Macchupiccho, Peru
13° 9' S 72° 31' W
Dec 29, 2007 21:41
Distance 31km

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Text written in: English

Machu Picchu Day!

Machu Picchu Day! Of course it was accompanied by a 3:30am wake-up call:s Thankfully yesterday's rain finally stopped at 4, so we had a beautiful day to explore the ancient city :)

Once we had all packed up our things, Tash and I decided that we couldn't take it anymore and headed up the cold "shower" facilities beside the squat toilets to wash our hair... in the dark. The "shower" in this case turned out to be a tiny hole in the wall where a shower head should be, that had excruciatingly cold water flowing though it. Man-oh-man, I tell you nothing will wake you up like getting brain freeze from rinsing the shampoo out of your hair.

We all hurried to pack, hurried to eat breakfast, hurried to get on the trail, hurried to climb over the tree that had fallen as a result of last night's rain, all in order to get into the park to make it to the sun gate before the sun rose... only to find ourselves in a long line of other travelers also being held up at the entrance to the national park which, as we quickly learned, doesn't open until 5:30. 

When they finally opened the gate, Tash and I walked as fast as our tired legs would carry us to race the rising sun to the sun gate. At 6:20 we arrived just in time to see the sun rising over the top of the gate through the clouds, took a picture, and then collapsed, exhausted to wait for the rest of our group.

While we were waiting the fog began to burn off and we suddenly had our first glimpse of Machu Picchu! It was beautiful. We took as many pictures as we could as the clouds slowly revealed the site to us. Finally we were able to start walking the last couple of kilometers to the actual site. When we arrived, we were surprised to see quite a few Llamas grazing on the terraces. We later learned that they are kept on site to act as a low-tech mowing system to keep all the grass at presentable levels. Tash and I took the opportunity to immortalize their cuteness in dozens of photos while we waited for the rest of the group. 

Once they all caught up, we took a 2.5 hour tour of the site and learned many fascinating features of the city and building structures as well as the people and their spirituality and religion. The reader's digest version is that they believed in 3 worlds: the Spiritual or Upper World (Hanaq Pacha), this Physical World (Kay Pacha), and the World of the Dead (Hukju Pacha). Each of these worlds were associated with an animal that they regarded very highly. The Condor was said to lift the spirits of those who had passed to the spiritual world, the Puma was associated with this world and represented skills and abilities, and the snake was associated with the World of the Dead and represented wisdom. 

I am in awe of the wisdom and skill of these people. They were able to build such precise structures using boulders and chisels and their architecture survives to this day even trough the pressures of earth quakes and ageing. Also they have found that the high priest and the Inca used to deliver speeches from an area in the city that provides excellent acoustics to the areas below where the commoners would gather.

I wonder if they designed the city that way or if they discovered that feature afterwards... I have much to contemplate and learn about this place but for now I must turn my attention to the tour of the sacred valley tomorrow and bid adieu to that beautiful city.

Photos / videos of "Machu Picchu Day!":

Morning hits our last campsite roughly 5:15 am pictures from the line up to get into the park 5:20am starting to worry we won't make it in time Finally at the sun gate. 6:20am just as the sun is starting to rise. You can just see it rising over the sun gate. Machu Picchu is still covered in clouds at this point. Me with Machu Picchu in the distance Me and Tash at the sun gate looking down at Machu Picchu. The sun is starting to break through the clouds. Clouds are rolling away. Another mountain with part of the city at its peak. Dad is all sweaty from the hike. It was a really demanding walk, complete with some of the steepest stairs I have ever climbed. Chris atop the sun gate. Looking down into the valley. John resting at the sun gate. Group photo. Some ruins on the final path to Machu Picchu The view of Machu Picchu from the ruins half way along See the switchback road that we had to take down from Machu Picchu to Aguas Calientes? The terraces that they used for agricultural experiments. They were thought to have used them to make high altitude plants able to grow at lower altitudes and visa versa so that the foods could be grown in a large number of their mountain cities. Beautiful view See the Baby Llama and Mama grazing? Tash and Me at Machu Picchu! We finally made it! We got to observe some of the wildlife while we were waiting for our group to arrive. A lone tree grows in the middle of the city. Cute little baby! Starting to run away... and he's gone! Look! another baby :) Llama checking out the tourists Llamas on guard Group photo at Machu Picchu Tash and I at the little incredibly overpriced cafe. $4 for a chocolate bar??? SO worth it! A tomb under a building. The stairs were to help the soul ascend to the spiritual world. They used some large rocks that were naturally in place. This is the side of the sun temple atop a large boulder. The Incas used anatomical measurements for many of their structures. A fountain in the city Doing a dance in the royal bathroom :) The farming terraces from the other side. The sun temple. The windows align so that the sun shines directly through one on Dec. 21st (winter solstice) and directly through the other on June 21st (summer solstice) Sun temple and terraces Another example of using natural boulder locations. Tasha in the unfinished section of the city. Dad showing an example of how they used to crack the boulders. They would use metal chisles to create dents, then place dry wooden wedges in the holes and then wet them. As the wedges absorbed the water they would expand, cracking the boulder. Some coca leaves growing in the city. One of the main temples in the city that would have been used to commune with the gods of the mountains among other things. Me and Tash at the top of Machu Picchu. Me and Tash at the top of Machu Picchu. This rock is located up near the High Priest's temples. The rock demonstrates some duality that the Incas would have recognized and possibly used in their ceremonies. This rick is in the exact same shape as Machu Picchu mountain and Tash is pointing to the location of Machu Picchu city. From the other side, that same rock looks just like the highest peak of the city (you can see the real one in the background). On June 21st the sun stone casts a beam of light to this spot so that it would appear to hit you in the head. The Inca used to stand here to absorb knowledge and wisdom from the sun. Tash getting wiser. Me and Tash in front of the sun stone The sun stone John explaining about the Chakana or Southern Cross. It is completed on the 21st of June when the sun casts a perfect shadow of the other half on the ground. There is a lot of symbolism represented by that one little symbol. Off to lunch in Aguas Calientes. Chris fast asleep on the train ride home. John listening to Dad's iPod.