Day 10 in Peru, Part 2 — Exploring the Inca Empire

At Machu Picchu!

At Machu Picchu!

Exploration is really the essence of the human spirit. — Frank Borman, NASA Astronaut and Commander of Apollo 8

After four days of hiking on the Inca Trail it’s time to explore Machu Picchu!  But first . . . a “United Nations” shot with my Inca Trail team and my Peru Team!

My badass Inca Trail Team!

My badass Inca Trail Team!  Countries represented:  New Zealand, UK, Germany, The Netherlands, and Canada

My badass Peru Team!

My badass Peru Team!  Countries represented: Germany, USA, and Canada

Reunited with my Peru team we venture off into Machu Picchu with our local guide leading the way.  The Incas built the estate around 1450, but abandoned it a century later at the time of the Spanish Conquest.  In 1911 the historical site was discovered by the American historian Hiram Bingham.  Since then, Machu Picchu has become an important tourist attraction.  In 1981, Machu Picchu was declared a Peruvian Historical Sanctuary.  Two years later the Peruvian landmark was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  In 2007, Machu Picchu was voted one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.  I thought to myself, “Since I’ve already traversed one of the seven on my 2014 Bucket List, why not tackle each as a lifetime goal?  I would have tons to blog about in the coming years!”

Spoiling myself with experiences.

Spoiling myself with experiences.

This time I was caught by a guide trying to climb.  I guess I have to work on my ninja skills :P

This time I was caught by a guide trying to climb a wall. I guess I have to work on my ninja skills 😛

The varying levels of land used for agriculture.

The varying levels of land used for agriculture.

The main structures on Machu Picchu are Inti Watana, the Temple of the Sun, and the Room of the Three Windows.  Inti Watana is a ritual stone used by the Incas to tell time and the calendar.  Used like a sundial, the Incas believed the stone held the sun in its place along its annual path in the sky.

Inti Watana -- the Incan Sundial.  I have no idea how to use it.

Inti Watana — the Incan Sundial. I have no idea how to use it.

The Temple of the Sun is the most important building in Machu Picchu.  This building was the civic centre where important events like astrological discoveries, sacred rituals, and religious sacrifices were conducted.  Underneath the Tower, there is an entrance that leads to a small underground cavern that houses a crypt to accommodate the mummified corpses of the highest members of the Inca aristocracy.

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The Temple of the Sun

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The entrance into the crypt.

The Temple of the Three Windows is a place of spiritual and religious history.  Each window represents each part of the Inca world: The underground (Uku-Pacha) the heaven (Hanan-Pacha) and the present or the actual time (Kay-Pacha).  These windows also represent the rise of the Sun.  An important event in the Inca culture, the Sun indicated time and the calendar, which aided in the Inca’s agriculture efforts.

Okay . . . so I wasn't paying attention to the guide when we were at the Temple of the Windows and I missed taking picture of it.  However, there it is on the left. :P

Okay . . . so I wasn’t paying attention to the guide when we were at the Temple of the Windows and I missed taking a picture of it. However, there it is on the left.  Damn ADD! 😛

Other interesting findings at the UNESCO World Heritage Site are Room of Water Mirrors, the Sacred Rock, and the Temple of the Condor:

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The Room of Water Mirrors

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The Water Mirrors are used to track the position of the Sun.

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The Temple of the Condor

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Sacred Rock — Found in most Inca Villages, prior to the construction of a village a stone must be dedicated to the site.  This is the stone dedicated to Machu Picchu.

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This is me trying harness the awesome power of the rock . . . or something 😛

We had an opportunity to climb Huayna Picchu (pronounced “Wayna Picchu”, another fun word to say) however after four days of hiking and camping I pretty much had my fill for the day of tackling mountains!

 The Incas built a trail up the side of the Huayna Picchu and built temples and terraces on its top. The peak of Huayna Picchu is about 2,720 metres (8,920 ft) above sea level, or about 360 metres (1,180 ft) higher than Machu Picchu.

The Incas built a trail up the side of the Huayna Picchu and built temples and terraces on its top. The peak of Huayna Picchu is about 2,720 metres (8,920 ft) above sea level, or about 360 metres (1,180 ft) higher than Machu Picchu.

I did take a detour from the rest of the tour to venture off and discover Machu Picchu on my own.  New sites always get my adrenaline flowing and I had energy for days.  So I found a path with a sharp incline that led me to the Inca Bridge.  This is a bridge that was a secret entrance to Machu Picchu and was used by the Inca army.  The trail is a narrow path that is cut into the cliff face, and features a 1,900 ft drop!  There is a 20 ft gap in the path that is bridged by five tree trunks.  Unfortunately the bridge was blocked off for safety reasons (i.e. prevent Gringos like me from taking pictures on said bridge and accidentally falling to my death.  The selfie would have been epic!).

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New views and a death drop!

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Tree trunks bridging the gap.

After a long day my team and I met up at a local restaurant to recount the day’s adventure.  Exhausted and thirsty, I ordered the biggest beer I could get . . . 1 litre!

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After four days of hiking I was relieved to finally see beer again 🙂

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Tanned and exhausted I got my certificate! I’m going to miss hearing the phrase “Look it’s Superman!” in different languages!

MOMENT OF ZEN: On Oct. 20th, 2014 Vincent Patrice, a Canadian Forces solider, was murdered in a shopping centre parking lot in Quebec, Canada.  Two days later, Cpl. Nathan Cirillo was gunned down at Parliament Hill in the capital of Canada, and my former home, Ottawa.  In both cases the attacks were linked to terrorism.  It was frightening to think that these acts of terror happened on my homeland.  Its times like these we think of those closest to us, and thank our lucky stars that they’re still here.  It’s also a time to thank those who protect us.  So the first picture I posted from Machu Picchu was this:

An Inukshuk for Nathan and Vincent, and all those who serve on the Canadian Forces.  True North Strong and Free.

An Inukshuk for Nathan and Vincent, and all those who serve on the Canadian Forces. True North Strong and Free.

The TAC knife was given to me by one of my best friends, a retired soldier of the Canadian Forces.  Thank goodness for people like him, Vincent, Nathan, and the rest of the men and women who serve on the Canadian Forces.  My gratitude and appreciation will never end for your service to the True North, Strong and Free.

So take advantage of the time to thank those who protect you.  I took to the time to call my parents from Peru to make sure they were alright and know how much I loved them (and our dog).  I also messaged a few friends in Ottawa to let them know I still cared.  Life doesn’t always have the best way of choosing who stays or goes.  But we do have a choice in how we remember each other.

After my adventure in Peru I returned to Ottawa during Remembrance Day and placed a bouquet of Poppies at the Tomb of the Unknown Solider.

After my adventure in Peru I returned to Ottawa during Remembrance Day and placed a bouquet of Poppies at the Tomb of the Unknown Solider.

Peace, love, and adventure!

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