The Lost City of the Incas

Trip Start May 04, 2011
Trip End Feb 20, 2014

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Flag of Peru  , Sacred Valley,
Monday, October 10, 2011

The highlight of this tour is meant to be Machu Picchu, the lost city of the Incas that was only discovered 100 years ago and represents the most intact remnants of the Inca culture. To my absolute annoyance, I woke at 1 am with searing stomach pains and the onset of gastro. It must have been from dinner. Melissa was also in the same condition. I got very limited sleep and was so pissed off that on this day of all days, I was struck with diarrhoea, a thumping headache and stomach pains that hit every 20 mins or so. Some of the others were also feeling ill, but that was a self-inflicted hangover from too many vodkas last night. I popped numerous pills and that seemed to help, and I starved myself for most of the day. I powered thru as best I could, but it sucks that I felt like this on this occasion.

From our accommodation we trained 1.5 hrs to the town below Machu Picchu, eventually arriving about 11am. The town itself is not much, but the main point for all tourists to catch buses up to the summit of Machu Picchu itself. The 2 english girls on the tour split off at Cusco to trek a section of the Inca Trail to arrive at MP, but there is no way I would ever do this...not my style at all. The bus trip was longer than expected and up a very winding road. I had my eyes closed for most of it trying to shake this headache and also to avoid sights of the killer slopes. At the bus stop, there is pure madness trying to get thru the entry gates and check backpacks etc. And then a 20 minute walk up to the summit – that was about as much trekking as I would ever like to do, I was fine, but others struggled with the steepness and maybe the high altitude. Even with my condition, I was fine, I was actually annoyed by the slow pace of the group – I reckon that makes things worse when the people in front slow down and u just want to keep your own momentum.

Reaching the summit of MP is definitely a spectacular moment and the sharp mountains that peak out above the valley landscape makes it all the more monumental. I can see why the Incas chose to set up shop here, but hauling those massive rocks and blocks up these slopes is ridiculous. The story of MP is quite intriguing. Construction of the city was never finished because of an Inca civil war that broke out in the 1530's near Cusco (?) and all the citizens of MP left to fight in the civil war. This was also the time the Spanish invaded and so the Incas never returned to MP and kept its location secret from the Spanish for fear of them destroying it; the Spanish never explored the area for lack of interest and its complete remoteness. So, it took until 1902 until a local Peruvian farmer stumbled across it all overgrown with vegetation and then in 1911 a USA explorer in search of another lost city was directed to MP by the locals and what he found was beyond anything imagined. No significant treasures tho, just a well preserved Incan town. It’s the equivalent of discovering Tutankhamen’s tomb in Egypt, just minus the priceless jewels. A large part of MP has since been restored over the years and u can generally tell this from the use of mortar between the rocks which the Incas did not use.

Our guide took us on a 2 hr tour of the site. Not as cold as imagined, but it did sprinkle rain for a bit, but overall very good weather. The clouds crossing the top of the mountains make it even more mystical. We walked through temples, houses, education centres, workshops, and more. There is not much known about the Incas because they had not established a written form of language and the Spanish did not document much. There were not as many engravings or carvings as I expected, and no statues remain insitu. But they have rebuilt some houses to represent what they would have looked like in the day. Overall, for something built in the 1400’s, it is primitive. This may be controversial to say, but that is my view...if it was 1400 BC, it would be more impressive to me. This interests me how different human civilisations and cultures evolved at vastly different paces across the planet. We’ve talked about this a lot in Ghana too.

Once the guide left us for our free time, the group split up and we did a bit of exploring before returning to the town below. Huge crowds everywhere because it is a Sunday and this is the most popular day for visits, so the bus down to town was long but moved relatively quickly. All up, it cost about $200 I would guess for the day, but this was all included cost in the tour. We stamped our passports with a commemorative stamp for the 100th anniversary of MP’s discovery, which is a unique souvenir. Back in town, I ate for the first time that day at about 430pm. Explored the town and then we journeyed for what seemed an eternity back to Cusco (train, then bus) arriving about 1030pm.

I finally got a sleep-in the next day and didn’t get out of bed until 11 am for our only free day on this tour. It was exactly what I needed and helped shake off most of the gastro symptoms. I met up with Melissa and we visited the main cathedral in the Cusco main square – impressive gold gilded interior and nice views over the square. Then we explored some shops and walked down to the market and bought ridiculous amounts of stuff, but all very cheap and all the stores engage in bargaining, which I am pretty good at (if I don’t say so myself!). I had expected a lot of llama products, but it is alpaca moreso because the wool is softer. Catching a taxi back to the main square cost 3 sols ($1.15)!! I find that the fumes from vehicles hang in the air here; maybe the high altitude or just the high emissions from the old cars...either way, it makes me feel sick and always takes me back to those journey’s to Quairading in the Torana!

So, that wraps up the Inca experience component of the tour. I am typing this entry from the comfort of 7 hr bus trip to Puno in southern Peru. The seats actually are very comfortable. I liked the Inca part of the tour, but would have liked more of the actual Inca culture and statutes etc rather than just a series of buildings. I am glad though that we visited that museum in Lima before doing this and got visuals of the artefacts that were found in all these temples, houses etc.
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