Machu Picchu–Better than Imagined

DSCN0103-1Machu Picchu is probably on every traveler’s bucket list, and with good reason. Built by the Incas around 1450, abandoned about 100 years later, and brought to the world’s attention in 1911 by American explorer Hiram Bingham, Machu Picchu is quite simply an architectural masterpiece. Although there are many Inca traces in Peru, none are as breathtakingly irrefutable proof of their brilliancy. For that and many reasons, I found Machu Picchu better than imagined.

In fact, many of my impression turned out to be false, gleaned mostly from photographs and from glossy articles I’d read. In pictures, the Inca ruins looked virtually inaccessible, so high up one of the world’s loftiest mountains as to be halfway to heaven. The Inca Trail, I thought, must be grueling, sending tourists straight up that mountain for four straight days. But because of it’s popularity, I expected Machu Picchu to be overrun with tourists, detracting from its mysticism and beauty.

It turns out, the Inca Trail is mostly overland, though not without challenging mountain passes. The Trail tour ends at Aguas Caliente, a nondescript and charmless tourist town at the base of Machu Picchu, from which it’s only a 90-minute hike or a short bus ride up to the ruins. And although I expected swarming crowds, Machu Picchu is so expansive it simply swallows them up.

DSCN0118-1In other words, Machu Picchu is both overwhelming and mystical. It would be DSCN0087-1hard not feel viscerally moved and impressed. The architectural genius of the Incas is impossible to over-estimate. They built walls and buildings of stone blocks crafted to fit precisely without mortar so as to withstand earthquakes. Their terraces, cut into hillsides to maximize irrigation and layered with stone, sand and other materials to prevent landslides and erosion, are testimony to their farming prowess.

I kept trying to imagine the city as it was back then, crawling with Incas instead of tourists from around the world, but my imagination was too dim. If only I could time travel. And though I and my family spent eight hours at Machu Picchu, much longer than I’d imagine, it now seems like a dream in the clouds. Albeit, a very powerful dream.

Machu Picchu in the day

Machu Picchu in the day

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