The wondrous subject of histories, mythologies and fantasies. The iconic Incan jungle citadel that was e’er sought after by the Conquistadors and greatly mis-characterised by the U.S.-American contingent that re-discovered it during the early 1900’s. This place is often the main reason for many people to visit Peru and certainly, that was quite evident upon our arrival, but more about that later.
There are all manner of ways to reach Machu Picchu these days, by automobile, rail, or by foot. We opted for an unrelated trek that took us away from the crowds into relatively remote areas of the Andes and afforded us an appended day trip to Machu Picchu upon the trek’s conclusion.
We arrived on the Peru Rail train taken from Ollantaytambo, where we had visited previously. It’s route, at times, progressed in parallel to the well-trodden Inca Trail. The train stops at Aguas Calientes where, should you ever go, I recommend you stay for as little time as possible. This whole accessory period is over-priced and over-hyped, in both directions.
A bus takes you from the lower town up to the citadel and there are several which run quite regularly – so that’s a good thing I guess. Anyhow, the views on the way up are just amazing. The city is itself in the mountains, far removed from the Sacred Valley where you might start your journey, and on a number of occasions we were able to watch the weather change and the systems blow in and pass over.
Once off the bus and through the entrance the anticipation is perpetuated by the need to walk up some foliage-lined Incan paths that eventually lead you into the complex. After the entrance, this point is the next bottleneck.
Here the different groups congregate with their respective guides, dotted around every few metres making thoroughfare of an intact group all the more taxing. And there are always plenty of those free-floating chancers who inevitably try to capitalise on the knowledge of another group’s guide. We would regularly stash ourselves out of the way of the hordes and generally kept away from the honeytrap photo opportunities however, there were times and areas where the flow was slowed to a single file by the organised staff.
At these bottlenecks we were passively made aware of the extensive damage caused by the exponentially incremental footfall of successive generations of visitors. The government has introduced restrictions and permits to help reverse this damage but we shall see how much this tactic will work in time.
It’s sad, the crowds and the commercialisation of it all became the defining features of our visit to Machu Picchu though despite this, there were also some small islands of wonder still evident in the surrounding landscape and the architecture. Hopefully some of these images might portray that.