| Inca Trail|
The Empire of the Incas
From the window of the plane as it flies south over the Andes cordillera towards Cuzco, the ancient capital of the Incas, I see a vast territory stretching 2300 miles, the distance from NYC to Portland, Oregon, on to the coast. The Inca Empire, slow in building, but stretching back a millennium or more, survived little more than a century. (Many are ‘short lived’. Nazi Germany lasted 12 years.) ‘Spanish Greed’ for Gold was the downfall of the Incas. But a “Bird’s Eye View” is perhaps a good starting point for what is left of this amazing civilization, especially Machu Picchu and the Inca Trail surrounding Cuzco. The Spanish rebuilt Cuzco on the foundations laid by the Incas. The massive earthquake of 1650 destroyed Spanish Cuzco but the Inca foundations survived. Inca technology made them ‘earthquake proof’. All this is documented in the museum in the current Cathedral of Cuzco. Interesting stuff. An ‘Empire’ with no texts could create structures with immensely superior technology to that of the conquering Europeans.That technology saved Machu Picchu from that same massive earthquake.
At first it’s like watching an empty Greek theatre. My excellent guide assures me it is an Inca crop lab. She tells me that the Incas were masters of agriculture and even now we marvel at the extent of their expertise in this ‘art’. They grew such extensive crops that they had no problem feeding an Empire that numbered 12 million people. Not bad for a people who did not use ‘the Wheel’ for transport, had no written language, sent messages by runners who could do 250 miles in a day. ’Boggles the Mind’. There are four overlapping circular terraces in the Moray, each terrace experiencing temperatures due to different sun and elevation.The terraces were created just as they were at Machu Picchu and all through the Inca Empire. Stones held the soil in place. Planting the right crop and excellent drainage did the rest.The seven foot high terraces show traces of 250 vegetables and cereals. The Moray changes with the seasons as it is still used to conduct agricultural surveys. This image was shot in mid-November,their Spring. Moray 1 is my ‘favourite’ of the images of Machu Picchu and the Inca Trail. What makes the image ‘so special’ is the tiny figure of a person crossing the Moray in the top centre space. (Resilience & human fraility in a single image.) Hey, what would I have done if no one had walked across that space while I was there with my camera ?........ C’est la vie. Writing this book is somewhat sad for me. I wish I had more images of Machu Picchu and the Inca Trail. My hope is that you will read this and finish the job for me with your own book. Dont miss it. The close-up image shows the lower right , a view of the seven foot terrace wall and the granite steps for getting up and down. Just amazes me that the Moray is still in use after 600 years. Speaks volumes about the Inca civilization.
Inca Textile Arts
Market towns around Cuzco like Ollantaytambo and Chinchera sustain the ancient textile arts of the Incas. The raw materials are wool from Alpacas and Llamas sheared, carded, spun and woven, skills going back at least two millennia and equal to the legendary weaving skills of the Navajos of Americas’ Western Plains. The girl with the pink sweater is leading a flock of baby alpacas.The ‘baby’ in the rear has just been sheared and the wool will be the softest one could imagine. There’s a shot of a weaver with a typical Inca loom and the facial ‘close-up’ of her with her bright yellow-fringed hat is a wonderful example of a quintessential Inca face. One sees these faces everywhere around Cusco and Machu Picchu. They’re like a ‘Time Capsul’ of what the Spanish really couldnt conquer.
Difficult to appreciate the scope of this Inca military masterpiece so I shot a scene of three teen-agers inspecting a section of the wall which is probably one-thirty third of the total structure. Three huge terraces overlap in a zig-zag design. Ramparts of limestone stretch for a thousand feet.Some stones are 17 feet high and weigh 350 tons.The accuracy of the stonework is so perfect that Spanish military engineers could not fit a fine knife in the joints. The ramparts are made of 22 salients and re-entry angles for each level, designed so cleverly that attackers trying to scale the walls would be outflanked.The fortifications could have housed all of Cuzco’s inhabitations. The only way to see this to-day is by helicopter and that is forbidden in the Cusco region.
Wish a little girl with a Llama had been there.
View from Train Window
The train from Ollantaytambo to Machu Picchu is a leisurely trip along the picturesque Rio Urubamba.Every once in a while one sees the remnants of terraces on the mountains on either side of the river. Closer to Machu Picchu I noticed a mountainside villa complete with waterfalls, agro-terraces and the walls of dwellings long since deserted. It looked just like a smaller version of the citadel where I would spend the next three days in awe and wonder. I didn’t see the details of the image until I got back home. I e-mailed my guide, Mariela, about the scene and she said there were numerous examples of this throughout the Andes, abandoned villas that the Spanish ‘left for dead’. Only “the ghosts of Inca Past” live here anymore. This location, I reminded myself, like Machu Picchu, survived the massive earthquake of 1650 that leveled the ‘Spanish’ buildings of Cusco a few miles away. It’s a lovely image that speaks to ‘the genius of the Incas’.