Day 6. Our wake up call was received at 4:45 am and we departed the hotel at 5:15 am by bus to catch the train that would take us to the bus that would take us to Machu Picchu. We took the VISTADOME train with ample widows to the side and above that treated us to incredible views of cloud top mountains, rushing rivers and green fields. The train track ran through a narrow valley in the Andes that had been carved out by a river. The bus then zigzagged up the steep mountain leading us to Machu Picchu.
After passing through the entry to the site we climbed a narrow path that eventually opened up to Machu Picchu. We had seen photos of the site but to actually see it was stunning. It stands encircled by mountains. The Inca name for the site was not Machu Picchu but is the name of the mountain… Machu Picchu means “Old Mountain.”
There are various theories of the purpose of this site and why it was abandoned. It lies on the main trade road between Lima and Cusco so possibly it had something to do with regulating trade. Others feel its purpose was governance of the area… others that it has religious significance. There are theories why it was abandoned, but all we know it was abandoned before the conquistadors arrived. It had appeared on maps but no one except the locals knew it was there or its significance. It was referred to as “the Lost City of the Incas.”
The city was built according to how its builders saw the world and religion. The site includes two mountains – new and old – representing the contrasts which ring our lives. It has temples to the sun, moon and water. The division of the functions in the site reflects a threefold division of three animals it revered- the condor, the puma and the snake (heaven, earth and underworld). The town was mainly agricultural with terraced fields of its sloping sides, but craftspersons are also evident. All residents were expected to labor for the community, family and government (in that order).
We spent 4 hours touring the site and learning about aspects of Inca culture and belief, some that have been absorbed into the majority Catholic faith in Peru. An interesting thing is that the name Inca comes a misunderstanding of the Spanish. Inca means “king” and would have been applied only to one person, but Spanish reference makes all Incas “kings”.
We could have spent another hour on the site after the tour, but because of the heat, blazing sun, altitude and effort of walking the site few remained. Most of our group sought out the comfort of the village below. When we rejoined our bus we came to Cusco which will be our base (12,000 ft above see level) for the next two days. Tomorrow we spend visiting Cusco.