A Tough Climb For A Bird’s Eye View Of Machu Picchu
Machu Picchu, being one of the New 7 Wonders Of The World, is simply said breathtaking. We discovered that this is not only because of its beautiful location, its interesting history or the site itself. There’s more to it.
Before entering the site you start wondering if it will really be that fantastic as everyone says. After all, arriving in the little village Aguas Calientes at the foot of the mountain it feels as if you arrived in some kind of tourist resort. With a growing number of people visiting Machu Picchu – an estimated one million in 2011 – this will not come as a big surprise. The whole village – with a population of approximately 1,600 inhabitants – thrives on the tourism industry for the young and the old with corresponding services and prices.
The benefit of this is that you can make it as luxurious and comfortable as you like as long as you are willing to spend the money. Hotel rooms of 800 dollars are not uncommon and regular buses will be happy to transport you up and down to the Machu Picchu entrance.
When watching your wallet as a long-term traveller, the downside of such a touristy place is that you will either have to spend an amount you would normally spend in three to five days or have to make some concessions. Luckily there are some cheaper options for the so-called ‘budget-traveller’ as we were advised by the friendly Peruvian Tourism Board iPeru in Cusco. These would include some extra exercise though…
And thus, instead of joining a tour from Cusco, we travelled by bus, minivan and taxi from Cusco via Santa Maria and Santa Teresa to a hydroelectric station at the very bottom of Machu Picchu mountain. From there a two-hour walk over train tracks – still in use – brought us to Aguas Calientes.
It was a nice preparation for next day’s hike up to Machu Picchu mountain. This tough two-hour climb up the steep mountain was a good way to escape the large tourist groups wandering around the Machu Picchu ruins and literally left us breathless. Finally having arrived at the top of the mountain we were, however, rewarded with some impressive views over the ruins and the mountain range surrounding the site.
Having seen this view it became somewhat better understandable why it was only in 1911 that the site was discovered. At the time completely covered with vegetation and only inhabited by two peasant families who cultivated the farming terraces around, it has left its discoverers and many others in the dark about its original inhabitants, the Incas and their sudden disappearance.
Even the Spaniards who invaded the region in the 16th century did not seem to have come across Machu Picchu, which was presumably functioning as a sacred place for the Incas since mid 15th century.
By now many theories have been developed about what seemed to be an abrupt vanishing of the Incas. None has ever been proven to be true.