We finally made it to Machu Picchu! Discovered in 1911 by American Hiram Bingham, Machu Picchu is the mysterious ancient Inca city perched ever so dramatically above the Urubamba Valley in Peru. Little is known about why the Inca’s built the city. It is estimated that construction began on it over 1000 years ago, and when the Spanish invaded the region in the 15th Century the Inca abandoned their most significant built work forever, letting the jungle over grow and consume the city hiding it for the next 500 years. The Spanish never found out about the city, luckily, as it would have been pillaged and destroyed like so many other ancient sites. It wasn’t until the 19th Century, when Hiram Bingham was looking for a different ancient city named Vilcabamba that he stumbled upon Machu Picchu with the help of a local farmer. Much of the ruins have been restored and rebuilt, with the jungle so carefully peeled away, revealing beautiful Inca stonework, temples and terraces.
It all began with a 4.30am start in Cusco. We boarded the bus, cold, tired and excited for the days ahead. We were about to embark on a once in a lifetime pilgrimage along the Inca Trail to the infamous Machu Picchu; the serene ancient ruins awaiting us at the end of the 40km trek. Having booked the trip in June, we were eager to put our hiking boots on and get trekking with our fellow adventurers.
The Camino Inca (Inca Trail) was a path created by the Inca over 500 years ago, as a path for the Inca Runners - messengers, to relay important messages between villages, and other significant sites. The path was also used by priests and other religious peoples as a pilgrimage to Machu Picchu, stopping along the way at various religious sites and temples. Today many of these sites still dot the path in varying degrees of ruin. Machu Picchu is the climax at the end of the line; the ancient Inca city, and place of worship, perched atop a steep mountain, surrounded by craggy Andean peaks. Today it is not a religious pilgrimage, it is a walk though history, to learn and appreciate the lncas, their heritage, and the landscape that formed their beliefs. It is also a personal challenge, to conquer the high altitude mountains and rugged terrain.
Another over night bus later we arrived in Cusco in high spirits, high because of the altitude. Sitting at 3300m above sea level, Cusco is the launching pad into the ancient Inca Empire within the mountains and valleys that surround it.