By: Will McCall `19
Today, we had the unique opportunity to visit Machu Picchu. We woke up at 5:30 to eat, pack, and walk to the train, which left at 6:40. Oddly enough, we rode the train directly past Piscacucho (our homestay town), and we all got the chance to look at the houses that we had been staying at during the previous days.
This was a weird experience for us. We were accustomed to these same trains waking us up as they drove tourists to Machu Picchu. Being on the other side of the train’s windows allowed us to experience Piscacucho as tourists, and highlighted the contrasts between the perspectives of visitors and locals.
When we arrived at the train station, we made our way through the town to the busses. When we arrived at Machu Picchu, we were stunned at the sheer amount of tourists–approximately seven thousand of them per day!
Despite being crowded, we managed to visit many parts of the city, making our way up and down the uneven stone steps. We were impressed by the location of the city, which sits on top of a mountain, with jungle surrounding it on all sides for miles. More than once, someone expressed shock over how anybody ever built that gigantic city, and why they chose such a difficult location.
We learned that the city had a few engineering tricks up its sleeve, including an elephant sized sundial, a draining system that prevented mudslides in the city, and refrigeration techniques for keeping food fresh. The most amazing feat perhaps was a large rock at the center of the city; this rock naturally amplified sound, making it easy to propagate announcements through the whole city.
We also learned that the city was built in the shape of a condor, an Incan symbol of the mountains. Scientists postulate that Machu Picchu was built on a mountain so that the Incas could be closer to the gods. They made sacrifices to the gods to ensure good harvests.
When we were finished traversing the city, we decided to go on a “short” hike to the Sun Gate, which offered a beautiful view of the whole city. Our guide, Johan, challenged us to beat his record of Seventeen minutes going from Machu Picchu, up to the Sun gate on the next mountain.
After everybody was done enjoying the view, we walked back down to the busses, ate a short packed lunch, and began the trip home. We departed with a new appreciation for an ancient civilization and we all agreed that the whole experience was surreal and simply beautiful.