Blanketed by mist and dotted with Llamas this site on the steep mountain ridges of the Andes is an engineering marvel as well as a ghost town. Machu Picchu is a mid 15th century outcropping of buildings, terraces and plazas built by the Inca empire for the royal family. In its fully occupied setting there would have been thatched roofs of red and brown as well as walls of freshly honed white granite contrasting with the lush green jungle all around. So at 8,000 feet why would anyone live here much less take on the engineering difficulties of water and gravity, two of the weakest forces yet over time the most destructive.
In the Andes mountains of southern Peru, 500 years back in time, the great Inca empire peaked at 10 million in population and Cuzco at its center of power with Machu Picchu as a place of worship and royals. The site was rediscovered in the 1911 by Hiram Bingham an American historian on a Yale Peruvian Expedition and was told of site high in the mountains by local farmers. I had the pleasure and honor of visiting the site in what became an unforgettable chain of events.
The first link in this chain was of course traveling to Peru, the second, a bus and train trip up to Cuzco. This city, with the most beautiful central plaza, the Spanish did some things right, and mix of Inca and New World architecture was hard to pass up. So, the third, after we (my wife and I, but not married at the time, you know, doing the "see if we can travel together and not get on each others nerves" bit, it worked out, whoo hoo!) spent a few days here, we established the fourth link, to hike a portion of the Inca trail and eventually get hike into the citadel from the most photographed point of Machu Picchu. From this fortunate decision, to hike and not travel up to the site, allowed us to get this amazing moment. Unknown to us, the railroad workers whom were in the middle of a labor dispute decided to, the fifth link, have a nationwide strike of all trains on the exact day we were hiking into Machu Picchu, since we had been up there for three days. So the only visitors to the site were ones who drove themselves, walked up the twenty-something switch-back road from Aquas Calientes ( a town at the base of the mountain) or hike in....like us, a group of four and a few other small groups, 20 in all.
As lunch time came and went along with the small amount of visitors, by 3 that afternoon the only inhabitants of the entire complex, originally for 1000 occupants now only 500 are allowed per day by the Peruvian government, were us, eight grounds keepers and ten Llamas. With the sun setting while walking through the terraces down to the main entrance, I knew, we knew this was a .....once in a life time chain of events.