Travelogue Peru 2006
Machu Picchu

In the evening we took the train to Machu Picchu, unfortunately after sunset and we could not see the valley we drove through. The end of the line is in Aguas Calientes, a tiny town consisting of almost nothing but hotels, restaurants and gift shops. We went to bed directly and set the alarm to 5:30 as we wanted to take the second bus up to Machu Picchu at 6:30. Well, I must say that getting up so early so often is not exactly what I had wanted to do during my vacations.

When the alarm rang rain was drumming on the hotel roof. We reset the alarm for 6:30. Rain was still drumming. Nevertheless we got up, took breakfast, bought our tickets for bus and ruins (ONLY available in Aguas Calientes!) – and missed the bus. Don’t believe that the 7:30 bus leaves at 7:30. It leaves whenever it is full or at least full enough. But waiting in the next bus did not matter anyway as it was still raining when we arrived some 700 meters higher at the ruins. We were in the clouds so there was no reason to enter the park, there was nothing to see.

Peru, Machu Picchu: Dschungel
Die wolkenverhangenen Berge unter Machu Picchu: Dschungel wie aus einem Film von Werner Herzog

We could not do anything but wait. Unfortunately they have no good shelter for “normal” tourists, just a couple of tables under umbrellas hardly protecting you from the rain and less from the wind. The owners of the luxury hotel at the park entrance on the other hand prefer to have their restaurants empty instead of selling coffee to backpackers. They did also refuse to lend us one or their hotel umbrellas but at least they let Ingrid and me wait on the stairs to their entrance where it was dry and less windy. But I did mention that we had enormous luck with the weather, didn’t I? After some two hours it cleared up, there was hardly any rain while we were in the ruins and for some parts of the day we even had beautiful sunshine. Although I just wrote that it is good to take a guide we visited Machu Picchu alone, just using “The Bible” as we had no idea whether it would start to rain again any minute after we entered the park. Therefore we missed all the stories the guides tell you which are almost always entertaining though most of the guides contradict each other.

Peru: Machu Picchu
Machu Picchu in all seiner Pracht

What I said above about ruins is truer for Machu Picchu than for any other site: There is no sense in describing them, they are impressive. You will see photos. The setting and the surrounding landscape are spectacular. Here only a few annotations and hints in case you will come here some day:

Peru, Machu Picchu: Ruinen vor und nach der Rekonstruktion
Hier sieht man deutlich den Unterschied zwischen dem Zustand vor und nach der Rekonstruktion der Ruinen

Spend the night in Aguas Calientes as you should enter the park as early in the morning as possible (it opens at 6:00). Even now, in the lowest season, there were lots of tourists in the ruins around noon, especially the tourists who do not spent a night in Aguas Calientes. First enter the main parts of the ruins, they will be busiest later in the day. For this part of your visit you can hire one of the guides waiting by the entrance. Unfortunately we could not enter the park before 11 a.m. due to the weather. After visiting the main city go to more remote parts of the park like the Inca Bridge (we didn’t make it) or Intipunku, the Sun Portal, where you have a wonderful view on the ruins. If you have the time and money, stay a second day, take more time to enjoy the ruins, hike up Wayna Pcchu, the high mountain visible in every picture postcard of Machu Picchu, where there are more views, more ruins and some caves (closed in February for restoration, just as the Inca Trail).

Peru, Machu Picchu: Ein kleiner Inka
Der kleine Inka vom Bus

We took one of the last buses down to Aguas Calientes. The local children have found a charming way to make some money: when our bus left we passed a couple of boys dressed as Incas, they were waving and shouting. When our bus passed one of them started to run down the footpath leading to Aguas Calientes. Each time he crossed the road he waited for the bus and shouted and waived before he continued to run. At the bottom of the valley, which he actually reached faster than the bus, he came on the bus to collect some tips from the tourists. Well, the idea of doing this is so ridiculous that I am sure that I would have loved it when I was a kid.

Peru, Machu Picchu: Der Königspalast
Diesen Bereich bezeichnet man als den Königspalast. Es sind die "prächtigsten" Gebäude auf dem Gelände und man sieht schon, dass es den Inka-Herrschern nicht um bloße Unterdrückung des Volkes zur Steigerung des eigenen Reichtums ging.

Talking about Incas: I think that I did not mention yet that this name is often used in a wrong way. The Incas were only the rulers of the Inca Empire, Pachacuteq, who became emperor of Cusco in 1438 and then started to create the biggest empire of ancient South America, and his descendants. As always there is much we do not know about the early days of the Incas as they did not have a written language the Conquistadores were not really interested in history or culture. Some legends tell that the first Incas were created by the Gods on Isla del Sol in Lake Titicaca. The actual inhabitants of the Inca Empire were not Incas but Quechua, as the aboriginal people of the region are still called, and the many other tribes and peoples who became part of the empire. However I used and will continue to use the word Inca, as everybody else does, whenever I talk about the things done or archived during the reign of the Incas.

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© Volker Umpfenbach

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