On the trail of the Incas – part 1
As the more avid readers of my blog will remember, we spent a lot of April touring the spectacular Maya ruins in Mexico and Guatemala – Teotihuacan, Chichen Itza, Uxhmal, Edzna, Corba, Tikal and the like – huge sets of pyramids and other structures that are still being discovered and “recovered” from the encroach of nature that has hidden the structures for hundreds of years. Based on our discoveries thus far I was really looking forward to doing the same with the Inca ruins in Ecuador and Peru.
Pictures in my head of great Inca walls of legendary construction which after all the hundreds of years that have passed it is alleged that you still cannot slide a piece of paper between the mortarless joints. Imagine then my disappointment at the first sets of ruins that we went to see in Cuenca in Ecuador. Barely more than marks in the ground one brick high – I mean to say, I have seen better Roman ruins in Britain! So the story goes that after the Spamish conquest, the Incas were mostly killed or died out from unknown European illnesses. The people who were left were forced out of their strongholds and the Spanish systematically destroyed them as a sign of their dominance. The locals then, over time saw the opportunities provided by the “spare” stones lying around they they used them to build other homes and walls that did not last the way the originals were designed to last. I didn’t even take photos.
hopes dashed, but we booked an excursion to see another set about an hour away in Ingapirka. Honestly? Not much better and in some ways worse. The walls were in places higher and yes, where the “good” walls were the legendary jointing was in place…
But to our disappointment the ecuadorians had seen fit to “recreate” some bits in situ to our mind destroying the integrity of the place. Okay the Temple of the Sun was largely there and the guide spun up some credible stories, but only after she admitted that there were no written records and a fair amount was speculation! The stones used may have been carried all the way from Peru as they looked a lot like stones used in structures there, but then again materialistically they were quite like rocks that could be found a mile away.
The whole scale of the thing after the Maya ruins that covered many square kilometres was also more than a little disappointing… What a let down. I really was questioning our plans for Peru.
One of our planned “highlights” was intended to be Machu Picchu and I really balked at the thought of both the expense and the hassle of visiting it if this was what we were in for. Marc had already been and assured me it was much better in Peru, but meeeh… I was unconvinced.
After a couple of diversions in Peru – a week in the jungle by the Amazon and a week in Arequipa mostly without any ruins in sight we headed to Cuzco to look around and make a decision about what we would do.
Cuzco was an Inca town, and the current Cuzco is built on the ruins of the old Inca town, using some of the existing walls, narrow cobbled streets and houses rising into the hills finally sparked an interest and rekindled my hopes. We bought a tourist ticket and visited the nearby sites of Sacsaywaman, Pukapukara, Q’enco and Tambomachay… and you know, they are pretty spectacular!
Stones up to 300tonnes slotting perfectly into its neighbours without even a crack for weeds to grow. Sacsaywaman is spread over several square kilometres – so the scale is pretty amazing too – and all at an altitude that quite takes your breath away!
Combined with Marc’s assurances that Machu Picchu was better we planned a trip via Pisac and Ollantaytambo to Mach Picchu itself.
This is less easy than it sounds as you need a permit to go – they only allow 2,500 visitors per day into Mach Picchu,but we got our permits, bought our entry tickets, arranged transport to Ollantaytambo via Pisac and accommodation in Ollantaytambo town, onward transport to Machu Picchu Pueblo and an overnight stay there. Phew!