Monday, June 16, 2014

Snapshots de Peru - 4

Last day in Ollantaytambo. The ’dueno’ in our pension suggested that we ‘had’ to go to “Naupaiiglesia”…other local people helped us refine the trip to make it even more interesting… and so after another incredible breakfast we walked down our narrow street with the flowing water in the stone lined ditch.  We went to the Mercado (market area) and climbed into a collectivo about ready to leave – and off we went… We were dropped roadside near a small pueblo and walked steadily uphill for a couple of hours up another of the amazing canyons of the Andes.  Incredibly steep walls, a river forming bends and turns in a narrow flood plane, a narrow gauge railway, and a very narrow road.  
Today the sun was extraordinarily hot – and we were relieved to climb high enough to find a breeze.  Farmers along the way kept us on the correct path…and we inquired frequently.  Finally the site.  We left the “camino” and walked along narrow gauge rail lines for a distance, until we located a trail that led up to the ruins.  At first it was easy going, but it became progressively steeper until we were climbing hand over hand past steep terraces and rock walls.   This site is different from others here – it predated the time of the Inca – and represents a different belief system.  For these people, when the earth was formed there was no light and no dark – only a constant twilight. During these times the spirits were very strong in the land.  When the Sun God “Inti” brought night and day, the Naupa spirits were forced to retreat to the high mountains. Here the spirits lost much of their power at all times except dawn and dusk.  The grotto we visited was considered a “portal” for the spirits – and was a place of worship.  It is said to be dangerous to health to visit the site in dawn or dusk, when the spirits were most active. (The sun was shining bright when we were there).  When I entered the grotto I found a fresh earthen pot containing a libation for the spirits, also burnt Palo Santo – a local wood burned as sweet incense, along with shells from the ocean. Such evidence indicated that the spirits are still held in high regard by some of the local people.  Here in the grotto it was cool and pleasant to look down on the valley below.
After a rest it was time to climb down from the heights to the trail and we started back to the main road… we were hoping to hitch hike – but not a single vehicle came by… So we walked back to the main road  where we had more luck and got a collectivo back to town  - just in time for a late comida. Note – here we are eating 2 big meals a day – one in the early morning, one about 2-3, and a light snack in the evening.

 6.14     The large  unified Incan nation was only possible because of the excellent foot trail system that united the communities.  A system of human runners could deliver a message from one end of the kingdom to a far distant region within days.  (Much like our pony express – but with human runners).  Yesterday we hiked 6 hours along a trail from Qantus Racca down to Acchapata and on to Pisac. There is a great elevation change in the trail so we started the day early with a taxi ride to the top - Qantus Racca. Here the elevation is well over 11000 ft.  We found masses of tourists from busses at the trailhead – but lost them quickly as we got a short distance along our way.   Along our trail we visited a variety of Incan sites – some centers of residence, others military centers, government, astronomy/science, and religious sites.  The entire trail offered us incredible views of the Andes; much of the trail was carved into rock with an intense cliff drop-off to one side, with a drop of several hundreds of feet, and a wall rising high above us on the other side. The trail was wide enough to lead a string of heavily laden llamas.  It has been said that next to Machu Picchu this is the greatest Incan site.  We came away with the thought that this is different but in many ways equal in grandeur of Machu Picchu… it certainly offers more variety of communities and structures, and offers grand vistas for the entire region.  At one point I was taken aback to look over the edge of the trail and realize that I was inches away from ‘yikes’!… with no rail or warning of any kind. Today’s experience was incredible! And we went immediately to a favorite restaurant for a grand comida, however a bit late.  It is operated by a German expat woman, Ulrike’s – she has a great take on Peruvian dishes – but also wonderful German deserts.

Today is market day in Pisac.  Many indigenous people come down from the high lands to sell vegetables, herbs, and craft items.  However much of the regular items for sale are tourist schlock – the kind of stuff you see in all tourist centers …much of it is mass-produced.   The tourists are rushed around on a “few hours here and a few there” tours, and they miss so much of the real Peru.

Judy seemed to pick up a strange ‘bug’ today – so she has slept a lot and I have been doctoring her.  Our favorite restaurant in town is the previously mentioned Ulrike’s. She helped me select food for Judy’s sick tummy. (Not cheese cake).

We are generally sleeping over 8 hours a night here – nights are cold as air moves down from the higher mountains… most hotels are providing us with thick down comforters – and we have often been so warm we open a window.  Our current hotel supplies thick heavy wool blankets – we are sleeping under the great weight of 3 or 4 of them…