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Searching for the last shelter of the Incas

How were the previous days to the discover of Machu Picchu, one of the most visited attractions in the world? How did Hiram Bingham, the obstinate American explorer, arrived at this incomprehensible andean mountain surrounded by cliffs and built almost 2400 m.a.s.l. ? Was it just good luck or a fair prize to the persistence of an archaeologist? In this chronicle, proved in the stories of the book of Bingham called "The Lost City of the Incas", we intend to answer some of the questions relating to this mysterious Inca complex declared as Cultural Heritage of the Humanity by the UNESCO in 1983.

    The day welcomed Hiram Bingham and his expedition partners with an iced mist and a cold morning that was freezing their desires to continue going up by the rugged andean heights. However he, as the leader of the group, could not give up because of the difficulties of the andean weather. They had to continue searching for the last Inca Capital.
Related Articles Introduction

   * Adventures in
     the Inca Trail

   * Stories in the
     Inca Trail

   * Ruins in the
     Inca Trail

   * Choquequirao to
     Machu Picchu

   * The Main

   * Koricancha
   * The Paradise of
     the Incas

   * In Sacred

   * The Last Inca
   * Amongst
     Procession of

   * The Huayhuash

   * Intihuatana
   * Corpus Christi
   * Maras
   * Bohemian Night
   * From Tipon to

   * Sacsayhuamán
   * San Blas
    The members of the expedition, who were now suffering the rigors of the weather, had left Cusco leading to the plateau of the big canyon of Urubamba. Apart from Bingham the group was composed by the naturalist Harry Ward Foote, the surgeon WM. G Erving and the sergeant Carrasco who was in charge of the security as well as the interpretation as he knew some Qhechua.

    But that day the weather was not so adequate to start the journey. It was so cold that even Melchor Arteaga, the landowner of the place where the members of the expedition had spent the night and the only one who knew the area, was shivering and refused to be their guide in spite of the stubbornness of Bingham who did not stop trying to convince him.

    At last he did it, but he was not so lucky with his partners who decided to stay in the campsite. The naturalist was enthusiastic about increasing his collection of butterflies while the doctor preferred to stay there to put his clothes in order.

    And that cold andean morning, Bingham, Arteaga and Carrasco went away from the campsite. The two last men went because of work without liking the idea. Nobody could even predict what they would find then. It was on July 24th in 1911.

The explorer and the conquest
    Impenitent traveler, Bingham looked for that prehispanic bastion where the last Incas and part of the nobleness from Cusco had lived for 35 years ignoring the Spanish dominion. An authentic sanctuary that stayed apart from the rest of the Empire lost in one of the many mountains surrounding Cusco.

    But who was this tall searcher? What encouraged him to get inside of those incomprehensible Incas paths? Anthropologist, professor and innate explorer, Bingham was born in one of the islands of Hawaii called Koolau Maui and performed his studies in the universities of Yale and Harvard. He was then a teacher.

    One day the explorer spirit inside him led him to leave his classrooms and travel to the land of the Incas. He had fixed a goal: arrive at the lost city of the Children of Sun that was all a mystery of History. University of Yale decided to sponsor his adventure.

    That was how at his 35 years old, the searcher was going by the surroundings of the canyon of Urubamba, the Inca fortress of Salapunco and the Complex of Torontoy on the back of an animal, along with a naturalist, a surgeon and a sergeant who spoke Quechua.

    We do not need to mention that the group got astonished by the magic geography: big snowy peaks, frightening cliffs lost in the brave waters of Urubamba river and a wonderful vegetation. All of these wonders left them without breath.

    The difficulties of the journey took them to the area of Mandor Pampa where they met the landowner Melchor Arteaga. When he knew about their search, he told them about the existence of some wonderful ruins in some mountains called Huayna Picchu "young mountain" and Machu Picchu "Old Mountain".

    In order to prove that information, Bingham left towards those rugged cliffs. When they started the circuit it was cold, then the sun appeared and suffocated the men and the animals. The journey seemed to be difficult, geography became woody and the path turned spoiled and exhausting.

    Doubts about such a painful journey was worthy or not started to bombard the head of the thin historian. The path tested his discipline, his perseverance, his passion to explore the unknown. He had to continue in spite of the difficulties, and the scaring wood and liana bridge… and he crossed it, probably with some fear. Under his feet, waters looked like wishing to swallow him.

    After almost two hours of exhausting walk, they arrived at an esplanade of about two meters high where they found two hybrids: Richarte and Alvarez who offered them something to drink and eat as well as important information that gave each bite an especial taste.

    Those men sharing their food have lived in that distant place for four years. Land was generous and offered excellent fruit in the numerous terraces spreaded in the surroundings, but paths were difficult, almost inaccessible so they left only once a month…ah, and regarding to the ruins they said that they were further in some mountains of insurmountable cliffs.
Bingham continued his way with Carrasco and a new "guide", a young child, because Arteaga decided not to go. As soon as the group turned the hill in front of them, they saw a sudden landscape of hundreds of terraces invaded by the uncontrolled herbage of the low jungle.

    But the path did not end there. The little guide entered in the thick vegetation until arriving at some Incas buildings covered by vegetation. So It was necessary to open his path among the thick foliage. Bingham could not avoid being amazed, astonished for what he was seeing, he wrote in his diary: "Could someone believe what I found…?"

    He was not wrong. Everything was beautiful, incredible, seemed unreal because those walls of white granite fit perfectly as they had been built by a divine hand. What a beautiful place. Bingham decided to stay without breath.

    How was that place called? Nobody knew. The member of the expedition decided to baptised it with the name of the mountain that shelters: Machu Picchu. And the rest of the world would know it with that name.

    Today, almost one century after its discovery, the Inca citadel still marvels us. Its perfect and refined designs, its huge walls made of huge blocks of carved stone and its imposing constructions that match with the green and beautiful nature surrounding it , make of this citadel one of the most visited places in the world.

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