The Incas built Machu Picchu 8,000 ft above sea level in the dense woods of the Peruvian Andes Mountain. It’s a couple of hours (in present time) from Cusco by a colectivo bus to Olantatambo and then another bus or train to Aquas Calientes or a taxi to and from Portoy and looong train ride from/ to Aquas Calientes.
Since the Spanish never found Machu Picchu, called the ‘Lost City’ by Hiram Bingham, the Yale professor who ‘discovered it,’ it remains mostly intact. He was told about the ruins by a local farmer, to whom he gave a single coin, and the youth who led Bingham’s party them to it, a few coins.
Machu Picchu, spreads over a five-mile area, and has more than 150 buildings consisting of homes, baths, temples, sanctuaries, and out buildings for livestock. The steep, narrow stone agricultural terraces, and a sophisticated irrigation system around the city blend into the landscape’s natural settings, and if you think about how it must have been to farm them, are mind-blowing. The Temple of the Sun and the Intihuatana stone, a granite rock that is said to be have been a solar clock or calendar are examples of both creativity and engineering. It’s unclear what its purpose was, or why the city was abandoned.
I climbed to Intipunku, which means Sun Door in Quecha. It took me over an hour of slow climbing on a rocky, uneven path that curls around the mountainside. Intipunku is the last stop for those more intrepid folks who hike the five day Inca trail. However one gets there, the view is stupendous. Check out the photo of the terraced garden below the site. How small the large city of Machu Picchu looks! Hikers I met who were on their way down felt compelled to say, “only a few more minutes now, or just a bit more, or you’re half way or a quarter way.” One guy said, “it’s tough but you will be so proud of yourself when you reach the top.” I said, in a mocking way, “shut up!” He roared laughing.
No matter how many photos one sees, the first view of this organized, sprawling city, terraced fields, and more than 3000! steps (I didn’t count them) takes your breath away. It’s a must see, and not as expensive as one is led to believe. A couple at my hostel in Cusco hiked in from the electric plant on the Aquas Caliente River never paying a penny, except for the colectivo.