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Mystery: A Hiker’s Journey to Machu Picchu and Beyond

Sitting on the balcony, the sound of rushing water in the valley opposite drowned out all the noise, and I felt so peaceful. Suddenly, a string of bells got closer and closer. It was the train coming. The blue iron train passed under my window and headed for Machu Picchu.

Machu Picchu, the Spanish name “Machupicchu”, meaning “ancient mountain”, is an Inca city ruins located on the Cusco Plateau in Peru, South America. Machu Picchu was built in the 15th century. The Spanish discovered the New World and came to South America. The Incas fled one after another, and Machu Picchu was forgotten by the world. Because there are no written records and it is located on a mountaintop more than 2,000 meters high, Machu Picchu was not discovered by archaeologists until the early 20th century. In 1911, American historian Hiram Bingham III completed an archaeological report on Machu Picchu under the name “The Lost City of the Incas”. In 1913, the American “National Geographic” magazine devoted its entire April issue to introducing Machu Picchu. This makes the Machu Picchu ruins more and more popular. In 2007, it was named one of the New Seven Wonders of the World and is now a world-renowned tourist attraction.

Everyone who travels to Peru seems to come here for Machu Picchu. Before I came to Peru, I didn’t know about Machu Picchu. My friends laughed at me like a foreigner who traveled to China but didn’t know about the Great Wall. So I watched some additional information and documentaries about Machu Picchu. The Inca civilization was one of the most famous civilizations in ancient South America, and Machu Picchu is an important ancient city site of the Inca civilization. The Inca civilization worshiped the sun, and the emperor of the Inca Empire was called the “Son of the Sun.” The Incas had their own language called “Quechhua”. In the 16th century, Spanish colonists invaded South America and the Inca Empire fell. However, the Inca civilization still influenced South American countries. The local people still followed the Inca way of dressing, such as using alpaca wool to make clothes.

The fastest way to Machu Picchu is by train from Cusco, which costs $200, or the more economical way is by foot. For me, hiking is the most attractive thing, both financially and experientially. At 6 o’clock in the morning on the first day, I took a six- or seven-hour bus ride from Cusco to the Hidroelectrica (Hydroelectric Station). The journey was like a mountain road passing through Dali, Yunnan and Tibet. The road conditions in the second half of the journey were very poor, with cliffs on one side and landslides on the other. of mountains. After arriving at the site, we ate a quick bowl of white rice and walked to Agua calientes (hot water town), a small town at the foot of Machu Picchu. The journey felt like walking through a rainforest. As I walked on the railroad tracks, I could hear the sound of the wind passing by. January is the summer in Peru, and it is the rainy season in Machu Picchu. It started to rain heavily halfway through the walk, so the group put on their raincoats and continued walking for more than three hours before arriving.

The town of Hotwater, which has only over eighty years of history, is built along the valley. It is very small and takes less than half an hour to complete. The river rushing down the mountain cliffs and the houses in the valley remind me of Lapu Hot Spring and Yadong County in Tibet. When I first arrived, I thought this was a town made for Machu Picchu, full of tourism. That’s pretty much the truth. Chatting with the locals, I learned that the development of Hot Water Town started around the same time as Machu Picchu was discovered by researchers. Before it was certified as a World Heritage Site by the United Nations, people in Hot Water Town had no interest in Inca culture. Later, people embraced it because of the economic effects brought by tourism.

I settled in Hot Water—where the opening scene takes place. The next day I hiked alone to Machu Picchu. From Hot Water Town to Machu Picchu, you can take a car or climb a mountain. Most people choose to take a car, which only takes half an hour. I decided to climb up. It only took me an hour to climb from the base of the mountain to the top of Machu Picchu. The road was still wet after it had just rained, and the lush vegetation was soaked by the rain.

Looking down at Machu Picchu, it’s like a miniature world in a fairy tale. The neat and huge stones seem to be seamlessly spliced ​​to form walls, terraces, etc., which have remained neat and tidy for 500 years. The ruins of Machu Picchu are composed of more than 140 buildings. According to archaeologists’ classification, there are mainly sacred areas, popular areas and noble areas. In the sacred area, there are the “Sun-chaining Stone” dedicated to the Sun God, the “Sun Temple” and the “Three Window House”. The stones and architectural styles in different areas are also very different. For example, the buildings in the aristocratic area are more exquisite and detailed than those in the popular area. Although archaeologists have been studying it for many years, there are still many unsolved mysteries about Machu Picchu. For example, how did the Inca transport the 20-ton boulder to the top of the mountain and cut it to build houses?

I came here for the Temple of the Sun and the Temple of the Moon, but unexpectedly, the Temple of the Sun was closed to tourists, and the Temple of the Moon, located in Huayna Picchu opposite Machu Picchu, was only open to the public before 10 a.m., so I could only From a distance, it feels regrettable. Since I went up the mountain on a Sunday, the scenic spot was free of charge for many local Peruvians. I happened to meet a group of locals who went to Machu Picchu to worship.

After coming down from Machu Picchu, I went to a local restaurant for dinner in the evening. There were many people. The waiter took me to share a table with an uncle. He was wearing scenic work clothes, and we chatted. He is from another nearby town and works in Hot Water Town. He said his father is Spanish and his mother is of Inca descent, and he is half Inca. He is passionate about travel and Inca civilization. He has visited all countries in South America, done a lot of research on Inca culture, and has 300,000 fans on Facebook. He took out his map and introduced me to the distribution of Inca civilization in various countries in South America – Bolivia, Peru, Chile and Argentina. Although I had read some information about Inca history and visited Machu Picchu, the Inca culture was always distant and unfamiliar to me. It was only by talking with such local people that I felt that the Inca culture became concrete.

After leaving Machu Picchu, I decided to head south to explore other Incan ruins.

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