We are now doing some sightseeing around Cusco, Peru, which you can read more about in the next post.
Traveling to Machu Picchu
When we last left you we had just arrived in the village of Aguas Calientes. The only way to get to Agua Calientes is by train or by walking. Aguas Calientes is located at the bottom of the mountains and from here you can take a 45-minute bus ride on the switchbacks of the mountain to see Machu Picchu. We had the option of taking the bus back down, or walking down for an hour and a half like the Incas did. Of course we chose to hike down, walking in the footsteps of the Incas. This path is part of the trail of the Incas that starts on the other side of the jungle, close to a small village, and goes up the mountain. If one person were to walk this path from start to finish it would take them four days.
It was a long day getting to our hostel in Agua Calientes because flying from Lima to Cusco, our plane was delayed for 3 hours from the initial departure time, then after about a 2 hour bus ride descending from the mountains of Cusco to the jungles of Aguas Calientes, we almost missed our train—but we all made it safe and sound just in time. There were just a few bumps along the way that day, but we all kept fairly positive attitude... and how could we not when we are in a fascinating country surrounded by such beauty? One student, Mitchell, said that "the landscape here looks like a computer desktop background". We are all so lucky to have the opportunity to be exploring such a beautiful country as Peru. It was all quite the adventures crossing coast, mountains, and jungle all in one day to get to Agua Calientes. What views!!
Seeing Machu Picchu. Is this real life? Incredible!
The morning of Saturday, January 7, we all woke up at 6:00 am to go see Machu Picchu after breakfast. We rode the bus up together and then had time to explore the ruins! Machu Picchu truly is one of the 7 wonders of the world!!! It was constructed between the years 1450 and 1527 by the Incas and the construction was never finished. The Incas abandoned Machu Picchu and burned the bridge connecting the village to the path of the Incas in order to protect Machu Picchu from being destroyed by the Spanish. It was hidden for many years after this. It's believed that a German historian found Machu Picchu in the 1800's, but the credit for its discover goes to the American Historian Hiram Bingham. He discovered the ruins in the year 1912, and contacted National Geographic and the Yale University to fund the excavation. An article was published about the archeological find and soon Machu Picchu was declared one of the seven wonders of the world.
Machu Picchu has archeological evidence suggesting is was used for religious purposes. It is believed that women between the ages of 13 and 18 would live in Machu Picchu as study their religion. Some evidence that helps to make this case is that out of the 135 bodies found in Machu Picchu, 109 of them were women. It is theorized that the Incas were a family of indigenous people from a nearby village who decided to leave their village and create a new home. They created temples and expanded their borders by conquering their neighbors by creating a hegemonic empire. A hegemonic empire is when foreigners (like the Incas) come to a town and leave the control of the town in the hands of the original local rulers, but they create a mode of trading that eventually made the town dependent on the Incas, and thus they are under the power of the Incas. The influence of the Incas grew quickly but it came to a rapid end in the year 1527 when the Spanish Conquistadors came to Peru. Even though the Spanish only had a few hundred soldiers they defeated the Inca. Most historians agree that the downfall of the Incas was mostly attributed to disease that the Spanish Conquistadors brought with them that the Incas could not fight off.
Most everything that is known about the history of the Incas is known through texts from the Spanish Conquistadors. Their texts never mention Machu Picchu, and it is well believed that they never found it. Over the years many different archeologists have traveled to Machu Picchu to study the structures and theorize its functions. They assume that Incas believe in three parts of life: the sky, which is the connection to the Sun God and future life, the earth, in which we live in the present, and the underworld, which is where we are born and enter the world, as well as, the path to the sky after we die. During one era of the construction of Machu Picchu, many temples were built. The Sun temple has windows that match up with the positions of the sun during the solstices and the equinoxes. On mountains further away, the Incas built towers which the sun rises between during the winter and summer solstices. During these times the Incas had special ceremonies. The temple of the underworld is underneath the temple of the sun and there is a small cave carved in. Pregnant women had their babies here because the Incas believed we as humans came from the underworld. The temple of the condor is made in the shape of a condor. The condor is the animal that the Incas believe brings the body of the dead to the sky. Three animals are special to the Incas; the condor, which represents the sky, the puma, which represents the earth, and the serpent, which represents the underworld. All of Peru is so rich with history and it has been such an adventure getting to experience it all.
In the next blog, you will hear about our day traveling to Cusco discovering what the city at the elevation of 11,000 feet has to offer.