Machu Picchu and Inca Ruins
The big tourist attraction in the area of Cusco in the high Andes in Peru is Machu Picchu, the mysterious city of the ancient Incas. For centuries Machu Picchu was buried under jungle foliage but while looking for something else Hiram Bingham found it in 1911. Yale then sent in a archaeological expedition to explore it. It is famous for the large rocks that serve as foundations for the many buildings and the tight fit of the stones in the walls. The mystery is that no knows for sure why it was built, what purpose it served or why it was eventually deserted. It is however, one of the great structures of the world and is probably on the "must see" list of that group of people who feel it necessary to see the Great Wall of China, the Egyptian pyramids and the Taj Mahal.
After the trip I learned that archaeologists believe that Machu Picchu was built as an estate for the Inca emperor Pachacuki who died in 1472.
We got there the easy way from Cusco: ½ hour by bus, 1 ½ hours by train and another half hour by bus. More hardy souls take a four day, three night hike that can take them as high as 15,000 feet. Teo our guide told us that Incas were very advanced in the use of herbs medicine. They had a drug store in the bush.
Machu Picchu was built around 1450, at the height of the Inca’s power. It was abandoned 100 years later, probably as a result of smallpox brought in by the Spanish. No evidence exists that Spanish ever visited here.
A boy offered to beat our return bus to the bottom of the mountain and we could see him sliding down the sides as we made our turns on the curves. He was waiting for us when we reached the bottom to collect tips.
We also visited Pisac, another of many Inca ruins in the area. It faces a wall of a mountain that was turned into a cemetery. Corpses were buried in a fetal position in holes in the wall. Grave robbers have looted most of the artifacts that were buried with them. The question of human sacrifice among the Incas was raised. Our guide explained that it was rare among the Incas and was a voluntary gesture on the part of the person sacrificed. This was in contrast to the sacrifices that were done by earlier civilization in which large number of non-volunteers might be killed.
We found an example of a Inca sacrifice in Lima at the Museo Nacional de Antropologia y Arqueologia. When we visited it was packed with families, school kids and others all of whom were creating much din waiting in a long line to see La Dama Del Ampato. She is a 14-year-old-girl who had been sacrificed by the Incas and whose frozen body, almost perfectly preserved, had been knocked lose from its place in the mountains by a volcano in 1995.
Juanita, the name given her because she was found by a man named John, was trained to be sacrificed and felt it was an honor to be chosen. She ate only vegetables the five days before she died, drank a mixture of coca and crista before she died. She was killed with a sharp blow to the head. She was displayed in a refrigerated room into which only a few people were allowed at a time.
At the present time she is exhibited at the Museum "Santuarios de Altura,” run by the Catholic University of Santa Maria in Arequipa.
One day we took a walking tour of Cusco and were shown colonial homes and churches. The most memorable church was one built on a Inca temple site and it was easy to see the Inca work since it was laid so straight and the rocks were cut to perfection in contrast to the Spanish building where the rocks looked poorly laid with much plaster used to hold them together. The tools and measuring instruments have not been found. One theory is that the Spanish destroyed them not knowing what they were or destroyed them as simple tools of a primitive power.
Peru: A Good Destination for Tourists
After terrorism was put down Peru became a major tourist attraction. With its many ecosystems, life styles, ancient monuments, and hard working people it has much to offer the tourist for minimal costs. Hotels and restaurants are moderately priced and market prices for goods are very low. Like most tour groups we spent some of our time shopping. Alpaca sweaters, belts, hats, jewelry, pots and assorted articles are priced so low it seemed a shame to do the expected bargaining