It’s 8 am and the sky of Cusco is covered by a tick blanket of cloudes like any other typical morning of the raining season. An old, tiny man with a huge umbrella its waiting in front of the hotel, ready to accompany us to the bus station, the starting point of our new adventure. When we requested “pick up from the hotel” I never imagined that the tour agent will actually show up with no car but I guess this is what you get for 60 soles (20$) trip. In fact I was about to regret my commodity straight way, when I realized that the man has a problem with his leg which made the walking even more difficult.
After 2 hours drive we reach the main attraction of our journey, the famous Sacred valley of the Incas where the struggle with the altitude its still taking place but on a lower level (2900 meters). I am experiencing difficulties in breathing and chest pain while my friend condition is even worse and we are worried that she might need medical care during our stay.
Altitude sickness is a real concern that has to be taken into consideration when planing your trip to Cusco as this might led to possible complication like hypoxia and even death. A good physical preparation, avoiding heavy meals and alcohol, drinking plenty of coca tea and requesting for oxygen when needed will help you acclimatize much easier.
Dressed in colorful ponchos bought from a local handicraft market, we enter the town of Pisac, where is located one of the most beautiful archeological site left behind by the Incas.
The entire Sacred valley was built as a reflection of the Milky Way, being not only a home for the sons of the Sun but literally the heaven on earth, where the living, the dead and the gods lived peacefully together.
Incas were not only masters of astrology but they could also predict and use the weather in their advantage especially for agriculture purposes, ensuring the main source of food for the vast empire.
Hundred agriculture terraces arranged in a shape of a Condor are still being used today by the locals who are trying to rebuild the complex irrigation system and advanced techniques used by their ancestors in an attempt of saving water and increase production.
We continue to climb the difficult terrain, following Marco’s instructions, who is not only an experienced tour guide but also professor of Astrology and a real passionate of Inca’s culture. Concerned for our safety, Marco instruct us not to stop in the areas marked with a red or orange flag as this might put our life in danger.
Two Chinese ladies decide to leave the group and explore the site by themselves and I am keep thinking how fortunate I am to understand both languages (Spanish and English) being able to learn an interesting history lesson in the best classroom that one can have: surrounded by the nature and well preserved ruins of a lost era.
In the same spot its located an well known Inca cemetery carved in a rock wall and containing more than 3000 burials. Here, the Inca used to bury people who have no family while the other ones, more fortunate were mummified and cared for as they were still alive: their family would change their clothes periodically, invite them for dinner and even take their mummified body out for a “walk”.
**Inca cemetery digged in a rock wall
But dying of natural cause or in war was not the only way of loosing your life in Inca’s time.
The modern archeological discoveries shown an increased number of human sacrificed in so called “sacred rituals” in order to obtain the Gods favor or simply just to prove the mortals gratitude in front of the divinity. And what can be more pure and precious than the life of a child? The kids, usually born in peasant families were given drugs and alcohol in their final moments to ensure their compliance, being left to die.
The rituals were performed on top of a sacrificial stone, hundreds still being preserved today across Peru.
What would be an enormous tragedy for a modern family was considered as a great honor for that time, the parents of the sacrificed child being blessed by the Gods and envied by the people.
**Incas mummies buried with their child
We are heading to Ollantaytambo, a 15th century Inca’s town built on cobblestoned streets and well preserved adobe buildings, a marvel of engineering and architecture, being both fortress and complex city in the same time.
The name of the town its associated with a pre-columbian love story not often mentioned to the tourists, a romantic tragedy where the Ollantay, the most brave warrior and trusted general of Pachacutec felt in love with the daughter emperor, who gave birth to a child in secret. Their love was forbidden by the emperor and after 10 years in exile Cusi Coyllur was forgiven by her father and reunited with her beloved Ollantay.
Across the ancient city, separated by a huge stone gate is located one of the Inca’s most sacred place: the temple hill.
The fortress, originally built for religious purposes was the site of a major battle, one of the few when Incas defeated the Spanish conquistadors, a great role in the victory being played by the high location from where the Incas could monitor the approach of the enemy.
The temple of the Sun
We are trying to keep up the rhythm of climbing with Marco but our guide even if he is much older than us seems to be more fit and most of the time we are left breathless, behind the group. When we finally manage to reach the top of the hill Marco is taking out his famous notebook, like a real teacher, pointing over a pile of stones in front of us: The temple of the sun, the most important construction in the region.
Built out of 6 massive “lazy” stones (piedras cansadas), each of them weighting more than 50 tones, the unfinished temple was used as a calendar by the Incas especially during summer and winter solstice, reasons of great celebration for the living and the dead on both sides. How the Incas managed to carry those huge stones up to the hill remains a mystery for the modern archaeologists and architects.
Like any other civilization, Incas believed in a powerful, universal presence who taught their ancestors agriculture and many other useful arts, an old man with a long white beard, known by the name of Wiracocha. He was the creator of the entire universe, the time and the civilizations and was represented wearing the sun for a crown, with thunderbolts in his hands, and tears descending from his eyes as rain.
The Incas worshiped their God dedicating him numerous temples, festivals and even a carved portrait facing the Temple hill of Ollantaytambo which like any other construction made by the Incas was built in close correlation with the alignment of the stars.
Marco stops again and like a real teacher, trying to test the knowledge of his students is asking us to identify the massive structure made out of stone. Nobody knows the answer but the crowed its about to queue for pictures as soon as they find out that are standing right in front of an energetic gate. Since the old times humans believed to have found 7 energetic gates to another dimensions, two of them being located in Peru (Sacred valley and Titikaka lake).
A white rope is keeping the curious away from the entrance and nobody seems brave enough to break through the other side. Stepping on another dimension or just a myth? Probably the humans of the present will never find out the answer as its hard to believe that we posses the energy level necessary to unlock ancient secrets.
Thanks to the modern systems of global positioning, it is now known that Ollantayntambo together with many others sites (Nazca, Easter island, Pyramids of Giza, Petra) are aligned on a single circle with a far grater meaning that we are aware of. The mysterious invisible line connecting the most ancient cultures and civilizations across the world is passing right thorough this stone, which is believed to have great recharging and healing powers.
I place my hand on the miraculous stone, taking advantage of the crowed who seems hypnotized by Marco’s stories about ancient civilizations, trying to feel something more than a cold piece of rock but it seems that the energy of the place had faded over the time.
We thank the professor for the wonderful informations shared throughout the day and we return to the bus tired but excited for the new adventure which is waiting for us early in the morning:the famous Machu Pichu.
Two sisters, wearing colorful traditional clothes are greeting the tourists in the parking area ready to win few coins with their sweet smile and the cute Alpca carried in their arms. Even though I know they should be at school and not out on the streets, I decide to enjoy the beautiful encounter and end up the day with a nice holiday souvenir.