Machu Picchu

If a traveler goes to Peru without taking a trip to one of the world’s wonders, Machu Picchu, he or she hasn’t seen a hidden city with a mysterious past. Historians fight verbal battles over why this amazing site, built in such an unfriendly terrain, was constructed, existed, and remains for us to explore still today.Machu Picchu in public domain

From the towering rock monolith at one end to the little homes still remaining, to the
majestic mountains surrounding the site, and the clever little Alpacas who dance among the pane-less homes….it’s a mystery that still hasn’t completely been solved or resolved.

After hearing stories from early explorers, who were frustrated about not finding a place rumored to have been a religious site or a political stronghold, it was an

Hiram Bingham

Hiram Bingham

American, Hiram Bingham, who found it. He’d been ridiculed for what had become an obsession of his, but Yale professors are hardy, so in 1911, he began his trek to investigate the truth about the lost Incan city.

That trek involved getting through a thick jungle, across a bridge made of logs lashed together by vines over raging waters, avoiding poisonous snakes.  Even before he’d started, he’d been the butt of jokes, both at Yale and in Peru, but he was determined.  Determined to find the famous “lost city” of Peru lore…..but he found something more amazing.

And here is what he saw.

First, the towering rock at one end of the citadel, where all the structures were made of rock, by hand, so well that “knives could not separate them.”  But the stories of why and how and who continue to this day to be asked by historians and explorers.  Was it built to protect their leaders from the Spanish invasions of Peru? Probably not.  Was it built to be a priestly retreat from the temptations of the world? Maybe. Stories about who could live there might contradict that idea.

Bingham found about a hundred skeletons; he thought 75% were of women. (Later studies said the bones were about half of men and half of women.)  Was this a hideaway of some sort for the military leaders? Or did political leaders in Lima want to have a private place to escape their responsibilities? If you visit Peru, the answers to those and other questions continue to circulate between and among Peruvians and visitors to Peru.

As a visitor to the site, after getting used to the altitude, the “interesting” train ride from Lima to the small station at the foot of the mountain, and then to walk through the slightly-kept areas to peek in the pane-less windows cut in the sides of the homes, was a moment to think about the past here. It was fun to be close to an Alpaca, who chose to ignore strangers.  The small structure at the top, which wouldn’t house many visitors, was rumored to be scheduled to be replaced by a hotel.  This visitor objected mightily: it would ruin the entire atmosphere.  But at last report, there is a hotel closer to the site.

A century after Bingham, it’s a wonderful experience.  A trip to Peru must include a trek up to the new “lost city” which has been found.