Dom: This place is recognised by World Heritage as a World Wonder. No wonder. Before we'd even caught sight of Machu Picchu I was in awe of the scenery. We arrived at the remote site at about 6.30am. The clouds were still low, creating a beautiful dawn, cloud forest. We were now on the edge of the jungle that spreads north through the continent.
At 7am we entered the site with our guide for the next two hours. His English was good and he spoke like a veteran tour guide, although he did keep referring to a book to explain things. There was a good reason for this as it turned out. He wrote the book plus three others and is actually a professor at Cuzco University. The guy was so passionate about Machu Picchu that it was infectious. We felt very privileged to have been talked through this amazing place by him.
Machu Picchu Wayna Picchu (as is it's full name) was the most sacred site of the Inca Empire. It was specially chosen for its position in conjuction with the Sun, Moon, and stars as was demonstrated to us. For example, at the summer solstice, 21st June, 7.31am, the sun would rise in exactly one spot on a distant mountain range and shines through a window into the Sun Temple and exactly onto its altar. The place was full of proof of a very intelligent civilisation.
Machu Picchu was the centre for research and thinking. The greatest minds in the empire came here to study and develop their knowledge. Astronomy was obviously one of those subjects practised, but also things like agriculture. It is, as you've probably all seen in photos, sat high in the top of a mountain with the river Urubamba running about 300 degrees around it making it a naturally, easily defendable settlement. There are terraces build along the outside slopes before it becomes too steep. Our guide of the Sacred Valley would have said they were for agriculture. Our professor agreed that this was one reason for them but not the main one. The terraces were primarily there to prevent mass landslides! By building terraces below the settlement, if part of the mountainside slipped away the terracing would create a break in the slip. Amazing thinking that was lost for a time when the Incas disappeared.
When the Spanish arrived in Cuzco the people of Machu Picchu left. They had heard of the destruction left in the wake of the Spanish and could not allow that to happen to their most sacred place. So they relocated to a new capital to fight the Spaniards. That is the only reason Machu Picchu is still pure Inca and doesn't have a Catholic Church slap bang in the middle of it!
Machu Picchu was 'rediscovered' by an American Yale Professor/explorer in 1911. It had been known to farmers in the area since 1905 though. The American kindly recorded everything and presented a report to the Peruvian Republic. In return he took all the treasures that were to be found. They've sat in a closed library at Yale University until about 4 years ago when Yale decided that these treasures should be shown to the world. So they went on an American World Tour... Dallas, Washington and a few other places in the US! Now they are safely back in storage at Yale University. Not that the British can talk. We were world leaders when it came to stealing treasures from foreign lands to adorn our national museums and aristocratic dining rooms. But still, it's not right. But maybe it's better off out of the hands of Peru's authorities.
The Peruvian Government have caused more damage to Machu Picchu in the last 90 years than 500 years under Spanish jurisdiction. In the 1950s Peru there was a realisation that they owned a very important place. They started helicoptering (?) important people there to see this new wonder of the world. Luckily Machu Picchu has a large, central grassed area that was ideal to land the helicopters. Unluckily there was a great rock in the middle of the green getting in the way. No worries. They knocked it over, smashed it up, and buried it. The green was a natural amphitheatre used for town meetings and worship to mother earth, and the rock was an obelisk perfectly aligned with summer solstice sunrise and the points of the compass.
Not learning from this mistake, the Peruvian Gov't tried to make a fast buck allowing a Peruvian beer company to film a commercial there. Bottles of beer were placed all around a very specifically carved sun-dial with perfect alignment with points of the compass, and even a deliberately angled slope which exactly mimics the offset axis of the earth. A piece of heavy equipment fell taking a large chip out of the instrument.
There's so much more to say about this place. I felt so privileged to have been there. When it was time to go, I really felt like I hadn't fully appreciated the place. That must be the sign of a great place because you just can't fully appreciate Machu Picchu and it's environment.
C - I don't really need to add much more to that, we were in complete awe of the place. Just like the Taj Mahal or the Sydney Opera house (though much more impressive) when you visit a famous landmark that you have seen thousands of pictures of before it feels totally surreal. You can only take a picture yourself to believe you were there. Places like this are hard to say goodbye to and to exit takes twice as long glancing over your shoulder until the very last opportunity. We were so lucky with our guide, we tracked down his book when we returned to Cuzco to own our own copy. After a few hours exploration we took one of the walking options and hiked up mount Machu Picchu. Unfortunately, Wayna Picchu (young mountain), the one that you see in all the pictures, with its track to the summit and on to the moon temple was closed due to landslides so we settled for Machu Picchu (old mountain)up to the flag.
I feel so lucky to have seen this fantastic site, especially as rumour has it it wont be too long until they close it to the public. Some say that the millions of tourist that visit each year are putting it on a slippery slope. Our guide said in fact it isn't tourism that is killing Machu Picchu but the long and heavy rainfall softening the land over time. This is evident as one of the buildings is starting to sink and slant. There are simple plans to place thatch roofs over the ruins to help preserve it, this wouldn't be so bad as it would be a reconstruction of how it would have looked in the Inca times, but the Peruvian Gov't wont spend the cash of course. Even though most of it comes from Machu Picchu tourism!
I recommend you all to visit, just incase!