We left the hotel premises very early in the morning, so as to get to Ollamtaytambo to catch the second Inca rail train leaving to Aguas Calientes (6H40). Boarding the train proved to be rather strict, as if going across customs and passport control at any European airport, once we had to show our passports against the tickets, which I was surprised to find out had our name and other additional information.
I was feeling fairly well and at that particular moment in time it felt there would be no problem as far as the climb was concerned. Prior to having left Portugal I had checked on the weather and had realised there would be scattered showers for this particular day, but it didn't look like as if it might rain as the train made its way through the canyons and Inca trails on what would be a two hour trip to Aguas Calientes.
The train was very comfortable ... in fact a lot more comfortable than I had expected it to be and amidst the many foreigners on board I still managed to speak Portuguese with a Brazilian who sat just in front of me.
Upon reaching Aguas Calientes we followed our guide across some narrow and intricate streets so as to get on the bus taking us farther up along the way.
As we started climbing up the one thought that actually made it possible was to sight the so commonly known image of the Sacred City we had been longing for since the first day we had set foot in Peruvian territory.
Once we sighted it we couldn't but look at it almost in a respectful and speechless way ... there it stood right in front of us as if fallen from the sky, amidst its clouds ...
None of us wanted to move further as if to capture the magic ... the magic of the moment, not realising that "exploring" it would make the moment even more sublime ...
We gathered around our guide on a flat grassy path, where some lamas and vicuñas were grazing, to listen to her explanations and then follow her along ...
Although there are indications that other explorers and Inca treasure hunters had arrived previously, it is Hiram Bingham, an American explorer and professor of History we owe the revelation of the existence of the Sacred City of Machu Pichu to in 1911, when guided by a farmer (Arteaga, whom he rewarded with one old sol) he climbed up to the peak of Machu Pichu and rested in the middle of what is now called the Principal Plaza, which we had right in front of our eyes then.
Not knowing the real name of the city he had just discovered Bingham decided to give it the same name as the mountain it was located on - Machu Pich (which in Quechua means old mountain).
The "Sacred City" is comprised of temples, palaces, shrines, plazas, streets, paths, baths and some dwellings, as well as a wide area of terraces, which must have been used for agriculture.
Besides the high quality of its architectural development and Inca masonry Art, it owes a great part of its beauty to the surrounding landscape and its majestic location encompassed by gorges and mountains, in a boundary region between the Andes and the Amazon rainforest.
(To be continued)