It’s about 1 am as I write this post on yesterday’s start of three days’ exploration of Machu Picchu. It was a very long day and the next day’s adventures begin in a few hours, but I can’t sleep so I’m using this time to catch up on writing.
After a sleepless night, I woke early yesterday morning, caught a taxi to Calle Pavitos, and hopped in a shared taxi for 15 soles ($1.50 USD) for the nearly two hour drive to Ollantaytambo where I caught a train for the 2 hour decent into the high jungle to Aguas Calientes. Whew!
Once I arrived in Aguas Calientes, the small tourist town near the base of Machu Picchu where all trips to the mountain begin and end, I immediately headed to the ticket office where I bought bus tickets for the round trip up and down the mountain for 19 soles (about $5.62). Again, being a resident helps as foreigners have to to pay $24.
I then checked into the Hospedaje Kcuychi and visited a bit with my friend John and Yamilet before hopping on a bus for the 25-minute ride up the side of the mountain to Machu Picchu.
To be honest, I almost didn’t go as it was just starting to rain when I stepped out of the hospedaje, but I decided I might as well since I had already purchased tickets. Even if it got bad, I could always come back down and I wouldn’t be out a lot of money.
I am so glad I made the decision to go!
I planned to spend a lot of time photographing lesser known and even little known places among the ruins as well as doing some research to check out some of the design features of the site. The very light rain continued when I arrived and kept me from pulling out my camera for awhile.
The Myth of “Ancient Megalithic” Construction
As I descended into the ruins through the main entrance that Incas used, I made note of the differences in construction on the outer walls.
Most people never take a good look at the site from outside. They are too busy getting their required selfies from the terraces above to really notice the details of Inca construction.
There is one person in Cusco who actively promotes the idea that Machu Picchu and most of the major Inca sites were not actually built by the Incas, but were built by ancient unknown cultures because Incas didn’t have the technology to construct the incredible stonework that still exists.
The truth is that he is either willfully ignorant or a liar. Or both.
His “evidence” is that there are two types of construction. Lower sections of most walls are often examples of the famous construction involving tightly fitted, massive stones. The upper sections are often much more loosely constructed walls with obvious gaps filled with dirt. According to him, this is obvious proof that there were two periods of construction.
While that last point is, indeed true, what he neglects to mention is that there are these little pieces of evidence called photographs and film that show the appearance of Machu Picchu in the early 20th century. Reconstruction of much, if not most, of Machu Picchu as it appears today began in the 1940s and is represented by completed upper sections of most buildings.
For some reason he never mention these points during his outrageously expensive tours which he arranges for uneducated tourists who prefer a good story — no mater how made up it is — over easily verified truth.
The “Compass Stone”
One of my favorite things to do while taking photos and scouring the surrounding mountains for signs of other Inca constructions is listen in as the many guides talk about the many features of Machu Picchu.
It always amazes me how much pure BS they present to gullible, wide-eyed tourists who don’t know any better. These tourists then go home and share this ridiculous mythology across the internet for others to read without for a moment considering if it might even be true.
Usually it’s not.
One particular spot where all the guides tell the same old false information is a small rectangular stone sticking up from the ground that I call the “compass stone”.
Guides like to say the the four corners point to the four cardinal directions of north, eat, south, and west. They even like to put their cell phones on top with a compass app to show that the highest corner points due north.
Of course, this is a manipulation and they actually do not point their phone in the correct direction to get it to show north. In actuality, it is off by about 7 degrees — a considerable amount that is something Inca engineers simply would be off by mistake.
They also like to point out that the four cardinal direction point to surrounding mountains, which is, of course, obviously incorrect to anyone who has a compass — something tourists obviously do not have.
It is worth noting that Machu Picchu does have specific alignments with notable geographic features that held major religious significance to the Incas.
Due north is the peak of Huayna Picchu — a major ceremonial site and likely considered a “protector” of the main Machu Picchu site.
Due west is the peak of Pumasillo. Due south is Salkantay — one of the two main peaks worshipped even into modern times. Due east is the other major peak of Veronica which is the large snow covered mountain visible from the train on the right side when leaving the station at Ollantaytambo.
They also like to say that the stone forms a shadow that looks like a llama on the winter solstice morning of June 21. Hmmm… look at the photo above taken on June 21 and see of you can see a llama in that photo.
What the shadow does do is point directly at the sister ruins of Llactapata to the southwest along the solstice line. At Llactapata there are sites which reportedly align directly back to Machu Picchu on the winter solstice, though I haven’t been there to confirm this.
The Big Arrow Stone
On the east side of Machu Picchu, just passed the entrance to Huayna Picchu and the Sacred Rock is another big stone that almost every tourists passes as they move on to the next section of the site.
It’s a huge, raised stone that appears insignificant…until you climb on top. Then you notice that is actually a giant arrow pointing exactly to the east at 90 degrees towards the distant mountain of Veronica — on the Incas major sacred peaks that is still respected and worshiped today.
The “Temple of the Sun” or “El Torreon”
Perhaps the most important site is what’s known as the Temple of the Sun which lies next to the compound consider the personal quarters of the Sapa Inca emperor himself.
It is in this Temple that, on the morning of the winter solstice each year, the light from the sun appears over the distant mountains and immediately shines through the east window where it is bisected by a carved stone in the center of the Temple.
(This is a really spectacular event that should not be passed up if you have the chance to be there on June 21 on a clear morning.)
It’s nearly 3 am as I try to finish this report of yesterday’s visit to Machu Picchu. I still have to sleep a few hours before getting up at 5:30 to head back up to the ruins for a much anticipated return to Huayna Picchu after nearly 11 years!
I’ll leave you with a cool photo I took of a viscacha which is part of the chinchilla family and looks like a big rabbit, though it is has no relation to that species. These are actually found all over Machu Picchu, but blend in so well that many tourists never see them.
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