No trip to Peru is complete without including a stop in Machu Picchu. Since it was made into an UNESCO Site in 1983, and labeled one of the new 7 Wonders of the World in 2007 it has seen over 1 million visitors per year since 2012. It is so popular as a Bucket List trip many of the Galapago’s tours add Machu Picchu on an add on. To see how desperate this is look at a map at how far apart these two areas are. Since it is so popular you can do this as fast as a one day trip from Cusco, or a 4-5 day Trek on the Inka trail from Ollantaytambo or Santa Teresa ( Salkantay ). We decided to do a moderate length trip, 2day trip, which is perfect for non-hikers and people who want to be less rushed then doing it in on day, or are not interested in a four day hike.
We made our arrangements through Peru Outdoor Experiences, Holy Trails MTB’s parter who helps to round out your mountain biking vacation. The two day trip had us start from Urubamba at 5:00am to catch the first train from Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes. The train dropped us off at Km 104 where we started our hike. The hike is about 8.5km, with an elevation gain of 870m. It took us 6 hours to get to Machu Piccu at a very relaxing pace. Willie was our guide and was able to give us a lot of great interesting information during the hike as well as at Machu Picchu. When we arrived at Machu Picchu it was drizzling and overcast, but the views did make their appearance and we were not dissapointed. Also, due to the weather the crowds were relatively small. We decided to continue the tour into Machu Picchu instead of coming back up the next day since we had time, the weather was unsettled and it gave us the morning to hang out in Aguas Calientes.
Built by the 9th Inka Emporeror Pachacuti (1438–1472) in 1450 and abandoned during the Spanish conquest in 1572 it did not serve the kingdom long, nor do they really know how it was habitated. Machu Picchu is 80km from Cusco, and sits as 2430m in an elbow of the Urubamba river. It was never discovered by the Spanish and was covered by vegetation before its was brought to the worlds attention by Hiram Bingham in 1911. It has three main areas – agricultural terraces, urban area and upper and lower town.
We left early from Villa Urubamba, they packed us breakfast!
We started at KM104 for the 6 hour hike to Machu Piccu
First ruin along the way at the Chachabamba site.
This could have been a rest stop for the Inka between Cusco and Machu Picchu, or an Eastern gateway to Machu Picchu, or could have served some religous purpose.
We start the climb on the Inka Trail. Views of the Rio Urubamba and other Inka terraces along the way.
You can see the stark contrast between the valley cut by the Rio Urubamba. The one side is much drier then the other side of the valley.
First view of Wiñay Wayna. The last rest stop for the Inka on the way to Machu Picchu.
Nice shelters along the way for the trekkers.
Llamas at Wiñay Wayna
Willie explaining the terraces at Wiñay Wayna. They are all consistently sloped and constructed to drain and to be ideal for agricultural purposes.
Inka Stairs. Wonder what the strava time up these are?
Vew point before Inti Punku – the Sun Gate. The first view of Machu Picchu.
View from Inti Punku
Machu Picchu makes itself known.
Sitting in the saddle of the mountains Machu Picchu and Huayna Piccu it is hard to see from below, easy to defend and gets its water from above which can not be blocked. During the time of the Inka there were only two ways to get to the site. Through the Inti Punku and the Inka Bridge.
The Inka Bridge. The Western Entrance to Machu Piccu.
Garden Terraces you pass from the Inti Punku.
Intihuatana stone – This stone points to the sun during the winter solstace. In fact the day we were there, if the sun was shining, it would cast no shadow at noon on Nov 11th.
Llamas on the terraces.
This is rock construction in the Central Plaza. While mortar has been used here possibly to aid in drainage, other areas used more classical Inka construction without mortar. Note the trapezoidal shape of the doorways showing a 5o incline. This allowed the walls to not collapse under themselves during earthquakes or over time.
Entrance to Temple of the Sun. You can see the difference between the rock construction of this ruin compared to the surrounding walls indicating its more important significance.
Entrance to the Sacred Plaza where the nobels lived. You know its importance cause, nicer walls.
Channels that run throughout Machu Picchu collect water from a seismic fault that the site is built on. These channels run at a constant grade to accomodate the more then 2000mm of precip this site can experience. They also always have water in them. One of the significant engineering features of Machu Picchu.
Designed to last an eternity.
Temple Entrance – note the fine rock work fit for the nobles. The incorporated natural rock into their construction.
The trapezoidal construction, kinda reminded me of Chaco Canyon which was built by the ancient Pueblos in New Mexico.
The rock quarry behind the selfie takers, all the rock used in Machu Picchu was from this site.
The Temple of the Sun. Walls were built around the central rock, the two windows point to the sun during the Winter and Summer solstice respectively.
Inti Mach’ay – this cave tunnel below the Temple of the Sun has one window that allows sun in only at a certain time in the Winter Solstice.
Some walls do fall, nobody is perfect…
Sacred Rock. Each Inka town has a sacred rock to channel the energy of the mountain it represents, for this rock it represents the mountain behind it. If you put your hands on the rock you can channel the energy from the Mountain. Apparently.
Temple of the Condor – The Inka built around this naturally shaped rock to symbolize the Condor.
Areas are still under reconstruction
Willie showing the 5o slant of the rock walls in the Temple area.
Inka Pachacuti in Aguas Calientes
Hairless dogs of Peru
After we got back we ate dinner and the Craft Brewery – Mapacho. It was very good.
Waman hotel and breakfast.