Machu Picchu is truly a place to wander and wonder

What drove religious and political leaders of Cuzco, Peru to leave the relative comforts of that city and move their followers to an isolated inland fortress centuries ago? Fear of Spanish invaders? Fear of other aspects of the world?  Those were my questions when I boarded the train at Cuzco for a day trip to an important religious and political site in the varied history of Peru.

Machu Picchu is truly a place to wander and wonder. The massive rock that looms there was constructed to fight Spanish forces approaching from the west.  Perhaps obvious conflicts between Incan religious and political powers also spurred exploration and led to the challenging building in a “forbidden,” but honored, place.

The early settlers are easy to identify: religious Incan leaders fearing the Spanish habit of forcing their beliefs on people Spain conquered. Those leaders uprooted themselves and their followers to head for safety into an unknown and unsettled territory.  Exciting lore surrounds the journey: why this particular site and about the builders themselves?

Today, a very challenging walking trail leads to Machu Picchu; a comfortable train conveys tourists there; a modest number of hotels and restaurants meets most needs.  A day trip means one can return to Cuzco to known comforts. (But stay overnight; at sunrise the rock seems to glitter.)

The story of this site is a tale of intrigue, fear, betrayal, and ultimate success that defines the value of visiting the towering rock.  It honors bravery and imagination. The little restroom is now improved.  Walking around the area, peeking into the tiny window-less huts, and gazing with amazement at the nearby mountain that towers so protectively over the site, are some of the rewards for making the trip. (Little llamas cavorting beside one is also a special treat.)

Chloe Ryan Winston’s latest novel, Peru Paradox, has just been published; available at Barnes and Noble.

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