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Making a Trail

Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.

We woke up bright and early on our second day in Aguas Calientes in order to beat the crowds and to be ready for our full day at Machu Picchu.

When we arrived in the park, a lot of the Alpacas were still sleeping and we had to sneak by some of them to get to the trail we were hiking.
We got to see an awesome sunrise, where the sun rises exactly between a notch in the mountain, and it’s thought that the Incas picked the location of Machu Picchu for its relation to the celestial bodies and the surrounding mountains.
We bought our tickets to Machu Picchu a month ago and I had heard that there were only 400 tickets/day to “climb up Huayna picchu.” So naturally we wanted those tickets. I wasn’t quite sure where Huayna picchu was, but everything I had read mentioned great views of the ruins. The night before our hike, Mike figured out what mountain Huayna picchu was:
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Mike found in his research that they think the ruins on top of the mountain were the residence of the high preists and some virgins. There’s a trail that winds up the side of the mountain, but you can’t see it in most pictures because it’s tiny, narrow, and still sports the original “escaleritas,” which in Spanish translates to either “tiny stairs” or “ladders.”
After much huffing and puffing, crawling through a small tunnel/cave on our hands and knees, and holding on to the escaleritas for dear life, we got to the top!
Don’t worry, mom, we made it down safe and sound. After lunch, we took a tour of the ruins with a local guide. Here is a little info/conjecture of cool things we learned (as most archaeologists are not sure why Machu Picchu was built):

1. Machu Picchu was built from the bottom up with tons of terraces that are still being discovered. The terraces were not “cut out” of the mountain, but built on top of the slope itself. For example, look at the stone walls in my first post. The Incas started at the bottom and worked up the mountain. These steps are filled with large rocks, gravel, sand, and finally topped with dirt. This way, with torrential rains, there is no erosion, as the water filters through the layers of sand and rock to be evenly dispersed below. Through this clever appoarch to handling the region’s torrential rains, we can still see these terraces today.

2. The Incas did not carry the rocks up to Machu Picchu, but used huge rocks found at the top to build most of the upper city. Their stonework did not involve mortar, but fitting the stone surfaces exactly so most of these structures have survived multiple earthquakes. If they came across rocks that were still a part of the mountain, they built around them, or used them as part of the main structure–as they considered the mountain sacred. The Temple of the Sun is a good example(see the foundation):

3. The Inca were versed in astronomy as well. The Inti Watana stone, shown below, is thought to be an astronomic clock or calender, where the sun shines directly above the stone on the winter solstice and casts no shadow. The water mirrors shown below were also used to view the sun without having to look directly at it.

I could go on and on, as I was blown away by this place, but this post would be too long and no one would read it. All I know is that the Inca were a fascinating, intelligent people who left behind one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen.