11 April 2012 – Aguas Calientes, Peru
This is another of those early start day. The wake-up call at La Hacienda del Valle was 4:00am. We are to be having breakfast by 4:20am and board the bus by 5:00am to catch the 6:00am train from Ollanta to Aguas Calientes. There are no roads leading to Aguas Calientes, the train is the only way to go. It’s a 90 minutes trip on a very scenic route, running alongside the river. There are snow-capped mountains, waterfalls, and old Inca sites along the way. Early in the morning, the fogs are just clearing the mountain, making a very picturesque sight.
We left our bags to the porter at the train station. They will take it to our hotel whilst we boarded another bus that will take us on a 25 minute drive on semi-paved winding road to the entrance to Machupicchu. From there we walked up further on and after a lot of huffing and puffing we were rewarded with the sight of an 800 year old civilisation nestled 2400m above sea level deep into this Peruvian forest.
Panoramic Shots of Machupicchu by Jeanne
Machu Picchu is an engineering wonder. It is built on an a razor edge high above the Andes. There is very little working area for the builders.The Inkas built this city without metal tools, wheels or written language. Yet the drainage system and foundation of this city is so sound - it withstood the elements, earthquakes and prevented soil erosion for over 500 years. - National Geographic, Ancient Megastructures
Some 400+ Photos we took of this site is found in Flickr
We went nuts taking photos of this grandeur, that we forgot we were in a tour. Our tour guide and the rest of the group have been patiently waiting for us at the entry of this Inca city. The tour commentary is as important as the site itself. Machupicchu was never discovered by the Spaniards when they colonised Peru. The city was abandoned long before the conquistadors came, and vegetation concealed the place. There would have been more places like this, but they were destroyed by the white people when found. They were looking for treasures, at the same time using Christianity as an excuse to destroy a pagan religion.
As I understand some subtlety in the construction of this site, I stand in awe in the tenacity of the Inca. Piece by piece and rock by rock, they have built a self-sufficient community. They have terraces for crops as well as retaining walls. They have sun dials and arts that remain today. There is also varying construction method; one is more skilfully executed than others. Presumably, the temple and the king's quarters had the best finish.
After the guided tour - we went back at the park entrance for lunch. After which, we were given the option to travel back to the hotel or stay and walk around Machupicchu. A number of us chosed to stay and catch a later bus. It was beginning to rain but we didn't mind. We walked around and explored some more sites not covered by the tour. The place look awesome rain or not.
I chatted with a young German fellow and a young Ecuadorian lady. They look very ecstatic as they were seated on the ground in the hut where we momentarily stopped for some shelter. They have just completed going through the Inca Trail. These are the trails built by the Inca on the mountain used as a supply and communication route. They said some sections of the route are treacherously narrow.
Some of these Inca trails are traversed by climbing an altitude of 4000m, going down and climbing again to 3800m before descending to an elevation of Machupicchu of 2400m. Trekking the trail takes 4 days and hikers would need to acclimatize on some campsites before starting the journey.
Later that night, as Jeanne and I was preparing to walk around the town of Aguas Calientes and perhaps grab a bite, we saw Andy our guide, preparing to do the same. We invited to shout him dinner. Over dinner - I asked if there might be some more Inca civilisation left undiscovered to this day.
Before becoming an Inca Trail Tour Guide, Andy spent 5 years being a Jungle Tour Guide. He and his other jungle guides use to trade rice, sugar, salt, etc for meat from the natives of the jungle. One time they were invited to come for a hunt by these natives. The hunt can last 3 days - so they pack provisions like water, food and clothes. They wore gum boots and protective clothing.
When they joined the natives - they saw that they were just wearing shorts, t-shirts and barefoot. They only have their bow and arrow and a small plastic bag of provisions. The natives move with ease around the jungle sliding through branches approaching their hunt stealthfully. The guides of course have difficulty as the gum boots they wear are heavy and were burdened by their back packs. In a few hours the water they had has all but gone, whilst the natives simply cut up some plants and suck the water out of it.
Curiously - they asked the natives if they knew of any Inca sites. They said yes but they also know what happened to other Inca sites that were found. They said this site is for the jungle and they will not be party to those who seek to disturbed it. The natives did not reveal the site.