You could show up at Machu Picchu not knowing anything about it whatsoever. Not knowing, for instance, that it was built over 500 years ago, and by a people (the Incas) who had no written language yet were sophisticated enough to understand a great deal of astronomy.
You might simply be amazed by the spectacle of it: the confounding truth of its location, perched high up in the Andes, and the wonder of how it ever got there.
The more you did learn about Machu Picchu, however (such as the fact that those who constructed it did so without even having the technology of the wheel!), you would no doubt only find it that much more perplexing and awe-inspiring. Theories abound, but a great deal is still not fully understood about its purpose and its history.
Machu Picchu now attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors each year who wish to behold its existence for themselves. This year, Samantha and I were among them.
On April 5th, our tour group with Andes Adventures boarded a train in Ollantaytambo that traveled alongside the Urubamba River and dropped us off at Chachabamba (Km. 104, at 7,200’), where we would access the Inca Trail. Those who did not wish to hike in to Machu Picchu continued on the train to Aguas Calientes, the town at the base of the mountains from which tourists are shuttled by bus back and forth to the world-famous ruins. The Inca Trail in its entirety takes four days on average for people to complete on foot, but we were simply covering the last seven miles or so of it (not flat miles, mind you) in one day to reach Machu Picchu via the “Gateway of the Sun”, where our first glimpse of the setting would be from above, as it was for the Incas.
If you do this as we did, your first view of Machu Picchu after hiking all day long may look something like this:
They don’t call it a cloud forest for nothing!
However, the clouds tend to drift in and out, so if you are patient, it will probably soon enough look more like this:
What follows is a slideshow of our hike from Chachabamba to the Gateway of the Sun and the view above.
You can pause the slideshow below at any time by moving the cursor into the frame and clicking on the “pause” button in between the arrow buttons at the bottom. The arrow buttons allow you to scroll through in either direction at your own pace. Captions are available on some photos – click on the bubble icon (second from the left) – green turns them on, white turns them off):
I will write more about our experiences at Machu Picchu and share some more photos in the next post!
***Update: It’s actually two posts later, in “Some Days Are Gifts From Others”…