Quote: Hope Solo, American Goalkeeper.
The Sacred Valley
|Maras Valley |
After our marathon destination travel, we cross the finish line in Cusco, and finally begin our actual adventure. Cusco is one of the oldest cities in the Americas’, with contiguous trade for 1000s of years, located almost equidistant between Santiago and Quito. We are greeted by our tourist coordinator and swept into a touring van.
|Upper Right, Incan "office" Building|
Our guide is Quechua, an indigenous descendant of the Inca. She was raised in a mountain village until moving to Cusco for formal education. Her second language Spanish and her third, English. I always thought, or perhaps, it has been portrayed, that the Incas were tall and slim; in fact, it was the Spanish that brought height into the gene pool (often without consent) and the descendants of the african slaves. The indigenous people were short mesomorphs (lean/strong).
|Salt Pan Field|
She is definitely moving us with pace through our tour stops, she is making-up time (2 hour delay) for her benefit. Our first whirlwind stop is to visit the Maras Salt Mines. This is a terraced river gorge whereby the indigenous Wari people first began harvesting salt. This area is fed by a geothermal spring that emerges salinated by underground deposits. The local towns people still manage all harvesting. The spring feeds terraced levels of handmade salination pans, each pan is approx 6’x6’ and 6” deep. In Peru, they have 2 seasons, rainy and dry. The pans are alternately damned/filled during the dry season. The hot sun will evaporate the water and then the salt remains.
|Salt Water Channels from Natural Spring|
Salt farming is a family affair. Once the water has evaporated, the natives walk upon the salt to break it into manageable blocks for harvest. The salt dries in three layers. The lowest level is brown salt (heavily mixed with the clay soils underneath), this salt is for the animals. Then the mid-layer is white salt (normal table salt) and finally the top layer is pink, the most desired. Of course there is a market in-situ where we also find a smoked salt. The process to collect the salt and maintain the rock walls is all through manual labor. Heavy machinery would destroyed the hand-stacked ponds. Upon a hill, you can see the remnants of the Inca influences. The salt collection pre-dates Incan, but the Incans conquered the Wari and began harvesting the salt into a much larger trade economy.
While the children help, public education is expected, even in the higher Andes. They sometimes walked 2 hours for schooling, in their uniforms, of course.
Next, we arrived to the Moray Terraced Gardens. These are UNESCO recognized circular agriculture terraces built by the Incas. Three earthen terraced bowls remain, others existed; however, after the Spanish conquest, they were dismantled over time for the boulders. Archeological exploration has found that each level is built upon deep boulders, then rocks, then pebbles, then dirt, in order to optimize drainage and crop potentials. Each level has a slightly different climate and thusly certain plants would grow better on various levels. Further, the bottom of the top bowl is on par with the top of the next bowl and, again, the for third bowl. The Incas were impressively advanced in many technologies, not only were all boulder and rock movement manual or perhaps animal or slave driven (by conquered tribes), they were also experimenting in advanced crop cross pollinations. Neither steel nor iron were a resource for their advancement.
For our final tour of the day, we traveled to the Sacred Valley. Believed to have been the gateway to the Andes for trade routes; it was also a holy city, the “Bellybutton of the Earth”. There is a temple in Ollantaytambo named the Temple of the Sun. This place was assumed to be a sacred sun dial of sorts. Both first light and last light is graced on this incomplete temple. Ginormous plinths were brought across the valley from a high mountain, pink granite quarry, some weighing 40 tons. And then carved into a tight puzzle locking system. It is quite spectacular.
|Terraced Salt Pans|
The project never saw its greatest state, as the Spanish invaded in early 1500s, a ravenous genocide occurred due to European steel weaponry and disease, as well the Wari people facilitated the Spanish (the enemy of my enemy is my friend). The lucky Incans retreated to the mountain villages, the Wari assimilated and both avoided certain complete demise. Nonetheless, the Incan bad boys knew quite a bit about megaliths, the revolution of the seasons and the science of agriculture, which was lost on the Spanish Colonialist.
They REALLY like to build steps!
|Evie and John under the Sun Temple|
|Giant Stone Slaps, |
view of quarry across the river
|Family at Maras Salt Mines|
|Marcy at Salt Pans|
|Incan Craft, Dry Stone Stack, Indoor Plumbing|
|Village of Ollantambo|
|Narrow Incan Streets|
Ollyantambo, casually walking
cattle down the village road
|Massive Incan Dry-Stack Slabs|
|Sacred Valley Housing|
|Walls, still standing|
|Tight Dry Stack Masonry|
|Temple of the Sun|
|Idolized doorways remain in the village|
|Tight streets, ancient Incan foundations,|
common street dog/security system