Peru: Climbing Machu Picchu

September 7th, 2011

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Well, ok, we didn’t actually climb Machu Picchu. Not technically. For various logistical reasons that Tammi explains in great detail, we didn’t manage to get the appropriate ticket to climb the actual mountain called Machu Picchu. This, it turns out was not a big deal. In fact, given the week of aches and pains I had after the hiking we did do, I’m not sure I’d have managed the mountain.
Since I’m so behind in my posts (and photo editing), I’ll minimize the commentary and make with the photos after the jump.

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We got up at 5am so we could catch the first bus up to the ruins and hopefully catch sunrise. After rushing to shower and get out of the hotel, we found a dozens of other visitors scrambling through the almost totally unlit town to do the same.
A small part of the line at 5:30am to get to Machu Picchu before sunrise. #Aguascalientes #machupicchu #Peru
If we thought we’d manage to be among the first people to the bus stop, we were way off. The line was hundreds of people deep, but moved pretty quickly, as buses came in and scooped us up.
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By the time we got to the ruins, dawn had broken and we thought we’d missed sunrise. It turns out that the sun takes a bit longer to pop up from behind the mountains, so we still managed to catch some amazing light.
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The rays of light cut through the sky in a wonderfully dramatic way. It was a little hard to capture, but gorgeous to look at.
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In case you weren’t sure, we were really high up. My -ahem- uneasiness with heights certainly didn’t help on this day. Neither did my gimpy knees.
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Our guide, Svetlana, walked us up and down the ruins of the city explaining the significance of the structures, the cultural history and answering our questions. Her pride in her ancestors was infectious. It was wonderful to hear her explain the understanding of sciences necessary to design a city like this.
Here she was telling us about the terraces that run down the side of the mountains all the way down to the river.
The terraces, which look like giant steps, were designed to provide flat planting surfaces for the farmers and allow for the rain and spring water to flow downward from level to level irrigating the crops along the way.
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Seriously, it goes all the way down.
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And up…
In addition to the temples and farm space, there was housing for around 700 people. The theory is that this was the place where experts studied and trained. Priests, scientists and agriculturalists went to study here and take their lessons back to the other corners of the empire.
Temples were built with stone that was carved perfectly to fit together, using no mortar to hold them together.
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They carved the stones by chiseling holes with iron rods and then slipping wood planks in. Then they’d fill the spaces with water. The expanding wood did all the work for them. Brilliant.
Wild Llamas roam the mountain and the ruins. Tammi got to pet one and as far as I could tell, no one managed to get spit at, so that’s good.
Even when you didn’t see the llamas, you could see where they’d been. Droppings were all over the place. Our guide told us that historically, the Incas would crush and mix the dung in with the tallow that they used for candles. We never figured out why that seemed like a good idea.
After the tour, Tammi and I took a walk to the Sun’s gate, which is said to be the easier of the all the hikes. Clearly this is not where my skills lie, because this was pretty difficult for me.
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But at the end, we managed to get to the far side of the site and get an amazing view of the whole complex. It’s an amazing thing to see, both up close and afar.

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