The Lost City of the Incas

I could have written about the many fantastic cities in Europe I have had the opportunity to visit recently, but I feel like writing about a place that I have never been to and by the current state of my finances will probably never be able to, not by a long shot.

But it’s a dream that I must work towards or die in the attempt — dying in the attempt of course would mean dying of old age, which in turn would mean that I could never set aside enough for the dream project.

Now for the dream, I have often imagined how it would be to spend a night camping on a moon-lit night in the Inca citadel of Machhu Picchu also known as The Lost City of the Incas in Peru.

Machu Picchu, which means 'old peak' in the local Quechua language, lies in the shadow of Huyana Picchu. By inference Picchu in the official Incan language must mean a peak!

Is that a fantastic dream or what? I don’t even know if they allow tourists up there at night.

But to be honest if it came to the crunch the camping-in-moonlight part is negotiable. I just want to be there, period.

My fascination with the Inca ruins began years ago while reading a novella in the celebrated Bengali children’s magazine Ananda Mela.

The story was set in the ruins of Machu Picchu. I vaguely remember it was about a gold treasure hidden in a tunnel by an Inca king called Manco Capan. Two adventurers discover the treasure with the help of a cryptic map but end up killing each other in the end because greed gets the better of them.

It was a gripping tale that threw up exotic names of kings, gods and places such as Atahualpa, the Weeping God of Huari and Cuzco among the many that I don’t remember anymore.

I was in a daze for a few days after reading the story. My mind conjured up fantastic images of an ancient city built on the mountains. The mind-paintings of the citadel stayed with me for a while then faded. Like all childhood obsessions it passed.

Years later,  while studying at Asian College of Journalism in Chennai, I chanced upon a news article on the ruins in Peru and the accompanying photograph was the first time I saw what the Lost City of the Incas looks like.

Memories rekindled of that novella I had read as a teen. And ever since I have spent endless hours browsing the Net for photos and articles on Machu Picchu and the Incas.

More than 8,000 feet above sea level in the Andes mountains lies this majestic city that was carved out of stones some times in the 13th century.

No one knows for sure why this mini city was built so high above the mountains or who lived there. Although, it is only about 80 km from Cuzco, which was the capital of the Inca empire, the Spanish Conquistadors never found this city.

It remained hidden for nearly 500 years till Hiram Bingham, an American historian discovered it in 1911 and called it the Lost City of the Incas. Over the years it became one of the most famous tourist spots in the world.

About two years ago, trawling through the Net one day, I came across a blog by an American woman, who had left home 19 years ago to checkout the Inca ruins, and never returned. She takes tourists from across the world on guided tours of all the sacred sites of the Incas, including Machu Picchu.

I got in touch with her telling her this story about my fascination with the citadel and she related to me how she left home early in her youth to discover Machu Picchu for herself. She offered to show me around and even sent a detailed itinerary and how much it would cost — the figure was mind numbing!

Nevertheless, I was just happy to come across a person who was as fascinated with the lost city as I am.

But no. Clearly, she was more obsessed!


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