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Machu Picchu as you never seen before

19 September 2014

The webzine "The Guardian" published an article about Machu Picchu by Edward Twin, winner of the history category. He wrote about the ingenuity and magical of Machu Picchu for who was not born here. Through this small article we can see the experience of this man that traced us his visit to this amazing place hidden among the clouds and carved into this mountain. Also he recommend us some places to visit and maybe to eat and relax.

 

The Incas had three laws by which they tried to live: don’t steal, don’t lie and don’t be lazy. The first two are ubiquitous across most cultures but the third is, perhaps, more unusual. To have “work hard” as one of the tenets of your civilisation must be a tiring prospect, but it is a tenet the Incas embraced like a cuddly alpaca as they travelled vast and vertiginous tracts of South America, lugging around hunks of rock that had remained stationary for millions of years for a very good reason.

The most extraordinary expression of this industriousness is the jaw-slackening ruins of a town improbably sitting 2,400m up a mountain, Machu Picchu.

Most people in their 20s (like me) get to the summit via the Inca Trail: once an ancient track used by the Incas, it is now more of a flappy-trousered catwalk dominated by people on their gap yahs. It is so congested with hirsute twentysomethings that I wouldn’t be surprised if Marcus Wareing opened a pop-up guinea pig rotisserie up there. Not being blessed with the four days needed for the trek, I had to break that third Inca law and let the train do the hard work, visiting the mountain on a day trip.

The Inca Rail (from £66 return) leaves from Ollantaytambo in the Sacred Valley and goes up through the mountains. Clean and spacious, it is full of mostly older tourists. A souvenir trolley, complete with postcards of a llama with its tongue poking out, is pushed through the aisles … frequently. There are more affordable train options available but I suspect the llama pictures are of a much poorer quality.

I peered out of the window as sheer mountainsides of thick green jungle enclosed our locomotive. The sharp Andean peaks were only suggested as they rose, out of sight, above the train.

After an hour and a half, the train pulled up in a small town about a mile from Machu Picchu. Hotels are dotted amid stalls selling florid bobble hats and pictures of llamas with wonky ears. We were here to catch a bus to the site. I could see mountainsides all around. I could see a bus. But I could not see how the one was going to end up at the top of the other. In the event, the ascent lasted just 30 minutes, the driver seemingly confident enough, taking hairpin corners at pace and ignoring oncoming traffic.

Unfortunately, I was unable to see the undoubtedly brilliant view out of the windows because I had squashed myself into a ball in a footwell.

It is impossible to see the ruins at all from below, which means the anticipation of that famous view is never ruined by premature glimpses. And after disembarking from the bus, as coolly as is possible when your legs have turned to warm trifle, I was soon gazing on one of the greatest vistas in the world.

White waves of a cloudy swell crept round the rocky Andean spires that encircle the ancient site. The mountains of Peru were sculpted by glaciers that moulded landscapes like overzealous old masters.

Our guide took us to wander among the old houses and temples made from stones resting thousands of metres higher than they should be.

One of the theories surrounding the mystery of Machu Picchu is that it was a sacred site, aligning perfectly with other spiritually significant mountains during solstices and equinoxes. And as I walked around, balancing on paths where one stumble would send you tumbling down to eternity, I felt awe at the Incas’ contempt for the impossible. It is hard to see how it could be built today but inconceivable how they did it at the time Henry VI was on the English throne.

As with everything astonishing, it becomes more incredible in the explanation. Our guide told us no form of cement or mortar was used: they simply (but not simply at all) cut the stones into a perfect puzzle that fitted together so well they must have made extraordinarily accurate measurements – only they didn’t have a written alphabet. They didn’t even have the wheel. Not having the wheel and constructing Machu Picchu is like trying to build St Paul’s Cathedral without a ladder. And yet there it is, that third law miraculously built in stone.

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Travel Blog

Ollantaytambo: Streets and History 27 June 2018

Ollantaytambo: Streets and History


A mandatory point to visit on your way to Machu Picchu is the town of Ollantaytambo, located about 90 km northwest of the city of Cusco, it is the only Inca city in Peru that still preserves its streets intact, the beauty of this town is magical since it is a living example of a perfect urban plan made ...
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