Friday, 5 August 2011

Machu Picchu

We are at the moment sitting in our hotel room in the small town of Aguas Calientes (meaning 'hot water,' imaginatively named for the natural hot springs located here), which lies at the foot of the mountains upon which Machu Picchu is built. It is a surreal place, to put it mildly. The entire town exists because of Machu Picchu and the tourism opportunities it affords and thus the town is like some kind of grotesquely over-priced open-air mall, surrounded by majestic mountains which tower above it.  Apparently the town didn't even exist in it current state until about 15 years ago, when the tourist trade really took off here. We thus didn't take any pictures of Aguas Calientes on principle. The only cool thing about it, in my opinion, is that there are no cars here, only tour buses and the train, which passes directly through the town. 

We went to Machu Picchu today, but we actually arrived there yesterday, fresh off the Inka trail, cold, wet and tired. We were woken up at about 2am in the morning of the 4th by the sound of rain, which quickly revealed itself to be part of a brief yet angry jungle thunderstorm. We had our official wake-up call at 3:30am. We were supposed to start walking at 4:30am, as is traditional on the Inka trail, so that hikers can be at the gate of the sun at Machu Picchu to see the sunrise over the ruins. Obviously this wasn't going to happen, so we left at about 5:30 and arrived at the sun gate two wet and cold hours later. However, we got some amazing shots of the ruins and the surrounding mountains in the mist - so the first five images are of yesterday's brief visit. 

We decided not to stay with the hiking group for the tour yesterday, so our proper experience of Machu Picchu happened today. There's very little to say about Machu Picchu that hasn't already been said by a myriad of other tourists. Definitely the highlight of our trip though. I'm so glad that our first viewing of the ruins was from the Inka trail. It felt as if we earned it and seeing all the other ruins along the way also put it in context. It felt like a pilgrimage of sorts, which I think was the original intention of the Inka trail (or at least one of them).  But I'm also glad that we did the tourist thing today, as a contrast, to see how the majority of people coming here experience this place.  All in all, the perfect end to our time in Peru.

Like mountains from classical Chinese landscape paintings...

This is our favourite of all our images of the ruins

Waynapicchu mountain, the famous one towering over the ruins in postcards

Some llamas

Temple of Three Windows

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