The Road To Machu Picchu is a four-part series that chronicles my exploits travelling form Cusco, Peru to the mountain of Machu Picchu, an ancient site built by the Incas that is preserved and protected by the government of Peru and UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.
Also read Day One, Day Two, and Day Three.
My alarm went off at 4:30 a.m. My things were packed and my change of clothes waited for me on my backpack. My group met downstairs in the lobby at 5 and we walked for a few minutes in the darkness to the bus station where we, along with hundreds of other tourists, were to catch one of many buses up to Machu Picchu. The thought of hiking to the entrance came across no one’s mind that morning for obvious reasons.
The ride up the hillside was a calm and soothing one. Our bus made its way up the road that snaked up the hillside of Machu Picchu with dawn’s first light following close behind.
It was sunny and slightly warm when we disembarked at the top of the mountain near the entrance to the city. There was already a long ling of tourists when we arrived.
There are a number of large plaques mounted on the stone walls just past the modern entrance (the one you see pictured above) of the city of Machu Picchu that commemorate the area as a UNESCO heritage site as well as the exploits of Hiram Bingham III. Bingham learned about “lost” Incan cities while a lecturer at Yale and is credited with finding Machu Picchu in 1911 with the aid of families who lived in the area.
Machu Picchu means “Old Mountain/Peak” in quechua. Bingham believed he discovered the so-called lost city of the Incas known as Machu Picchu. What he actually discovered was a royal city or residential palace used by a series of Incan kings, beginning with Inca Yupanqui (Pachacuti), as a resort or vacation home that was built high up on “old mountain.”
Directly across from Machu Picchu is Huayna Picchu, which means “Young Mountain/Peak.”
The Temple Of The Sun was where priests and rulers would pay tribute to the sun god Inti.
It is believed that blood sacrifices of animals were made here at the Temple of the Condor. Blood would pool around the “neck” of the condor carved out of stone situated in the temple.
The Group of Three Doorways sits across the Main Plaza/Square of Machu Picchu and was most likely used as a university or learning center for the Incan ruler’s male offspring.
Pictured above is the entrance to Huayna Picchu (also spelled Wayna Picchu). Only a limited number of visitors are allowed each day as the area is smaller than Machu Picchu and the hike up is ridiculously steep and narrow. The Peruvian government and UNESCO even had to install lines of thick cable and rope to aid travelers during their climb.
Huayna Picchu was home to the high priest. The Temple of the Moon and the Great Cavern are also situated on the mountain.
I made my way back down to Machu Picchu after that exhausting climb up to the highest peak of Huayna Picchu. I sat against a wall and rested my feet as Viracocha once again reminded us of his presence. There were no tears this time, however, only the loud screams of his thunder that boomed through the valley and sent families scrambling back to the safety of the bus depot at the entrance.