Tuesday, October 13, 2009

A Day at Machu Picchu

When we left them, intrepid travelers John and Angelica had completed their journey on PeruRail and were weaving their way back and forth up the side of a mountain by bus.

I figured it would be wise to have a bathroom break before entering, and even that was interesting. There was an attendant accepting 1 sol per person to use the facilities. Fine, be that way. The good part was that I was given a receipt for this 30cent transaction. My toilet paperwork is dated, has a serial number, is itemized, and even has a little "thank you for choosing us" at the bottom. Golden!

Machu Picchu is the most famous remnant of the Inca Empire. Nearby Cusco was the capital of the empire, but Machu Picchu's obscure location left it undiscovered and so undisturbed by Spanish conquerors. I can't find a straight answer on the purpose of Machu Picchu, and that's because all we have are theories. There are no surviving examples of an Inca writing system.
Mysterious! oooOOhh

Some important advice I'll give to anyone out there considering a trip to Machu Picchu: buy a guidebook! The little, few page brochure provided at the ticket gate is really weak. Only after returning to civilization and reading about it online do I have any idea what I saw out there. I might suggest joining a tour, but two or three of the English-speaking guides I eavesdropped on didn't impress me. Buy a book about Machu Picchu. You will have plenty of time to read it on the way up.


There's a cool exploratory quality about Machu Picchu that I don't think I've found anywhere else. It's a bit like walking around in a Tomb Raider video game. The whole place is a multilevel series of very narrow terraces. Often the way to the next terrace isn't apparent, especially when going downhill.

Here's a good example of that. This little rock staircase juts out from the wall just enough so that it's difficult to see until you are standing right over it.

These alpacas were tagged and probably not wild, but it was still fun seeing them walking around the ruins.

Machu Picchu had a few staff doing various things. This poor guy's job was blowing a whistle at people who weren't obeying the rules. He was far up on a perch, so I doubt if the offenders even knew they were being scolded.

Speaking of scolds, I have another little bit of advice: bring plenty of water and a snack. The literature states that only water brought in a canteen is allowed inside the park, and I believe food was outlawed outright. Before entering there are a few small opportunities to buy food and water, but they are supremely overpriced. Inside Machu Picchu there is nothing. I'm usually one for following the rules, but this rule is a bit too strict, and enforcement seems to be close to zero. I saw water bottles and sandwiches all over the place. Just be a good person and don't litter and I don't think anyone will mind.

Angelica with one of the workers.

Up this high, there wasn't much wildlife to be seen. I was surprised to see a bunch of lizards running between the rocks. There didn't seem to be many bugs around for them to eat.

The Intihuatana is some kind of clock or calendar. It is believed to tie the sun to the earth.

One section of the little city was in ruins. I wondered why this area was so bad while everywhere else looked so good. I would be interested to see how much restoration has gone into Machu Picchu over the years. Did the whole place previously look like this and has been rebuilt?

Then the stone work itself raised a question or two. Why is the quality so uneven in places? Did the good stuff stay up while the bad stuff has been reassembled by modern hands?

Another example of a wall that seems to have two different levels of workmanship.

The bus fares for the trip back to Aguas Calientes. Fair or not, fees for things in Peru were often different for nationals and non-nationals. The rates span $7 one way for adult foreigners down to $2.60 for a child national.

The police station back in town had a cool coat of arms.

These are electrical boxes for a nearby produce market. The yellow stickers are notices from the electric company about failure to pay bills.

The next day we saw more ruins, met more people, and took many more pictures.

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  1. Macu Piccu is one of those places I've always wanted to go to. I'm so jealous!! Fantastic photos!!

    I'm taking JLPT level 2 this time around.. just btw. I didnt pass it last december when I took it, but maybe this time! Maybe!!

  2. crap I spelled Machu Picchu wrong. I left out the h's. wtf?!

  3. you should try Pisac, is near Cuzco. Is very beautiful and with nice ruins. They have a great market. Andean Explorer in PeruRail to Puno is nice.
    Enjoy your trip ^_^

  4. Bridget: Thanks! I've got a million more I need to post.

    Frau M.: Thanks for the tip. I didn't get a chance to do much shopping at real markets, only the stuff for tourists. I would like to hike the Inca Trail if I ever return. It looked challenging but exciting.