I am writing this blog on Tuesday. We are resting comfortably at the hotel. This would have been the starting morning of the Inca Trail, but as I reported last night, that went by the wayside. So, instead of waking up and meeting our van at 5:30 AM, we slept in, had a nice breakfast and are now sitting out in the Sacred Valley sun. The wifi signal is strong, so Genene is happily watching videos, I am blogging and Greg is reading. It’s what we call a “make and mend day.” We were disappointed, but I could get used to relaxing in the sun.
So let’s return to the program in order.
Sunday, July 27, 2014
At the end of Part One, I was just starting to get really annoyed about the festival that was going on outside our hotel room. There were loudspeakers, and the entertainment was not of the highest quality. As I mentioned, there was one song that was repeated ad nauseum, and I swear the guy kept singing, “Sopapilla! Sopapilla! Sopapilla!” Another thing the singer liked to do was make a sound like, “EeeYie! EeeYie! EeeYie!” It was impossible to sleep. The noise went on until after 2 AM. I should have known that Greg was getting sick because he can usually sleep through a hurricane, but even he was awake and said, “This is HORRIBLE.” I called to front desk to complain and tell them that it was intolerable. The lady at the front desk was mortified. She apologized profusely and hissed, “It’s the TOWN.” She said it as if the town were something totally separate from her and from the hotel, something evil and malevolent.
Greg got up again in the wee hours and said that he did not feel right. He was dizzy and out of breath, classic symptoms of altitude sickness. We had been to the travel doctor in Houston before we left and had been taking all the recommended medicines, and we were warned that if this happened, the remedy was rest until the body adjusts. Our guide Carlos concurred. When he came to pick us up on Sunday morning, he told Greg to rest in bed all day. We were all supposed to go for full day of sightseeing, but Carlos recommended that Genene and I go for a half-day and then check on Greg. The hotel had oxygen on hand, and they took good care of Greg while we went to do a little exploring.
Genene and I hopped in with Carlos and the driver Rolondo and we set out for Ollantaytambo, an Incan village set below an ancient Inca fortress and temple. The town is named for Ollantay, the Incan general who expanded his people’s frontier as far north as Columbia and south to Argentina. He served under the Sapa Inca Pachacutec, the 9th Inca emperor, whom we have already met. Ollantay was naturally pleased with his military exploits, and thus he was emboldened to ask for the hand of Pachacutec’s daughter. This request was refused. Though a great general, Ollantay was a commoner, not a Sapa Inca. The general did what all generals and scorned men do. He rebelled against Pachacutec and holed up in the fortress that we are about to visit. The legend has it that Ollantay kept the princess a prisoner until her more tolerant brother became ruler. As I mentioned, the Incas do not have written histories, so much of their stories were chronicled by the conquering Spaniards, and myth is difficult to separate from fact. In any event, it is a beautiful place. It’s in the Sacred Valley northwest of Cusco, and it contains religious, astronomical, administrative and urban complexes.
Beautiful ruins of the fortress:
Carlos said that these pieces must have fallen from above when the fortress was destroyed by the Spaniards. The pieces do not “fit” where they have fallen.
Temples and buildings are carved into the side of the mountain face. This is a storage facility, possibly a granary.
Below is a view of the Temple of the Sun of Tanupa:
A view of Ollantaytambo town:
The ruins of the fortress are in the foreground in this shot:
A closer view of the Temple of the Sun:
A closer view of the granary:
Below is the carved face of Tunupa, also known as Wiracochan. He was believed to be a messenger of Waracocha, another god. Tunupa was supposedly a person with superhuman powers (Superman), a tall man with short hair, dressed in a tunic and a bonnet with four corners. Tunupa’s sacred profile is sculpted into the mountain Pinkuylluna, across from the fortress. Because of the Andean geography and the shape of the mountains, his face changes throughout the day. Sometimes he appears to be scowling, other times sleeping, enhancing the notion of his supernatural powers.
The Incans worshipped nature and the ecosystem. They saw the world as a living thing with man as only a part of it. They built temples to the sun, sky, and water. They aligned these structures with the solistice and other planetary objects. I find this to be so intriguing, because we have seen so many other examples in our other journeys. Ancient people had a much better sense of the earth’s rhythm than do we, I think. We have so many distractions (I’m on my iPad right now). How many of us actually go out and look at the night sky and really observe?
Genene saw many faces in the rocks.
Structures built into the sides of the mountains, with trails up and down.
The mountains are stunning:
The temple for the worship of water:
In this next shot, you can see the Temple of the Sun on the left edge of the photo, in alignment with Tunupa’s forehead. The temple was constructed so that the sun shines in perfectly at the dawn of the winter solstice. In the summer solstice, the light shines brightly on the temple and the head of Tunupa is illuminated. At that time, there is a coming-of-age ceremony for young men and the plants in the field. On the right side is a storage facility, carved out of the rock. Carlos told us another story of Ollantay and Pachacutec. Supposedly when Ollantay asked to marry the emperor’s daughter, the emperor gave him an impossible task, to build this storage area and many of the other buildings in the face of the mountain. The general was given two months, an impossible task. Ollantay called upon Tunupa and the other gods for help. The gods favored Ollantay and helped him get the job done, but the emperor refused him anyway. (No one is ever really good enough for Daddy’s girl.)
This is a close-up of some of the carved rocks. I believe Carlos said that these protuberances served as handles to lift the rocks into place.
This area of the world is subject to earthquakes and was so in ancient times. The Incan engineers had a design for that. The rocks were intricately carved and placed together, not always at right angles. As you can see below, they used curved connections to allow the force of the earth movement to be absorbed and for the structure to remain solid. If they had simply carved everything into right angles, when the earth started shaking, the whole thing could have toppled. Could our engineers do as well today with their computers and CAD programs?
Here are some beautiful views of the Sacred Valley of the Urubamba River. One of the reasons the valley was sacred was because the Milky Way is reflected in the waters of the Urubamba in this area. Again, I am struck by the observations of the ancient people and how they were in tune with the earth.
The stone below at one time had a carving on it, but Carlos said that it had been knocked off by the Spaniards. It was most likely a puma. Genene thinks she can make some of it out still. Can you?
More carvings in the rocks.
This flower was important in Inca customs and traditions. There were games of skill, running, jumping over fire (I’m thinking something like the Olympics). At the conclusion of these rites of passage, the men were allowed to put the flower in their forehead. This meant that they could marry then and own property.
Carlos said this flower’s English name was “Forever Young.” Obviously, this is a highly sought-after plant. I guess everyone is always looking for a fountain of youth.
Another view of Tunupa and the granary:
In this picture, you can see Tunupa’s “crown.”
Carlos takes good pictures of us:
This building is a temple devoted to the worship of water. Can you see the downward notch in the mountain through the window? At solstice, the light shines through that notch and illuminates the water at the edge of the waterfall.
Our visit to Ollantaytambo complete, we went back to the hotel to check on Greg. We found him resting comfortably but still very tired. Our itinerary called for us to go back out in the the afternoon. We were to visit a home and learn about customs, traditions, and weaving from a family of Amuru villagers and then travel to the ruins at Pisaq. Alas, they will have to wait for another time. We elected to stay with Greg and rest ourselves. Genene and I had a late lunch at the hotel, while Greg tried to keep resting. Genene and I joined him with a nap. I think the sleepless night was bad for all of us, and Carlos thought so too. He was trying to preserve our chances to make it to the trail, and I agreed with that effort, even though in the end, it has not worked out. We gave it every chance.
We had room service and just took it easy all evening. Greg still did not have much appetite, but I could actually hear when his breathing eased in the middle of the night. I was comforted by that sound and drifted away myself.