Happy Anniversary Machu Picchu!
It was 100 years ago that American Hiram Bingham (with the assistance of the area’s indigenous farmers), came across the ancient 15th century Incan ruin site of Machu Picchu, located 2430 meters above sea level.
As Peru celebrates this important milestone anniversary, some people have been erroneously reporting that Bingham discovered the place.
This is not true. Stated simply:
“Hiram Bingham DID NOT discover Machu Picchu!”
Say this five times slowly before continuing.
What Exactly Did Bingham Accomplish?
First of all, he came upon a spectacular ruin site that rather fortunately, did not get destroyed by the pillaging Spaniards during the Conquest. It remained unknown to the outside world, maintaining a dignified and peaceful existence for 500 years only being used by locals as a place to plant their crops. It was one of these farmers (a young boy), who revealed the location of Machu Picchu to Bingham.
Secondly, Bingham was responsible for the ensuing restoration efforts that transformed the site into Peru’s number one tourist attraction. Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, it’s expected that over 1,000,000 people will visit this year alone.
Hiram Bingham, A Cool Dude?!
By now you may think that Hiram Bingham was a pretty stand-up guy. He helped restore an important historical site, right? While true, he was also a dirty bastard.
During the excavation of Machu Pichhu, he removed several artifacts taking them back with him to the United States promising to return them when his studies were complete. Never happened! It was only this past February, that Yale rightfully returned the artifacts to the Peruvian people.
Seeing Machu Picchu for Myself
In May of 2007, I somehow thought myself capable of making the 4 day, 3 night journey that would bring me to Machu Picchu on dawn of the fourth day. Rather miraculously, a terribly unfit me survived the hike and made it to the Sun Gate in time to gather with several other smelly and sweaty back-packers to watch the sun rise over the ruins.
This experience is said to move people to tears. I was in tears but not because I was inspired by the beauty of the moment but because I was in pain. Clumsy me had taken more than one tumble during the hike and on that beautiful morning, I limped my way into Machu Picchu, with my knee wrapped in a tensor bandage and slightly high on pain killers.
So rather unfortunately, I did not enjoy Machu Picchu as much as I thought I would. It didn’t get the attention it deserved from me. I didn’t listen closely when my tour guide explained the history and I rushed through to take the mandatory photos.
I know I’ll be back in South America someday and I vow to pay another visit! Machu Picchu, I’ll make it up to you, I promise.
My Machu Picchu Photos
While a lovely day weather wise, the bright mid-day sun wasn’t exactly an ideal day for taking photos.
I’m jealous of those who reach the grounds early in the morning when it’s cloaked in a lovely blue grey mist … like I said, I’ll be back.
Can’t Get Enough?
Read this article by BBC Travel about the sites that people often miss when they visit Machu Picchu: http://www.bbc.com/travel/feature/20110720-what-most-people-miss-at-machu-picchu/2
Or let National Geographic show you what Machu Picchu looked like before AND after the excavation: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2011/07/pictures/110722-machu-picchu-before-after-excavation-peru-inca/?now=2011-07-22-00:01#/machu-picchu-before-after-entry-after_37747_600x450.jpg