By all measures, I should be writing about Manchu Picchu, and yet… I’m not sure why I keep putting it off. Perhaps I lost interest when, prior to visiting, I read that during the high tourist season, 2,000 people a day visit the Royal Inca Retreat. That number of people was and is a hurdle for me.
Like everyone else, I had seen documentaries and still photographs. And what I saw was mist and mountains. I saw carefully constructed terraces cascading down and adapting to the mountain slope. And I saw a stone city built in the 15th century by a people with no wheels, no metal tools and no written language. It was a city that paid attention to urban planning, aesthetics, and the movement of the stars across the sky.
The city that I had seen in my mind’s eye did not have tourists.
The white granite stone was shaped by hand – hammered with cobblestones of quartzite, basalt or hematite. Imagine the skill it took to cut the blocks and then key and groove them to fit hand-in-glove. The stones are set without mortar. In an earthquake prone country, this is an advantage in that the stones can move a bit.
Imagine an empire that at the time of the Spanish Conquest in 1532, stretched 2,500 miles down the Andes. Imagine a government that administrated 12 million people who spoke 20 different languages.
And to think that the Europeans where just mapping the oceans.
As it was, we had a good jump on the tourist season. I don’t know how many people were there, but there were too many. I found myself wishing that I could have accompanied Hiram Bingham in 1912. (And if you have an interest in his discovery of Manchu Picchu, you can reference National Geographic, April, 1913.)