Saturday, December 30, 2017

Peruvian Highlands - Machu Picchu and the Inca Drawbridge

As promised in the last episode of the Machu Picchu travelogue, the finale of my visit caps off with a hike to the Inca Drawbridge.  For previous travel accounts, please see:
The Inca Drawbridge is not on the citadel site, itself, but about a twenty minute walk from the Guardhouse around the side of Mach Picchu Mountain.  To reach the drawbridge requires a hike that is not difficult but presents a few hazards.  The main hazard is that the pathway around Machu Picchu Mountain is along a narrow footpath with sheer drops of 1,000 feet to the valley floor below.
Path along Machu Picchu Mountain
The second potential hazard encountered on the day of our visit was frequent confrontations with the local fauna.  While seemingly friendly, the llamas felt no urgency in making a pathway around them easy.  With no wall in place along the path, a quick nudge by a llama might spell the end of a good day.
Fauna grazing along the treacherous path
Fortunately, the animals were quite docile and seemed more interested in grazing along the path than causing any intentional mischief.  They even seemed to enjoy a chance at a photo op.
Say "Cheese"
Making our way passed the llamas and a bend in the trail, the Inca Drawbridge is visible in the distance.
First glimpse of Inca Bridge
The construction of the bridge is quite clever.  A wall was built out from the cliff face and a large gap remains.  Wooden planks were placed across this gap which could be retracted to restrict access to the citadel.  A little sentry post overlooks the drawbridge.

Another interesting feature of the wall is a series of "flying steps" protruding out from the wall face.  Having a lengthy rise and no handhold, negotiating these steps would require great care and balance.  The purpose of these flying steps is speculative but a reasonable conclusion is the these steps were used during the construction of the wall.  Even if an attacker attempted access to the path from the steps, a defender could easily thwart any attempt. 
Inca Drawbridge showing "flying steps"
This flying step feature is seen throughout Machu Picchu and the Peruvian Highlands.  These steps could also have been utilized as a means to quickly access a series of terraces.  This feature is encountered on almost all of the terraces we came across.  Flying steps can be found even at the top of Huayna Picchu.
Flying Steps on Huayna Picchu
While the arduous climb up Huayna Picchu was on Day 1, below is a near aerial view of the Machu Picchu citadel from the top of Huayna Picchu.
View of MP Citadel from atop Huayna Picchu
Having made the journey back from the drawbridge safely, time remained to make one more tour of the citadel itself before taking the shuttle back down the mountain.  As we circumnavigated the main plaza, the sense of scale comes into perspective.  The structures are massive.  To provide a sense of the overwhelming nature of the structures, see the photos below with people for reference.  Everything is built on a massive scale and is truly an awesome sight.
Citadel with Huayna Picchu in background
Eastern Urban Sector
Steep stairway up to the Temple of the Three Windows
Temple of the Sun
After one last photo, we headed back to the citadel entrance and awaited a shuttle.  After a twenty minute ride down the mountain, the shuttle deposited us back in Aguas Calientes. 
Jon with Machu Picchu citadel in background
Aguas Calientes


  1. Simply stunning. Her indoors is hinting that a South American trip is pencilled in for 2019 and Machu Picchu is in the mix.

    1. You will enjoy Peru very much. We travel frequently and it was one of our best travels yet. Peru is wonderful!

  2. Cracking set of photos Jonathan. We're plagued with dopey Swaledale sheep round my way, so thankfully you didn't encounter any of those woolly roadblocks on those walks. Saying that, mind, we've also a few llamas and alpacas in the area.

    1. Llamas and alpacas are ranched around these parts too. Nothing like seeing them in their "native" habitat in the Peruvian highlands.

      Glad you enjoyed the photos!

  3. Beautiful, magic place! Thank You for a photos sir!

  4. Fantastic scenery. I would like to visit there someday. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Fantastic scenery, no doubt! Photos of the ruins do not prepare one for viewing these magnificent sites in person. Hope you make it there!

  5. Amazing place, Jonathan. The llamas look so cool - like a petting zoo :) The stone work, particularly the Temple of the Sun's, reminds me of Mycenaean fortresses.

  6. It is always fun travelling vicariously through you, Jon!

    1. Scott, very pleased that you find the travelogues entertaining. When Nancy sees these travel posts, she often says, "I don't remember seeing/doing that!"

  7. Wonderful stuff! Machu Picchu is surely one of the most intriguing places on the planet given it's setting, scale, and remoteness! It is indeed unfortunate that the Inca possessed no writing system (except perhaps their knotted strings), and the Spanish were so methodical at destroying those, much as they did the vast majority of records left by the Aztecs and Mayans.

    1. Machu Picchu is a magical place, Peter!

      It really is a sad situation looking back upon the Spanish conquest and the destruction of so much by so few. The Church and State are responsible for great loss to humanity and to our understanding of these great New World cultures.


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