Monday, February 4, 2013

Machu Picchu, Peru

Written by Karen.
We went to bed early the night before our trip to Machu Picchu.  I checked - and double checked - the alarm clock as we needed to be up, ready to go, and at the bus station before 6:00 am. We already knew where the bus stop was located in the small mountain town of Aguas Calientes and had already purchased our bus tickets to the top of the mountain and back down again earlier that afternoon.  Our small daypack was packed; filled with nuts, dried fruit and bottled water.  We had read that food and water was scarce and very expensive at the top. The weather was seemingly cooperating.  We were ready to go.

We awoke the next morning - without the aid of the alarm clock - to the unmistakable sounds of rain.  Large drops of rain. It was really pouring! The river that ran through town was now raging with brown, muddy water.  It sounded like thunder.  We re-packed our daypack to include umbrellas and changes of clothing as the drops pelted the corrugated metal roofs of nearby structures.

No matter.  We - along with everyone else making their way to the bus stop in the early morning downpour - were pretty wet by the time we got aboard the bus that would take us to the top of the mountain.  As the last person found their seat, the bus door closed and we were off.

We started out slowly - with the bus grinding its gears - and began to make our way up the steep, multi-switchbacked dirt (actually mud!) and cobblestoned road out of town.  The bus drivers were all very experienced, often pulling off to the side of the single lane road, or driving backwards, to allow another bus to pass by on its descent.  The jungle landscape outside our windows was thick and green, with its scent inevitably making its way inside the bus.  Anticipation grew as we got closer and closer to the top although we could now barely see due to the fogged windows.

Our bus slowly and efficiently made its way up the 1,279 foot incline and deposited us inside the front gates of the Machu Picchu archeological park (7,970 feet above sea level) at 6:30 am. We presented our passports and our tickets, and then we were stamped into the park entrance. It had stopped raining, but it was still drizzling a bit as we started walking up the ancient carved stones to reach our first overlook. 

A few minutes later, we stopped in our tracks.  Below us we could see the mysterious outlines and dark shapes of Machu Picchu, but nothing was in sharp relief due to the heavy cloud cover and fog enshrouding the site.  But, you knew that you were about to see something magical, so we stopped and waited.  

In time, the fog and clouds started to dissipate and reveal what was hidden just moments before.  And there it was before us - Machu Picchu.  

Much has been written and many pictures have been taken of this re-discovered Incan city.  I thought I knew what to expect.  I was wrong.  Machu Picchu is breathtaking.  It is breathtaking for its architectural beauty; it is breathtaking for the inventive and creative prowess of the Inca to build something so stunning that was also out of reach and hidden for centuries; and, it is breathtaking in its simple remoteness in the Andean mountains.

As we watched the sun win its battle over the clouds and drizzle, we began to see the Incan city revealed in clear focus.  

We walked up and down and all around the Machu Picchu archeological site for about 4 hours - or until we were physically spent.  We sat and just stared at times, absorbing the altitude, imagining living inside these stoned walls and terraces, enjoying the majestic beauty of the mountains that provided the dramatic backdrop, and being one with the quiet solitude that comes from being in a place such as this.  

It is an effort to get to Machu Picchu - no doubt about that - but it is a worthwhile effort to do so.  It has been several days now since we made the ascent into the clouds to witness the extraordinary beauty of Machu Picchu, and words and pictures will simply not do the place nor the experience justice.  

The sun peeked in and out of the clouds all day giving us ever changing views of Machu Picchu. 
A closer view of one of the sides of the city going down the mountain.  The clouds would drift and cover the site, and then drift away for awhile allowing us to see the city clearly for a bit.  

Machu Picchu

With the clouds, rain and sun, we saw several rainbows span the mountain tops
 around us. 

Clouds move in to completely cover the area

We took a hike to the other side of the mountain to see the Inca Bridge.  This path is carved into the rock mountainside.  Every once in awhile, even the Inca put in guard rails!
The Inca Bridge.  According to Wikipedia, this was one of two bridges that the Inca installed for use by their military.  You can see a guy to the left of the picture walking back up from the cut-off.  The slender rock path is very slippery and there is a rope to hold on to next to the wall.  You can also see the rocks that have been built into the cliff wall in the lower-right side of the picture.  There's a square hole in the center of the picture which causes a gap between the two sides - hence the need for a bridge - which is two logs wide and simply laid down to bridge the gap.
A closer view of the path carved out of the rock cliff with the logs laid down for the bridge, filling the approximately 20 foot gap. It is about a 1,900 foot drop down the cliff.  
The Watchtower.  On top of the mountain, now completely shrouded in fog. 

After our hike to the Inca bridge, we start our descent down into the buildings of Machu Picchu.

The clouds come and go throughout the day adding to the sense of quiet and serenity.
An example of the Incan architecture.  This huge boulder was simply incorporated into an Incan structure.  Each stone around the boulder is fitted exactly. 

Slanted side of a wall that has been carved and cut
View of the center of the city

Planting terraces on one side of the mountain

Alpaca roam throughout the ruins.  Alpaca are used to carry items as well as used as a meat source both now and during the time of the Inca. 
Another view of Machu Picchu as it goes down the mountain
The Urubamba River engorged with additional rain water passes through the town of Aguas Calientes and flows through the Sacred Valley of the Incas.


elward eliason said...

fantastic keep [pictures i want to paint several of them..dad

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Hei Karen og Adam.
Vi leser og følger med på deres fantastiske reise. I dag har vi lest om Machu Picchu. Det må være en stor opplevelse!Å være der og se! Vi ønsker dere god tur videre! Vi følger dere på bloggen, men har ikke klart å skrive kommentar. Håper det går i dag. Hilsen Oddvei og Ole Petter

Observers of Life said...

Hi Dad!

Thanks - will do!


Observers of Life said...

Hei Ole Petter og Oddvei!

Flott å høre fra deg! Det har vært en veldig god tur så langt - full av fantastiske severdigheter og opplevelser! Machu Picchu er en ekstraordinær sted! Ta vare - snakke med deg snart :)


Anonymous said...

Hey Karen nice pictures.Nice to see you both are enjoying yourselves!

Observers of Life said...

Hi Lizette!

Thanks! The visit to Machu Picchu was a great and very dramatic experience - especially with the rain and clouds! However, the cloudy weather also meant that there were fewer visitors to the park that day, so it was a peaceful experience as well!


Troy Fisher said...

Beautiful pictures. Uncle Bob sent me the link.

Observers of Life said...

Hi Troy!

Thanks for coming along for the ride!