Dec 21 st , 2014, 06:00 hours, we boarded the flight to Cuzco from Lima to start our Inca trail. We watched the spectacular sunrise as we flew over the Andes. Yellow, orange sun rays peeking through scattered clouds glistened on the snow clad peaks.As a child I had read “Prisoners of the Sun”, a sequel to the “Seven Crystal Balls” where Tintin and Captain Haddock traveled to Peru to rescue Professor Calculus.
The mystery of the hidden Inca habitat and the way tales about its existence reached the civilized world in rumours and whispers had kept me glued to the book.The pilot announced we were landing in twenty minutes. I drifted back into the present.We landed in Cuzco ready to follow in the footsteps of the Incas.
Upon landing we drove down to the hotel for a short briefing on the trip and then headed to the mountains driving through the old city of Cuzco, the capital of the great Inca Empire
We drove past the famous Plaza de Armas. It was the square of the warriors one that had seen many a bloodshed. The panoramic view of the plaza with the cathedral to the left and the Jesuit church to the right, the wooden balconies and the arcades under the crisp morning sun made us a part of history.
The square had witnessed executions, bullfights and processions including Corpus Christi and Lord of Earthquakes. Over the next one and half hours we drove past the majestic ruins, enjoying the striking views of Peruvian mountains and local villages before finally reaching the quaint Ollantayambo railway station.
The village of Ollantayambo is located in the valley of a tributary of the Urubamba river. It remains the best preserved testimony to the Inca urban planning. Walking down to the railway station we found ourselves amidst a riot of colours. Lined along both sides of the street, the vendors gathered proudly to display their wares and artifacts.
The railway station was perched on a small exposed platform facing the picturesque mountains.
The Vistadome train arrived at 10:00 AM. We took our seats on the gorgeous train. The train with its panoramic glass windows makes you a part of the breathtaking nature around. The forty-three- mile journey from Ollantaytambo to Machu Picchu through the sacred valley took us an hour and thirty minutes.
We delighted in the amazing views of the sacred valley as we traveled to Machu Picchu. The train followed the Urubamba River as it looped around the Machu Picchu trail. We arrived at Machu Picchu station at noon. Shortly after, our guide met us at the station with packed lunches. The weather was perfect for hiking and after having a light lunch we were on our way to the roof of the Andes. After an hour along the legendary Inca trail, we arrived at the clouded forest citadel of Machu Picchu, located at an altitude of 2453mts. There were plenty of memorable moments along the hike, but nothing compared to the moment we caught our first glimpse of the forgotten city of Machu Picchu. It was not just an accomplishment; it was a transforming moment.
We walked past the terraced cultivation sites and simple stone houses with their elaborate water drainage system, located on the southern side of the citadel. We stopped at the watch tower, crowning the agricultural sector of the complex. At last Machu Picchu seemed close enough.
We posed to capture the jaw dropping backdrop.
After climbing a few more stone stairs, we walked into a beautiful trapezoidal door which was entrance to the urban sector dotted with scattered rows of buildings with windows opening to the Urubamba River.
Nusta Palace, Royal tomb, King’s quarter, Sun temple were some of the main attraction in this sector.The stonework at Machu Picchu is its crowning glory a marvel in civil engineering. Incas were famous for the jigsaw puzzle masonry.
How the Incas in 1400s, with no iron tools, draft animals or wheeled vehicles, carved and transported these stones is still a mystery. After crossing the courtyard of the king’s quarter, we proceeded towards the Intihuatana pyramid. This was a sundial, which indicated the position of the summer and winter solstice to the farmers to ensure plentiful harvest.
Sreeja,our daughter shrieked with delight. She had spotted some Llamas at the other end of the main square. It reminded her of the Llama spitting on Captain Haddock’s face in the Tintin adventure book. Arnab by this time was bitten all over by the mysterious invisible flies. He was wearing shorts and had red pin dots all over his legs and his plight reminded us of Captain Haddock’s encounter with the forest bugs. Whilst Sreeja was thrilled patting the Llamas, we sat down under a shade munching a quinoa bar and gazing at the sea of tourists. American retirees in matching T-shirts, Spaniards in jacket and hats,Japanese tourist walking silently in a single file, carrying their Prada bags, German trekkers, and young couples looking around in sheer amazement. Over the next hour, we made the long walk out of the complex to the lookout point.
When I stood atop Mount Machu Picchu and saw how the site blended with the nature around , I was mesmerized.
Planning of the Machu Picchu, included the construction of a royal city that could withstand Andean rainstorms and ravaging landslides that are notorious for wiping out train lines and villages. It was indeed an architectural wonder.
Soon it was time for us to return, exhausted and bug bitten.
To be amongst travellers, who have waited for years to see the Machu Picchu and journeyed from around the world, made the mundane task of queuing for the bus seem almost alluring. Machu Picchu, indeed a Shangri la
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Written byDebjani Mukherjee
A successful Management Professional with a Swiss Multinational – Panalpina Inc for over 19 years with varied experiences covering India , Central Asia , Middle East , West Africa and North America . She specializes in large project supply chain deliverables for oil and gas and energy segments. Married, mother of a 10 year old daughter and lives in Ontario Canada. She loves nature, enjoys adventure trips and expeditions, playing golf ,reading books and writing on her blog debzizhere.blogspot.com