on September 22, 2010
As everyone knows Machu Picchu is the magnificent Inca citadel resting on a high peaks alongside other forested mountains. I guess it’s the one South America’s sights that all the world has heard about and that many travellers want to see. I suggest it’s the fact that it has the lost City Syndrome status, the Indiana Jones explorer appear and the fact that it is so well preserved and largely intact. As an aside our guide suggested that Hiram Bingham, the explorer who is responsible for re-discovering Machu Picchu, was the inspiration for Indiana Jones, but I’m not sure whether I buy that snippet. The journey up to Machu Picchu took about 20 minutes on the special bus from the town. They run very frequently, but don’t expect a timetable as it appears that they set off when all the seats were full. There was something special about the journey up there as everyone was nervously anticipating the great iconic site. It reminded me a bit of those childhood journeys to the coast when we were all waiting to see the sea first. The narrow road twisted its way up the steep incline and the bus seemed to be roaring away on occasions as the driver manoeuvred around the tight hairpin bends and wheels spun on the dry dusty road. A descending vehicle posed a slight problem as we had to reverse to a passing point to allow it past and then restart our ascent form the precarious position near the cliff edge. Perhaps it seemed worse than it was because the driver had no problems with the restart but us passengers on the cliff side crossed our fingers and hoped for the best. Of course the journey is safe – thousands of trips have taken place before – but that doesn’t help if you’re on your first trip!What is truly superb are the views that you’ll see on route to the summit of the mountain that plays host to this Inca village. To check out how it would have been all you have to do is examine the other peeks that surround you. Here the steep forested slopes are in their pristine condition that would have faced the Incas back in the 16th century. It’s hard to understand what it is they saw in the site to merit all the man-years of work that must have gone in to the clearing, terracing and building of the site that became Machu Picchu .Of course when Bingham was first guided to the site, by a local tribesman, in 1911 the jungle had almost reclaimed its original territory. The site which the Incas had deliberately abandoned had been untouched by the Spanish Conquistadors who we can only assumed never even had an inkling that this Inca citadel existed. It’s hard to think that they plundered every Inca site except this one and that this elaborate settlement was only "home" for around 1000 people. These were the elite of the Incas and the itinerant workers were barracked whilst working on the building.But I digressed, so back to our transfer from the town up to Machu Picchu. Having negotiated more hair pin bends than I could count, we catch a glimpse of the iconic citadel. Virtually all the passengers on the bus breathe with hushed excitement and then before we can take a second look the view has disappeared. The "lost city" has been lost again! Necks are craned in a vain attempt to see the city again but it eludes us for a few more minutes and then... An excited gasp as the first person spots the wondrous sight which echoes down the bus (a bit like a Mexican Wave) as more people see the building.Within seconds we’re in sight of the modern buildings that flank the entrance to Machu Picchu and we’re pouring out of the bus and heading for the entrance. It is worth remembering that there are no "facilities", as the guide had euphemistically referred to toilets, so get your sol ready and pay a visit to the toilet at the entrance.We excitedly head for the turnstiles to enter the grounds of the Machu Picchu site, pausing only briefly to call in the office on the left of the turnstiles to get our passport endorsed with the official Machu Picchu. Now we’re on our way for our official guided tour of this great iconic site. Hold on to your hats as we’re now going to feel the Machu Picchu experience and imagine life as it must have been from those important Incas!
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