It was close to five-hours-worth of busses and trains yesterday before we arrived in Aguas Calientes, the town from which you can enter Machu Picchu.
Along the way, we had a transfer in Ollantaytambo, a small town bustling with back-packers, local tour guides and merchants. This is the starting point for those hiking the Inca trail, a four-day trek to Machu Picchu. Only 400 people can be on the trail on any given day and the distance is a mere 28 miles. However, because of the altitude and the packs that travellers are carrying, it takes a long time to cover the distance. The record for completing this hike is held by a local person who completed it in about 3.5 hours.
By noon, we had reached our destination – Machu Picchu. The city was built high on a mountain top in the 11th century by the Inca people and took 100 years to complete. We explored the culture, religion, daily life and politics of this city.
The Inca were incredibly resourceful. Machu Picchu is built on a mountain top 2200 meters above sea level and they developed land for agriculture by using tiered retaining walls. They made their most important buildings earthquake-resistant by adding extra sides to the bricks so they would lock together instead of simply cutting them into rectangular shapes. They also had an intricate system for collecting water, and draining excess water from the city so it would not put pressure on their buildings. They also had methods for determining times, days, months, years, seasons and more. One theory is that yellow fever killed many of its inhabitants and the king forbid anyone from entering or exiting the city to prevent the spread of the disease. It is assumed that the remaining inhabitants died there after which, Machu Picchu sat untouched for centuries until it was discovered under thick bush and wild growth in the early 1900s.
It was a fascinating step into Peru’s past and amazing to better understand the lives of the people that were capable of living a life that so few of us could imagine today.