Saturday, December 2, 2017

Machu Picchu - Day 5

Me at Machu Picchu
When the morning light dawned on Machu Picchu and drove away the darkness, whispers of mist rose from the dead and skeletal and secret city. It looked like the light was expelling ghosts from their graves. It also felt eerie and phantasmagoric and surreal. After being in Peru for nearly five months, I realized I finally made it to Machu Picchu.

We woke up at 04:00A instead of at 03:30A, because none of us set the alarm. The Germans took a shower first; then, I did. I woke up happy though. I slept well - really well - because I slept early.

We were late. Our group left at 04:00A already.

Outside, it was raining. It was more than a drizzle but not a downpour. Tourists were walking from Aguas Caliente to the entrance of Machu Picchu.

Those who had money, or couldn't hike much more, could wake up later and take the 05:00A bus to the entrance of the ruins. Around 04:30, we found our group. They told us to get to the back of the line; they didn't seem happy that we got more sleep than them.

Around 05:00A, the guards let you hike to the entrance of Machu Picchu. It takes an hour, and it's really steep. It just goes all the way up. A number of times, tourists had to take a break from being short of breath. (I don't think it's altitude sickness though, because Machu Picchu isn't as high up as even Cuzco. The stairs are just really steep to the entrance.) Around 04:30A, you could see the buses taking the tourists, who paid, up to the entrance. We had to walk in the rain.

The rain started pouring heavier. Our group was the last ones at the entrance. It was around 06:00A when the gates open. We met with our group in the entrance, and our tour guide Leo was there, waiting for us.

I don't know how, but I was drenched inside and out. My rain jacket wasn't working, but it always worked. Now, the rain jacket was trapping the water to stick to my body - without me being able to dry out. When the wind blew, it would chill me. I felt like a sad and wet street puppy or kitty - shivering. At least, the stray found his way to Machu Picchu.

Some background on Machu Picchu. The Incans built it around 1450AD. It took 80 years but was never completed. The Incans abandoned Machu Picchu, but nobody knows why.

Machu Picchu housed about 800 people. Half of them were servants, and the other half were nobility and priests.

Machu Picchu can only be entered via one road. Because of where it's placed, to enter it form another direction would require you to scale vertical mountains. For sure - this was done for defensive measure from other enemies. (I researched this on my own.)

Scholars almost all agree that Machu Picchu was the Incan King's holiday home. But, I think they're wrong.

Human sacrifices were found in Machu Picchu. Unless we had a sociopathic or cruel king or some weird cultural holiday home - human sacrifices are not done in holiday homes. Given the fact that there are many religious rooms - like the Temple of the Sun - I think Machu Picchu was some kind of temple. That's also the reason there are so many rooms for the priests of Machu Picchu.

Also, the entire place is designed to worship the sun and moon. It's purpose appears to be more religious than recreational. Paul Cook's theory is that Machu Picchu was where the priests and royalty sacrificed people and animals to the sun god and moon goddess on behalf of the people in Cusco. There's also plenty of evidence of worship, sacrifice, and the fact that Cusco was the main place of residence for those who went to Machu Picchu. (I might not be an anthropologist officially, but the summer home theory is rubbish, in light of all the mummies and human sacrifices found at Machu Picchu.)

That's my background. Around 06:30A, Leo began his tour of the different parts of Machu Picchu. Mainly, he talked about the "Re-discoverer" of Machu Picchu, Hiram Bingham. I think he's worth mentioning, at least the dishonorable things he did.

Hiram Bingham was a Yale lecturer (maybe a professor), looking for a lost city of gold. He raised money and went to Peru. He asked the locals - and a boy who played in Machu Picchu - led him to Machu Picchu. (The locals, as usual, knew about the ruins - but not their significance.)

Since there was no gold, Bingham wasn't interested in Machu Picchu, but coming up empty handed in his expedition he returned to Picchu to reclaim it. Too bad another German engineer J.M. von Hassel beat him there as the first Westerner forty years ago. When Bingham found another European's name etched on the stone, he destroyed it and declared himself the discoverer of Machu Picchu. (We should all roll our eyes now. I told you guys about the other German who measured the largest waterfall in Peru - then he claimed he discovered it, even when all the locals already knew about it.)

Anyways, Bingham took a lot of treasures home to Yale (some would call this looting). Peru and Yale fought over this for awhile, but about five years ago, Yale returned most of the artifacts. There just seems to be an undeniable Western trend for Westerners, generally males, to claim and name places and locations already found and known to the locals. (I encountered this a lot in New Zealand too.)

To Bingham's credit though, he could probably be said to be the first person to introduce Machu Picchu to the West and popularize it. The Hollywood Director Charleston Heston boosted it's popularity by filming The Secret of the Incas in 1954.

After about two hours of lecturing us, Leo looked tired. He was with us throughout the whole trip. He looked like he wanted to go home. So did the other guide. So, they left us, and we wandered Machu Picchu.

The sun came up after Leo's lecture. Since I had my stuff on me, I took out a towel and took off my shirt. I dried myself with my towel and changed into drier clothes. I stopped shivering. That felt better.

After the guides left, our group explored Machu Picchu and took pictures. (I posted them below). When the clock struck 11:00A, I had to leave, as Cinderella did when the clock struck midnight.

I had to walk three hours to catch my bus back to Cusco. My bus left Hidroelectrica (a town three hours away) at 03:00P. I had to leave.

I hugged everyone and said goodbye. If I could do it again, I would have stayed one more night in Aguas Caliente and left the next day. I didn't think there would be so much to see at Machu Picchu. I also thought I had enough time, because I started at 06:00A. I assumed wrong on both these points.

I hiked out of Machu Picchu down to the base below. It was a steep walk down, and it wasn't easy, because I had to carry my stuff now.

I walked slower to Hidroelectria than I came, because I had my pack full of stuff now. I arrived into Hidroelectrica at 02:30P. The walking and tougher group was already there. Some were already there an hour early, but most of us arrived around the same time.

At the restaurant, I ordered a glass of red wine and fried chicken with rice. The soup, once again was good.

At 03:15P, we left Hidroelectrica to Cusco. It was a six and a half hour ride back. If I had the money to spend, I could've paid $60USD and took a train directly from Machu Picchu to Cusco, and it would have only taken 3 hours. Also, I wouldn't have had the extra 3 hour walk back. We had already hiked 100 kms; so, it certainly would have been easier.

But I didn't feel that exhausted or tired. I felt strong and fit still. This trek was a lot easier, because most of the weight was carried by the mules.

We arrived into Cusco around 10:00P. I found a new place. I checked in.

I did it. I finally made it to Machu Picchu - another world landmark checked off the list. I also felt a little bit closer in understanding another and different universe - one that I otherwise would have never known.
Morning mist rising from Machu Picchu

More morning mist of Machu Picchu
Do you see the green parrots in the background?

Me with Machu Picchu

Selfie with Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu - the Jewel within the Andes -
Shot by Paul Cook

Me and Machu Picchu
Claudia and me with Machu Picchu

Our group with Machu Picchu

Selfie with the lamas of Machu Picchu
Che Guevara in Motorycycle Diaries

Gael Bernal portraying Che Guevara

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