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Archive for July 26th, 2015

Peru 4

From Ollantaytamba the train winds down the ever narrowing and deepening gorge toward Machu Picchu. The trip takes 1:45 including a few short pauses on siding for passing trains. The gorge only has room for the river and the cut for the train in many places where an extended arm would literally touch the jagged rocks of the cut. Some of the rapids are intense looking and the vegetation slowly increases in density, height, and variety from semi-desert to cloudland rainforest. Students in their uniforms and farmers in their work clothes were headed to school and field. Terraces still hold corn and grazing animals.

I spent most of my time looking out of the windows.

I spent most of my time looking out of the windows.

The Whole Tour Group at the first good view of the city

The Whole Tour Group at the first good view of the city

The Narrowing Urabamba River Gorge

The Narrowing Urubamba River Gorge

Terraces still used

Terraces still used

 

The village of Machu Picchu is not more than 100 m wide and is cut in two by the Urubamba River and the railroad. Densely vegetated cliffs rise easily 1500 feet on either side. I find the topography the most amazing characteristic of the village and the ancient site. Machu Picchu is a UNESCO World Heritage Site visited by over one million people each year. Many details about the construction, location, and history of the site are amazing. Being in a rainforest, the Inca engineers provided it with a subterranean drainage system without which it would have long since eroded away. The temple and Inca rulers’ structures are built of the smooth, fitted stones that are earthquake resistant and yet the Temple of the Sun is slowly splitting apart due to a minor fault line that extends across the concave city green. A wire stretched across the green from one side to the other and made taut by a weight and measured by an instrument indicates that the green is expanding by a few millimeters per year. A quarry on the brow of the ridge was the source of the building stone.

Inca Trail

Inca Trail (25 miles to the Capitol Cusco)

Main Gate to the City

Main Gate to the City

Temple of the Sun has a fault

Temple of the Sun has a fault

Living and Working Spaces

Living and Working Spaces

Llamas wander throughout the site

Llamas wander throughout the site

Steep Real Estate (note the archaeologists in blue)

Steep Real Estate (note the archaeologists in blue)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chinchilla Chillin'

Chinchilla Chillin’

Huayna Picchu overlooks the ridgetop city

Huayna Picchu overlooks the ridgetop city

Hiram Bingham, the Yale historian who revealed Machu Picchu to the world in 1911, was not the first person of European descent to explore the terraces and temples. It was not the Spanish who saw it though, for they never found it. Why? It had been abandoned before they came and conquered the Inca. The actual reason for its abandonment is unknown but the well worn theories about religious, political, or military causes are not very convincing. Our trained Peruvian guide seemed to think that the evidence of syphilis in the bones of some buried at the Temple of the Condor suggests that an epidemic caused the inhabitants and would be inhabitants to forsake the city. It seems most plausible to me since the Spanish never seemed to have even heard about it. Their writings make no mention of its existence. Also, syphilis was a new world endemic disease before Europeans arrived. Epidemic levels of syphilis result from a sexually debased society. A mere 10 years of abandonment would have been sufficient for the jungle to cover all evidence of its existence. Hiram Bingham would not have found it if farmers had not shown him exactly where it was and had several terraces cleared for farming. The Europeans who discovered it before the American were treasure hunters who did not want Peruvians or anyone else to know they had come and gone.

 

Inca Bridge-a secure gate against an enemy who never came.

Inca Bridge-a secure gate against an enemy who never came.

Farmers were in good shape

Farmers were in good shape

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Built in about 1450 and abandoned before 1520, the 140 stone buildings of a construction project in progress testify to both the semi-permanence and futility of all that we do apart from God. Syphilis, war, superstition, drought, or whatever caused the peoples of Machu Picchu to leave give testimony to the ultimate powerlessness of an empire to perpetuate control and forego God’s judgment on evil practices. If we assume that empires and culture are simply short-lived because that is the way it must be, then we fail to remember that this world is fallen and it did not have to be that way. God did not create life for death; man chose death. The enemy is not outside the gate but inside the heart.

 

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