“The heights charm us, but the steps do not; with the mountain in our view we love to walk the plains” – Johann Wolfgang Van Goethe
Sacred Valley Ollantaytambo, Peru
Speed dating, Yaarov Deyo what a concept you unleashed on the faithful. Fill a room with guys and gals. Three to eight minutes at the table with a gal and then you hop to the next one. In those tiny moments you get a sense of person and personality and at the end of a weary evening you make a few choices. Here I was speed dating Peru. Lima one day, Cusco the next and now I was ready for the sacred valley! The concept is the same but each venue has such a different personality!
The Incas were the sons of the Sun (“Suryavanshi” – anyone…) and the valley with a rich soil surrounded by mountains as high as 16,000 feet and the sacred Inca river Wilcamayu running through the valley was designated the Sacred Valley. The first view of the valley is awe inspiring ( Sacred Valley Album), with the Wilcamayu meandering snake like through the valley, snow capped peaks and formidable mountains.
The sacred valley is the stretch between the small town of Pisac and MachuPicchu a stretch of over 60 miles. The Incas were astronomers par excellence. Astronomy was critical for at these heights they had to understand change of seasons. The temple of the sun usually had an altar where invariable the first light of the summer solstice feel. They knew the inclination of the earth, they knew the magnetic poles and by positioning their temples they understood the summer and the winter solstice.
The sacred valley starts at Pisac about 20 miles northeast of Cusco. The legend of Pisac centers around Inkil Chumpi the princess of the flowery skirt. A sculpture made natural (Inca legend has both good guys and bad guys sculptured in stone on their mountains) represents Inkil Chumpi. The legend goes that Inkil’s hand was to be given to anyone who would build a bridge across the wild Wilcamayu river in one night. Many tried and failed. Now she was the only daughter and the inheritor of the rich town and land of Pisac. She loved Asto Rimac a ruler of the eastern forests. Now Asto set about building the bridge and Inkil set about invoking the spirits of the mountains to help Asto in his task. The caveat she was not supposed to look at Inkil’s work. Which woman will let a guy do his job sincerely and in relative isolated peace! Not Inkil (no woman ever trusts a guy with a task anyway!) and she broke her promise (ah- would she have let him work at peace no way). That was the end of Asto who was swept away by the Wilcamayu and Astil turned into stone overlooking the valley that she should have inherited.(A neat Laila Majnu twist).
Pisac has a center where tourists are expected to lighten their pockets as they buy the local artifacts. In no mood to disappoint I did procure a few Alpaca wool sweaters (softer than wool and nice to the touch) other nick nacks and then was on my way to a lavish meal, something akin to a Las Vegas buffet. On the banks of the Wilcamayu this restaurant also had some parrots and Alpacas (Birds and Alpacas ). I am not sure what I ate but it was all good and I had a lavish feast with some local Chicha (Beer). The dessert spread would make a Vegas buffet blush!
Chinchero (surendra.smugmug.com) presents an awesome contrast. We went past the salt flats of Maras that was not part of the tour and then reached the sanctuary of Ollantaytambo. The sacred valley is marked by terrace farming. Corn is the principal crop. The Incas had selective seeding, what grew at lower heights would not grow at higher heights those seeds were different. Up in the hill granaries protected the seed varieties away from pests and animals. (Granary picture at surendra.smugmug.com in the Sacred valley Album).
The Ollantaytambo is an awesome archeological complex with terraces for farming a temple of the sun for religious purposes, an astronomical observatory and complexes for administrative and living. (surendra.smugmug.com) Water is sacred and sacred sources of water blend in the complex.
Wiracochan in ancient Inca mythology is the messenger of God, who led a spartan life but united the Incas. Wiracochan is represented on a holy mountain called Pinkuylluna (Wiracochan ). As the sun moves through the day and the shadow creeps Wiracochan may appear as sleeping (around 2-230 in the afternoon), awake or vigilant. To the left of Wiracocha’s sculpture is his temple (Temple of Wiracochan). During the summer solstice this temple lights up by the rays of the sun with everything surrounding relatively dark. On the same mountain is the face of what appears to be an Inca king. ( Inca King ). On the winter solstice at dawn this face becomes the Sun. Ollantaytambo was sacred and the Inca kings were buried here.
So different was Ollantaytambo from Cusco, and so peaceful, the sheer genius of the Incas, nature lovers to the core. They were the sons of the Sun the creator (and the destroyer), the river and the crops the sustainer and the sheer beauty of it all the balancer!
This date was different, and so enchanting…… I was just looking forward to what MachuPicchu had to offer! This was one time I wished this would have been more than a speed date! But that moment had arrived and I had to be back!