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South America – Machu Picchu

Three weeks in South America was not nearly enough time to do and see what I wanted but I certainly gave it a good try. Over the next few weeks I will add various pics and thoughts about my travels in Peru and Chile. What I do know for sure is that I will be heading back there over the ensuing years and try and visit many of the countries that make up this amazing continent.

Like many people, Machu Picchu was on my list of places to visit. A childhood love of archeology makes all ruins a must for me and I love nothing more than wandering through such places, taking in the history, noting all the detail that has gone into the architecture and trying to imagine the times when people lived their lives there. Due to a strike, we ended up being stuck in Agua Calientes (the town below Machu Picchu). This was an unfortunate happening but the positive was that due to this, not many people were at Macchu Picchu. So in Machu Picchu tourist terms, we almost had the place to ourselves and managed to take numerous photos of the ruins without people in them. And wandered a good 9 hours up and down and around the site in peace.

Cam and I wanted to climb Waynu Picchu, which is the high peak you can see at the back of Machu Picchu in most of the classic photos of the place. They only let 400 people head up there each day and it requires you to queue first thing at 6 am to get the pass. We decided to climb in the 7.00 am session while it was still a little cool – and glad thing we did. While the track up there is completely stepped, it is certainly steep and all walkers, regardless of age, size and fitness, were red, huffing and stopping for regular quick breathers along the way. It helped having been in the Sacred Valley for a number of days, acclimatizing to the high altitude before heading to Machu Picchu. Waynu Picchu has more ruins atop and around the peak which appear to be a mixture of both military and spiritual buildings. Besides getting to the top allowing your calves to stop screaming, it is such a lovely place to sit down and take in the peace of the area and of course the view is something else. It also gives you a great perspective of the structure of the main complex of MP down below.

After relaxing and exploring for awhile atop of Waynu Picchu we headed back down and spent the rest of the days wandering, and wondering. Much of Machu Picchu has been rebuilt to give visitors, an idea of the structure of the citadel but there is still plenty of orginal stonework to view, especially in the ashlar technique. This is the stonework most people readily identify with the Incans. Large stone blocks of regular shape that are shaped and carved to fit together without mortar. Beautiful and amazing! I have a SD card fully of Incan blocks – I must threaten to have a slide night of all of my stone block photos! Huge blocks that are carved for purposes that no-one is completely sure of lay in various temple structures and on open areas. Many appear to be for the use of understanding time and seasons such as the Intihuatana and with the history of the Incans, no doubt there were some that were used for sacrificial purposes – and I’m not necessarily meaning human. Chicha, a corn liquor/alchohol was often used for such occasions.

One cannot deny that Macchu Picchu is now heavily targetted toward the tourists – with its rebuilding and exorbitant rates of food and water in the small complex before the entrance as well as a very zooshy and expensive hotel. Hopefully this is as big as it will get – from reports I have read, Machu Picchu is now on a list of sites to watch and monitor for serious impact.The reason it is so heavily visited is clearly visible though – it truly is an amazing monument to a culture now gone. It is important, I feel, for people to be able to visit, and then hopefully understand a little more about the world around them – both past and present. So should tighter restrictions need to be put in place somewhere down the line to protect the area it will be totally understandable.

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