13:09.23S 72:32.34W The face of Machu Picchu
Tue 10 May 2016 06:02
We had descended from 8,900 feet at the Sun Gate to the Sacred Plaza at 7400 feet. The gate is in the cloud forest (literally), the forehead and MP is at the eyebrow, the top of the rain forest. The weather was typical of the end of the wet season, November to March and Roger promised that the fog would gradually clear.
The site and the resident llamas are government owned, I remembered as three daintily tiptoed past me on the trail. Rob, Dave, Karen and I watched as I grazed it's way along a grassy terrace and stood poised and thinking before nimbly leaping across the steps to the terrace opposite. The Incas had used these terraces for their genetic engineering experiments on crops, which is why today the Sacred Valley maize is bigger, paler and juicier than any other in the world.
The city dwellers, including the royal Inca and his family, pooed on the terraces as human waste was recognised as good fertiliser, while they peed in discrete little cells near their living rooms.
Sun Virgins lived in a group of fine houses across the plaza from the royal suites and their job was housekeeping, ensuring the royals were comfortable in every way. Above their residencies was the university where respected elders taught the younger generation about their culture, religion and history.
Numerous finely chiselled temples paid faithful respect to the Sun, Water, Mountains (their protectors and providers) and the Condor since it carried their souls to the Sun. The latter was partly natural with two sand and grey striped wings uplifted at the tips and a head and beak carved in pale stone and lying on the ground.
When the winter solstice foretold shorter days the Inc as guaranteed the days would eventually grow long once more by sacrificing a llama, but at the summer solstice llamas were spared.
Roger's tour was animated and passionate, we were so lucky to be drawn into his genuine interest and faith in his heritage. We stood by a carefully managed sacred garden full with fragrant medicinal and exotic plants and we're faced with a choice. We could climb up to the classic viewing spot and have our photo taken with that backdrop you all know, waiting in a long line of folk on a narrow path or we could have another 'ramble round the ruins', or we could go for a beer.
The beautifully manicured site was beginning to lose its majestic and sacred appeal with the influx of coach loads of visitors armed with cameras and umbrellas and speaking in loud accents so we migrated to the bus stops for a rapid 25 minute ride down the zig zag road to the village with Roger, who led us to the Apu Salkantay restaurant with a vast table with comfy settee seats he had booked for our final lunch.
The railway took up most of the narrow street, every now and then women would hastily retrieve their wares from between the rails to let a train trudge slowly past before re-instating their stall on the track. The restaurant had no windows, so it was possible to almost touch the roof of the train from our room on the first floor.
We slowly supped our beer and chatted to Dave, Karen and Roger and learned through the restaurant Internet on Rob's phone that Zoonie and the other yachts were unscathed for the time being at least. We had befriended German Reta just before she and her husband left their yacht to explore the jungle a week before us. But then Rob''s phone also told us the area was experiencing after shocks of around 3.1 magnitude every day.
We said our fond farewells to our group before boarding our lovely observation carriage on the train for a beautiful ride back alongside the rushing Urabamba, surrounded by mountains in all their sun lit and snow-capped glory and fields being hard este and ploughed with oxen and manpower.
Back in the same room in our hotel in Cusco we had used before the trek we found the beds had been turned back ready for us, hmm so homely.