I just spent the last ten hours crawling in, on, and around the ruined Incan city of Machu Picchu. If I was to try to sum up the site and the experience of being there in a single word, many candidates spring to mind. Stunning. Breathtaking. Spiritual. But I think the one I´ll have to go with is: inconvenient.
Not for me, mind you. Sure, the site is only accessible by two plane rides (one into Lima and then a commuter flight into Cusco), followed a long bumpy taxi ride that involves bribing several policios, which is then followed by a lengthy train ride, a bus ride up the mountainside, and then many hours of extremely strenuous hiking (if one goes up the Wachupichu trail, which of course one must).
No, I mean inconvenient for the Incas.
I mean really. It´s like they sat down and said - alright, what is the absolute least convenient place we could put a city? Maybe like, perched atop a razor-thin peak, one of countless such knife-like ridges throughout one of the most rugged mountain ranges in the world? Someplace where we have to haul up supplies for thousands of feet on the backs of serfs and alpacas? Maybe we can throw in there an elevation so high that oxygen levels are much lower than at sea level, making every bit of physical exertion twice as strenous?
And don´t forget terrain so steep that it´s impossible to have a residence that´s all on one level - we´d like to have to walk up a ladder to get to the kitchen or the closet or the bathroom please. Oh and - how about we build everything out of closely fitted stone blocks, hewn from raw bedrock, moved into place at the expense of great labor, and finely honed by expert craftsman until the pieces fit so tightly together that not even a knife blade can be inserted in between the stones.
Yes, my trip to Machu Picchu has made one thing abundantly clear: the Incas were fucking crazy. The kind of crazy that made them build one of the wonders of the world, sure, but crazy nonetheless.