So let me tell you about the day I have been waiting for this trip. I went into most of my adventures with no expectations as I didn’t really know what I was going into. But this
one… I googled, read about and had seen online before. It was a big event on the itinerary and I had great expectations. And it did not disappoint!
Machu Picchu is one of those places people talk about and hear about but they don’t really know why. Come on, admit it! Well I admit it now… I was one of those people. I knew it was an ancient city. I knew it was in the mountains. And I knew it was beautiful. But that’s where it ended. So if you’re anything like me…. then this will explain more about why this place is one of the handmade wonders of the world. And when you hear why it will become that much more appealing.
But before I go into it let’s go back to how we got there. We woke up at a normal hour for a change- 6.45am and left for the train station. When we arrived we were greeted with sparking wine and pastries. Never one to usually refuse a drink, because it was before 8, I politely declined and opted for coffee. After a drive to the Sacred Valley we arrived at the train station… ready to board the train to the mystical city.
The train ride was an adventure in itself. A more slick and chic vessel I have yet to see. Dining cars with menus to delight. Pisco sours and wine on tap. An open lookout area so you can see everything going on around you. And buoyant entertainment that kept us arriba-ing as we travelled through the magnificent mountains of the sacred valley along the Urubamba river sipping on pisco sours.
The 3 hours onboard felt like minutes. Reluctant to leave such an environment we got off the train, knowing that the best was yet to come.
Coca sweets in one hand. Selfie stick in another (yes I became one of those people with my sister’s convincing 🙊). Sleeveless vest ✅ Jumper ✅ and plastic raincoat poncho ✅. Starting our ascent. Stopping every 10 steps to catch our breath (still affected by our altitude faux par from the day before). And as you climb the view gets better and better. The mountains, the stone structures, the river below. Greens and browns everywhere. You have to stop yourself in your tracks, time and time again to allow yourself to take it all in.
The area has 84 out of the 105 ecosystems in the world. Which makes sense- just ask my hair how it changed with the 4 seasons in one day. The quiet drizzling, stronger droplets and then the sun making its appearance was very confusing for my poor hair follicles! We are in the fringe of the jungle!
So what’s the history of the area. The Incas came to Cusco in 1200AD. By 1430 they began a process of expansion. Before the Spanish came their empire included parts of Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia, Chile and Peru. It was called the regions of the sun, with this being their primary symbol of worship. Cusco was the capital of this vast and powerful empire, rich in minerals, agriculture and precious commodities like gold.
The Incas lived in caves going back and thrived using agriculture and farming. Living the simple life. Then as the world became more curious and expanded, their bubble burst. With the introduction of new people, with new ideas, they became a more complex society with a class systems. We’ve heard that one before!!
Machu Picchu meaning ‘all mountains’ in the native language was discovered by Hiram Bingham, an American from Hawaii, in 1911. There are not many stories documented by the people at the time. The houses, human remains, textiles and ceramics are the only clues we have about what happened then. And so the story has been pieced together. They built temples, houses, public buildings and agricultural systems to make a highly productive city, in the fields of agriculture, water delivery, astronomy and farming.
When walking around you can see in your mind what it must have been like when they lived there. You see their houses. The religious sector. The area they used to observe the placement of the sun to mark the month, the season, the festivals. The astronomical structures. The area they used to give thanks to pachamama for providing them with food and the weather. Knowing that practising reciprocity, give and take is a principle to use in life. This was also the way their economy functioned- trading for food and goods. Not only expecting to receive, and showing gratitude and appreciation by giving.
The Incas lived there for many years. The upper area the place for the religious sector and the lower part where residents dwelled. Machu Picchu was unfinished. You can see that clearly in some of the structures. The Spanish arrival to take over a land, filled with treasures stopped its completion and this magical city and all its activities were interrupted.
After processing the day, one of the the things that came to mind was that we had just witnessed a masterpiece of Inca masonry. Something constructed by architects and engineers using nothing but their bare hands. They worked with their surroundings. Mountains and rocks that were overwhelming and tall, and instead of removing them, they built around them. Organic architecture at its best.
That stuck with me. The idea of adapting to your environment, rather than expecting or wanting it to change to suit you is a lesson we can all take with us in some way. In the workplace, in a relationship, in general life. a humbling one. And this great world wonder is proof that this is not a sign of weakness, quite the opposite, it’s one of artistry.
After a day I will never forget we boarded the train. Some drinking, dancing and band bopping later we arrived back in Cusco. What a whirlwind day filled with meeting great people and making new friends.
Being able to share it with someone I love made it that much more special. Nicci and I headed to Lima for a night before she leaves to go back. So one more stop in the Peruvian leg of this trip. so far it’s been unforgettable!