The Sacred Valley of the Incas, Day 26


 Inca Citadel, Pisaq, Sacred Valley, Peru

We could spend several days exploring the Sacred Valley of the Incas, but with an arduous trek along the Inca Trail in the offing we reluctantly limit ourselves to a one-day highlights tour.  At the height of the Inca Empire the Sacred Valley, a lush agricultural area , supplied Cusco, the Inca capital, with much of its produce, including maize, fruit, and vegetables.  Even today the local Quechua villagers, descendants of the Inca, still depend on trade with Cusco for their livelihood.  The Urubamba river, headwater of the mighty Amazon, is the life blood of the Sacred Valley.

Our first highlight is the ruins of the Inca Citadel perched high on the mountain slopes overlooking the market town of Pisaq.  The Citadel is an awe-inspiring sight.  The trek to the very top, the Intihuatana (a sort of religious observatory, but translated as hitching post of the sun) is brutal, though.  Clearly Christi and I are still adjusting to the altitude.  The terrace construction here is the stand-out feature.  The Inca realized that different crops needed to be grown at different elevations, hence maize was grown at lower altitude and potatoes higher up.  The terracing also acted as a defensive fortification against attack.  Clever folks those Incas.  Perhaps if they’d spent less time fighting among themselves they might have given the Spanish Conquistadors under Francisco Pizarro a stiffer contest.  It is quite remarkable that 160 Conquistadors could subdue an entire empire, but Pizarro, who arrived in Peru in 1532, did not have long to enjoy the spoils of war.  He was assassinated in Lima in 1541 by a vengeful compatriot.

Only at our next destination, the striking Inca village of Ollantaytambo, did the Incas return victorious from battle.  The village, which has been continuously inhabited for the last 700 years, is surrounded by spectacular mountain scenery, and features some impressive Inca terraces and stone granaries built into precipitous mountain slopes.

As we zoom back to Cusco there’s just time to stop for a Quechua weaving demonstration in Chinchero, but Christi and I are very bad tourists and don’t buy anything.


Blog post by Roderick Phillips, author of Weary Heart – a gut-wrenching tale of love and test tubes.



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