Did Smurfs Create Machu Picchu?

25 08 2008

Posted by: Chris

Travel date: 5.30.08

If you are thinking about seeing Machu Picchu and have heard it is too touristy or that the number of people there ruin the experience, then you have heard wrong. To miss this archaeological wonder (if you have the opportunity) is akin to going to Paris and missing the Louvre, skipping the British Museum in London, or taking a vacation to the beach and staying in the room all day because there are, how dare they, other people already laying out. There’s a reason people go to these places: they’re friggin’ amazing! And Machu Picchu deserves its place among the great wonders of the world. 

First off, we cheated. Many people hike the Inca Trail, a supposedly beautiful multi-day trek past several lesser known Incan sites before reaching the top. Everyone we spoke to that did it said it was amazing and worth the $350 USD it now costs. Of course if I paid that much there’s no way I would come back and say, “Well, it was ok I guess.” Instead we took the train to Aguas Calientes (or as Ludwig would say in his heavy German accent: “Machu Picchu TOOOOOOWWWWWWWNN!”) and then bused up a winding mountain. The surrounding Andes jut straight up into the sky with an unusual lack of symmetry. They bunch togther in a shockingly tall green mass with the bases being barely wider than the tops. The ruins rest along the flat top of one of these aforementioned mountains, a remote setting that makes obvious why it was never discovered by the Spanish. It’s just crazy looking. The archaeologist in me marveled at what it must have first felt like for Hiram Bingham to have been, upon hearing rumors of some lost ancient city in the sky, led by locals through dense jungle to the top of a mountain to find this place, still inhabited (though his “discovery” is still debated).   


Some other poor souls actually got up while still dark and hiked up in order to see the ruins without tourists and to watch the sunrise.  Sadly, the morning fog, which burned off by the afternoon, blocks any potential views of the sun and many people were passed out on the grass by the time we got there (9am).  While there were tour groups around by the time we made it, not all that many.  Certainly nothing compared to any major site or museum in Europe and we had plenty of times where no other travelers were around us.    

Take a look at the scenic pictures of the ruins and notice the large mountain towering over in the background: that is another site named Huayna Picchu, which we hiked up to see.  It’s not for those with a fear of heights or need for safe railings, but the view is quite nice.  The Incan people were not very large and after using their tiny steps and midget doors I’ve come to believe there were the inspiration for the Smurfs (I’m even working on an Anthropology dissertation which links the blue skin of the Smurfs to local Incan body paint).


The area around Cuzco is called the Sacred Valley and is host to several other Incan sites.  None are particularly exciting compared to Machu Picchu but make for nice day trips, including Písac, Ollantaytambo, Moray, and Tipon.  The gigantic stones used are unique and can be found even in the city of CuzcoThey built an advanced irrigation system supporting terraced farming which was clever to say the least (though oddly never used the wheel in engineering). 

At Tipon, we ducked in a local restaurant where they served “cuy,” or in English: guinea pig.  It might be a pet back in the States, but here it is considered a culinary delicacy, served whole like lobster with herbs stuffed inside alongside a few organs that didn’t make it out.  Some sellers get creative and stage elaborate scenes with different (cooked) cuy fighting each other.  Hey, I said before I don’t discriminate, the cute animals are just as likely to end up in my stomach as the ugly ones (after all, it’s what’s on the inside that truly matters).  I did enjoy the flavor (even if a bit salty), but there isn’t all that much meat compared to how hard you work to get it.  Kinda like crawfish in that regard.  Another similarity between cuy and crawfish is that you can look into their dead eyes as you eat them.  Yea, yea, I know.  Just add it to the list of things I’ll be burning in hell for…   


  Click here to see Machu Picchu pics at Flickr***




2 responses

26 08 2008
mary and lance

WHAT an adorable picture of you two. Laura you look very happy.

11 09 2010

Have you finished the dissertation on the smurfs? Is there any way I can read it?

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