Posted by: birdmaddgirl | 22 August 2012

more Machu. more Picchu.

looking back now on some of the notes that i took on site. i promised a little book to a bunch of awesome people who helped me get to this amazing place, so in the interest of fairness i won’t disclose too much here. but we can look over some things that are just breathtaking about the site.

irrigation: this is one badass set up. water comes down from the mountains still through the Inca channels. like this one:

how’s your house’s plumbing hold up by comparison? yeah, probably not quite as awesome as something that was built 500 some odd years ago.

which brings us to, architectural engineering: don’t get me wrong, i am fairly certain that the natural beauty would be a good enough reason for building machu picchu. but it also happens to be very secure. only one gate allowed access during inca times (now there’s a more level entry point that doesn’t require quite so much upward hiking – but also bypasses the stunning traditional postcard view). here’s part of the mechanism for closing the gate:

the gate would have been tied to this circular post (and a matching one on the other side), built impressively right into the wall. because the inca were so good at building appropriately for the environment, their walls survive the massive earthquakes that have rippled through the region periodically. i don’t really understand much about architecture, but it is impossible not to be entranced by inca stonework – they are famous, after all, for the perfection they achieved on ceremonial and royal buildings.

astronomy and agriculture: i will not even pretend like i can wrap my head around this stuff. i am a twentieth century city girl (great now i have the doors stuck in my head). i have planted nothing more exciting than some herbs (that died) and am still mourning the death of my cactus after six wonderful years together (i’m sorry that i left you out on the porch during that spring cold front, cactus, i just wanted to give you some sunlight). i am so surrounded by light pollution that i can rarely make out more than a handful of the very brightest stars, and i can identify almost none (although i can now find the llama and baby llama dark constellations in the milky way, which makes me feel like a super awesome badass and all around good student). ok, point being that the inca were masterful at both of these things, which are intimately related, i’m given to understand.

this is the intihuatana stone. it’s most probable use was for astronomical observations. now it’s mostly a weirdly carved rock that tourists get really mystical about.

agricultural terraces spill down the mountainsides surrounding the city. short commute to work.

in terms of my own project work, i spent a lot of time trying to remember that much of what we see today was overgrown and invisible to neruda on his visit. it was uncommon for people to see the ruins at the time (although the beginnings of real tourism were not far off) and he had to take a horse up the mountain to get here. guess i shouldn’t complain about the little hike up to the “sun gate,” but i was still feeling pretty altitude sick, so even that small amount of exertion was close to too much. i didn’t have the opportunity to get tickets to climb huayna picchu (only two sets of climbers are allowed up per day), which turned out to be a good thing. i probably would have swooned right off the mountain, and it’s a long way down.

it’s so easy to get caught up in the romance of a place that deserves to be called a wonder of the world. as much as there is a magic to machu picchu, the practicality and utility of the city impressed me more than anything. although it’s likely that natural beauty, proximity to symbols of deities, and other impressionistic considerations had a role to play in the founding of this royal retreat, every part of the city has purpose. it’s not just here to look good. people lived here. people worshiped and ate and partied and worked here. people died and were buried here.


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