The City in the Clouds
As luck would have it, the Spaniards never discovered Machu Picchu. To be honest, I'm not surprised after the arduous hike up the mountains - that nearly killed me off! The allure of this city comes from its inextricable link with mystery, despite its current tourist infestation. Once upon a time, it is thought to have been a university; the perfect place for youths to mature and develop into future rulers or 'inkas'. Just how they managed to bring gigantic rocks up the mountains to create a city in the skies, is still unknown. The secret would still be hidden in the hearts of the locals - if it wasn't for a 10 year old boy leading a Yale graduate right into the heart of the ruins. That's right, in exchange for just 1 sol (about 20p) Pablito led American scholar Hiram Bingham to one of the modern wonders of the world.
Nowadays, the entrance fee is more like 150 soles (€50), and people all over the world make their pilgrimage to this sacred place. The majesty of the mountains, the sheer height of the city and the intricate architecture of Machu Picchu make it a sight to behold. I had waited years and walked for days to get to this place, the city amongst the clouds. The locals managed to keep the secret until 1911, after which the place was excavated - thanks to the funding and publicity of National Geographic and Yale University.
One of the most astounding thing I found about my trip to Machu Picchu was the undeniable intelligence of the Incan people. The intricate design of the citadel really takes your breath away, when you think that they never had access to any of the moden gadgets that are used nowadays. The whole city has been preserved against earthquakes as the walls are at a slight angle, sort of like the base of a triangle for extra stability. This means that despite being built on an earthquake fault line, the infrastructure is so secure, that Machu Picchu will stand tall despite the challenges that present themselves. The attention to detail goes as far as to eliminate the need for mortar between the bricks in the already anti-seismic walls, as they fit together perfectly. Especially in the walls of the most important temples, the skill that must have been involved in this is spectacular. What´s more, underneath the city there are a series of aqueduct channels that ensure the water from the source at the top of the mountain reaches all of the people living in the city, via a series of water 'fountains'.
Safe to say, the whole city left me spellbound, like many others before me. The impossibility of constructing a city so high up in the mountains only makes the accomplishment even greater. The ruins blend in with the stunning scenery that surrounds it, the stone walls blossoming in the fertile valleys of the Andes. The more I learn about the Incas, the more they incaptivate me. They knew about the stars, the timing of the seasons, architecture but they never wrote a single word down. Killed off by the Spaniards, their story has been cut short and so we must continue to follow into their footsteps to find out more about this incredible civilization. A new archaeological site called Choquequirau has recently been found that is thought to be four times the size of Machu Picchu. Some day I must come back and walk the trail towards this other city, lost in the mists of time.