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“101 years of the ‘rediscovery’ of Machu Pichhu in Peru” by K.J.S.Chatrath

It had been a long simmering desire of mine to visit Peru in South America. What fuelled the fascination further were the lovely accounts of the ‘Lost’ city of Machu Pichu – nestled high up in the Andean mountains. In Inca language, ‘Machu Pichhu’ means ‘the old mountain’. The pictures that I saw showed the amazing ruins of an almost mythical city on top of the mountains, mostly covered with clouds.

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Thats me striking  the classic tourist pose at the Citadel of Machhu Pichhu

So last year I decided to make the trip before the age got the better of me. I joined a Group of 14 people and the trip took off from London. On reaching Lima, the capital of Peru, we were welcomed by a wonderful Peruvian young lady who was our Tour Director. The Group comprised of people of different ages and of various nationalities- French, German, British, Croatian, American of Chinese origin and Indian. A charming young Peruvian lady with an Indian sounding name – Nila, was the Tour Director.  We left Lima to visit various places in Peru. Visit to Machu Pichu was slated towards the end of the itinerary. We reached the small town of Machu Pichu in the morning from Cusco by travelling about 80 kms in the shining blue coaches of Peru Rail. Let me share a photo of the first sight of Machu Pichhu Pueblo that really charmed me as soon as the train came to a halt there- I saw a very colourful restaurant on one side of the platform!

 cafe-machu-pichhu-railway-station

Restaurant at the Machu Picchu Pueblo Railway Station

Aguas Calientes is the colloquial name for Machu Picchu Pueblo, a town in Peru on the Urubamba (Vilcanota) River. Called Macchu Pichhu , it is the closest access point to the sacred Incan city of Machu Picchu (in Quechua: old mountain), which is 6 kilometres (3.7 mi) away, about 1.5 hours walk. It has many hotels and restaurants for tourists, In July 1911, American historian and explorer from the Yale University Hiram Bingham, rediscovered the Inca City of Machu Pichhu. At that time most of the remains were covered by thick jungle and foliage. Prof. Bingham and his team excavated thousands of artefacts from the citadel and took those back to the US for further study. After decades of controversy, Yale University has agreed, two years back, to return these Peruvian treasures.

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A terraced top at Machu Pichhu

Machu Picchu, often termed as the ‘Lost City of the Incas’, is believed to have been built by the Incas around 1450. It is located at an incredible elevation of 7,970ft (2,430m) in the Andes mountains, above the Urubamba Valley. Machu Picchu is said to have been built as an estate for the Inca emperor Pachacuti (1438–1472). It has been built in the traditional Inca style, with polished dry-stone walls. Its three primary buildings are the Intihuatana, the Temple of the Sun, and the Room of the Three Windows. These are located in what the archaeologists term as the Sacred District of Machu Picchu.

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Statue of the Inca Emperor Pachacutec in Machu Picchu Pueblo Town

Since the site was never known to the Spanish during their conquest, it is highly significant as a relatively intact cultural site. Machu Picchu was declared a Peruvian Historical Sanctuary in 1981 and a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983. In 2007, Machu Picchu was voted one of the New Seven Wonders of the World in a worldwide Internet poll. UNESCO took special note of the existence of harmonious Man-Nature relationship in the Machu Pichhu area saying that the people living around Machu Picchu continue a way of life which closely resembles that of their Inca ancestors, being based on potatoes, maize and llamas. Machu Picchu also provides a secure habitat for several endangered species, notably the spectacled bear, one of the most interesting species in the area.

Incidentally Bingham wrote a detailed account of his visit to Machhu Pichhu in his book “Inca Lands: Explorations in the Highlands of Peru” which was published in 1922. For those interested in reading it first hand, it is now available on Project Gutenburg’s site www.gutenberg.org as a free download. This book begins with the following quote from Rudyard Kipling’s “The Explorer”: “Something hidden. Go and find it. Go and look behind the Ranges–Something lost behind the Ranges. Lost and waiting for you. Go!” It is a fascinating book worth reading.

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Colourful handicrafts with Inca motifs for sale in Machu Pichhu town

The architecture of Machu Picchu is truly remarkable. While building Machu Picchu the Incas chiselled and shaped the stones of the buildings to such a precision that it is difficult to push even a paper between the stones. The amazing aspect is that the stones were kept in place, not by using mortar or lime, but by sheer exactitude of the craftsmanship. The homes shaped like pentagonal prisms, were surprisingly built with no roofs. The only buildings with roofs were the homes that were on the outside of Machu Picchu, they were very small huts, and the Sapa Inca’s temples. Of course some of the buildings were also built in rectangular prism shapes. The doors of most of the buildings were trapezoid shaped. Amazing architectural designs Photo by K.J.S.Chatrath In the 1530’s the Pizzaro and the Spaniards arrived in South America. The Spanish were looking for gold and riches to take back to Spain. Years after the death of the Inca Chief Pachacuti’s, the Inca civilization perished. One of the interesting sidelines of the Spanish conquest of Peru is that they never reached Machu Picchu. This is one of the major reasons of why Machhu Pichhu just stood there for centuries- waiting to be rediscovered in July 1911-  hundred years back.

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An unusual view of the citadel

This design made the Inca structures highly resistant to earthquakes and it is one of the reasons Machu Picchu is still standing today. Before ending let us come to India’s recent ‘Machu Pichhu Connection’. India’s most expensive film production Endhiran (Robot), said to have been produced at a cost of around Rs.190 crores, has a five-minute song and dance sequence shot in Machu Picchu. This movie stars the iconic South Indian star Rajinikanth and Aishwayra Rai, who sing and dance in exotic locations throughout the world. The shooting of the film at Machhu Pichhu was done for 12 days. The Peruvians were pleasantly surprised as this was the first commercial film shot there and till then only teams from the national Geographic and the like had done shootings.

What impressed me in travels in Peru and especially in Machu Pichhu area, was the superlative level of cleanliness being maintained. How one wishes we too could improve our levels of cleanliness.

Thus ended my visit to Machu Pichhu n Peru in the 101st year of its ‘rediscovery’.

Special suggestions for 50+ Travellers:

Fifty+ travellers may note that this is not an easy trip. While the climbing up and down in the Machu Pichhu Citadel is not very tough, the air journey to Lima is long and tiring. Depending on where from in India you take the flight for Lima, the flying time is around 24 hours. Yes that is the actual flying time. One needs to add the waiting time at airports for change of flights as one would have to change atleast two flights- that could be between 10-15 hours.

My suggestion would be to break the journey enroute for one to two days, both while going as well as while coming back. Besides, on reaching Lima, please do keep one day without any programmme for rest and getting over the jet-lag.

(While I am not recommending any travel agency/guide, if some one is interested I would be happy to share the email id of the travel ageny which I used and the email id of the Tour Director. )

Text and photograph by K.J.S.Chatrath

( This website does not sell any hotel rooms/air tickets/packages/insurance cover etc.  It is intended only for providing information to the Fifty+/younger travellers and sharing of travel experiences.)

May I invite you to visit my other website: www.europeangravesinindia.com

2 Responses to ““101 years of the ‘rediscovery’ of Machu Pichhu in Peru” by K.J.S.Chatrath”

  1. Nila says:

    Hi Chat,
    I feel very proud reading your lines about your trip in Perú; Machu Picchu and the balconies of Lima & Cusco, excellent reports. And thank you veru much for mentioned me,it is a honor, really preciate it. i think , i will add that part to my web site comments (i’m designing one these days: http://www.perulimaguides.com) keep sending me your trips report, i enjoy reading them…. kind regards, Nila

  2. chat says:

    Nila, I am so happy you liked the articles on Peru…I would be adding more photo stories of the Peru trip a little later…I have gone through your website.It looks just great. My compliments. Please feel free to quote from my article..

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