We have generally traveled alone or with another couple. This trip to Peru was organized by Princess Cruises as a part of the cruise from Chilie aroud Cape Horn eventually ending in Argentina. Being a part of a larger group was fun. When we got off the airplane from Lima in Cusco we were split up as a group and loaded on four buses. That made up our small travel group as for the next several days we were all on the same bus. The fun was getting to know each other and joke around on the bus and at the hotels as we enjoyed this awesome experience.
Sacred Valley and the Inca Empire.. an Introduction
The Inca civilization arose from the highlands in the Andes in the early 13th century with the last stronghold conquered by the Spanish in 1572. The were unique compared to the Old World where they lacked wheeled vehicles and animals to ride or pull plows. They lacked the knowledge of iron and steel as well as a system of writing. With that said, scholars write that the Incas were able to construct one of the greatest imperial states in human history. The Inca central city was Cusco supporting a network of trails and roads reaching all corners of the empire. The trails and roads extended some 23,000 kilometer (14,300 miles) including bridges crossing rivers that ran up the mountains and thru the jungles allowing corn, beans, garlic, cotton, peanuts, dried fish and seashells were among other products to flow into the sacred city as tribute. They brought fine sand from the seashore to spread in the plaza where all the roads met.
Many of us remember in our grade school history classes the mountainside terraces. These were amazing agricultural innovations in a difficult mountain environment. The terraces were called andenes and helped with the management and organization of labor to produce crops, mostly corn and potatoes. These Agricultural terraces were built up hillsides flanking the valley floor and are today the most visible and widespread signs of the Inca civilization in the Sacred Valley.
Architecture and use of large rocks for building
Architecture of Temples, homes and fortification was nothing short of amazing given the simple bronze tools and harder stones .used to shape rather than cut the huge blocks that were quarried and shaped for being put together. The marks on the stone blocks indicate that they were mostly pounded into shape rather than cut. Blocks were moved, sometimes many miles using ropes, logs, poles, levers, and earthen ramps (telltale marks can still be seen on some blocks) and needles to say, many people.The fine cutting and setting of the blocks on site was so precise that mortar was not necessary. Finally, a finished surface was provided using grinding stones and sand. The size of the blocks often determined the importance of the building. The stones used in temples were very large and had more complex fittings. Not using mortar to hold the blocks together saved many buildings from earthquake damage over the centuries.
The Inca Philosophy
What does Inca mean as a philosophy: the “spirit”,”force” or “energy” which sets things in order to generate or produce well being.
That certainly says a lot in a few words but it established a model for people to seek a meaning from all the surroundings of mother nature, the sun, the mountains, the rivers, the animals and the universe of stars at night, which was the basis of their view on life.
In the current environment the local decedents of the empire ” the Quechuaare” primarily Roman Catholic but have a refreshing view from their ancestors as to the value of mother nature and the goodness that comes from considering all people that they come in contact with as extended family and friends. This love of nature and the ruins that represented their ancestors interpretation of mother nature is a part of their life. When they guide you thru the Sacred Valley, they do it with wonderful passion and enthusiasm. We were left with wonderment and respect! Our guide Edgar Rivas personified this during our three days with him.
Inca use of the Constellation
For the Incas, whose empire at its height stretched from Ecuador to central Chile, the Milky Way, called Mayu, was a life-giving river in the heavens with earthly counterparts – the Urubamba River flows thru the Sacred Valley. The Incas revered the skies and celestial events. Their observations of stars and the constellations along with the movements of the sun and moon, provided them with units of time, and a calendar system which helped them plan agricultural and herding activities.
The Incas thought of themselves as descendants of the Sun god, “Inti”. The Festival of the Sun “Inti Raymi “ was celebrated by the Incas on the shortest day of the year during the winter solstice, and was the most important event in the year. It is still celebrated in some indigenous cultures throughout the Andes.
The Sacred Valley runs west to east along the Urambamba River with Andes mountaintops and peaks on either side from Pisac westward to Machu Piccu for 62 miles. The Sacred Valley has elevations ranging from 9,800 feet at Pisac to 6,730 feet where the Urubamba River runs below the citadel of Macchu Piccu. On both sides of the river, the mountains rise to much higher elevations, especially to the south where two prominent mountains overlook the valley Sahuasiray 19,088 feet and Veronica 19,334 feet in elevation. The Urambamba River eventually joins other rivers to form the beginning of the Amazon River in Bolivia. We visited many sites, mostly destroyed by the Spaniards when the conquered the Inca’s and the stones were reused for other buildings
Koricancha Temple to the Sun became the foundation for. the cloister of the Santo Domingo convent. The Spanish totally covered the most sacred Inca Temple that surrounded a central fountain. In 1950 an earthquake in Cusco destroyed some of the cloister revealing the old undamaged Inca temple buildings inside the walls which were covered by the Spanish to hide the old building and Sun temple. The finest Inca stonework in existence today is the curved wall beneath the west end of the Church.
The new Koricancha Temple was built on the same site where the Inca ancestors had constructed their first temple called Qoricancha (Gold Courtyard) represented for the empire where the golden mirror in which the Andean peoples, reverent and barefoot, saw themselves. It was built around a central fountain with many rooms that were dedicated to the Sun, the Moon, the Stars, Lightning and the Rainbow.
What was amazing to us was the construction, there were seems that it was almost impossible to feel the line where they were separated.
The high walls were such a great example of the stonework we discussed before. The stones used to built the temple were brought from the quarries located 20 to 30 Km away from the temple, called Waqoto and Rumiqolca. Again, through hard labor of pushing and sliding the stones for construction!
La Cathedral dominates the north-east side of the Plaza de Armas and sits squarely on the foundations of the Inca Viracocha’s palace. The Cathedral was begun in 1550 and completed nearly 100 years later, constructed in the shape of a Latin cross. Walking thru The Cathedral contains nearly 400 colonial paintings including the Last Supper by Marcos Zapata showing Christ and the Apostles about to dine on guinea-pig, the local meal used for celibrations. washed down with a glass of chicha! (beer made from corn). The art was magnificent and we thorouly enjoyed it
Unfortunately no photography was allowed, however we took the one below without flash showing Mary pregnant and in the last super replaced Judas with the Spanish conqueror Francisco Pissaro in his place. All to help the Incas change to Catholic.
Sacsayhuaman (pronunciation sounds like “sexy women”) is a fortress-temple complex that lies at the northern edge of the former Inca capitol of Cusco. Constructed between 1438-1471 its massive, well-built walls remain today as a testimony not only to Inca power but also the skills of Inca architects and their approach of blending their monumental structures harmoniously into the natural landscape. The Sacsayhuaman is still used today for reenactments of Inca-inspired ceremonies.
The fortress was the largest structure built by the Incas. It was constructed on an elevated rocky promontory marshy ground outside the Inca capital of Cusco. The Fortress complex included temples, notably one to the sun god and was used as a location for Inca ceremonies. The Incas also ensured that their blocks interlocked and the walls were sloped to maximize their resistance to earthquake damage. Time has proved their efficiency as 500 years of earthquakes have done remarkably little damage to the remaining portions of the Inca structures left in their complete state and the Sacsayhuaman is no exception.
The fortress was said to have had a capacity for at least 1,000 warriors. The complex included temples, notably one to the sun god Inti, and was used as a location for Inca ceremonies. The Sacsayhuaman was also a major Inca storage depot where arms, armor, foodstuffs, valuable textiles, ceramics, metal tools, and precious metals were kept.
Palestinian Statue to Jesus at Sacsayhuaman
The statue of Jesus on the hillside is a modern day story. During World War II some of he Christian Palestineans migrated to Sacsayhuamen. They lived in this area until the local population decided they did not assimulate and asked them to leave after the war. They did leave the area for Palestine and left this statue to the local Peruvian people as a gift.
We headed to our next stop which was the Pisac Market. This is an Andrean village primarily for the locals to sell their wares to tourists. What attracted us most was the silver store where they made all their own silver jewelry which is 95 percent silver and 5 percent copper so the jewelry is not so soft.
The children were a major highlight dressed in old native clothes. Many carryied baby llamas. It was hard not to take pictures and give the children dollar bills. As the posed they said “cheesie, cheesie, dollar, dollar”.
John, of course wanted to take the llhma with us thinking how much the grandchildren would love it! Once they received their tip they went to a nearby doorway and gavetheir money it to a women, obviously the “leader of the pack”.
On to the hotel in Urubamba for a good nights rest to get ready for our next day of adventure in the Sacred Valley.
First thing in the morning we headed to the town of Ollataytambo, a small town located in the western end of the Sacred Valley. This town is best know for being the best example of an Inca town. It was planed for agricultural, residential, religious and military purposes.
This was our first real climb.
Our bodies were willing and with many stops to catch our breath, we made it to the top!
Tamboqasa was above the town of Ollataytambo and was our first climb at high altitude and it literally took our breath away. While we were not at the level of Cusco , about 11,000 feet we were about 9,000 feet. At the top was where the construction of the Sun Temple has started and you could see the trails where the rocks were brought across from the quarries to build Tamboqasa. It is believed this was never completed before being captured by the Spanish. When you look into the hillside you can see the remains of the building that were destroyed on the mountains which included storage and military sites. This was another spectacular adventure and interesting history.
As we said goodby to this unbelievable town, a view looking up to the temple with Steve and Marilyn.
Moray is the “governmental crop laboratory or a seedling nursery” of the Incas. Large scale maize production in the Sacred Valley was apparently facilitated by varieties bred here. It was an interesting place where the Agricultural terraces create different environments for the laboratory. Today there are over 100 varieties of potatoes grown in Peru presumed to have been developed from these laboratories. Agricultural terraces are the way crops were grown in all the Inca communities. These terraces were also created up the mountain side to avoid mud slides from rains and earthquakes. It is amazing that after all these centuries much of the infrastructure remains intact.
Off to lunch and we were treated with a traditional Peruvian lunch. The meats and vegetable are cooked in the group by first heating the stones then placing the meats and vegetable into the stones.
We watched them dig up the meats and vegetable and tried their most cherish meat delicacy, guinea pig, yes that is right, the small animals we had in our homes running on wheels in a cage. They raise these for food, they are much larger than the ones in our homes, it is expensive so is usually only eaten on special occasions. Not much meat on them bones but we have to tell you it tasted very good! At the end of lunch we watched a short horse back riding exhibition.
We left there to a small village of Chincheros where were treated to seeing the woman that make the handmade blankets and scarfs with a demonstration of how they create the treads and how the dye colors are created.
Each color comes from a specific berry, flower or leaf. You can see them dipping the alpaca into the vegetable dyes and the brilliant colors that are created. What a lesson in hard work and creativity. The woman in charge demonstrated how they use blankets they make to carry their babies, of course this is her child!
This had been going on for generations but our guide told us the way things were going they were not sure this kind of personal making of alpaca blankets, shawls, etc. would exist in 20 years. Back to our hotel, tomorrow we head out to Machu Picchu via Peru Rail on the Vistadome for a once in a life time experience.
Edgar – Our Tour Guide
Edgar Rivas of LIMA TOURS was our guide for the three days we spent in The Sacred Valley, Cusco and Machu Picchu. We all enjoyed his passion for the Inca heritage and knowledge at so many levels of detail as he guided us through the beauty and heritage of the Inca Empire. Edgar, we thank you for making this a perfect experience.