You have probably seen pictures of Machu Picchu in books but seeing it in person is more surreal and expansive than I had imagined. To give you a sense of how large it is, it took us over 2 hours to walk through it. I can see why it is one of the 7 wonders of the world.
To get to Machu Picchu, you will most likely start in Cusco, Peru. Cusco is a highland city at over 11,000 feet above sea level. From Cusco, you will take a 20 minute ride to the train station. From there, you will take a slow train 57 miles to Caliente, Peru.
To see a slide show of pictures from our trip, click here.
Yep, I said it was slow — 57 miles on this train takes 3.5 hours. We got there early (6:00 a.m.) and they served breakfast on the train. The view along the way to Machu Picchu is very good.
Once you reach Caliente, Peru, you hop a bus for a 30 minute ride up to the top of the mountain that is Machu Picchu. The bus driver drives like crazy through switch backs with no guard rails — not for the faint of heart! Once you reach the top, you then hike several hundred feet to the very top to get your first awesome peek.
At the top, we met our Guide who told us the Incas built it at the top of the mountain making it easier to watch out for attackers.
As we descended towards the first structures, we encountered the only gate into the colony. During Inca times, it was always open unless there was a threat of enemies, then it was closed with similar sized boulders.
Once you enter the gate, you get a sense of the pride of workmanship. They were great architects even though they never had a written language. Even without a written language, the Incas taught their young how to build, farm, and protect their colony.
The walls were much higher than the ruins show — most walls were about 30 feet high during the Inca rein and they laid each stone without winches, machines, or saws. Only Inca nobility lived in Machu Picchu. Peasants lived in the low lands in Adobe homes.
Bedrooms contained beds made of stone — these were filled with alpaca fur, straw, and handmade blankets. By the way, alpaca was a delicacy for the Incas and I had a chance to eat some for dinner. It was very good, tasted like beef.
High priests spent much of their time in the Temple of the Sun, a beautifully built rotunda. Notice the intricate rounded sides of the temple and how each stone was cut and laid without any mortar which relied on exact sizing of each stone.
As you traverse through the colony, you see areas of crops and trees that were used for food by the Incas.
Everyone in the colony paid taxes. They did this by working 2 months of the year for the colony and they could work the other 10 months to feed their families (hunting, farming or protecting the village). Young boys hunted and fished for 2 months, girls learned to weave blankets and hats, men carved and carried rocks to make the village, and women weaved for their taxes.
The Incas had 3 rules (do not steal, do not lie, and do not be lazy). If you violated any of these 3 rules, you would be publicly beaten. If the offense was really bad, they would lock the person up in jails made by the Inca. If an Inca betrayed the colony by giving enemies information on how the colony lives (or jeopardizing their security), they would lock the person up in solitary confinement and put snakes and spiders into the cell, killing the traitor.
As you can see, Inca were very adept at farming. They terraced the mountain so that they could plant on level land and prevent erosion. The Inca were said to have had 10 years of crops harvested and stored to combat hard times.
As you can see, we really enjoyed our trip to Machu Picchu. If you ever get the chance to go, take it! To see a slide show of pictures from our trip, click here.
After we left Machu Picchu, we flew to Miami on our way to the Bahamas but Hurricane Sandy had different plans for us. Our flights were cancelled so we stayed 3 nights in Miami — not a bad place to be stuck. We stayed ocean front in South Beach and had a great time. We are now on our way to the Bahamas for 3 weeks of relaxation.