcabamba is now believed to have been built in the jungle about 50 miles west of Machu Picchu.) Recent research has cast doubt on whether Machu Picchu had ever been forgotten at all. When Bingham arrived, three families of farmers were living at the site.

There are several viewpoints around the citadel, but there are the famous ones which you see  on all the postcards.

Machu Picchu was declared a Peruvian Historical Sanctuary in 1981 and a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983. In 2007, Machu Picchu was voted one of the New Seven Wonders of the World in a worldwide Internet poll.


Much of the farming done at Machu Picchu was done on its hundreds of man-made terraces. These terraces were a work of considerable engineering, built to ensure good drainage and soil fertility while also protecting the mountain itself from erosion and landslides

During its use as a royal estate, it is estimated that about 750 people lived there, with most serving as support staff who lived there permanently. Though the estate belonged to Pachacutec, religious specialists and temporary specialized workers (mayocs) lived there as well, most likely for the ruler’s well-being and enjoyment. During the harsher season, staff dropped down to around a hundred servants and a few religious specialists focused on maintenance alone.

A new theory proposed by the Italian archaeoastronomer Giulio Magli suggests that the journey to Machu Picchu from Cusco could have served a ceremonial purpose: echoing the celestial journey that, according to legend, the first Inca took when they departed the Island of the Sun in Lake Titicaca. Rather than simply following a more sensible path along the banks of the Urubamba River, the Inca built the impractical but visually stunning Inca Trail, which according to Magli, prepared pilgrims for entry into Machu Picchu. The final leg of the pilgrimage would have concluded with climbing the steps to the Intihuatana Stone, the highest spot in the main ruins.

The sun temple is the only curved building in the whole complex. You see the rock in the middle? that’s where they did the sacrifices.  The historical site is made up of over 150 different buildings that acted as baths, housing, temples, and other meeting areas.

There are still several huge rocks laying around that were used to cut smaller ones for construction.  Machu Pichu was never finalized. Most of the stones that were used to build Machu Picchu are over 50 pounds in weight. But no wheels were thought to have been used to transport these heavy stones. Instead, historians believe that hundreds of men pushed these heavy stones up the mountain.

They even had a compass!! The rock below has its corners pointing at the cardinal points.  Sarah’s legs making an appearance in the Northeast.

The stones in the most handsome buildings throughout the Inca Empire used no mortar. These stones were cut so precisely, and wedged so closely together, that a credit card cannot be inserted between them. Aside from the obvious aesthetic benefits of this building style, there are engineering advantages. Peru is a seismically unstable country—both Lima and Cusco have been leveled by earthquakes—and Machu Picchu itself was constructed atop two fault lines. When an earthquake occurs, the stones in an Inca building are said to “dance;” that is, they bounce through the tremors and then fall back into place. Without this building method, many of the best known buildings at Machu Picchu would have collapsed long ago.

Sarita the backpacker. I have no idea what she was carrying in that bag, but probably many snacks.

The Sacred Rock mirroring the shape of the Yanantin Mountain in the background

We started walking towards the exit. We needed enough time to make the line for the bus down in order to catch our train back to Cusco.  Every corner of this amazing place had stories and hidden facts.

This building is the astronomical temple, and the circle on the ground was used to look at the stars being reflected in the water. I guess they figured out it was easier and more ergonomic to look than better than up!

When we came back to the town we stopped at this amazing restaurant for dinner. There was decorations from all over the world on the walls.

The food was great as always in Peru.

We walked back to the hotel to pick up our stuff in order to board the train to  Cusco.

There are different classes of trains depending on your budget. We took the tourist train that has the 360-degree windows. They make it that way so you can see the cliffs and mountains from which Machu Pichu is famous for. Unfortunately, it got dark very fast so there was not much to see.

Suddenly, the cultural show started in our cart. With some regional dances of a Puma man, which was making very funny noises. Sarah, with the lack of oxygen in the air, could not stop laughing for 30 minutes.

The surprises were not over! We also had a fashion show where the train employees were the models! This is of course an evil plot for Thomas to spend his money in overpriced baby Alpaca clothing.

It was a very long day, we were exhausted and fell asleep. Hanna took this shot!

Bonus pic of the day: Coca, the natural leaf from where cocaine is produced is widely used in Peru to relieve some of the altitude sickness symptoms and as a stimulant. You can find it in different configurations like teas, candies, chocolates, and the flavor is not bad. Just don’t try to bring it back to your country, or the sniffing dogs will get you!  Interestingly,, Coca-Cola used coca leaf extract in its products from 1885 until about 1903.

The extraction of cocaine from coca requires several solvents and a chemical process known as an acid-base extraction, which can fairly easily extract the alkaloids from the plant.

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