Our last day had arrived and it was time to lay our eyes on the great Machu Picchu. The town of Aguas Calientes was silent – it was 4am and only a few dogs roamed the streets in search of an early morning meal. When we arrived we were first in line at the bus stop to catch the bus up to Machu Picchu. Believe me, it was worth the early wake up call, not more than fifteen minutes later the line was hundreds of meters long and still growing. We sat waiting for the bus until we were met with Carlitos’s giant smile through the crowds, he was shocked that we were first and he celebrated (even bragging to the other tour guides of our achievement.)
The first bus arrived and we pilled in and headed up the windy road to Machu Picchu. It was still slightly dark when we first walked through the gates and we headed off to start of tour with Carlitos. As we walked along the grassed terraces previously used for farming, fog drifted over the Inca ruins giving an eerie feeling of what life was like for them years ago. We began walking through the daily living quarters, learning about the different classes in their society. From the construction workers to the Inca royals everyone had a place in this beautiful city.
Carlitos took us to a temple inside the ruins, but this was not a site I expected to see. The ‘Ruin’ in its original form (untouched by the repair teams that work to restore the site) was in perfect condition other than the roof which roted away over time. Rock blocks were carved so perfectly – as if modern day methods were used. The blocks were placed on top of one another, sitting at a perfect angle inwards to survive the many earthquakes over the years. Fountains that are spring fed from the mountain still showered the ground below allowing you to experience yourself the great engineering of the Inca empire. Terraces allowed the growth of crops, spring fed water gave life to the crops and supplied drinking water to the mountains habitants, and the rock from the mountain created the building blocks for their homes. This was a self-sustainable city, fit for the most important people of the Inca empire in a location so remote and unsuspecting that it was never found by the Spanish some five hundred years ago. It wasn’t until about four hundred years later it was first discovered.
Carlitos went on to show us other parts of the ruins, explaining how everyday life was for the Incas. Although alot of information is not known about Machu Picchu, it’s clear that it was a city built for the mountains and the earth that they worshiped, a place where important people came at important times in the Inca calender to witness or participate in religious rituals. As our tour concluded, the hot sun had burned off the surrounding fog and at last we could witness Machu Picchu in all its beauty.
We headed up to Machu Picchu Mountain and were met with a breathe taking view from above. The sun lit up the city giving it a beautiful green glow to the grass that gave shape to the many courtyards and terraces. From above, the many people below seem to disappear as they were sheltered by the many houses and temples below. We seemed to have the place to ourselves and this was a perfect moment of peace from the large crowds.
Moving further around the ruins, we had been informed of a breathtaking walk along some of the original Inca trail that led to a five hundred year old bridge. The path was located on one side of Machu Picchu mountain. The cliff was almost a straight drop to the valley below but somehow a path lay below our feet, rocks simply placed atop one another that grew to two meters wide in parts. Over the edge, the bottom of the path continued down to form part of the cliff face, this was sometimes ten meters in depth until it was met with a small projection of rock to bear its weight. Machu Picchu’s engineering feat was seemingly shadowed by a path built simply to visit the city.
The path moved along the face of the mountain for about three hundred meters before the bridge, this was as far as we were allowed to walk as it simply became too dangerous. The cliffs went steeper and the path became more narrow. The consequences of a small lapse in concentration became deadly and the paths stability appeared weathered over the years.
After completing the trail to the Inca Bridge it was time for us to leave. Along the short walk to the exit gate, I protested that this was my most astonishing moment in the Inca site, something I would never forget and an amazing way to finish the experience of hiking Machu Picchu.
A wonder of the world worth the hype!