Oh! The thrill to stand and look down upon this lost kingdom- that Indiana Jones moment of discovery. It was beyond spectacular and probably one of the bravest and toughest adventures I have been on. I wish I had done a trail hike to Machu Picchu but that was sold out months in advance. But I am grateful to have done it the 'easier way' via the luxury train. The Andes are not an easy mountain range. This spectacular ancient city is hidden in the middle of the forest high up on a mountain. And though a bus drops you all the way to the top, there are several short hikes to get expansive views of Machu Picchu.
So what is Machu Picchu? Well its actually the mountain behind where I have taken this photo. It is believed to be the mountain that provided rocks for the citadel a few hundred feet below. Picchu means peak and Machu is the name of the peak. The name of this ancient city- that no one knows was discovered by the Indiana Jones like American explorer - Hiram Bingham.
THE TRAIN TO MACHU PICCHU
My adventure begins at Cusco, where I was still battling altitude sickness. I took the early morning Vistadome to Aguas Caliente and then the bus up to Machu Picchu and pretty much spent my entire day there. The train ride through Sacred Valley along the Urubamba river was spectacular. They served a lovely breakfast of pancakes, strawberries, bananas and delicious coffee. Now thats the way to go solo on an adventure. The train ride was around 3 hours long. It had rained the previous night so everything had a sheen of freshness.
Is the town that services Machu Picchu and is clearly a small town which is a huge tourist trap. Named after the hot water springs, it reminded me of Simla. I was pretty glad to avoid Aguas Caliente entirely and move on to the real mission.
I cant imagine Hiram Bingham's moment of excitement when he first saw the city of Machu Picchu. Its built so remotely in the mountain- that one wonders what purpose did it serve at least 3 days ride from Cusco, or why would one build this large citadel with its stepped terraces and views looking into the clouds. Or how did one build this place- so far from civilisation, it at least took 10 years, 10000 hands. Where did they stay, eat, drink sleep. These important questions are unanswered- what I did learn was that the city is not called Machu Picchu. In fact, no one knows its names, it is the mountain facing it, from which the stone was probably quarried is called Machu Picchu. Maybe this place was the playground of the kings, with large open spaces to play games, or was a citadel of pleasure, with its baths or it was a ceremonial ground- for sacrifice faraway from the city. Whatever it was- its secrets are long forgotten and several stories are told. Scroll down and see the beautiful pictures. There are several guidebooks and wiki articles on Machu Picchu. For me I climbed as high as I could to get the best views, I wandered through its ruined walls and explored the notion of space, and I pet a llama in the courtyard. It was partly sunny, partly cloudy, weather was cool. It was perfect day to explore. I hope I never forget its beauty.
(Warning: Lots of Photos follow)