06.07.2014 - 06.07.2014 22 °C
Our alarm went off at 4.30am and we were in a long queue with our guide, Isaac, to catch a bus to Machu Picchu before 6am. We're getting good as this early morning stuff! Apparently on a busy day there can be 7,000 visitors, so we were glad to be up and at it before the real crowds kicked in.
We had a thirty minute bus ride up the mountains that had me squirming in my seat as I looked down the steep drop offs around every hairpin bend...
I read a little known fact that apparently you cannot enter the site dressed in the traditional costume of another country. Phew, thank goodness we left our bearskins behind!
As I got my first glimpses (Ant's been here before) it was pretty special. The sun hadn't yet reached over the peaks so we got to see the sun rise over the mountains around 7am. It was definitely worth the effort to be there for that moment.
Our guide (the same one for the two-day trek) came from a farming background and speaks Quechua as his first language. His viewpoint was interesting, culturally he doesn't identify with the Spanish heritage. It was fascinating to hear 'his peoples' side of the story, where he considers the Spanish as invaders rather than conquerors. It's not hard to see why when the Spanish came and destroyed in their quest for Inca riches and gold.
So much about the Incas has been lost because no records were made of their temples when the Spanish tore down some of their buildings. To this day we still don't know how they managed to achieve such perfection with the limited tools they had available - theirs was a spoken language and nothing was written down.
Isaac gave us a two hour tour of Machu Picchu and then we had our own time at the site to explore. In Quechua 'machu' means old, and 'pikchu' peak, therefore "old peak". The site is 2,430 metres above sea level and close to the edge of Amazonia. Where we'd trekked was part of the "brown Andes" but here it's much warmer and forms part of the "green Andes".
Most archaeologists believe that Machu Picchu was built as an estate for the Inca emperor Pachacuti. It was built around 1450, but the Incas abandoned it a century later at the time of the Spanish Conquest.
Machu Picchu was brought to international attention in 1911 by the American historian Hiram Bingham. It wasn't until 1983 that it was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, and more recently in 2007 it was voted one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.
The Sun Temple
One of the 16 wells - an ingenius water system throughout the complex
Once we were left to our own devices, we decided to climb to the sun gate 'Intipunki' to see another iconic viewpoint of Machu Picchu. The day was already becoming very hot so we had to take a few breaks on the way up!
The road up with Machu Picchu looking like a tiny cutout in the rock
We were so glad we did it as the views were fab, even though we did time it with lots of American teenagers who were 'whooping' constantly and being annoyingly loud!
It was a nice chilled walk back down and for our final views, we sat on one of the terraces that had been packed first thing but were now quiet.
After leaving MP it was the train journey back to Ollantaytambo and an onward bus trip to Cusco. It was about 8pm by the time we got back to the city so we were pretty knackered after an early start and full day.... but wow... to see one of the seven modern wonders of the world was fantastic, and it completely lived up to my expectations!