Sunday, 27 January 2008

Machu Picchu...I presume!

Our hopes for a clear morning for our final canter into Machu Picchu were dashed as the persistent low level rain continued. After a swift breakfast we were corralled into groups to await the opening of the day 4 checkpoint. As the trail opened at 5.30am the groups set off on their forced march to the Sun Gate, our first view point for Machu Picchu. An hour and a half of speed walking got us to the Sun Gate at just before 7am. Unfortunately, the anti-climax was confirmed as low cloud obscured our view of the sanctuary. Even after half an hour of walking to reach the classic view point, the visibility was only 50m at best.

Tired and wet, it was hard to get motivated for a couple of hours of guided walking around the site itself. In addition to the several hundred fellow trekkers, a hoard of day-trippers were awaiting entry as we checked our bags at the left luggage area. Over the following couple of hours the cloud began to break and tantalising views of the remains, finally observable in the context of their surroundings, added drama to the tour. The history of the site is mostly understood through the early archaeological work of Hiram Bingham. However, more recent work has begun to challenge the orthodoxy and points towards the uniqueness of the ‘sacred geography’ of the site. Its unique position in relation to the surrounding peaks and the meandering curves of the Urubamba river, suggest that it was unparalleled in its religious significance to the Inca civilisation. The domestic buildings, terracing and temples are second to none and the sheer drama of the setting is unsurpassed.

Despite the weather, the experience of seeing Machu Picchu at first hand was a real privilege. Being able to put it within the context of the pilgrimage that is the Inca Trail, helped to heighten the adventure. The insight into the Inca civilisation that we had received over the last few days has spurned a deeper interest in finding out more about this enigmatic period of history. Hopefully we will find out more as we head to Titicaca.

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