On Machu Picchu II

So yesterday I got my first taste of Machu Picchu in person, and today I had the opportunity to re-traverse with a little more tranquility of spirit the thirteen switchbacks between Aguas Calientes and the high plateau where Machu Picchu is located. Today the climb was less demanding physically, but we started out this morning, for the first twenty minutes or so, in the fog and the mist and the rain, which completely changes the whole feeling of Machu Picchu. After two visits in as many days, I find the place even more stunning than when I first walked in. As I had written in my previous note,the place is strangely three-dimensional, and I am emphasizing this three-dimensionality because most of us live in two-dimensional worlds . You look across the buildings and your eye is immediately drawn upwards toward the heavens and downwards towards the gorge. It would be good to talk to the architects and engineers who built the place because I’m sure they had to throw the book away when they built this place. Did they make drawings? Since many of the buildings are put together with great mathematical precision, and since you just can’t build complex structures flying from the seat of your pants, I know the architects gave instructions to the bosses and engineers, so that they, in turn, could talk to the masons and other craftsmen who were doing the work. Much of the work is too complex to just “dream up” in your head and explain it to the workmen. They must have had drawings with specifications because the work is too precise to be otherwise. Yet, the culture that built Machu Picchu is gone, never to return, leaving no written records (and if they did, the Spaniards destroyed them). I find this sad for a couple of reasons. Obviously, they were skilled builders and engineers who knew their way around a construction site, had mad “heavy block” moving skills, and had an aesthetic eye for beauty, symmetry, and art, all mixed with an appreciation for the rocky mountain upon which the site sits. Today, again, I spent the entire morning climbing up or going down stairs, There is a sense that the people who lived at Machu Picchu lived lives that were as much about horizontal relationships as they were about vertical ones. Many people come to the site expecting to feel the energy, or whatever mystical thing that they expect, but I think if you do that, you miss the beauty and spectacle that is Machu Picchu as the weather changes, the light changes, the rain falls, the clouds rumble in, fog enshrouds the place, and the sun beats down on your head, and that’s the just the first three hours. The paradigm for living in this grand high plateau was different than it was for living in other places, such as Cusco, which is higher than Machu Picchu, because the mountains are so spectacular, rising and falling with incredible drama. This royal palace and religious site was grooved into a dramatic skit of the enormous and powerful Inca empire played out against the majestic mountains tops and deep gorges of this mountain range. The fact that no one lives there now is sad and melancholy as the ghosts of emperors past glide amongst the empty, roofless buildings, aimlessly playing out their last memories, over and over again. The tourists have changed Machu Picchu into something it never was, a public park and spectacle, but then again, this big empty place pays no attention to our comings and goings, blindly watching over the mountain top that was so carelessly abandoned over five hundred years ago. As they left that one last time, did they ever think they would return, or did they know that as they left, an era was ending?