I must admit, I was a little reluctant to visit Machu Picchu at first. I was accustomed to the solitude associated with bicycle touring, and the thought of rubbing elbows with hundreds of tourists was not very appealing. I tend to avoid very touristy places in general and Machu Picchu is the granddaddy of tourist sites in South America.
But I finally decided I couldn’t visit Peru and not go to Machu Picchu. That would be nuts. Plus, it was almost directly on my route. I braced myself for the tourist onslaught. At least it´s not the high season. As it turned out, I went on a Sunday which has the fewest number of tourists, so it wasn’t all that bad.
Machu Picchu means “Old Peak” in Quechua. It was built around 1450, probably by the Inca ruler Pachacutec as a summer home (hey, even Inca kings had to go somewhere to get away from it all). It was never found by the Spanish and was left undisturbed for 400 years before Hiram Bingham, an American historian, “discovered” it in 1911.
I´ll say a couple things for the Incas: they knew how to make things out of rocks, and they were not afraid of heights. If you like climbing around on rocks near 500 ft. cliffs, this place is for you. For me, the site itself was only mildly interesting. I mean, it is 500 years old. Even rocks age a bit. It was difficult for me to imagine what it was like in its prime. It must have been much more impressive. But what is really spectacular is the surrounding mountains. They are like huge green teeth jutting up out of the earth for 3000 feet with massive vertical cliffs plunging down to the valley floor.
I climbed a nearby mountain, Huaynapicchu, which is actually higher than the city and offers some great views of the site and surrounding area.
I won´t say much else about the place. You can google it if you are really interested. A picture says a thousand words so here are a few. Incidentally, about 400,000 people visit Machu Picchu annually. If each person takes only ten photos, there must be 4 million photos of the place taken each year. I took about 75 myself.
I got up at 5:15 AM so I could take the quintessential early morning photo of Machu Picchu. Are you ready? Bet you have never seen this one before:
Here is a closer shot of the housing area and some temples
I found the Caretaker´s hut interesting. A guy sat up there watching out for invaders.
Some random photos. The site consisted of an agricultural sector (the terraces), a general living sector, and administrative and worship sectors.
Some local residents:
Here are some pix from Huaynapicchu. The first one is a wide angle of Machu Picchu and the surrounding area.
Here is the switchback road the busses use to access the site.
A shot of a nearby mountain peak. Can you see the guy on top? He’s on the little bump about 1/4 of the way from the left side of the photo.
One last shot of the site from a different angle and with afternoon lighting.
In the end I am glad I went to Machu Picchu. It is truly a spectacular place, and anyone visiting Peru should not give it a miss, especially, as one woman responded when I asked her if it was worth going, “if you like old ruins.”