Machu Picchu – The Lost City of the Incas
As with any high profile stereotypical bucket list item, once listed as one of the Seven Wonder of the World, Machu Picchu precedes itself with such high expectations one may prepare for disappointment, until you see it for yourself you won’t know how wrong you were. A cliché way to describe any ancient city it may be, but I’m going to go ahead and call Machu Picchu an archeological masterpiece, still standing after 500 years, hidden high in the unforgiving Andean mountains it’s more than worth the trek.
The city is, for want of a better word, big. This historical sanctuary, although regarded as ruins still stands proud between a surrounding mass of overgrown forest clad precipices that make up the UNESCO wilderness park, a heritage site covering just shy of 120 square miles. A main attraction of what has become known as ‘The Lost City of the Incas’ is the magnificent citadel, it’s function shrouded by mystery causing historical debates through the years as to its religious or residential use, there is no doubt that the site still holds a great cultural importance to the Inca people.
Other buildings to take note of are the Intihuatana, better known as the ‘Temple of the Sun’ and the lesser known ‘Room with Three Windows’ all build in the classical Incan style many hours have been spent pondering the true meaning and reason for these possibly sacred sites. One thing is for sure, the fascinating city of Machu Picchu is awe inspiring from all angles. I have always been impressed by its concealment quality; where such a monumental society can be completely overlooked by outsiders; interestingly when the Spanish conquered the Incan Empire the invading forces missed Machu Picchu altogether providing shelter for the Incan elite throughout the war.
Many visitors to this once forgotten location in the Andes mountain range seek to hike to the top of each peak and although admission prices are reasonable one must observe that Peru has an extremely humid subtropical climate, heat and oxygen deprivation exhaustion setting in much sooner than in European countries can cause many paying trekkers to turn back. These conditions may not be perfect for you and me but the warm damp forests provide a protected habitat for a multitude of animals including several endangered species such as the spectacled bear. This cute, albeit weird looking bundle of fur is the last remaining species of short faces bears and almost exclusively found in the Andes. About the ‘weird looking’ comment, I would be grateful if you didn’t tell any bears, they are a good 200kg and I hope to go back there some day.
Aside from hiking the peaks and taking in the ruins you could consider dropping down a good 1000 feet and taking the winding scenic train ride through a valley carved into the rock by the Urubamba River, known locally as the Sacred Valley, the journey can take you to other hidden viewpoints in the National Park and up the famous ‘Hitching Post of the Sun’; a solid stone monument that’s great for a photo shoot if you can get a moment out of sight of the throngs of tourists trying to capture the exact same image.
Jack Van Toorn