South America 2015, Part 5.

Get ready y’all cuz we goin’ to MACHU PICCHU today!

But first, other stuff! Sorry about that.

We went to a family home for lunch one day. To get there we got to ride in a modified motorcycle. I thought it would be bumpy or scary but it was quite pleasant. I want one now to tool around in.

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The homeowners cook local cuisine using things grown in their garden. Like herbs (look at all that dill):


And tree tomatoes which I did not know existed. They are very sweet so they are treated like a typical fruit – juices, jams, dessert, etc.


You know what else is grown in the garden? Guinea pigs. Edible guinea pigs. Yep.


I ate some guinea pig.


Good news – it does not taste like chicken as apparently everything else in the world does. Bad news – it does not taste delicious in any way. It is very bony so one has to dig all around or end up with displeasing crunchiness. And the flavor is most like a boiled turkey leg. I don’t regret eating it but it was bleh. Meat isn’t consumed as much as it is here. You know the lupin flower? It’s a really pretty decorative plant, go look it up. Well, they have little beans that the Peruvians gather and then boil. But these are no ordinary beans, no no. They are chock-full of protein so, along with the protein-packed grass seed quinoa, one could have a meat-free existence and get all the protein required.


For dessert we had tree tomatoes cooked in syrup.


Then… the next day… Machu Picchu.

We got to ride on a fancy oldy-timey train with skylights (instantly awesome b/c skylights). It took us to the base of the apu (mountain) that Machu Picchu is perched on. You could get hot tea with spices in them or eclectic fruit juices.

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We passed some Inca ruins on the way up but I was becoming immune to them by then. Seriously, they are all over the countryside.


After we pulled into the train station, the bus trip began. Whatever they are paying those bus drivers, it is not enough. They are amazing. The road is EXACTLY two buses wide, it’s windy and there’s no barrier on the edge. When we arrived outside the gate of Machu Picchu you could see how high we had come in the bus. That aqua-colored roof way down there is the train station.


We were greeted by a series of signs. Machu Picchu, bein’ out of the way and all that, was “Columbused” in 1911 by American explorer and Indiana Jones inspiration Hiram Bingham. To Columbus something is to come across a place that local people have known about for forever, but because you’re white you’ve discovered it and now it matters. Anyway, one of those plaques honors Hiram for finding this place all by himself except for all the help he got from local farmers. And then Hiram unearthed and exported somewhere between 4,000 and 40,000 artifacts but by all means let’s honor him and give him all this credit. Good stuff. Great guy.


And then, the stairs. STAIRS. Staaaaaaiiiiiirrrrrrrs.

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But it was totally worth it. Absolutely breathtaking. Oh my goodness.


Here’s a fun fact: Machu Picchu (meaning “Old Peak”) isn’t the name of the town we’re looking at there. It’s the name of one of the two mountains the village is nestled betwixt. In all the famous pictures, the mountain on the right side is the other mountain, Wayna Picchu (“young peak”). There’s some storehouses on the tippy-top of Wayna Picchu. When Cricket went to Peru a few years back he climbed Wayna Picchu. I do not know how. I get tired looking at it.


Pictures of the actual Machu Picchu. The Cusco flag is on top.

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If you look out from the village, you are surrounded by many beautiful steep green mountains. It fills your eye.


The archaeologists decided to put thatch on the roof of one of the houses to show what it might have looked like but left the rest bare.

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Something I may not have mentioned is that the Inca and pre-Inca cultures did not have a written language so archaeologists have to do a lot of guessing. “We think they may have used this for…”  But the Incan people tended to follow the same kind of structure, so at least the people studying this site know which are the important and unimportant buildings based on the quality of stone, same as Ollantaytambo.


Another interesting fact: The Inca didn’t use slaves to build pretty much anything. Instead of collecting taxes, people would go to one of these sites for three months and work on them, being that these storehouses, temples and terraces were considered part of the greater good. The remaining nine months the citizens were left to their own devices.

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There is one rounded building. No one knows why. It is considered to be a temple devoted to the sun. But once again, that’s just a guess.


There’s a kite-shaped stone in another religious site. This one is easier to figure out. It mimics the exact shape of the Southern Cross, a common constellation. And it points in the exact same direction that the Southern Cross does. In the photo Henry is using the compass in Drea’s phone to show us how spot-on the placement of the stone is.


There are religious sites all over the village. This one was for stargazing. The building had no roof and those two circular pools are for looking at the stars reflected off the water so one would not get a crick in one’s neck.


This is an altar with the Incan cross theme.

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And the people saw a rock split in the middle and decided it looked like a condor’s wings so they made an altar directly below it mimicking the shape of a condor’s head. One could perform sacrifices and the blood would flow down and pool next to the condor’s beak in that bowl area so it was as if you were feeding the gods.


This altar has a amusing story. In the 1970s a film crew came to make a documentary and someone dropped a heavy camera on the altar and that’s why that corner is chipped. So no more film crews are allowed on the mountaintop.


And it is true Machu Picchu is falling down. Part of that is because of all the visitors but a portion of it is the mountain shifting. So the stones are coming apart. The archaeologists intend to prop the buildings up with scaffolding but not rebuild them.

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It was so amazing, both the village and the surrounding landscape. We wandered around for over two hours and I loved it.

Next entry: more Incan ruins. And bread. Really delicious bread.

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