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The Mystery City

December 26, 2009

My guide Pedro said that Machu Picchu was a city shrouded in mystery: nobody knows what its real name was. More mysterious to me, however, was why they built it on the very top of the ridge as opposed to in the canyon below.

A city on a hill.

Natural defenses were probably most significant in that choice but the particular saddle in which Machu Picchu is perched is also the center of three natural concentric circles – the river that loops around it, the mountains visible in every direction, and an even wider ring of mountains only visible from the air – which gave the location a level of sacredness in the Inca belief system. It is believed that the settlement was a university, used in part to indoctrinate the children of the conquered nobility of the Inca’s expanding empire.

Quite a drop.

I was lucky enough to get an almost perfect day at the ruins. Rain is common as the climate is tropical; the elevated jungle-like environment is called cloud forest.

Looking out from the central plaza.

The Inca were skilled in architecture, construction and irrigation. Complex building techniques enabled them to make mountaintops livable while elaborate water capture and transportation system secured enough water for them to leave high above the river and its easily accessible water.

Alpacas double as a natural attraction and weed control.

Machu Picchu was also a stop on the way from the capital of the Inca empire in Cuzco to the eastern frontier where the Inca
traded for food and goods not available to them. For me, it was the last stop before I returned to the United States. Fortunately, my path home didn’t involve crossing the Inca Bridge shown below.

You're not actually allowed to cross it.

So ends my travel blog. Thanks to all who kept up with me! Once the holidays are over, I’ll back to more familiar topics.

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