Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Snapshots de Peru -2

Notes –as we travel, there are odd moments of waiting.  These times are when I jot notes for this blog. – If the blog at times is a bit disjointed – that is the reason…
Also – apologies is you have attempted to contact us – our internet connections have been rare

The great golden condor wakes early and begins his flight overhead.  First the mountaintops are lit with his brilliant light, and then the light moves into the valleys below.  We wake; eat our breakfast of quinoa, papaya, yogurt, bread with butter and marmalade, and egg. Today our climb up to the Incan ruins begins before the first sunlight reaches us.  The trail we walk was constructed by the Inca in around 1400. By Sierra standards this trail is demanding.  We climb steep rocky terrain- much of it requiring our hands to scramble. After an hour hike we reached the grain storage warehouse on a south facing canyon wall.  We are continually amazed by the careful construction designs of the Incas – rocks are fit together without mortar. This granary stored corn, wheat, and oats for the village. From the granary we climbed to a higher point, which was a lookout in ancient times. From here we can see the entire length of the “sacred valley”.

But let me tell you more about where we are.
Friday was a a day of transition... Our plan was to take a taxi from the Hacienda to Cusco and then go by collectivo (communal taxi), to Ollantaytambo.
 In our travel we encountered a large street demonstration of medical workers who blocked the road for over an hour.  The police were escorting the delay! They were supporting the civic right of workers to strike…even if it totally blocked traffic! Cultural difference…
Much in Ollantaytembo has changed little over the centuries – it is an ancient Incan town laid out in the traditional grid fashion – streets 2-3 meters wide are lined with large cobblestones, - and many streets have sides made up of the large close fitting stone work of the ancient ones – unchanged and still functional.  Many of the streets have a stream of running water in a stone lined ditch running along the wall.  These ancient ditches produce music much like a mountain stream.  The elevation here in the bottom of the valley is just shy of 10,000 ft… At first we could feel the elevation – but have pretty much adjusted.
The people here live very close to the rhythm of the seasons and the ripening of each crop in its time.  This is the time for digging potatoes; corn is also being gathered in, and quinoa, fava beans, and giant yellow pumpkins.  Some of the corn is sprouted and fermented to make a very popular beer like drink called che-cha.

6/7 We followed general directions given to us to “go to the vegetable market” “ continue to the horse farm” “ ask permission is cross private land” and we would find the ruins of Quelloilakay… Of course we got lost in the process and met a remarkable Australian woman who is volunteering here in the local schools – She was a valuable source of information for us about Ollantaytembo.  These ruins were uncovered only 5 years ago…A reminder of how many Incan sites must lie still uncovered.

There are also the major ruins – a temple or hall of government on the hill above the town… Beautiful huge stones fit perfectly together with no mortar holding them.  The stones have been so carefully shaped that there isn’t room to push a playing card between the stones!  The Inca village was in the same location as modern Ollatautambo (and many of the living spaces have been in constant use since nearly times). Official buildings and storage buildings were built on the higher elevation hill sides.’  Terraces for growing crops extend fall up the hillsides – plants chosen for the microclimate conditions.

6/8 Last night was without a doubt the most remarkable parade I have seen in my life!  The people are celebrating the Christian day of Pentecost… but the parade showed the strong Incan traditions still alive with the people.  Some dances are also on the theme of history or human relationships; many deal with ancient Incan mythology.  Different communities or groups prepared masks, costumes and dance to celebrate an aspect of the culture.  This was a real celebration of the people –this is about the people remembering who they are – about their identify… few tourists are present.  .
We felt honored to see the 4-day event.
The members of one dance group each wore hideous demon masks to remind us of the Incan past and the evil ones who came from underground
These demons can only be destroyed only by the power of Jesus also portrayed as part of the dance group.  Another group reminded us of the once a year day set aside for settling scores with those with whom you have arguments – the dance represented fights with bull whips… A third group wore exaggerated black face masks…they retold the story of slaves brought from Africa- the white landowners were portrayed as evil white face masks with huge noses.  At a point in the dance the “slaves” pulled out broken chains and they changed their demeanor as they became free men – again it was due to the power of Jesus working to free them.  The white slave owners were humiliated at the end of the dance. 
All the dancers in every group carried a picture of Jesus on their costume – but the messages of the dances were often more local or cultural. We loved it!!  Later in the evening there were massive overhead fireworks just over our heads –sky rockets and then to everyone surprise in the audience, strings of large firecrackers had been stretched across the plaza - 15 feet over our heads – as they were ignited they dropping glowing debris on the crowd below – my wind breaker now has two nice new holes … Oh well part of the experience.

Saturday we took a combi van into the high mountains to a Quetchua speaking village to see the weaving of the local women.  The mountains are beautiful – the village fascinating – but the work of the local women is incredible.  The Inca had no written language but told their stories in their weaving.  We try to buy one nice piece from each trip – and we certainly are pleased with the piece we found…I had a nice exchange with 4 Quetchua boys – them speaking Quetcha, me trying Spanish – we all had fun…