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.
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.
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.
Any shade will do, sometimes.
A girl and her … dog? Ginormous guinea pig? Your guess is as good as mine.
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.
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.
Standing guard for centuries over this … the Cusco Valley lies before it.
From a defensive standpoint, you can see why this would be a key site in the valley.
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.
Then, you start wandering.
You step out of a tunnel to see that there is more.
What’s over there?
The ability of nature to overcome rock never ceases to amaze me.
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.
And on the other side I find a neighbourhood that mimics the zigzags for which Qenqo is known.
And it was back to reality as we resumed our journey to Saksayhuaman.
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.
Next time, photos of Saksayhuaman. This was a heady day, if you`ll excuse the pun.