Observation 1: insane verticality
We didn’t climb Huayna Picchu in the background, restricted to not-too-many people per day. We didn’t have time. Yes, I’d want to on another trip. Then there’s Putucusi, opposite Machu Pic’chu. Reports vary on its current accessibility, but back in the day, our guide Wilco told me, it took days to climb, hacking with machetes all the way on ancient Inca steps/trail to arrive at a small slab temple at the top.
Observation 2: Inca: new kids on the block
“Temple of the Sun,’ with a couple tiers of Inca stonework added at the top. Notice the difference in workmanship?
Original stonework, right. Inca stonework, left.
Observation 3: the smoking gun
Something happened here! On one of Brien Foerster’s earlier trips, he told me, a geologist had supposed that a magnitude-9 or so earthquake had liquified the soil under the part on the right, causing it to sink and pull the megalithic wall apart.
Given such a powerful shake, how is it that these Inca buildings remained standing?
Answer: they didn’t, obviously. The hadn’t been built yet.
Observation 4: lotsa people. OK.
I expected that thousands of people swarming the site would sully the experience. Not even close. I hardly noticed them, except in constricted areas. When I told our local guide about Syd’s free-wandering experience there in the 1980s, he lit up with recollections of how he started guiding when he was 16, in the 1980s. In those days, he said, sometimes they’d play an impromptu game of soccer ball in the main courtyard.
These days, that would cause lots of whistle-blowing, but it wouldn’t be from referees.