How dare you ? How can you compare these beautiful ruins to an holiday resort ? A site that has been recently voted as one of the new 7 Wonders of the world.
But I still maintain my thoughts.
Indeed, reports are formal :
Firstly, Machupicchu was not the famous Inca lost city
Secondly, it was neither a religious centre nor a military centre.
But just the Inca Pachacutec residence. (probably summer residence)
A bit of history
MachuPicchu has been built around 1440 for the Inca Pachacutec, the Inca emperor. Probably a residence for him to rest away from the noise and political issues he had to deal with in Cusco, the inca empire capital (and today the capital of the region)
Le site is located at 2,438m sitting on a cliff and locked between two mountains : Machupicchu mountain and Huyana Picchu.
It is divided into two main areas :
- An farming area made of terraces that could feed up to 10,000 people.
- An urban area itself divided in sub-areas :
- A holly area where are located the temples, mainly the one dedicated to the god Sun.
- A popular area for the normal people (stone and metal workers)
- An area restricted only to the higher and religious class.
The city counted around 300 to 1000 inhabitants that most of them belong to the high class. All of them to entertain or be around the emperor. Only the farmers were « normal » people that were coming from the whole empire (usually brought by force to work in a specific area, like the spanish will do a few years later)
The Inca , I guess use to have a good life there. Receive people, rest, drink, play in the private garden, attend some religious ceremonies. Almost the same life you would have when you book for a week or two into a resort in Djerba, Cancun or somewhere funky in the world.
The view is amazing, the weather clear and sunny (except between November to March), less cold than Cusco.. What’s else ?
But at the death of the Inca Pachacutec, the city started to loose of its influence. The profit made were used only to finance the cult of the Dead emperor. Then the spanish arrived and the site got abandonned.
Who discovered the site ?
Scientifically talking, it was Hiram Bingham (an archeologist professor North American.. we could feel being in the Indiana Jones saga) who di dit in 1911.
But when you start to dig a bit more, you find out that potentially a german mine-hunter would have visited the site in 1860. I guess Hiram has the merit to recognise the importance of the site and to publish the results he found out during its excavations.
However in Peru, we can feel that the authorites tries to minimize this discovery by empashing the fact that this is only a scientific discovery and that local people were already living close to the site by the time Hiram got there. Even one of them guided him in the jungle to reach the site.
The tourism factory
Since this scientific discovery, Machupicchu is one of the most visited attractions in Peru… and we realize it when we need to pay the entrance fees.
On top of that, to maybe increase the atractivity of the site, the total number of daily visitors are now limited (officially because too many visitors would damage the site)… Although the site is really astonishing and is worth paying the fees.
But you still can see the tourism attractions and structure well developed.
The buses that brings you up cost not less than 10$ (and you need to pay again to go down) and the entrance fee is fixed at 53$…
On your ticket you will see a list of recommendations such as do not bring water in plastic bottle, do not bring food, the bag volume cannot exceed 20 litres, etc.. But most of it are useless as you can see everyone eating on site, drinking in a plastic bottle and having a 30 Litres backpack. No one says anything.
One thing you need to know (and that is not written on the ticket) is to bring your passport to check your name is the same than the one on the ticket.. (in case you stole it..)
So what have we done over there ?
As most of people, we took the bus up from Aguas Calientes to the site entrance. It is a good option if you plan to stay the whole day and climb one of the mountain (the old one or the Young one)
There, we had a guided tour from 6 am to 8.30am which is something I definitly recommend otherwise you will just see some pieces of broken stones without understanding what is behind it.
Talking about guide, the funny thing is all of them go with their own little story. When we were at the main temple square, a part of the main temple lowered down. When our guide was telling us white, another guide we could listen on our side was saying black to his customers. Who should we believe ?
Our guide was saying that the wall lowered down because too many visitors were coming to the site and the combination of their weight and vibrations caused by their steps caused the temple right side to slowly lower down. While the other guide was saying that an earthquake were the main cause…
But when we research about this temple, we found out at the Machupicchu musuem Casa de la Concha in Cusco a picture of Hiram Bingham posing on the side of the temple which state is the same than today… And the main reason behind this, is the temple construction was not achieved when Machupicchu has been abandonned when the spanish arrived. The building was not reinforced yet as the other Inca constructions and the effect of the rain was quicker to damage it.
After our guided visited (which was anyway very interesting) we climbed up Machupicchu mountain (which means the old mountain, by opposition to Huyana Pichhu which is the Young mountain).
Huyana Picchu being limited to 400 people per day, we had to wait up to 10 days to buy our ticket. So we decided to book for the site entrance plus the mountain access for 53$.
Plan for 1 hour and half to get up there, it is quite steeply.
But from the top the view is really astonishing, the site is quite far and you can overview the whole valley with the Vilcanota-Urubamba river 1,300m down.
From this mountain, you cannot see the animal shape that Machupicchu would have been built by the Incas : a condor. Indeed all the cities built by the Incas follow a particular shape : a Puma for Cusco or a corn ear for Ollantaytambo in the sacred valley.
But to see the condor of Machupicchu, you will have to climb Huyana Pichu.
So my advise would be to purchase your ticket pretty early if you want to climb it and see the condor..
The end of afternoon light gives you nice and warm colour for your pictures of the site.
After we climb up the machupicchu mountain we stay on the site until 5pm.
Indeed, at 11am, all the backpackers are leaving as they need to catch their bus back to Cusco. But then around 2pm, all the organized tour for people a bit older are entering the site. Some of them are coming for two days on the row but only the afternoon.
The site is still less busy with people and combined with the warm color of the afternoon sunset, we can get some nice shoot. We were not so lucky as the weather was a bit cloudy.
So my advise would be to spend the whole day on site to see both sunrise and sunset. If you are not on a tight budget, a day with a guide and then a day by yourself to walk around and take pictures.
Impressive building techniques.
Machupicchu, like any other Inca constructions featured some really impressive techniques when you think what was available at this time.
All the holly places such as the temple of sun are built with stones cut with a razor blade. The bottom of the buildings are slightly larger than the top part to allow them to better resist to earthquakes. Some of the stone used were taken from the quarry on site while other were brought from remote sites.
While visiting Machupicchu (with a guide), you can easily realise how much the Incas used the star and the sun to predict the seasons of the year and so what to farm. The drawing below illustrates it.
That is it for Machupicchu, we will talk soon from some other Inca sites.
Another article I recommend is Hiking Vacation to Machu Picchu | Affordable Adventure travel. Written by Lary from Canada, it offers a different perspective on Machu Picchu. His blog as well is quite interesting with a lot of advise.
Blog you soon,