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Archive for July 12th, 2015

In the late afternoon the bus labored up the steep, windy streets out of Cusco onto a highway and through a gap into a increasingly rural setting. The highway wound from there ever down through a steep-sided valley with occasional leveler spots where villages cling to the side of hills. Chencheros is one such village with walled adobe courtyards along both sides of its streets and no appearance of significant prosperity or poverty. The bus stopped at an open gate in one of the 7 to 8 feet walls. Here is a tourist market for the woven goods of the village, a village where the real things are made. A short distance beyond the gate are pens for llama and Guinea Pigs, the latter having come over from Africa many centuries ago are now a food delicacy and a source for fine wool. Further in young and old Quechua women were weaving various textiles and a pavilion was setup for the demonstration of cutting, washing, carding, spinning, dying, and drying yarn. Leaves and roots provide for many colors but the most fascinating is the Cochineal insect that inhabits cacti of Latin America that provides deep, crimson red colors. The woman demonstrating crushed the white remains of one she had dug out of a prickly pear cactus fruit between her thumb and forefinger. Swirling the contents into her palm revealed the deepest, purplish red. Boiled in water with the yarn these produce a very permanent dye.

Leaving Cusco

Leaving Cusco

Moving Upward

Moving Upward

Wool on Hoof

Wool on Hoof

Cutting, washing, carding, spinning, dying, drying

Cutting, washing, carding, spinning, dying, drying

Weaving Alpaca Wool

Weaving Alpaca Wool

Sacred Valley Downstream of Temple Site above Ollantaytamba

Sacred Valley Downstream of Temple Site above Ollantaytamba

  Dusk was upon us as we left Chencheros.

   It was time to head down to Urubamba.

I saw a most beautiful sight as the bus cruised across the upper reaches of the Sacred Valley of the Incas. A high, rugged peak to the west combed the rays of the setting Sun into golden strands while a sliver of the Moon looked on from the deeply violet background. A picture would have trouble doing the scene justice even if I could have stopped and attempted a time exposure, much less my words, for it was profoundly beautiful. By upper reaches of the valley I mean that it is much higher than the part down by the Urubamba River. As the twilight dimmed we came to a set of switchbacks 1000 feet above the provincial capital of Urubamba, shining by electric lights in the dark valley below, while the snow capped peaks loomed darkly above pressing down on the small village below.

Peaks 'feel heavy' on the small valley below

Peaks ‘feel heavy’ on the small valley below

Peaks to Comb the Sun's Rays

Peaks to Comb the Sun’s Rays

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next morning we headed further downstream to the village and temple site at Ollantaytamba. The temple site has pottery and stonework evidence of pre-Inca terraces and temples. The Incas never finished their temple site here because the Spanish interrupted their 100 year empire and building spree. This fact actually left abundant evidence for how it was being built. Boulders of the acceptable type to the builders (gray basalt) were quarried several thousand feet upslope on the other side of the valley and rolled down. The Urubamba River was divided into two channels by a central levee and half at a time blocked off so the blocks could be pulled across half the river at a time. A ramp on the near side of the valley provided the route up to the temple site. It was perhaps a 9% (~5 degree) slope. We were told that experiments with a 1 ton block required 180 men to drag across smooth, rounded stones lubricated with wet clay up such an incline. The estimate was that 2000 men would have been needed to pull some of the blocks resident to the site!

Ollantaytamba Temple site, terraces, and village

Ollantaytamba Temple site, terraces, and village

Temple of the Sun at Ollantaytamba with quarry site in the background

Temple of the Sun at Ollantaytamba with quarry site in the background

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While we were at the temple site the local tour guide was telling us about the various foci of Inca worship: sun, moon, stars, earth, water, the underworld, fertility of land, animals, and wives, and more. Solstices, equinoxes, planetary conjunctions, and the like were times for worship. In their pantheon of gods and means of worship they recognized the invisible god who created all things. At this temple site they believed that this god had left them a representation of himself in the rock formations across the valley. They built a small, four parapet structure on top of this formation as a crown. Why with all of their worship of created things did they recognize an invisible god, utterly different from all of their other objects of worship? But remember what Paul said to the men at Lystra who tried to worship Barnabas and him: “We…preach the gospel to you that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them. In the generations gone by He permitted all the nations to go their own ways; and yet He did not leave Himself without witness, in that He did good and gave you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.” (Acts 14:15-17) What was this witness that He left? What the text lists is the very things that the Inca culture worshipped, physical sources of life. And God left further witness: “The heavens are telling of the glory of God; and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands. Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words; Their voice is not heard. Their line has gone out through all the earth, and their utterances to the end of the world. In them He has placed a tent for the sun, Which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber; It rejoices as a strong man to run his course. Its rising is from one end of the heavens, and its circuit to the other end of them; and there is nothing hidden from its heat.” (Psalm 19:1-6) All that those priests were worshipping in the ridge top temples were witnesses to the very God they acknowledged exists but did not worship. How could they have known of His existence? Was it a long forgotten tradition? Perhaps it was but it need not be. They may have figured out the evidence: “…that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.” (Romans 1:19-23) Wow! The object of their worship became the snare that prevented them from worshipping the true God that all of those things clearly pointed to. This perspective on their knowledge and lack of worshipful acknowledgement of God helped to inform my understanding of all that I saw of Inca culture in Peru.

Unfinished Entryway

Unfinished Entryway

A Block left just short of its destination

A Block left just short of its destination

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The ancient way still practiced

The ancient way still practiced

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

No cement, no gaps, highly earthquake resistant, not eternal

No cement, no gaps, highly earthquake resistant, not eternal

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you care to come along I will explore another strand of this thought in the next Peru entry on Machu Picchu. Until then, blessed truth hunting.

 

 

 

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