February 2, 2012

Machu Picchu

One of the seven wonders of the modern world.  UNESCO World Heritage site.  Best-preserved Inca city in South America.  Probably the most-visited tourist destination on the continent.

There are many ways to describe Machu Picchu (“old peak” in quechua).  For the Inca people, this was a sacred place, somewhere people came to offer gifts to Inti, the sun god, and Pachamama, mother earth.

The remote location kept Machu Picchu a secret for centuries.  In 1911 Yale professor Hiram Bingham “discovered” this archaeological marvel with the help of local farmers.  He returned a year later with a grant from National Geographic and a camera from George Eastman (founder of Eastman Kodak).  The Peruvian government provided labor to clear away the vegetation, revealing  a complex of walls and structures hidden since the Spanish conquest.  And the rest is history.

Today, some 10,000 visitors per day visit this breath-taking place, snapping photos and gazing in awe at what the Incas were able to build on this mountain, perched thousands of feet above the river valley below.

We had the rare privilege of visiting on a sunny day in the middle of the rainy season.  We toured the ancient city with our guide, Oswaldo, then hiked to the top of Huayna Picchu for a picture-perfect view of the ruins and the rain forest that surrounds it.

 

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