Marvelous Machu Picchu!!

Machu Picchu 198 On a trip like ours, it’s easy to get occasional surprises.  Sometimes, we develop high expectations for a location, and things just don’t seem to click there.  And other times, we kind of roll into a country or location with no clear expectations, and are blown away.  That’s what happened to us at Machu Picchu, a place whose name I couldn’t spell a week ago!

Machu Picchu 165 Machu Picchu is a six hundred year old Incan temple and village, built in the Andes for the Incan rulers.  It took sixty years or so to build, but was only occasionally used by the Incan leaders, probably because it’s so isolated.  Like Siem Reap (link!!), it fell into disuse, and was largely overgrown, until Hiram Bingham stumbled across it in 1911.  The grounds are still being renovated almost a century later, but it’s easy to get an clear idea of what Machu Picchu (which means old peak in Incan) was like centuries ago.

Machu Picchu 117 Machu Picchu isn’t easy to get to.  It’s a three hour train trip from Cusco, or 90 minutes from the Sacred Valley.  We wussed out and took the train directly to the site.  Other options are a four day backpacking trip up the Incan Trail, or a train drop-off spot where you hike the the last six hours.  We felt that the direct route was best for the four of us, and gave us almost two full days to explore in and around Machu Picchu.

Machu Picchu 053 We had a range of weather conditions while we were there.  Our first morning was misty and occasionally rainy.  The afternoon wasn’t as wet, but was overcast with some spectacular cloud formations (often below the level where we were standing).  And the second day was brilliantly sunny, which gave this spiritual place a totally different feel.

Machu Picchu 171 We saw some great animal life around Machu Picchu as well, including this great shot of an Andean Guan.  We saw a bunch of great birds, including six species of hummingbird.  We saw something called a Vizcacha, which is sort of a cross between a rabbit and a squirrel.  And there were a bunch of llamas on the grounds at Machu Picchu.  On the Inca Trail, weMachu Picchu 264 ran into many lizards, which is always a highlight for us.  Gibson stalked a Tiger Lizard and managed to snag it.  And we were fortunate to have a great guide during our time at Machu Picchu, who was familiar with all aspects of the location — culture, history, geology, and wildlife.  So it was fabulous all around.

Machu Picchu 153 As usual, our visit here had its close calls.  On our train trip back to Cusco, there was a rockslide that shut down the train for a couple of hours.  They had to use dynamite to get the rock broken up enough to be moved, and we were glad they didn’t overshoot and destroy the tracks.  And, on one of the steeper trail faces, our kids slipped and were hanging precariously, with a 750 foot drop awaiting them if their grip failed.  Fortunately, we sent four llamas to pull them back, and they managed to survive another wild experience.

Machu Picchu 072 The New Open World Corporation recently conducted a poll to identify the new seven wonders of the world.   Their list contains three we won’t see on this trip (Mexico’s Chichen Itza, Brazil’s Christ the Redeemer, and Rome’s Colisseum) and four we will (Machu Picchu, the Great Wall, Jordan’s Petra, and the Taj Mahal), with the Great Pyramid of Egypt getting the mysterious “honorary status.”  I have no idea who the New Open World Corporation is, but I wouldn’t dispute their including Machu Picchu on any list of wonders.

Machu Picchu 075 When it comes to Machu Picchu, the old proverb “A picture is worth a thousand words” couldn’t be more accurate.  The lush green and towering mountains, the beautiful Incan structures, and clouds and sky made for great photographs.  But the main thing about Machu Picchu was the spiritual impact.  We’re not a particularly religious family, but being at Machu Picchu is magical, and it really does feel like you’re at heaven’s doorstep.

It will take a while to look at all of our Machu Picchu photos, but it’s worth it.

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