To get to Machu Picchu, you take a 4 hour train ride to the small, but quickly developing town of Aguas Calientes (Hot Waters). It has hot springs nearby, hence the name. It feels a bit like a frontier town. The locals are trying to cater to people from Japan, Germany, Hawai'i, and anywhere else that you can think of. However, in typical South American fashion, everything is the same. There are 30 restaurants in the town all serving the same food, prepared the same way, for the same price. It makes it easy to find something to eat, but is a bit disappointing if you want something different from day to day. There is development going on in the town that you can tell is being done by outsiders. Big fancy hotels to cater to the rich travelers. The "Inca Trail" runs through Aguas Calientes before it's last stop of Machu Picchu. It is a 4 day hike that requires porters. It is a great way for white people to feel like they are indigenous and the poor local people to make some money by doing all of the work for said travelers.
The history is interesting. The Spanish never found the town and nobody knows why it was abandoned. Impressively, the have a water system that still works today. It brings water from a spring to the center of town. People would fill ceramic jugs and take the water back to their houses. Irrigation wasn't needed because it is in a cloud forest. They grew maize and potatoes, but also papayas, tomatoes, and other fruits and vegetables were found there.I found the bus ride up to Machu Picchu just as enjoyable and less sweaty than walking. I cannot do the area justice. It is amazing. We saw falcons, Andean Condors (thought to represent spirituality), lizards, and of course llamas.
The most impressive things I discovered about the Incas was the shape of their cities. Some were designed in the shape of a puma, llama, or in the case of Machu Picchu, the Andean Condor. There was also the "hitching post of the sun" where it was thought that the sun was tied during the day. Of course there are many amazing things at Machu Picchu that are related to the sun and the moon. The reason for all of these things is still unknown, but there are lots of theories.
The mountain behind the town of Machu Picchu is Wayna Picchu. It was about an hour hike, that provided amazing views of the town. There are only 400 people allowed there a day, and by 10am, the quota was filled. We were lucky enough to get to see it.
I have too much to say about this place. It is a must see for anyone in South America. Tomorrow, there is a trip to the Sacred Valley. Then off to Boulder, Colorado.