Sunday, 4 December 2016

Machu Picchu

DAY 5 - I woke up early, had breakfast then walked to Aguas Calientes bus station to buy my tickets to Machu Picchu. The return bus tickets cost US$24. Consettur buses run from 5:30 AM to 3:30 PM, transporting passengers to the site. Buses return from the ruins when full, with the last departure at 5:45 PM. The bus ride would take about 25 minutes on a winding mountain road with several switchbacks. At some of the switchbacks, the incoming bus had to stop and wait for the outgoing bus to pass.

Alternatively, I could walk 8 km (5 miles) up a steep mountainside path to reach Machu Picchu. However, with the altitude, this walk could be physically challenging, plus it would take about 1.5 hours so I decided to take the bus and save my time and energy to explore Machu Picchu.

The bus drop off was right outside the entrance to Machu Picchu. I had bought the ticket for access to the site the day before. It was 128 soles (US$40) and allowed two entries with passport required. There was a restaurant and the Machu Picchu Sanctuary Lodge located outside of the site entrance.

Machu Picchu was the main reason for me to visit Peru. Walking past the turnstile to enter the site, I was full of anticipation to see Machu Picchu for the first time. I didn’t know if I would be disappointed after having seen its pictures so many times in books or on the Internet.

I can tell you that the first sight of Machu Picchu was a WOW! for me. I was in awe and stood for a while just to absorb it all. Machu Picchu is beautiful. The weather was perfect. I was so happy to be able to visit the archaeological site which was larger than I thought. I spent several hours exploring and taking pictures.

Machu means “old”, Picchu means “peak” or “mountain”. It was built around 1450, at the height of the Inca Empire. It was abandoned about 100 years later, and was not discovered by the Spanish conquistadors when they arrived in the area in 1572. Over the centuries, the site was covered by the overgrown surrounding jungle. In 1911, American explorer Hiram Bingham was in the region looking for the old Inca capital. He was shown to Machu Picchu by a local farmer’s boy. Bignham brought Machu Picchu to international attention. He returned the following few years to undertake clearing and excavation of the site. In 1983, UNESCO declared Machu Picchu a World Heritage Site. In 2007, Machu Picchu was voted as one of the new seven wonders of the world.

The story of the discovery of Machu Picchu, its strategic location in the Andes high above the Urubamba river, its amazing Inca architecture, and the mysterious purpose of the site are explorer’s dreams. Without further ado, my pictures are below with caption. Click to enlarge them.

My first sight of Machu Picchu: Simply perfect!
My 1st sight of Machu Picchu - Simply perfect!
East agricultural sector where farming was done along the terraces:
East agricultural sector
The semicircular Temple of the Sun:

Temple of the Sun
Machu Picchu Main square:
Main square
Temple of the Three Windows:
Temple of the Three Windows
Group of the Three Doorways:
Group of the Three Doorways
Ceremonial Rock:
Ceremonial Rock
Inti Watana - astronomic clock or calendar used by the Incas:
Inti Watana - Inca clock or calendar
The Guardhouse:
Inca trapezoidal windows - from one window see through to the next window:
Inca trapezoidal windows
Stone stairway at Machu Picchu:
Stone stairway at Machu Picchu
Inca houses:
Inca houses
Llamas on site:
Llamas at Machu Picchu
Machu Picchu
Closeup of the Inca ruins
I didn't buy the ticket to climb Wayna Picchu (Young Mountain) as it would require booking in advance due to the limited number of visitors allowed each day, plus it would be a very steep climb. I could see Wayna Picchu from Machu Picchu and the steps leading up to the top of Wayna Picchu.

On my way out, on the right near the exit, there was a small booth where you can stamp your passport with a Machu Picchu stamp. I certainly did!

I left Machu Picchu feeling very happy. I took the bus back to Aguas Calientes then walked to the train station to board the Vistadome train back to Cusco. The Vistadome train service offered a small meal, a short musical performance, and a fashion show. By the time we arrived in Cusco, it was evening time. I took a shared van (combi) with a few other tourists to Plaza de Armas and walked to hostal Inti Wasi to check in for the night.

It was a perfect day at Machu Picchu!

Next post: Lima.

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