Tuesday, July 4, 2017

We Visited Cusco and Machu Picchu - 05 to 08 May 2017

Having seen the archaeological ruins of Hampi and Angkor Wat, we were very keen to visit Machu Pichu. This was one of the main reasons why we decided to undertake the trip to Peru. There is something very intriguing when visiting these great civilizations. One begins to imagine how life must have been hundreds of years back. We stand in wonderment gazing at their ability to build great towns with impressive structures fulfilling the needs of their times. All these great civilizations survived for a long period of time and simply vanished at a certain point of time. Like sand castles on a beach being obliterated by a huge wave, these cities of yore also disappeared over time due to changes in weather pattern, rivers changing their course or drying up or people abandoning the site due to war, invasion or famine. Whatever may have been the reason; their departure appears to have been sudden and permanent. Overtime, the abundant power of nature took over these places and hid them under thick forest cover and foliage. These civilizations were reduced to ruins and remained hidden from the outside world for hundreds of years.

An amazing experience

The Inca Empire covering entire Peru and extending up to Ecuador and Columbia existed between 1438 and 1533. Machu Picchu is located North West of Cusco city which served as the capital of the Incas. Most archaeologists believe that Machu Picchu was built as an estate for the Inca emperor Pachacuti, situated on a mountain ridge 7,970 ft above sea level. Embedded between the Peruvian Andes and the Amazon Basin, it was home to 1200 Incas. It was built around 1450 but abandoned a century later at the time of the Spanish Conquest. Although its existence was known locally, it was not known to the Spanish during the colonial period and remained unknown to the outside world until American historian Hiram Bingham brought it to international attention in 1911. Machu Picchu was declared a Peruvian Historical Sanctuary in 1981 and a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983. In 2007, Machu Picchu was voted one of the New Seven Wonders of the World in a worldwide internet poll. There are approximately 200 structures built for religious, ceremonial, astronomical and agricultural functions. The city is divided into a lower and upper part, separating the farming from residential areas.

The entire construction of Machu Picchu was undertaken without the use of wheels and implements made out of iron.

We took an early morning flight from Lima to Cusco. The city is located at a height a height of 11,200 ft. The whole day was spent relaxing and getting acclimatized to high altitude. Early next morning we took a train and bus to Machu Picchu. We utilized the services of a travel agency - Viator for the trip. The entire trip was very well organized. We were picked up very early in the morning from our hotel to be transported to Cusco Railway Station. 

At the Cusco Railway Station

We travelled on Peruvian Rail with a Vista dome all around view option. The trains are extremely comfortable and they provide breakfast while going and dinner on the return journey. The view along the ride is breathtaking as we traverse through the Amazonian rain forest and the Andes mountain range.

A picturesque drive 

After a four hour journey we reached Aguas Calientes, a small village located near Machu Picchu. We took a bus from the railway station to the base and thereafter climbed the steep slope to the top of Machu Picchu. The climb is even more tiring due to the high altitude. After a number of stops to catch our breaths we finally reached a high viewing spot on an adjacent hill top. A number of people go up the old Inca track to Machu Picchu rather than take the bus up from the station; the track is far tougher on account of the altitude.
As we climbed

Finally on top

Jai taking rest

Sushama all thrilled

Thank God the climb is over

Yet another view.The Sacred Plaza has been designated as the political center of the urban sector. It is surrounded, or better said, consisting of the main temple, the sacred Temple of the Three Windows and the Intihuatana (religious symbol represented by a carved Aerolite in solid rock), although also sits to the House of the priest and the sacred Temple of the Moon

The living quarters.The complex structure of the Incan society defined several classes that even influenced the high aristocratic areas. That is why not all the members of the nobility possessed the same privileges, because these distinctions were awarded according to the lineage. The Royal Ayllus therefore representing the nobility of blood which would be thus constituted by the direct descendants of the King and that they were called Panacas.

Agricultural flats and storage area

Trek down

Further down

Religious and ceremony area.Located at the highest position of the city, to the north from the set of buildings forming around a House designated as yard called "Sacred Plaza", the main temple or temple Mayor of Machu Picchu stands at this location as one of the two buildings with greater spiritual meaning to the Citadel. This square picks up the two most important temples of this city: the Temple of the three Windows and the main Temple of Machu Picchu.

The Temple of the Three Windows is one of the foundations with the longest history in the sacred lost city of Machu Picchu. According to the native indigenous folklore, the city was build up with the purpose to hide the Inca civilization from the Spanish conquerors, and this location was without a doubt more than ideal for such shelter. This Temple held a great spiritual value for the civilization but also has a very important historical meaning.
All of a sudden the entire city of Machu Picchu became visible and we stood motionless staring at the magical view. It takes some time to visualize the whole of Machu Picchu. It is a stunning sight to see the ancient ruins up close. We made our way through the ruins as the clouds played hide and seek with the mountains. We were lucky to have an English speaking guide who took us through the entire journey telling us about Inca history, culture and traditions. He made the trip very interesting.

The trek down is easy and comfortable. The guide took us through the long route and made us see all the structures of Machu Picchu. Its baths and temples, houses and sanctuaries echo the well laid out streets and buildings of the Indus valley civilization. The walls, terraces and ramps blend seamlessly with the natural surroundings of this famous ‘lost city of the Incas’. Machu Picchu’s most distinct and famous structures include the Temple of the Sun and the Intihuatana stone, a sculpted granite rock that is believed to have functioned as a solar clock or calendar. The day trip to Machu Picchu will remain etched in our memory for a very long time. The visual experience of seeing the ancient ruins is simply magical.
Immersed in clouds

Clouds playing hide and seek

A panoramic view

Rita all smiles after seeing Machu Picchu

Happiness personified

An achievement of sorts
The journey back on the train was even more interesting with a fashion show and sale of dresses. A little short of Cuzco, our train had a minor accident. We were held up for over two hours. The train staff was catering to every need during the delay and was extremely helpful, keeping us informed of the latest information about the delay. When the train started again, a recorded announcement came on saying, ‘Remember, Peru Rail strives to make your journeys unforgettable!’ The entire compartment burst out laughing at this.
Vista dome compartment

Posing with the wild life dancer

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