The day didn’t begin well as Ian joined the growing number of our crew who have come down with the dreaded “South American Belly”. So out with the medical kit and drugs – Imodium, Antibiotics and Panadol to reduce the fever. Fortunately they worked sufficiently well in time for him to join us.
We left our cars in Urubamba where they would be secure, packed an overnight bag and caught the “Visadome” train to Machu Picchu Pueblo previously known as Aguas Calientes before the marketing people got into the act.
Machu Picchu is Peru’s number one tourist destination so we were not surprised to see so many people in town. The Peruvians manage the logistics of moving so many people with amazingly efficiency with buses leaving the station every few minutes to take the narrow winding road up to the citadel.
Machu Pichu is surrounded by a lush forest and perched on a saddle high above the Urubamba river gorge at an altitude of around 2400 meters. It sits between two mountains – Huayna Picchu (young peak) and Machu Picchu (old peak). During our 4 hours there the mist rolled in and out, the sun came and went, and the occasional sprinkle of rain had us reaching for our rain coats. Perfect weather for wandering around this ancient city. Built during the 14th century by the Inca Emperor, it was home to between 600 to 900 people. It is understood that Machu Picchu was never completed and was abandoned during the second half of the 16th century. It was never lost, as commonly thought, and was occasionally visited and inhabited by local farmers. In 1911 Professor Hiram Bingham visited the citadel and was so impressed by its beauty and majesty, that he returned the following year with a multidisciplinary team of professionals who began excavations and research. And so began the world’s fascination with Machu Picchu.
Some of us caught the bus up the mountain again on Friday morning to watch the sunrise, with bus loads of young travellers. Ross decided that our group of five had raised the average to around 40.