sobota, 24 marca 2007
And the mists had all solemnly risen now, and the world lay spread before me.Charles Dickens
Wake up! It is 4 o’clock in the morning... we will not be able to fall asleep again, today we are going to visit a place that we cannot miss while travelling in Peru – Machu Picchu. We eat breakfast and get on a bus which takes us up the mountains. It is good to be there as early as possible, before the swarms of tourists show up! Now, everywhere is white, we are standing inside of a big cloud, a small house is emerging in the distance... I am starting to worry we will not see anything, but Lenin, as if nothing had happened, slowly starts talking about the place...
Machu Picchu was brought to light in 1911 thanks to Hiram Bingham who, while looking for Vilcabamba (the last capital of Peru), met by chance a villager in Mollepata. Melchor Arteaga (that was the name of the villager) showed Bingham the location of Machu Picchu. According to some people, this makes the American the great discoverer of this place. As an interesting fact, I shall mention that about 40 years earlier Machu Picchu was plundered by a thief called Augusto Berns (a German on the other hand) who took away every more valuable item.
Lenin was still talking; all-embracing whiteness was decreasing in intensity, the ruins of the city were slowly coming into our view, then Waynapicchu towering over the place and finally neighbouring mountains and the river Urubamba down below... It was as if a curtain in a theatre was slowly going up, almost magic. This time we were lucky!
Machu Picchu is the next place of disrespectful pillage. Who is the owner of the Incan treasures? It might seem, as the very name suggest, that the Incan treasures belong to the Inca people and their heirs, i.e. Indians from Peru and Bolivia - the former territories that belonged to the Empire. However, things are quite different... the Incan treasures belong to the USA just as the Egyptian treasures are the property of the British. The story goes that some thief (in the USA called an archaeologist) took away almost everything he found in Machu Picchu. Now, the stolen goods are located in the Yale University Museum and no one is eager to return the collection explaining that Peruvians gave their consent to the items being kept by Americans.
Peruvians have found recently in their archives specific documents which prove their agreement for the items to be taken to the USA in 1912 by Bingham (he claimed that there are no appropriate laboratories in Peru), BUT... it is clearly stated that aforementioned gentleman has 12 months for the research and after that period, items must be returned! After a year, Bingham asked for the extension of this period and he was given consent to the next six months. Afterwards he became a senator and got tired of replying to demands for the treasure to be given back... In this simple way the Incan treasures became American and for the reason that the USA is supposedly the superpower, I do not think that these treasures will be ever returned to their rightful owners. What Peru can do anyway?
By the way, did I mention that it is a small world? Guess who we met in Machu Picchu? My saviours from Chivay – Eva and Elizabeth themselves! Kindest regards!
We are strolling in the remarkable city, sometimes we walk along narrow lanes, the other time we lean over a precipice (if we were in Europe, there would be many safety barriers for sure, thanks God we are in America). We climb lots of stairs, observe individual buildings. We can see a big crack in the walls of the main temple. Undoubtedly, people who built it matched its stones with superb precision and this in turn saved it from many earthquakes. Unfortunately it will not save the temple from a geological fault which is located here.
One should not pay much attention to the names of particular buildings that were offered by so-called archaeologists. Names such as the temple of the sun or the temple of the moon have nothing to do with the real purpose of these buildings. The truth is, scientists still do not know what their use was; needless to say they cannot say anything interesting about Machu Picchu at all! They do not know how it was built; they cannot reach an agreement when it comes to the time the city was built and by whom; they also do not know the exact way along which the water-supply system runs and works to these days. Finally, they do not know why the Inca people left the city. Thanks to so many unknowns, however, the city is more fascinating and definitely more mysterious.
There are some people who suspect here the involvement of extraterrestrial powers, arguing that Inca people did not have proper technology and they could not even build a model of Machu Picchu, not to say build it in the real size. As an argument they refer to the fact that only a part of buildings is constructed from the precisely matched stones and the rest could be erected later by hands of the clumsy imitators, if we guess, maybe by Indians themselves. Lenin claimed that the difference between the technologies applied results from the use of a given building; more important structures, such as churches, were simply raised in a better way than, let us say, ordinary houses.
Anyway, when I hear that something on Earth is a doing of extraterrestrials, the first thing that comes to my mind is a way of explaining the nature in ancient times – when something could not be understood, a right god was made up, like e.g. an image of a sea god that explained everything perfectly. Of course, nowadays, when some scientist would say that Machu Picchu is a work of gods, no one would regard him seriously. But if one says it is an act of aliens, everything is fine :). I do not claim, however, that there are no other civilisations but ours; frankly (to quote),
if there was not anyone else except us, it would be a great waste of space!. I do not even rule out a theory according to which aliens could build pyramids, or Machu Picchu; I just think, while no proofs have been found so far, this way of explaining things enrich our knowledge as much as a claim that Machu Picchu was created by God on the eighth day so people could have something to think about. There are the same numbers of arguments for supporting both theories.
I do not know who could hew these huge stone blocks with such precision and use them for building so durable constructions, but no matter who it was, his or her work fills me with sincere admiration! However, if someone wants to be surrounded by aura of this place, pictures are not enough. One has to walk the steep and narrow stairs, look down into precipice, touch a wall, dip hands in water running along ditches in the city.
you have to climb Waynapicchu and look at the city from above... and then go down the same steep stairs that were carved in solid rock by those who, sometimes falling down them, erected the city...
There are more and more tourists gathering and sometimes it is difficult to make your way through. We leave Machu Picchu and we go back the way it can be seen on the pictures (a zigzag) to Aguas Calientes. We go to meet Lenin for the last time, collect return tickets and say goodbye. Accidentally, we meet German girls that we parted from the day before.
First, we go by train, then we are supposed to change to a bus, but we miss it and therefore we go back to Cusco by a cab. The driver speeds 120-130 km/h along switchbacks, often cutting corners that are partly hidden. Szczepan looks death in the eye. I do not know why, but I have this strange confidence in these local drivers. Even though, at first glance, the way they drive a car should cause terrible accidents, I did not see any of them.
We reach Cusco, the driver slows down a bit, but just a little bit :). There is one rule that I like the most, namely, whoever first blows the horn has a right of way. As a result, the driver does not even slow down when approaching an intersection, he just drives and honks the horn. Do not ask me how it works because I do not know, it simply does, I saw it with my own eyes.
We have got just one hour to take our stuff from a hotel, we say goodbye to Peru and we get on a bus. Destination: La Paz!