I really never “planned” to go. It was not one of those things on my “bucket” list. It did not “shake” the bottoms of my boots. But I will always be glad that fate brought me there. Two years ago, I began to post stuff on the trip, but stopped. Those posts were about getting there. This one is simply being there.
Machupicchu by Hiram Bingham III, shot in 1912, one hundred years before I got there.
In 1912, Hiram Bingham, exploring for Yale, sought the lost city of Vilcabamba, the last stronghold of the Inca. He in his travels, he was taken to the site of Machupicchu, the terrraced ruins being farmed by vegetable farmers. He continued to look for Vicabamba and Vitcos, estates which had housed former Incas, as more royal ruins. Machu Picchu, itself is believed to be built about 100 years before the conquistadors came to conquer the Quechua peoples and plunder the Inca. It was believed to be a retreat, but abandoned before Spanish arrival, perhaps due to an outbreak of smallpox. The irony being the conquistadors never saw it, and while other Europeans may have been aware of it, Bingham, received credit for its rediscovery.
The beauty is more than the site, but the planning of the community out of nothing. Carved and polished rock, thoughtfully arranged and built give rise to sort of a hillside Shangri-La.
It was a happy day to see other tourists, people from Perú, from other parts of South America, from Europe, who were coming to see a saved part of history. I have been to many sites over the past few years. Some of them in Rome, Egypt and Turkey have astounded me. Yes, I have walked the Great Wall, Tiananmen Square, Red Square, Times Square, but Machu Picchu is something else. It is a world we know little about as Americans. We have all seen that classic picture in one form or another (top). But what we often don’t see is those structures which have withstood time, weather and earthquake. These fabulous peoples who created a world, then as quickly, were disappeared from it.
The larger mountain that is the classic in all shots of Machu Picchu is lovely, but just right of it, as you face it, is the second mountaintop. It is a little less high, but just as impressive. Form the large window within the “P” like structure, the lord of Machu Picchu, actually watched the solstice from that spot, I was told.
This was once the center of the world of the peoples who spoke Quechua and whose king was known at the Inca. It is the Rome of South America, perhaps even both Americas. Through pure vindictiveness its capital, Cusco, was disassembled, if not almost destroyed by Pizarro. I remember our guide, Sheila, in Lima talking about him like a dog. It was then, that I realized the peoples of Peru, see their destiny in their indigenous roots, not European, whom they see as colonialists. But here, away from Cusco and high above in the mountains was a settlement, a real pueblo, in which people existed and thrived. These were not Romans running around in tunics. These were Quecha peoples of high intelligence who knew how to build to withstand earthquakes and who studied the stars.