Quechua is the native language of the Inca and is still widely spoken in this region today. Machu Picchu in Quechua means "House of too many tourists trampling over each other for a photo op." Just kidding, Machu Picchu actually means "old peak" in Quechua and was a special retreat for the royalty of the Inca Empire in days of old. Today, throngs of visitors from all over the world descend on this world heritage site making it quite chaotic to visit. It wasn't that so many people were there to see it, just that Machu Picchu has too many bottlenecks within the compound. These bottlenecks pile the tourists on top of each other and create a rather stressful claustrophobic feeling. We have not been to any ruins to date that were so Disneylandesque as this place. Sadly, any solutions to ease the overcrowding will be mired in politics and will probably have, in the end, a bureaucratic nonsensical resolution.
Even though humanity was on top of you at certain spots within the compound, there were plenty of areas to just chill out, suck in the thin oxygen and enjoy the views. It is easy to see why the Inca chose this place as their royal retreat, it is serene, stunning, and easily protected. Machu Picchu was both larger and steeper than I had envisioned prior to arriving. Having fresh water springs near the top of the mountain was also neat to see. The water from the valley floor is literally pushed up the rock through tiny fishers and ends up at the magical summit. The only other time we saw water make this incredible up hill journey was at Thousand Foot Falls in Belize.
For some practical advice for those of you planning on making it to Machu Picchu in the near future.
1. Guidebooks make it sound as if water bottles are forbidden here, well they are not and they even sell them in the compound near the Huayna Picchu gate (for $15 soles a small bottle). The guards at the front gate never search your belongings so bring bottled water with you.
2. If you are planning on going to Huayna Picchu make sure you are on-time, we were 12 minutes late because of all the crowds and they refused us entry. Ultimately, after arguing with them they let us go to the Mini Huayna Picchu known as Huchuy Picchu. This was absolutely sufficient for us with our kids. The cliffs are steep and deep so if you are afraid of heights or if it is raining pass on this portion.
3. Bring Coca candy for you and/or other visitors gasping for oxygen like goldfish in a pond. They are cheap, effective and are a great conversation starter when shared.
4. After going to Machu Picchu and seeing the pitfalls of the crowds we would recommend staying a night or two in Aguas Calientes and seeing the site in the afternoon when the crowds are largely gone.
|We arrived to AguasCalientes to see a massive 200 meter long bus line. The line moved fast but still there were a lot of people heading up the mountain all at the same time.|
|The mist added to the intrigue of the site.|
|Amazing stonework within the walls of Machu Picchu.|
|It drizzled for about 30 minutes at the beginning of our day.|
|Amazing to think this place was just a retreat for royalty and holy men.|
|Exquisite detail of the stones, some of which are settling or shifting over time.|
|It is easy to imagine the complete dwelling with such well preserved exterior walls.|
|Some of the settling is more pronounced and quite photogenic.|
|Some of the stones were massive and made us wonder how did they do it.|
|The complex is terraced and exceptionally steep.|
|A representation of a nearby peak used for prayer rituals.|
|The natural flow blended in so nicely with the site.|
|Scenic views of the valley from atop the mountain.|
|Zoe hiked with me up a very steep and precarious trail where we had to use a rope to climb the final portion of Huchuy Picchu.|
|The view was worth the hike and I was impressed that she went all the way to the top without complaint.|
|Yes the cliff is that steep and yes there are no guard rails.|
|Restored roofing makes it easy for the mind to wander while admiring the buildings.|
|Hard to believe we finally made it here after all the years of postponing the journey.|
|Zoe really enjoyed the expansive views.|
|I cannot get over the size and precision of the stones used at the Inca sites.|
|Steps carved right into the mountain side.|
|Grand and commanding temple.|
|The long line from atop the mountain to catch the buses back down to town.|
|A mild stimulant to help at the higher elevations.|
|The water distribution system still works after all these years.|
|Sacred rock is still used by some worshipers today.|