A Few Hours in Peru

A few years back I had the pleasure of trekking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. It was something of a dream come true, as I’d wanted to do this trek since about 1992, after I’d been to the Himalayas. There was something symmetrical about have trekked both.

Fifteen years went by filled with the political difficulties in Peru and life. You know how it is. Life happens and you have to live it. Dreams are put on hold. Then, one day, a door opens and it’s up to you whether or not you’ll walk through and embrace what’s on the other side.

We arrived a couple of days early to acclimatise to the altitude, spending the first night at a hotel in Lima, then flying to Cusco on the second day. Once we’d checked into our hotel there, we left the city and went up to Puka Pukara. This is where the next few hours’ worth of photographs were taken.

Cusco nestles in her valley, secure and protected. She is the spiritual centre of the Inca world and is surrounded by archeological digs. Forts, temples, and other ancient sites envelop her in a protective web of eyes and gods. This shot was taken from the bus.

Cusco rests in her valley.
Cusco rests in her valley.

Puka Pukara is Quechua (the local language) for  ‘Red Fortress’. It’s pretty self-evident why it’s named that; especially at sunset, I was told. It was once one of the direct defenses of Cusco, having a clear view of the valley, but would also have served (it is thought) as a rest stop along the road for travelling dignitaries and priests.

A new use for an old site.
A new use for an old site.

The influx of tourists provides a fairly good income for the locals, who aim to please with selection. Rest assured, I bought the bottle of water in the next picture … the look on her face tells the story and I wouldn’t have gypped her for the life of me.

Implacable and determined, she made sure I did not walk away without buying something.
Implacable and determined, she made sure I did not walk away without buying something.

Any shade will do, sometimes.

Resting his paws.
Resting his paws.

A girl and her … dog? Ginormous guinea pig? Your guess is as good as mine.

Tough and beautiful people.
Tough and beautiful people.

The construction of Puka Pukara is considered rough when compared to other sites in the area, as if it was meant to be functional rather than impressive.

Tourists horse around on the terrace.
Tourists horse around on the terrace.

Well, I don’t know much about stone cutting and masonry, but it seems to me that this is the neatest ‘rough’ construction I’ve ever seen. How perfectly they all fit together.

The gates.
The gates, beautifully dressed, welcome you.
What a place to wake up every day.
What a place to wake up every day.
I love being able to see views that would not have been seen before the walls came down.
I love being able to see views that would not have been seen before the walls came down.
The walls seem to undulate.
The walls seem to undulate.
The walls reflect the shape of the mountains.
The wall reflects the shape of the mountain so well, it could have been pulled down like this on purpose..

Standing guard for centuries over this … the Cusco Valley lies before it.

Long-sight, perfect for defense.

From a defensive standpoint, you can see why this would be a key site in the valley.

Marvelous look-out.
Marvelous look-out.

Our next stop was Qenqo, a temple complex carved out of a monolith. In Quechua, Qenqo means ‘labyrinth’, essentially. Man-made chambers conform to the constraints of the rock walls in a unique and intriguing way that pulls you along to the next opening, and the next.

On the surface, it looks like any other site.
On the surface, it looks like any other site.

Then, you start wandering.

Drawn into a hole in the wall ...
Drawn into a hole in the wall …
And you follow the last one down ...
And you follow the last one down … to find branched pillars that pull you along …
To find such pristine work.
To find such pristine work ….
And a couple of fellow travellers coming the other way.
And more travellers coming at the altar from a different direction altogether.

You step out of a tunnel to see that there is more.

A small idea of how much bigger this site is than you might think.
A small idea of how much bigger this site is than you might think.

What’s over there?

IMG_2572
But the zoom isn’t quite good enough, so you head over there.
Another opening ...
Another opening …

The ability of nature to overcome rock never ceases to amaze me.

Delicate and thriving.
Delicate and thriving.

Qenqo is believed to have been a temple where death rituals, including sacrifice, occurred. The channels that zigzag through the hillside site might have enabled a beer libation to flow through during embalming and burial rituals, it might have allowed blood to flow freely during sacrificial rites, we will never really know. However, it is a compelling place that allows the imagination to fly.

Lured forth once more ...
Lured forth once more …

And on the other side I find a neighbourhood that mimics the zigzags for which Qenqo is known.

I stepped through a pair of massive rocks to find that life mirrors the temple.
I stepped through a pair of massive rocks to find that life mirrors the temple.

And it was back to reality as we resumed our journey to Saksayhuaman.

It was later in the afternoon when we left. Many of the merchants were busy getting ready to go home to their families.
It was later in the afternoon when we left. Many of the merchants were busy getting ready to go home to their families.

The city of Cusco is shaped like a puma, the animal most sacred to the Inca. The river is its spine, the city`s main plaza was its belly and Saksayhuaman is its head.

Five minutes later, we were there.
Five minutes later, we were there.

Next time, photos of Saksayhuaman. This was a heady day, if you`ll excuse the pun.

***

 

 

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