Thursday, October 13, 2011

Is he finally going to write about Machu Picchu? I think he's drunk.

Who said I was drunk?! Well, I am having fun, and I am on vacation - NOT unemployed, and only technically homeless.

Onwards! We walked into Aguas Calientes, dirty and broken like homeless chumps, and were greeting by money-grubbing British salivating over our foreign currency and souls. Just kidding!

We entered Aguas Calientes with our heads held high, and proceeded to navigate the byzantine labyrinth that is the "system" of entry to MP. Our day and a half in the jungle had only gotten us past the first level, and now we had navigate the buses and the entry tickets. The bus tickets and the entry tickets are sold in different offices on opposite sides of town, and operated by different (British?) entities, though 99% of people who go need both. (The other 1% try to subvert the system by hiking up, but who would possibly be so foolish?!) If you want to go to MP, you will need your passport, and $40 US a head. The buses will set you back another $20 a person. These numbers added up to the most expensive day since we paid for our trip across the Darien gap - and we hadn't yet found a guide. Great!

One of the $20 views on the way up
We got to the top, and we found Marco, our professional guide who could speak Quechua, Spanish, Portuguese, English, Korean and Japanese. Eat your heart out, Benjamin Franklin! We spent the afternoon touring the ruins, and, luckily for me, it made the whole ordeal worth it - Jill no longer wanted to kill me. Here are some highlights!

Geological formations held special significance for Incans; note the shape of the temple and that of the mountain behind...

Does our new camera have a "rainbow" setting? Nope, it was rainy.

This formation originally slightly resembled the two wings and head of a condor, sacred bird of the Incas. There are tool marks proving that they carved it to resemble one even more closely.

We both enjoyed the fact that it was a bit rainy; the clouds made the place that much more secluded and mysterious.
World famous Incan stonework.
Marco showed us the ins and outs of Machu Picchu, and we had a great time looking around with him. Paying his $30 fee was more than worth it, as his personal connection to the place and unique insights made the experience far greater than what it would have been otherwise. He grew up six hours further into the jungle, and said that he and his friends had found many other unexcavated Incan ruins in the area. He pointed to the ridge across the valley, and said that he and three friends had once hiked two days to the top where they discovered an Incan road, two meters wide and a meter tall of stone, like a miniature Great Wall of China extending as far as they could go in either direction. The jungle holds more Incan ruins than could ever be excavated, and every time you look around you see a rock wall poking out of a jungle mountainside.

Machu Picchu was intended to be the greatest holy city in the Incan empire, but was abandoned after only 150 years of work. Many of the buildings are unfinished, and Marco pointed out partially worked stones left where they were when the city was abandoned. The threat of the Spanish conquest cleared the city out, but because even most Incans didn't know about Machu Picchu, the Spanish never found it. With Marco's guidance we got a good sense of what Machu Picchu was and what remains, but we are left wondering what it could have been...


  1. I'd be more impressed if your camera included a Double Rainbow setting. So intense.

    Very jealous that you guys got to see Machu Picchu.

  2. Thanks, but please remember that I'm a little jealous of the 20 or so countries you've been to that I haven't! I'm sure you'll get there soon...

  3. Oh, and they were going to make a double rainbow setting, but there was a problem. During development everyone agreed that it was quite intense, but no one could figure out what it meant. Maybe science will catch up someday.