Thursday, April 3, 2008

Incan roads

We set out for Machu Picchu by trail from a set of ruins just above Cusco. The walk to Qe ´npo was straight forward and short, and as we moved towards the fourth set of ruins our bags began feeling heavier. It was after we meandered away from these that we found ourselves content to be beating the tourist buses, and to rest whilst overlooking a vast landscape of hillsides, farmland, creek and ruins. ´Where are you going?´I asked Manuel. Then, I pointed towards some mossy piles of rocks in the distance. ´What does that look like to you?´Could be an Incan road he agreed. So, I picked up a stone for good luck, and we headed down the hillside, taking note of every surrounding in case we had to turn back- we didnt want to get lost from civilization forever.

It wasnt long before we came upon another set of ruins, large enough to be encouraging, and also some Quechua woman washing in the creek. They apparently didnt speak any Spanish, and after I had tried to make our intrusion to their territory known in as peaceful a way as possible (by sitting on the hillside above and yelping, ¨buenas tardes...¨with a smile) they scamperd up the bank with the jibberish of their own tongue.

We continued up the next hillside for another hour, enjoying the remote scenery and subtly decomposing ruins at our sides. Then, there was no more trail, except we could see trails stretching farther on over other several other hillsides. Barley able to make out the buses on the road in the distance (about 6 to 8 km away) we made note of the direction by position of the sun, a line of Eucalyptus trees bordering the road to Pisac, and the cleft between hills of the tallest Mountains in sight. Crossing a the creek again, overstepping huge salt rocks, then mounting our chosen cerro, we took separate directions to scout each side of the hill for signs of the Incan road we had been faithfully following. I, unfotunately, didnt get the side with a trail, but stumbled into many ruins covered with various form of thorny flora (which Manuel had a great veiw of from his trail on the other side of the Mountain). Following our separation was a series of shouting back and forth to one another, ¨Ive got a wall here, and trail¨ ¨Im in some thorny briars!¨ ¨There might be a trail to your left!?¨ ¨No, that is a cliff¨

Eventually, I made it back to Manuel´s side, and as we scaled the cliffside towards the Incan trail, I was quite out of breath due to the extreme elevation.

The road was long, and we were happily encouraged by a solitary set of ghost footprints that had formed in a recent rain. The prints advised us from ruin to ruin, whenever we were in doubt of our direction, then eventually we found ourselves in a small little peublo. The locals were friendly, smiled with curiosity, and a particular gentleman pointed us the right way when we professed ¨Pukapukara¨

More kilometers of farmland, many fiending dogs at our ankles, a Eucalyptus forest, a terriotorial bull, and a few more hills later we found ourselves at the ruins with only a barrier wall to discourage us.

We spent that night in Pisac after catching a combi from our 7th set of ruins just across the street and up another hill form Pukapukara.

Exhausted, we discovereed the Pisac ruinas the following morning, early, before other touristas had gotten their breakfasts. These ruins were mightily tall, with steep staircases, archways, cascadas, a maze of buildings overlooking the Urubamba river, and an abundance of pretty flowers. Upon returning to the busy market center of Pisac, we decided to rest another night before continuing on to Ollantaytamba today. There was a showing of A Clockwork Orange in a nearby cafe, Mullu, that I can only describe all its artwork, ambiance and menu as ´posh´.

Ollantaytambo would be a wonderful village. That is, if it wasn´t infested by tourism buses, groups, dingy people uninterested in culture, travelers at my every side, gift shops on every block, and pricy hostels on every other.

These steets here are all Incan, as well as the foundation of each and every building, a good four feet of ancient stone masonary as well. The most unique tribute to this town, however, is that they still use the Incan irrigation system positioned amidst the central roadways. The ruins tower above central square in the surrounding mountains, and I look forward to rising with the sun tomorrow, to seek the past once again.

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