Machu Picchu

May 13 2009 by Claudia Kunkel
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I absolutely love to travel. I get that dreamy look in my eye when I read about places I've never seen and I immediately start planning, plotting and scheming a way to get there. Machu Picchu in Peru is one of those places and I knew I had to see it for myself. Last September, my husband had a business trip to Peru and I knew there might not be another opportunity to see the Incan ruins if I didn't accompany him on this trip.

For those not entirely familiar with Machu Picchu, the ruins were discovered in 1911 by Yale archeologist Hiram Bingham. However, there is some evidence to suggest that a German businessman and a British missionary arrived earlier than Bingham. It is theorized that Machu Picchu was an estate of the Inca emperor, Pachacuti. They are considered one of the most stunning and enigmatic ancient sites in the world. The ruins are some of the best preserved as they were never found during the Spanish conquest of the Inca Empire. And I have to agree - they are breathtakingly beautiful. The ruins are situated on an Andes mountain ridge above the Urubamba River in the Sacred Valley, which is roughly 50 miles northwest of Cuzco, the capital city of Peru. The 50 miles that separates Cuzco from Machu Picchu would seem to be a quick jaunt, but the journey getting to the ruins is as much of an adventure as the ruins themselves.


Our adventure started out by flying first into Lima and then on to Cuzco the next day, approximately 24 hours later. We had planned our trip well in advance and decided that for us, hiring a driver and a guide would make the most out of our stay in Peru. An important thing to factor into trekking to Machu Picchu is the altitude. Cuzco, the capital city, is situated at roughly 11,000 feet and it requires several days in Cuzco itself to acclimate to the altitude. The first several days are well spent "gently" hiking around the city, drinking plenty of water and resting in order for your body to adjust to the altitude. For us, that seemed to work, however, others staying at our hotel, were feeling the effects of high altitude sickness.

There are several smaller, lesser known Incan ruins just outside the city of Cuzco that make a good one day trip to help adjust to the altitude and start to build the anticipation of seeing Machu Picchu. We also visited two beautiful cathedrals in Cuzco, The Church of La CompaƱia on the Plaza de Armas and the Cathedral of Cusco, both worth taking time to tour. Before I leave the city of Cuzco, I have to say that the shopping and cuisine are worth the trip alone. In the Artisan Market, I had to purchase an extra bag just to bring home all the beautiful handmade wool scarves and beautifully crafted silver jewelry. One word of advice on the cuisine, however, find out what "cuy" is before you order it!

On our third day in Cuzco, we were ready to make the trip to the Sacred Valley and up to Machu Picchu. We started the day out early to make several more stops to see other Incan ruins along the way. Our driver took our guide, my husband and I to the very small town of Ollantaytambo, where we waited until evening to catch the backpacker train on to the town of Aguas Calientes. We spent a very short night here before getting up at 4:00 am to be on one of the first buses on up to Machu Picchu to be there when the sun rises over the ruins.

We arrived at the top of Machu Picchu just in time to see the sun come up over the ruins - probably one of the most achingly beautiful things I will ever witness in my life. I could have stood in that one spot for hours and not really comprehend how the Incas could have built something so complex and detailed by hand. We stayed and hiked the ruins for over 5 hours and we still weren't ready to leave it behind. We had packed our water and lunch in with us and were able to find a spot on the grass in the middle of the Incan city to just sit and enjoy. It was quite simply, astounding.

If you've been - I'd love to hear about it.

Categories : Are We There Yet?

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    By Sylvia on May 13, 2009 9:28 PM

    The vision and leadership that inspired and built Machu Picchu eclipses our knowing. Clearly, the Inca had a different perception of the relationship between matter and space. It's as if the seamless structure and enduring granite structures at Machu Picchu and the Inca Palace in Cuzco were built with a knowing transported directly from ancient Egypt during the period of the Giza pyramids. And, all of Machu Picchu's wonder sits in the midst of natural splendor. At 7,000+ feet it's incredible evidence of what's possible.

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