Well today is the day we visited for the full day. The reason “everyone” comes to Peru. Must say the second day was as impressive as the first. You could “do” Machu Picchu in one full day but we wanted “the shot” and sunrise and sunsets. So we stayed the extra time. Thank goodness today wasn't our only day here. Our weather didn't hold, the morning was very foggy. So much so we skipped the sunrise shot as there was no sunrise. It also didn't clear till late in the day. So we also didn't do the Huayna Picchu hike which was booked as 10am. That's not all bad as the trail is really nasty, all up and narrow. 2 people died last year and one this year so far according to our guide. Wet slippery rock, steep stairs all fogged in just felt like work. That left lots of time for a lower portion tour. We didn't miss the hike at all. As a side note, I brought a usb cable to charge my wifi/cel backup system. I assumed that it was the same usb as my “big” camera. I have the USB adapter for full size USB to micro USB. My camera is mini usb. Oh well, just means no pics here from my “big” camera. Up till now I've been using my two smaller cameras which have SD cards. Why do you care? You probably don't but I dislike being beat by technology. Plus I've desribed a bunch of stuff below I can't show you yet because the photos are trapped in my camera. The horror!
First a little about Machu Picchu:
The Lost City of the Inca, ‘found’ by Hiram Bingham from Yale in 1911, was a religious and defensive city. It stayed hidden from the ransacking of the Spaniards due to its location. The Inca abandoned it before it was finished and went back and destoyed the trail from Cusco to Ollataytambo so the Spanish wouldn't know it was there. The name means Old Mountain. When fully occupied it had maybe 200 homes for 1000 residents with agricultural terraces to supply needs. It was built in 1460 – 1470 under the reign of Pachacutec.
As we walked into the site, the first thing we arrived at was the House of the Terrace Caretaker. The site is divided into the agricultural center and the urban center. From here you can see the terraces cut into the hillside to grow produce (potatoes on the upper windy side and corn, tomatoes, Quinoa and coca leaf on the lower non windy side) They also drained water (3m rainfall per year) and reduced erosion. The Inca were incredibly advanced and smart people.
I've been playing with my iPhone app that takes 360 panoramas.
http://360.io/gyGSKU – the lower plaza
http://360.io/RUEE49 – agricultural fields and surrounding area.
From the Caretakers Hut you get the quintessential view of Machu Picchu. The one you see in every photo tour or web site. These were taken yesterday when it was sunny and nice.
First the actual hut.
Now “the shot”
We then walked down the hill and stairs (oh there are stairs!!!) into the city itself. A dry moat separates the urban side from the agricultural side.
We visted the Temple of the Sun, a round building, an example of the perfect Inca stone assembly. On June 22 (the winter solstice in the southern hemisphere), the sun shines through a small trapezoid window to cast light on a stone ‘calendar’. Looking out of the same window, the astronomers could see Pleiades, the constellation symbolic of crop fertility. Also on the outside are 4 protuberences that track the calendar by shadow. Amazingly smart these folk.
The small cave below the temple is the Royal Tomb. It is where the king was buried. He is the only mummy they took with them when they left. 15 more tombs have been found.
Just behind and up a little we saw the mason’s rock quarry. Twenty percent of the site was never finished. Those Spaniards again. They interupted things.
We then walked over to the Temple of the Three Windows – a three walled temple, the east wall was hewn from a single huge rock. Has three trapezoidal windows. Again on the solstice they are straight and diagonal the rest of the year. Except the Winter Solstice, then they throw no shadow.
From the outside looking in.
Next door is the Principal Temple, it also 3 walls, the best masonry example here, multiple many sided stoned fitted together perfectly with no mortar. The sacristy is connected to the temple, probably a place where priests prepared for ceremonies. Ironically this is the one place where their earthquake skills failed them. The place where they offer sacrifices to the various gods was messed up by one in 1650.
Further out into the site saw the Intihuatana, the Hitching Post of the Sun. Every important Inca center had a vertical stone column (called gnomons) which was positioned to show no shadow on the equinoxes. Their exact function remains a mystery, although some speculation was they were a time measuring system for changes in growing seasons. The Spanish said they were objects of pagan worship and destroyed all the posts they could find – this is one of the last remaining posts. This particular stone was actually damaged many years ago by some city dwellers who were filming a commercial here for a local beer, apparently part of the top got knocked off.
The mountain, Huayna Picchu (new mountain) is where the Moon Temple is. Today it was mostly fogged in. Thankfully we saw it yesterday.
Just in front of the entrance towards Huayna Picchu is the sacred rock – has the shape of the mountain behind it (Putukusi). It is cold to touch but if you hold your hand just off it there is a feeling of heat. Locals often come here to make a wish.
Next up was the Temple of the Condor, the positioning of the stones looks like a condor, the animal symbol of heaven in the Inca cosmos. The condor was believed to be the transport of your soul to heaven.
The temple has lots of small chambers leading Bingham to believe it might be a prison – but archaeologists are not sure if the Inca even understood the concept of jail.
Machu Picchu was chosen as it is a natural gateway to the jungle. As expansionists, the Inca were always looking for new territory. This particular mountain had a large aquafer they could control and use. Since it's 2450m above sea level and the river is 400m below, a reliable water source was key. Now our hotel uses the same aquafer and aquaducts from Incan times. There is still water flowing through the ducts but a mere trickle instead of the 800l when no one was using most of it.
I've mentioned a couple times about earthquakes, here are some photos of how they dealt with them;
The above shot shows how they left hollows in spaces to absorb shocks. It's been tested, vibrations are only felt up to the middle of that indent. Then disappear.
Lastly here are some shots that don't fit the narrative but I can't leave out.