Since it was first revealed to the rest of the world by the American Hiram Bingham in 1911, Machu Picchu has received an increasingly number of visitors reaching the peak of about 400.000 people a year. Although we wanted to get up there and discover a magical unique place, we both were concerned that either the whole vibe behind the Machu Picchu was misleading or that the hordes of tourists would spoil the place. We were prepared for a disappointment.
So you can imagine both our excitement and uneasiness when we've finally found ourselves on the mini-bus on the way to the top of Machu Pichhu.
The last segment of our trip was the train from Ollanta to Machu Picchu. We had chosen the "Expedition" train, the cheapest train available from Peru Rail, which is still considered luxurious (and for us, expensive!). At least the ride was pleasant with comfortable seats, air conditioning, snacks and drinks serving and the best feature: the panoramic windows on the top of the train that allowed great views to the surrounding mountains.
On the bus we were feeling like we were being taken to the middle of the jungle, driving always further up to the top. Little droplets of rain started to fall, creating a mist in the air as we went up, there were clouds all over the mountain peaks and it seemed ghostly and unreal. Soon the Machu Picchu was about to reveal to us and show us if our fears were unfounded.
It was worth it!
Other incredible dimension of Machu Picchu is its particular history. As of today we still do not know what was its purpose: was it a royal retreat or a place for sacred religious rituals? Or was it truly the last Inca retreat? Undeniable is the importance that it had at some point, due to its dimension and fine architecture.
Another fact we learned is why it wasn't discovered by the Spanish upon the conquest and therefore is preserved to date.
The paths leading to it were hidden, as well as the village itself. Either it was already abandoned by the time or it was purposely cut-off from the world - perhaps we will never know which one was true.
One last curiosity about Machu Picchu is how it was discovered. There are several western figures that claim to have found the ruins first, but it was Bingham who kind of stumbled upon the ruins and revealed the fact to the world. In fact the location was known by local people who led Bingham to it when he was exploring the region.
After exploring the ruins, a new challenge awaited! We had bought a ticket which allowed us to climb one of the mountains (you can climb either the Machu Picchu mountain or the Huayna Picchu, the second one you have to book months in advance!). So we climbed the Machu Picchu, the highest of the two and we suffered quite a bit climbing it! It is very steep, narrow, and seems endless. When we looked down below you could see all steps of the way – “If I fall do I die or do I just break every bone?”. Nice thoughts to have under the hot sun!
The summit was also visible, calling us all throughout the climb, promising us some shade and the desired view of the ruins! It took us about 2 hours and a lot of stops to get up there at 3082m above sea level. In the end it felt good to win it over!
You thought that at least climbing down was easy, right? No, the way down was almost as hard as going up, with all the uncountable steps that one was to overcome. We had jello legs for the next few days!…
In the end we can confirm: Machu Picchu is truly a great wonder of World.