Discover Machu Picchu
Discover Machu Picchu.
My friend’s alarm went off at 3:30am. Yuck. She went to the shower and I stayed in bed. When she got out she crawled back into bed which lead to a precarious position whereby we used energy that really should have been saved for the climb. Life is not easy.
By the time breakfast was consumed it was too late to hike up the mountain, so we spent $10 U.S. to ride the bus up instead of a 90 minute hike up 70 million stairs that should have begun at 4:30am. When we arrived at the gates at 6:15am, there were already about 700 people in line to get in the gate that opened at 6:30am to discover Machu Picchu. When we finally got through, we headed up to a high point on the mountain to get the postcard picture before the ruins was full of people who were crashing our Discover Machu Picchu experience. Our tour guide did not show up, so we took pictures and wandered around until we saw a familiar face with a guide who spoke English. We joined them to have a better idea of what we were looking at.
Mache Picchu planned and build around 1450 is at 2450 meters altitude, and was abandoned in 1540 by the Incas. It was built in response to the Inca’s wanting a religious, political and administrative center in a sacred space that would link the Andes and the Amazon. It is amazing what was constructed so well so high up on a mountain. Some of the stones must have been nearly vertically carried for miles up the mountain. The land is terraced to be able to support the weight of the buildings that were constructed. And there is an intricate water drainage system because of the five months of wet season that takes over Peru. Machu Picchu is incredible to look at, and what a view it has beyond itself. In 1911 when Hiram Bingham found the ruins, there was a family living on them. That same family had been there for many years and generations. In 1860 a Frenchman and a German had been to Discover Machu Picchu, and the same family that Bingham met had cooked for the Frenchman and the German 50 years earlier who they described as ‘Looking like you,’ which meant European. No one in the Peruvian government seemed to be interested in Machu Picchu in the 1860’s as that was time of gold and mineral raping of the land. So, time just passed until Bingham’s discovery in 1911. The family living at Machu Picchu kept it a secret where they were living. I like the idea of them coming down into the valley to trade and people asking them where they lived, which I like to imagine they answered, “Oh, just this little place we have up on the mountain…”
Peru’s main income is tourism. In 2010 there was a huge downfall of rain and they river washed out the railroad track, so the people who were there to Discover Machu Picchu at that time were stuck at the ruins and had to be helicopter lifted out. Machu Picchu was closed for three months during this time. The Peruvian economy nearly collapsed. During this period hotels and restaurants closed down. Because Machu Picchu was not open, no tourists came to Peru at this time opting to bypass the country. This country is heavily dependent on ruins build 500 years ago that were hardly used.
Tourism is changing here in Peru though, and Machu Picchu only allows 2,500 visitors per day. They are nearly maxed out at all times. It used to be that there were as many as 5,000 people visiting the site each day. Our tour guide spoke with disgust about those times. Times soon will change so that tourists will only be allowed to discover Machu Picchu ruins for 3 hours per day and then they will be shuttled away again.
I began to need excitement and when my friend and I found some lamas grazing on the property I decided to get pictures with them taking food from my mouth. Lamas like granola bars. There was a young Belgian couple who took pictures for me as I passed granola bars from my mouth to the lamas. ‘Como se Lama?’ The Belgians were entertained and soon my friend and I found a place where we could take silly pictures from a ledge in front of Machu Picchu. I decided to do a crab stretch and was struggling to get my body high enough for the shot. It is not as easy to do as it was 10 years ago. I did not realize it, but the Belgian couple had been there as well, standing and watching. They told me, “You are worth the price of admission alone!”
I then went to take pictures of my friend who was doing yoga stretches on the ledge in front of the ruins. As she did a great stretch, a group of Japanese tourists arrived on the scene and clapped for her and her efforts. It was awesome. Then some Peruvian school children were sitting and listening to their guide as I was teasing some lamas. When their guide gave them free time, they wanted pictures with my friend and I. So, I had one child who I held upside-down for a picture, and then I made two little girls hold me up for another. Then I let one of the kids wear my devil toque for a picture. The kids loved us. As we were about to leave, the class was getting a group shot on the grass. I dived in front of the class for a picture and then ran away. The kids screamed and cheered. It was a ton of fun.
We walked down from Machu Picchu at 11am. It took us about 40 minutes do walk down the stairs to the river in the valley of the mountain. I kept on thinking how lucky it was that we had not descended from our bed early enough this morning to have time to ascend the mountain to discover Machu Picchu. There were so many stairs that my knees were shaking by the time we got to the river. Then, we had a 2:30 walk back along the railroad tracks to where we were to meet our van to take us back to Cusco. My friend and I drank beer on the walk back and I also made a dog-friend who I played a lot of fetch with on the walk. We had a great visit on the walk with a Panamanian and a Frenchman as well.
The ride in the van back to Cusco was terrible as we struggled to find comfort on the 6 hour journey. At 10pm we arrived back in Cusco and our bags were locked in the shop where they were stored. So, we found a hostel with what we had with us. But, the hostel had no phone after 8pm to call to find the chop to open it, and there was no hot water in the building after 10pm. Not bad for $9 U.S. total for both of us. We went out for dinner in an alternative hipster where everyone thinks they are a musician and are in competition with each other for alternativeness. We found a rock bar after to watch a Janis Joplin copy and got home at 2am, tired. An awesome massive day!