Coordinates: 13°09′48″S 72°32′44″W
I already visited the Great Wall of China, the next wonder in the list was Machu Picchu. Since my father was yearning to set foot on this sacred place, I made this journey to Perú a family trip. After the experience in the Uros Islands, in Taquile, and the city of Cusco, the culminating moment of this whole voyage awaited us, known as the Old Mountain, Machu Picchu is currently the most visited place in Perú.
There are several ways of reaching Machu Picchu: on train or you can also peregrinate through the Inca Trail. Choosing to make the hike to the Old Mountain is also a spiritual journey that could take approximately four days.
This time we chose the train because the age diversity in the family group required the most accessible course for everyone. The Vistadome train in the Perurail exits from the station in the town of Poroy, Cusco and arrives at the town of Aguas Calientes. The trip of several hours is a preparation for the tremendous awe that causes going through the Machu Picchu threshold. During approximately three hours we were able to absorb the picturesque sceneries of the journey. One can also take the train in the Ollantaytambo station and arrive at Aguas Calientes in one hour and a half.
el cóndor pasa
In the train, the melody El Cóndor Pasa (Peruvian song); for some reason that I have not yet unraveled, this music originates in me a nostalgic sensation. This melancholy accompanied me during the whole trip because I heard it wherever I went, at some point I though it was a product of my auditory acuity.
While I imagined a native Peruvian with his poncho collared with bright blues, yellows, reds, and oranges playing the panpipe, I saw through the panoramic windows unforgettable scenes. Fathers, mothers, and children laboring the land, entire families tilling day by day... sweating to be able to eat... while in the background the wind instrument symphony echoed... my chest what tight... I wanted to see that condor in the sky!
We arrived to the town of Aguas Calientes, located in the Urubamba province. This location is also called Machu Picchu Village and its origin remounts to 1901 when the construction of the train tracks began.
From Aguas Calientes you can arrive to Machu Picchu by foot or a bus. Those who choose hiking the steep path, arrive at the entrance of the citadel in approximately ninety minutes. If you choose to take the bus, you'll be zigzagging through extremely narrow slopes. Twenty-five minutes pass until you reach the top, and only the tour buses are allowed to travel through this road to the Old Mountain.
While the tour bus was riding up the slopes, the ability of the driver caught my attention, not because he was going up a very steep dirt road, but because he was able to perfectly maneuver in the narrow slopes. Through the window I kept looking for a condor between the clouds. Already at the top, the bus dropped us off in front of a restaurant and the sanitary services. We arrived safe and sound! I felt as if someone had covered my eyes and taken me into this great surprise. I still couldn’t catch a glimpse of Machu Picchu, I could only see giant mountains jealously guarding the scenery; still hiding from the anxious glance of those who had just arrived.
MACHU PICCHU’s doorway
Only when passing the entryway is that you manage to appreciate the mind-bending scenery of these ruins. The fact that the place is so hidden, that you can only appraise it from the doorway, makes this first sight a completely overwhelming one. Upon seeing this majestic panorama I experienced an imposing sensation; as if a spasmodic flow went from my feet to my head.
The Great Wall and Machu Picchu
When I traveled to China and saw the Great Wall it was definitely a magical moment. However, it was a controlled excitement because this imposing monument can be admired from the distance; bit-by-bit the immensity of this great wall reveals itself over the mountain-embellished scenery. In the case of Machu Picchu, its greatness is discovered abruptly, like a door that opens all of a sudden with the wind.
The first thing that came to my mind, and it also happened to me when visiting the Great Wall of China, was the rudimentary visualization of the History books. Then, the astonishment in the face of a landscape with lush beauty and the acknowledgement of the exquisite history that each stone keeps appropriated my thoughts; brightening even more my perception of this sacred place.
Survivors of the Colonization
These ruins had the luck of not being destroyed during the Spaniard's Colonization. Its remote and hidden location managed to preserve this jewel practically intact, only nature has added beauty to this place, which, believe it or not, was built only by the hand of man.
MACHU PICCHU for the world
The American Hiram Bingham, who was not an archeologist, but a passionate scholar, was the one who recognized the importance of Machu Picchu and divulged his findings. The “discovery” of the place could not be completely attributed to him because locals like Gabino Sánchez from Cusco, Enrique Palma, and Justo Ochoa knew about the Old Mountain. Actually, when Binghman arrived to the ruins, various families lived there.
Map of the citadel
On our trail through this sacred realm I kept looking for the sacred bird of the Andes. We continued the journey passing through the terraces or agricultural zones. The valley is divided in the Urin zone, which is found in the lower part to the right side, and the Hanan zone in the higher section toward the left side. Then you see the ruins of what where the housings; alongside these is located the Temple of the Sun and the Mausoleum. The stones of the Royal Residence are located behind the temple. The Sacred Square, which includes the Temple of the Three Windows and the main Temple, is found inside the citadel. To the left of the square is located the Intihuatana stone, which is thought the Incas used it as an astronomic calendar. From there we made an exit towards the end of the square to find the Sacred Stone.
The silence of eternity appropriated every tourist that surrounded the Sacred Stone. A transmissible serenity pervaded the surroundings of this area. Then, by touching the stone I felt its warmth. Although the rocks that were on the surroundings remained cold to the touch, this Sacred Stone, for some mysterious reason, stayed warm. I imagined the presence of a supreme being vibrating beneath the echo of the Inca civilization.
This archaeological complex is one of the most impressive masterpieces that the human being has ever developed. Not only because of the place it is located, on top of a steep hill, but for its meticulous composition of each one of the edification made in stone.
Searching for the Condor
After seeing the wonders of ancient science, the only thing missing was absorbing the natural surroundings. Andean camelids, like the llama, the alpaca, and the vicuna roamed around the place. We also saw a juvenile falcon on the top of a rock. However, I could not catch a glimpse of the condor during my journey in this Sacred City. Every time I remember my experience in Machu Picchu, the symphony of the panpipes returns to my mind and yes, I see the master of the Andes, the messenger of the divine, flying wise through the Peruvian sky.
(This article is the seventh in a series of stories of Perú.)
Conscious Travel Practices:
1. Respect sacred places.
2. Learn about other beliefs and cultures.
3. Value humanity’s patrimonies.
4. Educate yourself about the fauna of the place.