Monday, December 2, 2013

Machu Picchu

November 17, 2013
After a beautiful evening in Ollantaytambo, the night brought in a rumbling thunderstorm.  We arose at about 4 AM (our wake-up calls were scheduled for 4:30) to catch a 5 AM train to Machu Picchu, the sacred city of the Incas that the Spanish did not find and ravage.  The storm had reduced to overcast skies and light sprinkles as we boarded the train to Aguas Calientas.  Once there, we transferred to a bus for transport to Machu Picchu.  The weather continued to improve so as you can see in the first picture, Ann and the guide led us down the path to the city in comfort – dry and relatively warm.

The next 2 pictures show our first sight of the city of Machu Picchu at the Inca trail entrance.  (While we were guided up a steep trail to get to this point, we did not actually hike the Inca Trail.)  These are the views that the Inca ruling class would see when they visited the city.  The first is actually the back side of the city, the second the city itself.  Machu Picchu was the home to religious leaders and the educated classes.  The rulers came to this city for spiritual needs but actually resided in Cusco.  In Machu Picchu much learning transpired.  Farming and textiles were important aspects of Inca life and here is where they studied different crops and farming techniques.  The terraces you see cascading down the slopes were filled with crops in Inca days.  When the Spanish took control, of the empire, the residents of Machu Picchu quietly abandoned the city and slipped into the jungle on its edges.  The jungle soon grew over the city which local tribes knew about but was not found by westerners until the 20th century.

We officially entered the city through this arch.
Here you can see typical Incan building construction.  They studied how to build so that earthquakes would not destroy their homes and temples.  The stones used for walls were cut and fit together at many junctures.  The windows were trapezoidal with the base wider than the top and the sides slanting between.  If you can enlarge the picture to look through the right window, you will see a nice surprise for us – a chinchilla enjoying the morning sun and breeze!

As we walked along the paths of the city, these “lawn mowers” wandered among the terraces.

As mentioned previously, farming was extremely important to Inca culture.  Thus, the movements of the sun and the moon and the resulting changes of season also were important to study.  This structure was fashioned to indicate when the sun solstices occurred.   The window on the far side was situated so that it shown on the table in the center in a certain way.  Then they knew when it was time to plant or harvest.  There is another structure (not pictured) to follow the movements of the moon.

Though it looks like just another view of the city, I wanted to feature the ceremonial baths here.  The triangular structures you see in the middle right of the picture are the gables.  These structures would have supported thatched roofing tied to stone out-posts built into the wall.


Next is the plaza providing the entrance to Wyna Picchu, the peak in the background.

Here is our guide, Julio, who was incredible!  Not only was Julio a wealth of knowledge – way more than I have managed to remember! – he also had a fantastic command of English.  He particularly liked taking group pictures for us using Ruth’s camera.  (Many of the tour’s official pictures were taken with this camera.)  Julio spent 3 hours with us on a 2 hour tour!

The last 2 pictures are of sacred areas of the city.  The first is the Temple of the Condor, a stone rendition of the bird with wings spread; its head is a slightly raised structure on the floor.  It was hard to get the entirety in one picture so I apologize for cutting off the view of its head!  

Finally, the last picture of Machu Picchu is the Temple of the Sun and Royal Tomb below which honor the 2 most important forces in Inca life, the sun and mother earth.

Let me take this opportunity to acknowledge that others have taken much more beautiful pictures of Machu Picchu which are available on line and in numerous publications.  I took these to provide you with our journey in the Sacred Valley and hope you enjoyed them!

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