Thursday, May 20, 2010

Machu Picchu, Peru

     You may have heard that Machu Picchu was closed for a couple of months earlier this year due to flooding. The actual site is basically on top of a mountain, so the problem was not there, but down in the valley bottoms, where flooding killed several hundred people and caused widespread destruction. We saw plenty of the evidence as we made our way through the sacred valley towards Machu Picchu. Most towns were sporting a new bridge, and there was obvious damage to roads and railway. The train is only running the last section to the town of Aguas Calientes – this had to be fixed as no road exists in this section. From what we did see, do not expect the train to be running all the way to Cusco for some time.
     After arriving in Aguas Calientes late in the evening, I started things off right by spending several early morning hours being sick in the bathroom. Way to go! The next day as I basically could not get out of bed, Tana ran around rearranging our tickets to push everything back a day. By the next day I felt better so away we went – the others caught the 5AM bus, I held off until 9. The place must have some positive energy, because after that day I felt fine. The next day we all caught the early bus and spent a few more hours up there before departing.
     OK, so Machu Picchu itself? Insanely fabulous, as good as you might hope. Of course the ruins themselves are something, but as I arrived, two things stuck in my mind. 1) The view from up there is just stunning, and no photos can do it justice. 2) Being at the relatively low altitude (for Peru, anyway) of 2300 meters and surrounded by cloud forest, there are many tropical plants there, and the smell of the place reminded me very strongly of Hawaii.
     Due to the train being limited, there were fewer visitors around than normal, and we had plenty of time and were able to avoid what crowds there were. We wandered around the place scraping our jaws off the ground and pointing a lot, lying in the grass and petting the resident Llamas.
     Simply the sheer amount of work that went into the place, in such a remote location, was impressive. Not to mention the fine masonry in the temples, or the whimsical details in the stone walls and structures. But the thing I like best about Machu Picchu is the mystery. The Spanish never found the place (thank god, it was not wrecked like so many other Inca sites), and there is no direct record of why it was built or who lived there. We heard many stories from tour guides, some more believable than others. But the fact remains we will never really know the exact story. Down with history, up with mystery!


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