Mysterious and visually stunning, seeing the well-preserved Inca city of Machu Picchu is a voyage of a lifetime for team OneTimeFashionista. Considered one of the Seven Wonders of the World, Machu Picchu is unfathomable in its beauty.
It is important for you to be physically immersed into the environment with the majestic Machu Picchu in front of you. This is important because while the pious make pilgrimage to various shrines to applaud their Creator, for not-so-pious lovers of humanity the similar spiritual enlightenment can be obtained by spending an entire day at this world wonder to absorb what mortal human beings had done, how profound their attempts were to conquer nature or how sincere there rituals were to bow down before it incase they could not evade defeat.
Machu Picchu is considered an ‘enigmatic city’ to this day. It is located in the mountain range called Vilcabamba at about 2400 meters above the sea level. The Spanish could not find this place during their conquest of Peru. The site remained hidden from the outside world for quite a long time until American archeologist and historian Hiran Bingham began to explore it in 1911. Since its rediscovery and initial excavation, Machu Picchu has entranced and baffled in equal measure. The ‘lost city of Incas’ is steeped in myth and legend and this extend to the feature of the site and their potential purposes. A masterpiece of architectural and landscape art, the steep traces, temples, water channels, and steep staircases seem to be hewn from rock, echoing the surrounding mountains and framing the celebrating features in the landscape. It is indeed a culmination of once in a life time pilgrimage.
Legends say, it is impossible to click a bad photo in Machu Picchu, but after visiting the place we found that even the best camera could not capture the magnificent panorama that fuses manmade and natural beauty of ‘the lost City of Incas’.
A day after celebrating Tanusree’s birthday in September last year in Argentine capital Buenos Aires, we headed out to one of the most mysterious South American countries- Peru. After spending a couple of days in the capital Lima, we had finally reached to one of the places we wished to see before we die- Machu Picchu!
Firstly some useful tips to get you going:
• First of all, buy your entry tickets online from the Government of Peru’s website for Machu Picchu. There are daily limits and once the quota is filled up, they don’t allow entry. You also have to carry your passport on day of entry. So plan and book in advance.
• You better fly from Lima to Cusco. You could drive, but only if you have plenty of time in hand. Flight recommended.
• You could use Cusco as your base. You have to go to Ollantaytambo from Cusco to catch the train to Agua Calientes – the host city to Machu Picchu. If you are travelling in a group, we suggest you hire a cab from Cusco to Ollantaytambo.
• There are only two train companies that will ferry you to Agua Calientes- Peru Rail and Inca Rail. Reserve online in advance. We had our reservation with Inca Rail.
• You should stay over night at Agua Calientes to catch the early morning buses that will take you to Machu Picchu.
• The buses start form 6.30am from Agua Calientes and are located just next to the main train station. Do queue up early if you are adventurous enough to catch a glimpse of the Sun rising. The last bus from Machu Picchu departs at 5pm, so make sure you catch that to get back to Agua Calientes. There is no other way to return to Agua Calientes unless you are fit enough to hike down.
• While getting out of Machu Picchu, don’t forget to stamp your passport with the seal of the World Wonder, its worth the souvenir. We certainly did!
The bubbles of anticipation will get stronger when you will get into the cab from Cusco to Ollantaytambo. The serpentine roads that will take you a step closer to the heart of the Inca land will keep unfolding shades of its mysteries with every turn. The unscathed mountain peaks, the habitants of the mountains with their herds, the fresh air and the chill in it – a perfect setting to a mystery you are driving towards. Ollantaytambo itself is a must visit small town of the Sacred Valley rich with its own history and charm. The train journey itself was an eye opening experience literally, as it had see-through roofs and big windows. Meals were provided with excellent service. A train full of travellers from all around the world, with one destination and anticipation. No less than a full -fledged pilgrimage party – this time to celebrate the human endeavour over God’s might. The more the train made its way through the valleys, the more the high peaks kept welcoming us to the unknown, to the remote mystery which had been carefully guarded as far as possible from the daily bustles. The arrival at Agua Calientes pretty much confirmed the fact that we were only a short bus ride away from the most well kept Inca secret. Agua Calientes is the tiny little guardian township as the proud stop over to its darling Machu Picchu. River Urubamba flows through the heart of the tiny town, closely knit markets and hotels, all perfect for the perfect discovery.
Following day we joined the bus queue in the misty morning. Unlike many other locations, these buses ran very frequently. You take your seats and say to yourself that this is it – the final journey you have to make up the mountains to reach the magic destination. While the bus made its ascent, you could hardly see at a distance though, because of heavy fog. You may be left wondering is the Machu Picchu not an early riser like you? Or were the Incas partying hard last night that the sun overslept? When we finally arrived at the main entrance, it was still foggy and sleepy. We joined the queues, got our papers checked and entered the premises. We could hardly see what was around us as the visibility was hardly 50 meters may be. We warded off any thoughts of a bad weather day. We stood near an edge and stared at a heavy grey reassuring ourselves to have faith. And rightfully so, mother nature took its time to wake up and freshen up to welcome another bunch of awestruck travellers on another new day. As the new days progressed, the ray of the Inca sun cleared the fog to unveil in front of us the best kept secret of the Sacred Valley. You then realise that if it were like any other venue where there were no obstacles, you would not have experienced the agonising wait to see what you have come to see travelling thousands of miles. When its revealed in bits, it is enjoyed in bursts – may be like when lovers do?
When the fog finally cleared we returned to the edge where we stood earlier just to realise that only because we could not see it did not mean that it didn’t exist. It not only existed behind the dense fog but it existed with such a magnitude and personality that it will belittle any earthly feelings and adjectives. With the gorgeously tall Wayna Pichu mountain as the backdrop, there were the beautiful ruins of the Inca town in front of us. We started our climb and walks and wandering around the site to unravel the mystery ourselves. There were some shutter happy resident llamas gently grazing around adding to the context of the atmosphere. Once we were done with nearly exhausting the battery life of our camera, we settled down to simply sit and contemplate at Machu Picchu. What a wonder, what a secret, what travails to get to here – all just worth it. You wonder how exactly Incas managed to keep this secret away from the invaders. While you leave the premises later in the day, you suddenly enlighten yourself, as you know fully by then that you have to believe to some extent, in magical miracles of the Sacred Valley. Nature protects those who nurture nature in return and the cycle of gift and giving continues – ages after ages.