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Peru : Cusco

Museums, Empires, Inca and monuments; a clash of cultures

Saturday 25th August – City Tour of Cusco

Got up early (rubbish room- told them to move us) and had rubbish brekkie. Our tour was a late morning one, so we decided to go exploring wherever the fancy took us. We started at the Plaza de Armas. This was originally the Inca Square of the Warrior. It witnessed Pizarro’s entrance, the murder of the resistance leader Tupac Amaru II as well as other events. The Spanish added a cathedral, the Jesuit church (picture previous page).and stone arcades around the plaza, but the walls and streets give away its origins as the royal palaces. We watched as a trolleybus made its way in front of the cathedral. On the other side was the Iglesia de la Compañía de Jesus (Jesuits)- a fine Baroque church built in 1576 on the foundations of Inca Huayna Capac’s palace (Amarucancha). The beautiful stone façade and the gold altar are lovely.
To the side of the cathedral was a wide alley (Tucuman), cobbled and with part Inca walls (huge blocks) past an Inka museum to the Plaza de Nazarene with a pleasing little church with bells and a super (but clearly expensive) restaurant. Next to it was a free (!!!) pre-Columbian art museum (who even let us take pictures). The museum was brilliant. Based around a courtyard on 3 levels it was arranged chronologically with lovely ceramics and metal work.
We stayed several hours before heading back down via Calle Hatun Rumiyuq (Old Rock) which was the Palace of Inca Roca (converted to the Archbishop’s palace). We saw the Stone of 12 Corners (a wonderful example of Inca stonework), to the Plaza to grab a hot chocolate in a little
corner café called Greens Organic (and pancakes). We popped our heads into a handicrafts shop that had been recommended because it sent profits
directly to a female co-op but couldn’t find anything we liked. Then it was time to meet our tour outside the cathedral.
Now, cos Steve is Steve, he HAD to go to Burger king and get lost while I went into the cathedral but didn’t enjoy it as much as I could because a) S had disappeared and b) it was chokka. It felt quite heavy and dark to me but I did get a chance to see the famous Last Supper with guinea pig painting that I’d really wanted. This was painted by the Cusco artist, Zapata, who tried to imagine a delicacy for Jesus and decided on an Andean one, guinea pig!
The first cathedral built in Cusco is the Iglesia del Triunfo in 1539 on the foundations of the Palace of Viracocha. This is now a chapel of the main Cathedral (1560-1664). The cathedral, the seat of the archbishop from very early, is a late Gothic/ Baroque construction of stone and red granite from Sacsayhauman. Inside it is plateresque (a silver work technique), colonial goldwork and beautiful altars.
Barrio de San Blas/ Toq’ocachi. San Barrio is an early part of the Spanish town, containing Spanish houses over Inca walls. In Inca times the area was called Toq’ocachi or Opening of the Salt.

The Foundation of Cusco- Creation/Origin stories
The Inca had several creation myths. Most are variations on a theme and it’s clear that the only “real” person is Manco and the others are more probably a variety of gods that he or his descendants wanted to be associated with. Many of the tales are found, in slightly different forms in other Andean myths:-
1. God Tici Viracocha had 4 sons (Uchu, Manco, Cachi and Auca) and 4 daughters (Occla, Raua, Cura, Huaco). They wanted to find a
land to live in so set off from Lake Titicaca. En route Ocllo and Manco had a son Sinchi Roca who led them to the valley of Cusco where Manco became the first Inca king.
2. Manco Capac, son of the Sun and his sister Mama Occlo, daughter of the Moon were sent out with a rod. They were told that wherever the rod sank the land was good and they should start a city. The rod sank at Cusco, so the city was built there. This is obviously a reference to the hard unproductive soil of the Altiplano, from where the Inca originated compared to the more fertile soil further north.
3. Tambotoco Mountain (near Cusco) has 3 caves from which 3 ethnic groups descended (Quecha, Amyara, Uros). From one cave came the 8 Ayar brothers and Mama sisters. They set off to find a place to settle. On the way Manco and Oclla had a son, Sinchi Roca. Somehow, Cachi acquired a magic sling, making the other jealous. They persuaded him to go back into the cave to collect seeds, then shut him in. Uchu was petrified (literally) into a great huaca called Huanacauri (making him a god-like being able to intercede with the heavens on behalf of earthly people). His female counterpart, Mama Huaco, threw two golden rods, saying whichever sank would be were their city should be built. The remainder agreed to make Manco their leader, but they could not find the second rod, so Manco told Auca to grow wings (like a condor) and fly to the rod. Once there, however, he turned to stone, but luckily Manco knew where to go and Cusco was born.
3. The Sun God Inti created Manco Capac and Mama Ocllo out of Lake Titicaca. He sent them through secret caves (Pacariqtambo) to find and establish a city- Cusco.
4. Inti, the Sun God created the 4 Ayar brothers (Manco, Cachi. Auca, Uchu) and the 4 Mama (woman) sisters (Ocllo, Raua, Huaca, Cora) from Lake Titicaca. Cachi kept boasting about how strong he was until his brothers tricked him. They persuaded him to go into a cave by saying there was a sacred llama inside, then trapping him. In retaliation Uchu was turned to stone on the mountain to keep watch on people, Auca was told to travel the world alone and only Manco got to create a city (a bit unfair I thought)
5. The Incan Sun god felt lonely, so his wife persuaded him to create people from Lake Titicaca to go to Cusco and worship him.

Then we walked down the pedestrian Calle Loreto (down the side of La Compañia) with its massive Incan road walls visible down it, rising to 20 feet of more, then across Calle Aflegidos Mururi (where we admired a typical Spanish-Cusco balcony) to the Calle Pampa de Castillo.
At this point we stopped outside a Perspex enclosed archaeological site- our guide said it was probably a living area attached to the Koricancha (Golden Temple) and was currently off-limits to the public as it was being excavated. Very interesting, I thought.
Then we could easily see the rising towers of San Domingo Convent (we’d say Monastery) across the Av Santo Domingo. We crossed and entered the church, moving from the church to the cloisters, which surrounded the central quadrangle, but were built on the Koricancha (Inca Temples of the Sun and Moon). Both Temples had most of their lower structure visible behind the cloisters. We went right to the Temple of the Sun (accessed through a low lintelled doorway, tapered). The niches around presumably originally held candles and/or idols. Then on around the edge to come out in the Koricancha gardens, stretching out to the road. A brief stop to admire the Inca walls and gardens, then back in to continue around the cloisters to the opposite side and the Temple of the Moon. The Inca blocks had obviously withstood several earthquakes (until the Spanish structures), showing only a couple of blocks that had moved a few cms. The secret was in the way the blocks were constructed with the ability to move slightly in earthquakes.
There was also a block with little niches cut out.
The Koricancha or Qorikancha (from Quri Kancha = Golden Temple) was the most important temple in Cusco as it was dedicated to the Sun God, Inti. Originally it was covered with gold plate. www.qorikancha.org
After the Spanish took Cusco they used the Qorikancha as a foundation to build the Convento de Santo Domingo in Renaissance style. It has an impressive Baroque tower, which dominates the area and a large number of Cusco School paintings.
The Inca used no mortar to hold their walls in place; they relied upon precisely cut stones, the use of male/ female joints and geometry (e.g. sloping walls). Their best-built structures withstand the passing of centuries, and even earthquakes.
We went right around the cloisters (again) and down through the gardens to catch our waiting coach on the Av El Sol. Up Plateros to the edge of town, then up some quite steep hairpins. We saw loads of dogs, but our guide said they all had owners and would simply find their own way home at night (though when we came back in the dusk, many of them we sleeping on the street edges.

Towering above the city we stopped first at the Inca (and pre-Inca) fortress of Sacsayhuaman. The site is enormous and filled with HUGE Inca walls, with blocks larger than several men, many without an mm between them. The Grand Plaza in which we were standing has three massive stone terrace walls with rounded corners and leaning inwards (helps to withstand earthquakes). The longest wall is 400m long and 6m high and each limestone block can weigh up to 200 tonnes! Given that they did not have animal power or wheels, I can only assume they used manpower and rope. The evidence suggests that the huge stones were rough cut in the quarry using river cobbles, than dragged to the site (probably by groups fulfilled their work/ mita obligations).
The legend goes that Cusco was originally a barren bog. Sinchi Roca reputedly drained it and filled it with stones to provide a strong foundation for his city. He then transported earth in, spreading it over what would become the Sacred Valley. Cusco means “navel of the earth” and was laid out in a puma shape. The main plaza (now the Plaza de Armas) was the belly, the river Tullumayo its spine and Sacsayhuaman its head. An early Spanish chronicler claimed that the Inca Sapa visited the ancient (sacred?) city of Tiahuanaco to see how holy cities were built.

History of Sacsayhuaman (aka Saksaqwaman)
Pottery on the hill top dates back to at least 1000AD. The Killke Culture (900-1200 AD) built the earliest walls at Sacsayhauman, as well as aqueducts and roads. The fort was taken over and extended by the Inca c1200 AD (even though Inca tales try to date their occupation of Cusco to earlier). The fort would have served a double purpose; military (it’s position on the top of a hill gave a strategic advantage) and religious (there was a large Inca or Killke plaza capable of holding several thousand, as well as an Incan Sun Temple and other probable ritual structures). The complex walls are built, like other Inca buildings, of larges, polished stone boulders, each carefully worked to fit exactly with its neighbours. No mortar was used and the whole is remarkably earthquake resistant; indeed, the Spanish builders in Cusco did far more damage by stealing building material from it.
The steep hill and its huge walls meant it had an excellent view all round, and excavations show the terraces contained towers and other structures, now gone. Certainly Manco Inca in 1556 used it when besieging (successfully) Cusco. Pedro Pizarro describes storage rooms filled with military equipment.
Originally the site had three walls (bulwarks) whose foundations we saw. These parallel walls of limestone blocks are in several levels and represent the puma’s teeth in the whole complex. The lowest level has the largest blocks, up to 81⁄2m high and 140 tons. It is probable that the three levels represent the Incan religion- Ukju Pacha (lower world), Kay Pacha (earth) and Hanan Pacha (sky heavens). This is why each level looks like a puma, condor and snake- the lowest being the zig-zag teeth. Other researchers have suggested the zig-zag shape comes from the pre-Inca god Illapa (thunder and lightning). Certainly three is an important number for the Quechua. The site is 3701m altitude.
The whole complex was built by manpower alone- the stones are so perfect you could not even get a blade of grass between them and no mortar in sight. The blocks are irregular and complex. It’s probable that the boulders would first be carved and polished with river pebbles before being carried to the site. The first boulder would be put in place and then a pattern would be traced to roughly get the second’s shape. It would be suspended and finished before being placed in with pebbles used to make precise fitting. This, whilst being the most likely explanation, is not yet proven. We do know that the limestone base was quarried from the local area, but the andesite walls were quarried from Waqoto and Rumiqolqa. The ropes around Sacsayhauman were so large Diego de Trujillo felt obliged to mention them. Suggestions are of 20,000 workers needed for 60 years to build it, yet Garcilaso, raised in Cusco in the 1540’s, says its construction is a mystery! Despite this “ancient man” conspiracy theory. Many contemporary writers mentioned the site, such as Cieza de Leon in the 1540’s. The work would almost certainly be a required labour (mita) from each village under an architect’s control. The blocks (and walls) all lean inwards to help withstand earthquakes, common in the region.
Sacsayhuaman was “completed” in 1508. It was certainly used as a fortress in 1536 when Manco Inca used it to besiege Cusco. Pedro Sancho who visited prior to the siege mentions rooms with large windows overlooking the city. After the conquistadors won, they used the stones to build their houses- in 1559 the City Council ordered them to take stones to build the cathedral. Indeed, until 1930, payment of a small fee would allow you to take stone to build your house. It was the smaller, higher walls that supplied the building stones. Garcilaso de la Vega was born in Cusco in 12/4/1539, the illegitimate son of a Spaniard, Sebastian Garcilaso de la Vega and an Inca princess (name unknown). He grew up in Cusco, educated locally and wrote much about the history of Cusco, making him an excellent source. He wrote that Sacsayhuaman had three towers and excavations have verified this. The circular central tower was Muyuq Marka/ Moyoc Marca, the two rectangular flanking towers were Sallaq Marka and Paucar Marka. The Muyuqmarka is made of three concentric stone walls with three connected channels (like a reservoir). Equally he explained that it was not a fortress, but a “House of the Sun”.
The large plaza is probably pre-Inca in build and can hold many thousand people. It was designed with ceremonial and ritual uses in mind and the large surrounding structures served a similar purpose. It is surrounded by the massive stone walls, which so define the site. Amazingly the plaza is still used today on the 24th of June to celebrate the ancient festival of Into Raymi.
Name: the site has many names; it is known as Saksaywaman, Sasawaman, Saksawaman, Sasaywaman, Saqsaywaman, Sacsayhuamán, Sacsayhuaman, Sacsahuaman, Saxahuaman and finally, Saksaq Waman (which is Quechua for falcon or hawk).

After quite a while (we stopped listening to the guide as we knew all about it anyway) and a good wander, the guide led us out of the other end to catch the bus again up more winding roads to Kenko (aka Qenco, Qenqo) Temple. Even more beautiful views of Cusco, including a really clear view of the Plaza and Cathedral. The most interesting thing here was the huge sacred rock at the entrance and the underground chamber. TBH it reminded me very much of our smaller stone circles and barrows.

The Inca site is actually two sites- Great Qenqo is the one close the road (we visited this one) and Little Qenqo the opposite site of the hill (Socorro)-pic above.
The site is only 5-10 ins out of Cusco, but built on a large rocky promontory overlooking the city which gives great views of Cusco. We entered from above and the first thing you notice is the rock in the amphitheatre at front. The amphitheatre area, presumably for public religious ceremonies seems originally to have been walled (the 19 niches). The huge stone block is 6m tall and rests of a stone base. There are suggestions that it was originally a
sculpture (?zoomorphic) that was destroyed in colonial times, but it also bears, I think, a resemblance to the great rock at Machu Picchu. We passed the rock and headed down stone steps into un underground chamber. The chamber is beautifully worked from the rock, probably for mysterious rites. It is described variously as a Mortuary Room or Sacred Room.
It has small bays, cupboards and ?altars, all from the rock. Possibly it was used to embalm orejones (high ranking nobles) or sacrifices or dedications of chicha?. There were channels to ensure rainwater went straight out. As we went around and out we saw further steps towards the edge before we went around the side, giving great views of the valley and Cusco.
As we carried on by bus up into the hills we passed at least two unexcavated Inca (or possible pre-Inca) ruins before passing Pukara (to our right- see picture left).
Then we parked at the bottom of the track up to Tambomachay, an Inca Baths ruin. We spent a while here, climbing to a vantage point and watching sunset over the Cusco hills before walking back to the bus as it turned dusk. On our way back we were asked if we wanted to visit an alpaca factory, but declined!

Tambomachay is an Inca site, some 9km from Cusco. It was a religious centre, almost certainly used for water ceremonies (as is seen in most Inca sites- see Machu Picchu, Ollantaytambo). At times the Sapa Inca would visit Tambomachay with his close family and important advisors (the rest of his retinue would stay at nearby Puca Pucara) and perform various rituals connected with water/ running water. Local people still visit the site in August to give thanks. The site has three terraces and two ceremonial fountain on three levels, all built of perfectly fitted, unmortared rocks.
Sapa Inca
The Emperor lived in a gold and silver palace and worn precious jewellery. His golden fringe on his forehead was a sign of his importance. He had soft
vicuna bedding, but beds had not been invented. A red wood stool provided a throne and, like most high nobles, he was carried around the city by litter. His crockery was gold or silver. Unlike his subjects the Emperor could have many wives, but only his sister could be principal wife – the point of this was, like Egyptians, to ensure the pure-blood of Inti, the Sun God from whom they were descended (this did not always happen- politics would sometimes come in to it, but no doubt it was justified by the wife being a leader of another tribe and therefore also a descendant on Inti). The emperor, his family and all nobility were exempt from tax.
On our return we were still in the **** room, so complained (again). Then (as we not no intention of staying in) went shopping in the Plaza. We found a beautiful silver ring for E, got S a Machu Picchu T-shirt and M a T-shirt. I wanted an alpaca hat or jumper, but could not find a design I liked on the main Plaza. I went down a side street and found exactly what I wanted! We managed to get some money out by bypassing the “you must want dollars at a silly exchange rate” to the “you might want Peruvian money at a sensible rate”, then found a ground floor restaurant (La Retama http://www.laretamarestaurant.com) with the world’s largest candle, where we ate lomo saltado (sliced beef stir fry with onions, chillies, tomato) for S and Aji de Gallina (chicken stew in a creamy sauce of milk garlic, pecans and chillies) for me.

Inca Social Structure
The basic building block of Inca society was the AYLLU (family). This was an extended family who lived together, sharing house, animals and land. As the empire grew, so did the defintion of an ayllu- it could even be a town! The ayllu would organise most of your life, including your marriage.
Technically, all land was owned by the emperor, but practically, it was farmed by the ayllu. Each ayllu would be expected, according to its size, to produce additional crops for the Empire (i.e. the imperial family, the priests & the bureaucracy).
Social classes-
• Imperial family with the Emperor at the head
• Religious officials and “Maidens”
• Administrators
• Artisans
• Yanacona
• Farmers
• Slaves
A note on Cusco- Pre Inca and Inca
Although it became the Inca capital, who claimed their ancestor, Manco Capac and his sister-wife Oclla had founded it, the city seems to pre-date the Inca (evidence of the Killke culture and possibly the Wari). The original name Qusqu comes from an Aymara (not Quechua as the Inca spoke) word- qusqu wanka (rock of the owl), but was adopted into Quechua (where it means naval of world). The Inca used this in their founding myth (see earlier) to say Auca transformed into a bird (variously condor, owl) and turned himself into stone at Cusco’s site. This rock marked his possession of the land for his kin (ayllu- see Inca social structure).
Certainly the city was extensively re-designed by Inca Pachacuti who worked it into the shape of a sacred puma with 2 surrounding rivers. Two sectors, urin and hanan, were subdivided into 2, corresponding with the empire’s four provinces. A road to each province led out. Each provincial leader was expected to build a second, city, house in his part of the city and live there some of each year. On his death the inheritance was split- the title to the eldest son, the property to the other relatives. The son would then have to build his own house and acquire new lands.
A note on Cusco- Post Spanish
Pizarro arrived at Cusco 15/11/1533 after the Inca civil war had wiped out his opposition. The Spanish quickly took it over, using the Inca temples and palaces as bases (or as building materials) to build their churches and villas (e.g. Santo Domingo Priory and Church is built over the Inca Qoricancha-
Temple of the Sun; the Church of the Jesuits over the Amaruncancha); Some Inca building survived earthquakes better than their Spanish superseders- Pachacuti Palace, Temples of the Sun and Virgins of the Sun stand today. It was not long before the Spanish architecture gave way to a mix of styles. The city was briefly retaken by Sapa Inca Manco Yupanqui in 1536, but smallpox forced him to retreat. Thereafter Cusco became a centre of Spanish colonisation and evangelism- it became a wealthy city and the Spanish nobility of Cusco had a powerful voice in Lima. After Peru became independent Cusco retained its importance. It helps that it has a pleasant climate, although a high elevation of 3.300m. In 2006 Cusco had the highest UV level on earth.

Posted by PetersF 16:47 Archived in Peru Tagged peru cusco inca sacsayhuamán tambomachay qenqo kenko/ Comments (0)

Peru : Sacred Valley

Chinchero, Pisaq, Ollantaytambo

Sunday 26th August – the Sacred Valley

A not-too-early get up and we were met at our hotel door by the coach driver to walk to the next street. We left the reception with the instruction that we expected to be moved to a proper room (as paid for) that very day, and set off. The coach drove up past Sacsayhuaman again where a chap got on board to sell us a book or postcards or DVD or CD of the area (guess he was covering all his bets!). They were not too pricey and he demoed the DVD and it looked good, so we bought one. Then we travelled on up the hills from Cusco, stopping first at the village of Chinchero (3,762m) which had an outdoor market (where Steve bought a leather wallet with a coca-leaves motif), some llamas wandering and just about every European flag you could think of flying. The nice thing about Chinchero is that it is a typical small-medium size Andean village with typical views over the Sacred Valley (Cordillera Vilcabamba). It is on the plains of Anta with the snowy peak of Salkantay dominating the skyline west. There is a story that it’s the birthplace of the rainbow, but I could not find anything else about this, though no doubt it would be a colourful tale! Certainly the village was a more important Inca town- a massive Inca stone wall with 10 trapezoid niches is in the main plaza and Inca terraces (still in use) are clearly visible. The plaza also contained a 17th century colonial church (probably built over an Inca building), which we did not go in, although the decorations were said to be nice. The building has been attributed to Inca Tupac Yupanqui. We didn’t stop for long, before carrying on over the hills. The guide for the day was a self-educated person who had recently discovered he was more Quechan (and less mesitzo) than he had previously known. He had an interesting life, teaching himself Spanish (not his first language) and putting himself through college later than most (which is why he was deeply committed to helping Andean farm children get an education). He was planning to save up to become a teacher and set up schools in remote areas for non-Spanish speaking children.
Inca Religion
Like many religions, the Inca divided the universe into three realms:-
• Hanan Pacha (celestial realm or heaven)- often represented by a condor
• Cay Pacha (earth)- usually represented by a jaguar
• Uku Pacha (underworld/ inner world)- represented by a serpent
Deities could occupy any of these realms, or move between them, depending on the deity and their strength / position.
Their main god was Viracocha (left, also called Wiracocha, Kon-Tiki Viracocha Pachayachachic). He is their creator god, setting the universe into motion. Sometimes he was just “The First”. As he created the universe he does not occupy any realm, but sits beyond or outside it all. He is the father of Inti (Sun God), Mama Quilla (a mixture of fertility and moon goddess) and Pachamama (nature goddess). Like many Inca stories he is linked to lake Titicaca with a story that he caused a great flood, saving on Manco Capac and Mama Oclla on an island in the lake’s centre. Viracocha is sometimes linked to a wife, Mama Cocha (Sea Mother) who controls the waters- I suspect this was a later addition down to conquest of the Pacific coast (where an ocean god/dess would be of obvious importance given the aridity of the land).
Below Viracocha is Inti, the Sun God and the most important to the Inca. Their Temples to the Sun were always the grandest and their festivals, particularly the Inti Raymi, venerated him especially. The Inti Raymi mid summer festival (or Hitching the Sun) was the highlight of the year, with the Intihuatana (or Hitching Post) the centre of any Inca settlement. The Inca year, likewise, started with the Capac Raymi in
mid winter. Inti was married to his sister, Mama Quilla, and the Moon Temples are generally second only to the Sun temples. The Sapa Inca saw themselves as directly descended from Inti through his son Manco Capa and daughter Mama Oclla (brother-sister/ husband-wife). Looking after the inner world was Pachamama, an earth/nature Goddess who is found in ALL Andean religions. Supporting her were Mama Zara (grains) and various Inca ancestors or heroes. She was sometimes given Pachamac as a husband.
As the Inca had a large pantheon they had, like the Romans before them, no problem incorporating any conquered people’s (ayllus) deities (see entry on Pachacamac). For instance Pachamama, previously a top level goddess, was placed below Mama Quilla. Other more important deities include Apu (God of Mountains), Apocatequil and Catequil (Gods of thunder and lightning), Llapa (God of Weather), Kon (God of wind and rain), Kanopa (fertility), Supay (God of Death), Copacati (Goddess of lake Titicaca and later all lakes), Chasca Coyllur (nature goddess), Pariacaca (an odd God of water who was born a falcon, became human, then raised to a god). Human sacrifice was certainly known, as evidenced by the frozen mummies we saw in Arequipa. In general it appears that sacrificial victims went willingly, suggesting it was seen as an honour.
In addition to the straightforward pantheon, there were also huacas. These were sacred sites, often natural wonders, such as mountains, rivers, volcanoes, or important sites such as battlefields or past Inca Imperial palaces (which were sealed on his death), or even important pieces of pottery. These sites were imbued with god-like spirits (though chained to the spot) and people would give offerings at them, often coca leaves. Indeed, we saw
quite a few instances of this at Inca sites we visited (Racqi, Machu Picchu) or even at beautiful spots (Mirador de los Volcanos), so the ancient customs are still very much alive. The tradition of adding a stone to a pile relates to this (apacheta). In exchange for the offering you could ask for a favour, or advice.

We dropped down to the modern town/village of Pisac, over the bridge across the river, then snaking up the other hillside to the entrance to Pisac Archaeological Site. As with yesterday we had a Boleto Turistico (Tourist ticket), which gave entrance to all the Inca sites in the valley (170km). We had to get off, walk through the entrance hut, get back on the bus! Then we drove half a mile more to park just outside the Inca site. At first we listened to a guide as we walked up/ across the site until his explanations became so preposterous (“those holes in the hillside are filled with Inca ghosts”) that we set off to explore by ourselves (otherwise we’d never have got to see the intihuatana or anything really).
The ruins of Pisac are at the top of a ridge/ hill overlooking a valley. They are clearly in four distinct groups- the urban area including baths (Qantus Raccay), a military area (Q’alla Q’asa), a cemetery (T’antana Marka) and the terraces. Our first view was across to Pisaqa (from which the name), which is an urban (elite) area of 30 houses on a semi-circular ledge just below the rest of the site. They are accessed through a tunnel from the higher
ceremonial area. Below are all the terraces (andenes), which are supposedly in the shape of an Andean partridge wings (P’isaqa in Quecha), though we couldn’t really see it. To the right are some watch towers.

We then walked along the ridge terraces to the main site. Opposite us was the T’antana Marka or cemetery area- a vast rock wall filled with over 1000 cave/niche tombs. We were now standing in the Kinchiracay (baths) part of the Q’ntus raccay (ceremonial) area. The fountains and baths were probably used by priests and pilgrims to the Temple.

At this point we headed off to the Q’alla q’asa (often called The Citadel, though Q’alla= cut and Q’asa= pass) ourselves. The area is also known as Upper Pisac as it is the highest part. The natural spur gives it a great view of the valley below, making it easily defended. The garrison (and associated people) had houses (about 30) literally hanging off the rocks, with vertiginous steps to them. Each stone building had running water and a small garden terrace. From here we took a thin tunnel (10m) up to the ceremonial (and administrative) area. When we finally got to the top I was very keen to get to the Intihuatana (which we managed just in time). There was the expected Temple of the Sun, altar, fountains and a ceremonial platform with an intihuatana carved directly from the rock. It is probably one of the best preserved of all Inca intihuatana (certainly better than Machu Picchu) and the base suggests an orientation to the seasons. Sadly you can no longer go right in to the Temple as some silly ad agency, whilst shooting an ad, let a boom hit it and chipped a corner, thus depriving everyone else of a chance to enjoy it as it is now off-limits. The Temple walls, as normal, slope inward to protect from earthquakes. The Intihuatana is at the centre of the Temple (picture). At the Temple was an attractive (and probably religious giving its position) fountain. Above the Temple, looking down was a solid rock chair (Tianayoc) whose significance is unknown.
We then moved along the area following a sign to Snake Gate (Amaru Punku) where the stone hinges were intact. Less exciting than it sounded, actually. The site, with its military, agricultural and ceremonial areas, suggests it served a variety of functions. It’s probable that Pisac defended the southern entrance (towards the Amazon forest) of the Sacred Valley, Ollantaytambo the northern and Choquequirao the western.
Then we drove back down to Pisac, which has one of the largest markets in the area. The central square had a huge pisonay tree. The coach dropped us off and our guide led us through all the stalls to an open air café where we drank purple maize (Peru’s national drink, Chicha Morada) and tasted roasted guinea pig (well, I did but Steve couldn’t bring himself as he’d had a pet guinea pig molti anni fa). The food was being cooked Pachamanca (earth oven) style, typically pre-Hispanic Peruvian (basically a hole with hot rocks to create an oven). Then we had a coffee (quite a nice one) before heading into the market on a mission to get a vicuna rug (which finally we managed, haggling completed) and a bonus of earrings. Then we went back to find our guide, but he’d left the café and we spent 5 mins chasing each other round the market maze. Luckily he found us and got us back on board to head to our lunch. It took an hour or so, travelling through the beautiful Urubamba Valley to reach Urubamba town. We were there at the end of the dry season, but it still looked green and fertile in the Sacred Valley- apparently a few weeks later, as wet season started, it would be transformed. I imagine that this is the reason that the Inca (and pre-Inca) held this valley sacred in the same way that the ancient Egyptians saw the Sacred Nile- life giving in a hostile environment. The irony of the pyramid functions was not lost on me.

The Inca
Early History- the evidence we have suggests that they started as a relatively unimportant Quecha-speaking tribe in the Lake Titicaca/ Puno region (Altiplano) until the 12th century AD. Then they appear to have headed north. Early Inca style mummies are known from Wimpillay prior to their taking Cusco and the Sacred Valley area. The Urubamba River (also called Vilcanota) in Quechua is Wilcamayu, which means sacred river. It’s probably they were attracted by the greater fertility of the area compared to the altiplano from which they originated.
Manco Capa
Manco Capac (Capac means “warlord” so his name was Manco) pulled together his tribe into a city state (Kingdom, not Empire) called Quecha Qosqo (later Cusco), which he conquered from a previous group called the Killke. He ruled for some 40 years, during which time he codified Inca laws (probably abolishing most human sacrifice and banning near-relative marriage except for nobles- similar to Egyptian rules and probably for the same pure bloodline reasons). He married his sister and his son was Sinchi Roca. He died c.1230 AD. Manco is often called the first Sapa Inca (=Great Leader). Actually, Inca should really be used to describe the LEADER rather than the people who did NOT use the term for themselves.
Sinchi Roca (sometimes Cinchi)
He succeeded his father and expanded the early Inca Empire. He, too, married his sister (or half sister). He died c.1260 and was succeeded by his son.
Llorque Yupanqui
The son of Sinchi Roca, he ruled c1260-1290 AD. The name Yupanqui, interestingly, means left-handed. He too married a sister.
Mayta Capac
The son of Lloque, he ruled c1290-1320 AD. His Capac title shows he was a warrior ruler who greatly expanded the Inca Kingdom. He is recorded as marrying “Princess” Mama Yacchi, and thereby bringing the Colca valley (Collawas union of Aymara speakers) area under his control. His son succeeded him.
Capac Yupanqui
He was the last of the Hurin Dynasty, ruling c1320-1350 AD. Unusually he married an outside, Qorihillpay (a daughter of another tribal chief). When he died a short-lived rebellion/ coup d’état led to the death of his son and heir and the installation of his son, Inca Roca, by a concubine.
Inca Roca
He was the son of Capac Yupanqui by a concubine and his new dynasty was the Hanan Dynasty. He ruled c1350-80 AD.
Yahuar Huacac
He was the lazy, ineffective son of Inca Roca and ruled c1380-1410 AD
Viracocha was the son of Yahuar and ruled c1410-1438 AD (our first certain date). Viracocha had changed his name to that of a god due to a dream. He was much more effective than his father and began serious efforts to extend the kingdom into an empire (rather than raids on other tribes). His son, Pachacuti, inherited his dream.
He is often considered the most important of the Inca. He succeeded his father in 1438 AD. As Sapa Inca (Inka) Pachacuti Cusi-Yapanqui (to give him his full name- Pachacuti means “World Shaker”) expanded to control most of the Andean region, even as far as distant Lima. He did this through a mix of political alliances, threat and as a last resort, military action. Most targeted leaders would simply agree to join the empire and reap the benefits. As with European medieval kings a system of fosterage (children effectively used as hostages and also educated as the Inca would like!) was used to control the new acquisitions. He organised his new empire or Tawantinsuyu (= tawa/four + ntin/group + suyu/region) into a system of four provincial governors reporting to him. The four provinces were Chinchasuyu (NW), Antisuyu (NE, Amazon), Kuntisuyu (SW-Cusco-Arequipa), Qullasuyu/Collasuyu (SE, Titicaca, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina). Each province was run by a member of the imperial family. Under this were 10 district governors (the emperor’s concubine sons) covering approx 10,000 people He probably had Machu Picchu extended. Below them were Village Official (about 1000 people), then Foremen (about 100 people) and finally Official (10 peasants). Pachacuti died in 1471 AD leaving a well-organised empire.
Tupac Yapanqui
Tupac was the son of Pachacuti and he was already a seasoned warrior when he succeeded in 1471 AD. He continued the process of expansion and was succeeded by his son, Huayna in 1493 AD.
Huayna Capac
The son of Tupac, ruling 1493-1527 AD was successful in expanding into modern Bolivia, Chile, Argentina, Ecuador and Columbia but was less successful in organising his own succession. He married his sister and his legitimate heir was Huascar. However, he favoured a concubine’s son, Atahualpa and proposed splitting the empire in two. When he died of smallpox from the newly arrived Spanish, a civil war (perhaps inevitably) broke out.
ollantaytambo_48880156898_o.jpgHead of Viracocha at Ollantaytambo
Huascar and Atahualpa
On Huayna’s death in 1527 AD the empire was split between Huascar (Cusco and the south) and Atahualpa (Quito and the north). Huascar promptly attacked Atahualpa who managed to capture and imprison Huascar. At this point Pizarro and the Spanish arrived. It is difficult to imagine a more propitious (for the Spanish) time to arrive. The empire was in disarray and Atahualpa easy pickings. Pizarro attacked and defeated Atahualpa’s much reduced army at Cajamarca and captured Atahualpa. To secure his release Atahualpa promised to fill The Ransom Room with gold. He fulfilled his promise, but Pizarro executed him anyway in 1533 AD.
Tupac Huallpa
Tupac was a younger brother of Atahualpa and was made puppet emperor by Pizarro in 1533. He died of smallpox shortly after.
ollantaytambo_48880171263_o.jpgstorehouse at Ollantaytambo
Manci Inca Yupanqui (Manco II)
Manco was another brother of Atahualpa and after Tupac’s death Pizarro put him on the throne in 1534 AD. He hoped Manco would be another puppet, allowing him to continue his robbery of the empire’s riches. However, Pizarro left Cusco, leaving his younger rapacious brothers (Gonzalo, Juan, Hernando) in charge. Their mistreatment of Manco (including raping his wife) was so bad that he escaped Cusco in 1536 to start a rebellion. He recruited 200,000 warriors and besieged Cusco. Although he regained the city (killing Juan in the process) a smallpox epidemic amongst his troops forced a retreat to the mountain fortress of Ollantaytambo, which he used as a raiding base. For uncertain reasons, Manco decided a second retreat to a remote jungle fortress at Vilcabamba was wise and this became his capital. He was not finally defeated until Diego de Almagro’s soldiers assassinated him in 1544 AD. He married his sister, who was murdered by the Spanish in Cusco in 1539AD.
When Manco II retreated to Vilcabamba the Spanish crowned a younger half brother, Paullu Inca in 1539. He did not last long
Sayri Tupaq
On Manco II’s death in 1544, his son Sayri announced himself Sapa Inca. He met with the Spanish to negotiate and in 1558 agreed to leave Vilcabamba and live in Lima. He converted to Christianity and renounced the title of Sapa Inca. The Spanish gave him the title Prince of Yucay and he died mysteriously shortly after in 1560 (long suspected that the Spanish poisoned him as a possible rallying point). When he left Vilcabamba a half-brother took control.
Titu Cusi Yupanqui
The half-brother of Sayri, he took control of Vilcabamba in 1558 when Sayri left for Lima. He controlled the resistance until 1571, when he “became” a Christian but in practise he probably followed the old religion (politically expedient, then).
Topaz Amaru
The younger brother of Titu, he became Inca when Titu “converted” to Christianity. The Spanish then “intervened” on Titu’s behalf (or so they said) and Tupaq was forced to abandon Vilcabamba and flee into the jungle in 1572. This was the effective end of the Inca Empire. Spanish soldiers pursued the Inca, capturing Tupaq and his wife (she was giving birth, so they had stopped). Viceroy Toledo claimed Tupaq had killed priests (unlikely) and beheaded him. His children were banished first to Mexico (a descendant Tupac Amaru II led an unsuccessful uprising from there in 1780), then to Spain and finally to Sicily where the Amaru family live to this day.
Plaza Manyarakay at Ollantaytambo

We pulled in to our restaurant in the outskirts of Urubamba town (after dropping the cheapskates off at a cut price one) which was a lovely upmarket buffet one with lovely Cusco school paintings, a vista of manicured gardens opening to river and hills. We were really stuffed- the puds in particular were AMAZING. There was one sweet one made from the “ice-cream bean” which is a peanut family pod. Another was a cupuaçu mess (like Eton mess) with a lovely citrus-chocolate smell and a banana meets pear flavour. Apparently it is beginning to be used in body creams.
We had 40 mins before we had to leave and went to see the semi-wild parrots and macaws they kept. The waiter said they were free to fly anytime (clearly true) but that they chose to come back frequently. Urubamba is Quecha for Plain of Spiders (I do not know why) and is on the Urubamba River under Mt. Chicon. It is the largest town in the Sacred Valley.

We drove on to the Town of Ollantaytambo (our guide’s home town), an Hispanic town built on top of an Inca town. We stopped at the Plaza, looking up to the remains of the temple on the hill above. The modern(!) town was basically the Inca town (streets, walls, houses). We walked into the site through an arch and waited at the bottom, by the Water Temple. Opposite we could see the head of Wiracocha/ Viracocha, the Inca Creator God or possibly Tunupa, on Pinkuylluna Hill. There are also storehouses and a prison hanging off the hill. In Quecha pinkuylluna is a chiming musical instrument, suggesting a place where it was used.
Our guide started taking us up the terraces that led to the top talking about how Incas used to be giants. We gave up at this point (this took 20 mins of talking) and said we’d meet them later. We headed straight up to the Building of 10 niches, the Intihuatana and Temple of the Sun, and the Palace buildings behind. Above us were the pre-Inca ruins and the original Inca walls and on the opposite hill were the storehouses and watchtowers. We walked around the top to a look out post before returning back down.

The current town of Ollantaytambo (2792m) is built right on top of the Incan one and incorporates most of it. In the 15th century Inca Pachacuti decided he wanted the town (which was pre-Inca as well as Inca) for his personal estate. He razed much of the original town, rebuilding a fortress, ceremonial and town. He added terracing and irrigation around the town. We parked in the plaza (Plaza of Manyaraki), now the town centre. This part of the town, across the Patakancha river, is called ‘Araqhama. The town retains much of its Inca layout of 4 longitudinal streets criss-crossed by 7 latitudinal streets. The east side is an open area, the north are rougher, unworked stone buildings, but west and south are nicer polished stone structures with larger than normal doors. Most of these are still very obvious as you go into the town.
The south buildings (the ones we saw driving in) are blocks of 2 kancha (walled compounds)- four rooms around a central courtyard. Many are still occupied, making the town one of the oldest continuously occupied in South America. The Inca plaza is now a Plaza de Armas with a church, café and gift shop.
ollantaytambo-sacred-valley-peru_48880534422_o.jpgollantaytambo-sacred-valley-peru_48879808593_o.jpg Through the entrance arch to the hill, Cerro Bandolista (the main site) we stood at the bottom by the Templo de Agua (photo right) and Baño de la Ñusta (Bath of the Princess- picture left).
from left- path looking down on Pumtalis; Temple sector with pre-Inca walls above; Palace sector

We walked up the Cerro terraces. The Cerro Bandolista is commonly called Temple Hill or The Fortress (a misnomer less commonly used now). The site was mainly religious. To access it we had to climb a series of steep steps up the terraces. The steps led to a large platform- terrace of Pumatallis. Here the site divided into three main areas. In front of us the Middle sector contained several rectangular buildings (some two storied) and fountains.
We then turned left to the Temple sector. This area was clearly high prestige as it was built from attractive fitted red stones (rose rhyolite) rather than the greyer fieldstone of the other parts. The steps that accessed it were via a half finished gate (Manay racay) on a thin terrace with the Room or House of ten Niches. This long, 1-room building must have been ceremonial in function. Carrying on up was an open area with good views containing the Platform of the Carved Seat and two unfinished stone walls which would have been monumental had they been completed. Further up we arrived at the incomplete Temple of the Sun. The most striking thing here was the Wall of the Six Monoliths. From the blocks on site it’s clear that this temple construction was abandoned mid-point (around the civil war/ Spanish conquest period). Above the monoliths, some of which were decorated, was the intihuatana, a wall with deep niches and a building on a cliff edge (for astronomy?).
Temple of the Niches (both)
We continued up to the palace area and could see above us the pre-Inca walls and fortifications. Then we headed back to the terrace area to go right towards the funerary sector with its associated structures. It was quite a narrow path. From here we could see the sunken Callejon terraces towards the river (quite deep and presumably to protect the crops from the colder night air). At the far end of these was the Q’ellu Raqay plaza and building, which was probably Pachacuti’s residence.
When Inca Pachacuti died Ollantaytambo was administered by his family (panaqa) who used it to provide nobles lodging whilst their tenant farmers (yanaconas) farmed the terraces. After the Spanish occupation of Cusco, Sapa Manco Inca retreated to Ollantaytambo as an easily defensible town. He added fortifications, and in 1536 he defeated the Spanish at the Plain of Mascabamba nearby. However, he moved his capital to Vilcabamba in 1537 (though it did him no good in the end). The Spanish crown awarded Ollantaytambo to Hernando Pizarro in 1540, in encomienda (in theory he was given the population and was responsible for their protection and education in return for tribute of gold or labour; in practise it was basically slavery).

ollantaytambo-sacred-valley-peru_48880308641_o.jpgWall of the Monoliths

When we met up we asked what time we’d be back in Cusco as we had an anniversary dinner reservation at Chicha. He promised to get us back in time (and he did!). Some people stayed in Ollantaytambo and we dropped some others off in a rather nice looking country lodge as we returned via the Quecha village of Chinchero and Poroy in the dusk (amazing sunset views). He was as good as his word and dropped us off at Plaza Regocijo for the upmarket restaurant. We’d booked ahead and were treated really well, with a window/ balcony table on the second floor. The Plaza view over dinner was lovely, with lit up fountains and church. The waiter was lovely. He suggested a potato starter for Steve- by which I mean 6 different potato varieties (most of which aren’t even available commercially) all cooked in different ways, including 1 of a potato stuffed inside a potato! I had to try chicharron pork and it was beautifully cooked. The waiter brought us a quality Peruvian wine (Tacama Seleccion Especial. This is the oldest Southern American vineyard founded in the 1540s in Ica Province close to Nazca. It is 400m above sea level, which is an interesting note to our own wines 500m and with similar issues I’d think.

ollantaytambo-sacred-valley-peru_48880516877_o.jpgIntihuatana at Ollantaytambo
This wine is a Tannat/ Petit Verdot blend made in oak. It was crimson-purple with a woody nose, but a rich cherry taste. Brilliant- no wonder its their top wine www.tacama.com and nobody rushed us AT ALL (even though we’d heard this criticism).
Potato (Papa) was domesticated in southern Peruvian Andes at least 10,000 years ago. Along with corn and quinoa, it was a staple of the Inca empire.
We returned to the hotel via La Merced church (as we got some money out) and were handed our original room key- we simultaneously refused to accept it and said if we didn’t get the type of room we’d paid for (i.e. a double, rather than the smelly, pokey single they’d given us) we’d go to the tourist police. Amazingly (!) they suddenly had an available room (which apparently they had not had before- they must have thought we were stupid! Cue one slamming report on Tripadvisor, so silly them). Whilst they moved us we went for a walk around Plateros shopping area. We stocked up with a nail file (yes, essential) and water for Machu Picchu tomorrow. Then we got back to a proper room. La Merced Church and Convent was founded 1536, destroyed in the 1650 earthquake and rebuilt in 1675 in Baroque Renaissance style.

Posted by PetersF 16:51 Archived in Peru Tagged history peru cusco archaeology ollantaytambo inca sacred_valley pisaq Comments (0)

Peru : Machu Picchu

Monday 27th August – Machu Picchu

We woke very early (it was still dark!) from a NICER hotel room to take our taxi. It drove us to Poroy train station. We went in and presented our tickets so we could access the platform. As the tickets are all numbered we had to find the right carriage, present our ticket again to the conductor and then we could board. It was dawn now as we found our seats, which were not next to each other. Luckily another couple had been split up too, so we did a change around and everyone ended up where they wanted. As the train left we were served breakfast of mainly croissant, fruit and yoghurt, but just what we wanted. The train started by going along the Vilcanota River Valley until we reached Urubamba town (where we stopped briefly) and then Ollantaytambo (again a brief stop and coffee/ tea). From here we headed up into the hills using a zig-zag rack and pinion to climb quite steeply and quite quickly. It took 3 hours to reach Aguas Calientes (which is inaccessible by road), our arrival point.

We disembarked the train and the platform led almost directly into a colourful market. We went right through the market into the edge of the town, across a small bridge, then a road to the ranks of buses waiting. As we had a ticket already we could get on the next bus, but it seemed that anyone without a pre-existing ticket might well have quite a wait. The bus was quite creaky and definitely the wrong side of luxury! It went down the hill a little to cross a small wooden bridge, then snaked (at some speed relative to the road) up a thin, windy road/track high into the cloud forest. We could see glimpses of Machu Picchu as we went up and I made a point of not looking down (although Steve was quite happy to relay the height to me!). The terraces and aqueducts were visible from quite a way. On the right, going down, were the buildings of the lower urban area- these were the dwellings of the lower classes- farmers, artisans, educators, lower priests and the like. We arrived at the top in a large bus depot area and were met by our guide (Manuel) and a second couple. Again we luckily had tickets already as the number of visitors/ tickets are limited by the authorities (quite sensibly IMO). We walked through the turnstiles and into the site. The nice thing about this entrance is you come in via the terraces and pretty much the whole site is laid out in front of you, which is amazing as a view. A cheeky couple tried to join our tour for free until the guide sent them away!
As with all Inca towns, Machu Picchu is in three distinct areas- urban, ceremonial and agricultural. The town is high on a granite rock face, so the Inca excavated the central area and backfilled to make the farming terraces. There is a fault line that separates the terraces from the town. Due to the nature of the terrain, much of the natural rock was incorporated into the structures (e.g. The Temple of the Condor, the Sacred Rock).

We climbed up some steep, long stairs, passing by waterways clearly designed to bring running water to the city and arrived at the main City or Control Gate. This was a 3-walled room with windows giving a commanding view of the entrance and the city itself. Our guide pointed out the beautiful door- typically Incan (trapezoid). This one still had the holes for the locking rings and beams.
City Gate left and aqueducts right

Moving from here we went to the Royal/ Ñusta’s Bedroom, which is a 2-storey room attached to the Temple of the Sun. A window linked directly to the Temple’s 2nd floor. Since Nusta means princesses or maidens this may have been the priestesses lodging or maybe an Acllahuasi (Maidens house- often linked to virginal sacrifice).
We went straight on into the top part of the Sun Temple- remarkable for its polished polyhedron rocks creating a smooth semi-circular building. Like much of the site, it has been partially built into the rock. The top floor has two windows and a northern door with bored holes. Evidence suggests the door was originally covered in gold leaf. The room corners had knobs protruding. Next to it was a small rectangular courtyard with nine doors alternating with studs. This was clearly a religious area.
We around and down a long stone staircase, below the temple to the Royal Tombs, which are in a rock crack directly under the temple. An Inca Cross (a series of steps representative of the three realms). There were over 100 mummies found in the tomb (80% female, 20% male) and the doorway has a carved symbol of the earth goddess, Pachamama, so the suggestion is that rather than a royal tomb, it was a priestess’ tomb. In front was an offering bowl, as we saw later in other parts of the site.

On our left were sixteen baths, presumably ceremonial, linked by an aqueduct with the watershed hut above. The Paqcha, (first three fountains) were carved. We crossed over a quarry to the high Sacred Plaza. This is one of four in Machu Picchu, all at different levels, all connected by sunken staircases.
The Sacred Plaza gave a wonderful view down to the towering tree tops in the Sacred Valley, thousands of feet below us. It was probably one of the most commanding views in the whole city, as befits the religious importance of the area. The plaza houses the most important structures in Machu Picchu- the Main or Principal Temple, Temple of the Three Windows and the Intihuatana.
The Principal Temple was a three walled room with niches. The stones would originally have fitted perfectly, but the earth has moved and so have the stones. The supports for the roof, now gone, are clearly visible. To the right of this is the Temple of the Three Windows (Wayrana). Looking out of these windows gave a brilliant view of the main plaza below. There were two side bays and a central column (now just a foundation stone). Look at the picture for a wonderful example of male/ female joints by the window. Next to the door was a polished lithograph. We could have gone down to the Main Plaza via some steps here, but instead went on across the higher ridge of the site to the Intihuatana area.
sacred-plaza_48880847836_o.jpg Sacred Plaza
principal-temple_48881037122_o.jpgPrincipal Temple

temple-of-the-three-windows_48880902431_o.jpgTemple of the Three Windows

The Intihautana was on a double platform at the top of several terraces. There were three carved steps to access the carved pillar whose corners faced the four compass points. This would have helped the priest to identify the winter solistice (21st June as it is below the Equator). At this time the high priest would “hitch” the sun with a golden disc on a rope to the altar (intihuatana) to catch it and ensure another year of good crops. Inti= sun, hauta/wata= year.

Manuel now led us down 78 steps to the Central Plaza. This grassy plaza is the largest in the site and has the Sacred Plaza to the left and the roofless residential area to the right. Behind is the Sacred Rock and the peak of Huayna Picchu. As at Pachacamac, the local fauna (here llamas) were very evident.

We did not spend time in the plaza, heading straight to the area of the Sacred Rock at the rear of the plaza. A sacred rock would be erected/ dedicated at every new Inca village or town and Machu Picchu was no exception, apart from its size- 3m high. The rock matches precisely Huayna Picchu (Little Peak), the mountain behind. We could see the climb from it to the top of Huayna and the Gatekeepers Hut, but we did not have two spare hours, sadly. The buildings around the rock, pilgrims rest houses, had had their roofs restored.
wanka-sacred-rock-machu-picchu_48881029722_o.jpgwanka-sacred-rock-machu-picchu_48881030277_o.jpgLook at how the Sacred Rock matches the peak of Huayna Picchu
We set off round the Factory/ Industrial zone. Each house had its own small terraced garden and upper windows connected to a higher path to lower down goods. The area even had its own temple with two water filled basins (for astronomical observations). We went down and round to arrive at the famous Temple of the Condor. This was a spectacular example of Inca architecture. A natural rock formation was skilfully worked by them into the shape of a condor’s wings while the floor in front has a carved rock to make the head and neck. There was a very recently coca leaf offering by the eye, which is interesting as some people believe that this was used as an altar. We went on under the temple to an underground room.

Behind the temple we went down to the Prison Complex- a maze of dungeon like rooms. If accused a prisoner would be locked away for 3 days before being killed or set free.
machu-picchu_48880428558_o.jpgdetail-machu-picchu_48880327113_o.jpgPrison Complex (right) and
machu-picchu_48880908031_o.jpgGuardians House (below)

When Manuel had completed his tour at the Prisoners Area it was lunchtime, so he said goodbye and left us to explore in our own time. We sat on a ledge overlooking the forest and valley to eat our sandwiches and have a drink, before we set off to look at some parts in more detail. Our first move was back towards the Central Plaza, from where we went up the main staircase back to the residential area. We explored the area, seeing various wildlife such as lizards, down and through the labyrinthine passages. From the top we could see over to the cemetery area. On our way out we climbed up the cemetery, past the ceremonial carved stones and an odd boulder (with steps, ring and a body shaped depression). At the top was the Guardians House (Funerary Rock Hut) where the elite were possibly mummified. The llamas were mainly up here where it was less busy.

At around late afternoon we decided to head back down, so left Machu Picchu and went back to the bus depot. The return bus had less of a queue and we were back in Aguas Calientes fairly quickly. We wanted to have a quick look around the town before we left, so walked up the main street looking in some shops (mainly Machu Picchu souvenirs). We found an OK café with a large upstairs covered balcony area, so we sat there and had some corn soup and beer before going back to the market for a quick browse (obviously buying a small souvenir) and catching our train back.
The return journey was, hmmm, an interesting one. Firstly we were relaxing after our day when a feathered jester (for want of a better description) came bounding down the train making a huge amount of noise (no, NOT music). Then, as dusk fell, there was a concerted effort by train? management to sell us (the passengers) something- especially if it had the words “overpriced” and “alpaca” involved. Yes, we know quality alpaca products are pricey, but there is pricey (sensible Arequipa or Cusco prices) and there is pricey (we have you on this train and by Jove you’ll look at our 100% marked up prices). Amazingly, they actually SOLD a few things after their fashion show. No, not to us- we bought in Arequipa and Cusco instead. By the time we reached the last train station it was definitely dark, but we found our taxi easily and returned to Cusco. As it happened we were not particularly hungry, so we went on a walk around the historic area and their shops (which all open until really late).... until we felt peckish. We returned to the main plaza and found an upstairs restaurant offering a set menu. Not, as it happens, a good choice as they first tried to cut the deal they’d offered (by pretending the drink was extra) and then the food was ordinary to say the least. Thank goodness we had not wanted too much to eat! After that we had a drink in the bar below, then headed back to the hotel to pack.

History of Machu Picchu
The city, 7000ft above sea level in the Andes, high above the Urubamba, was probably an imperial fortress-town-religious centre. The Inca did not differentiate between functions and all three would have been seen as essential in any town. Although it is unclear which ruler founded Machu Picchu, it was certainly in use by 1200AD.
temple-of-sun--sacred-plaza-right_48881145292_o.jpgtemple-of-the-three-windows_48880892291_o.jpgroyal-tomb_48880322303_o.jpgmachu-picchu_48880416908_o.jpgIts relative isolation and the difficulty of travelling to it means this is often referred to as an Imperial retreat. Some retreat! Up to 1,200 people may have lived there!The periods of occupation/construction are generally dated c1200-1300AD, c1300-1400AD, c1400-1533AD, 1533-72AD. The city was “rediscovered” by Hiram Bingham in 1911 (obviously locals always knew of it, but ‘Lost Cities’ rarely take account of this). However, Bingham’s discovery did bring it to the attention of the outside world. Originally Bingham divided the city into the four compass points, but this has changed to distinguishing it by date.
temple-of-the-sun_48880372488_o.jpgtemple-of-the-sun-royal-tombs_48880332143_o.jpgtemple-of-the-sun-machu-picchu_48880329148_o.jpgtemple-of-the-sun-machu-picchu_48881052472_o.jpg Temple of the Sun

Posted by PetersF 18:13 Archived in Peru Tagged temple peru train machu_picchu sacred cusco condor inca intihuatana Comments (0)

Peru : Into the Amazon

Cusco to Puerto Maldonado

Tuesday 28th August – Into the Rainforest

posadas-amazonas-peru_48872868112_o.jpg We had a leisurely early morning and even a chance to have a dawn walk to the plaza (very pretty, and quiet) before the taxi took us to the airport. Originally the plane was supposed to leave mid morning but it was delayed for ages (apparently there had been a problem at Lima) and very little information was forthcoming. Finally it came and we got onboard (it had already got a full complement from Lima, but about 2/3 of them got off at Cusco). The mountains around Cusco are quite high, so the plane’s runway was quite short and the plane needed height quickly. Hence our lady pilot had to taxi full throttle, then VERY QUICKLY fly it up and up. Quite an interesting take-off. Kudos to the pilots who do this every day. As it was a clear day we had a brilliant view over the mountains and could see many Inca (and pre-Inca) sites below us as we climbed. It was not a long flight before we started to descend over the Amazon.
We could see the Amazon and its tributaries below us as we headed towards Puerto Maldonado. When we landed we immediately noticed the lower altitude (breathing was SO easy) and the, as we walked across the runway tarmac, the heat and humidity. A rep (Ines) from the lodge met us and a minibus drove us to their waiting lodge in Puerto Maldonado to wait for the people on the next plane. It was an open air hut with quite a bit of wildlife around, including several Woolly monkeys who came in and said hello to us (the lodge people there said they were wild, but they weren’t really, as they came and sat on our laps).
Woolly Monkey
The Woolly is an unusually furry medium sized monkey with a long, strong prehensile tail perfect to balance and grip onto branches. It gets its name from its soft, thick, curly fur brown (black/ grey). They live in large groups (troops), which split to smaller groups to forage for food. They mainly eat fruit, but also will eat nuts, seeds, leaves, flowers, nectar, insects, small rodents and even reptiles. As a larger primate its main predators are birds of prey, eagles, ocelots and jaguars main predators. Due to deforestation, it is considered vulnerable extinction.
Some people put their essentials in a smaller backpack, and left their large ones at the lodge, but we hadn’t been warned about this and had no smaller backpacks to use, so tough.

At last the last people arrived and the bus was loaded to drive us to the river. The bus left Puerto Maldonado almost immediately and drove down increasingly small and dusty tracks (I had a huge hornet buzzing in my window, which was sort-of annoying but also meant I kept looking outside and saw loads of birds). En route we were given snacks- plantain crisps and dried banana slices. The roads (ahem) looked like they often flooded and the bridges (ahem) were 2-plank contraptions that needed careful manoeuvring by the bus to cross (2 tyres each plank) as we headed to a small pontoon on the river. Once there we got on board a motor launch/canoe (life jackets obligatory) to go down the river. Our baggage made its own way! The trip down the river (Madre de Dios/ Tambopata) was brilliant- not too fast to look at the riverbanks for life. The river edges were surprisingly sandy, with parrots and macaws around. We came across a few locals, mainly finishing their fishing (for...I wonder?). We had another snack as we cruised (a sort of sticky rice dish wrapped in a banana leaf). The boat trip took about 45 mins, so we arrived at early dusk and walked up a steep, sandy path towards the lodge. Amazingly as we walked two troops of monkeys (some Spider Monkeys and Golden Lion Tamarins) went past us.
spider-monkeys_48876482388_o.jpgspider-monkeys-tambopata-peru_48876480428_o.jpgSpider Monkey
The Spider Monkey is a small monkey (2 foot minus a long tail) that lives high in the rainforest canopy. It eats fruit, seeds and leaves. This monkey likes to hang upside down using its powerful tail to hold branches.
Golden Lion Tamarin
The colourful Tamarin is another small monkey (a 1 foot body + a 1 foot tail) and is an omnivore, eating fruits, insects, spiders and lizards. It is closely related to marmosets (Pygmy Marmoset).
We even spotted a sloth (and we never thought we would, given their lack of movement and near-perfect camouflage). The sloth group is divided in Three-toed and Two-toed varieties. Sloths live in the rainforest canopy, rarely if ever coming to the ground (although they can walk and swim).
They eat fruit, leaves and small insects from the branches that they hang upside down in using their long arms and hooked claws. A sloth rarely moves far, staying up to 20% of its life in a single tree. Sloths sleep 15-18 hours each day and are active for only brief periods. They descend every 8 or so days to defecate in the soil. The sloth gets its distinctive colour from the commensal algae that co-exists in its fur. The outer (guard) hairs are stiff and lie over soft underfur, which has no medulla and instead has microscopic cracks for the algae to inhabit. A moth also lives in the fur and lays eggs in the dung. Very young or old sloths have no algae. Oddly sloths have no appendix, gall bladder or abdominal ceacum.

The Lodge itself is in a clearing and we were taken to the Welcome area (like a covered verandah with free filtered water, small gift shop and some amazing skulls). We sat on the comfy settees drinking a welcome fruit cocktail whilst our bags moved themselves to our rooms. Then we had a brief introduction to the lodge (its ethos of ecotourism, its shared community management) before going to find our rooms, which were along one of the radiating raised walkways. Because of the clearing it was still fairly light and we could see out of the fourth “wall” (aka The Jungle) of our room. The rooms have three wood sides, one side open to the jungle with a hammock, a cloth “door” and a shower area (again open to the Amazon). We immediately spotted a leaf green katydid (looking very much like a leaf) sitting sunning him/herself by our hammock. He/She was completely unfazed by us and left when IT wanted to. Steve went to have a wash and shouted in surprise- a poison-dart frog was sitting in our basin plughole looking at us! It quickly left when the water touched it (not on purpose- we’d have liked to see it more). OK, perhaps not a total surprise in the jungle. Then I went to lift the toilet lid- a huge Monkey frog (aka Tree Frog) was sitting IN the toilet basin looking at me, with absolutely NO intention of leaving. Now, I believe that these frogs skins have psychotropic / hallucinogenic properties, so it didn’t seem like a good idea to touch it! Steve went to fetch the management and two turned up with the most ENORMOUS gloves (up to their armpits) and a bag to move it – I think we made the right call! Apparently this is NOT common, but obviously we knew no better then! I guess it was lucky the rooms were still on power (electric power is turned off for rooms at 10pm and only the main lodge stays on the generator (which is why you can charge up devices and use the internet there only).
Monkey Frog
The monkey frog is named because it frequently lives in trees and is a strong climber. It is a nocturnal hunter and can be heard calling loudly at night. The larger females make their nests out of leaves overhanging water, so when the eggs hatch the tadpoles fall into the water. The skin of a monkey frog secretes a milky fluid from its skin to protect it from snakes. The peptides in it include dermorphin- 30x stronger than morphine, but non-addictive. The Amazonian tribes use it in rituals.
Hyloxalus Poison Dart Frog
One of the oldest of this large group of poisonous frogs. Its feet discs are slightly adhesive.
Puerto Maldonado is the main city of the Department of Madre de Dios and the starting point for jungle trips. We made sure we had our Yellow Fever Vaccination Cards because we’d been told that local officials can ask for it even though not officially needed (or even try to give you a vaccination!).
Rainforest Expeditions Posada Amazonas is the closest lodge to town (45 mins by boat from Infierno) and only a short, sandy walk from the river. It belongs to the local Infierno community, the indigeneous Ese-Eje. The Tambopata Reserve is a communal reserve with rights for the local tribal communities. They manage it with a company and together keep ecotourism 'green' and sustainable.
Posada Amazonas Activities
●Canopy Tower – a 30 m scaffolding canopy tower, which gives spectacular views of vast expanses of forest and Tambopata River.
●Lake - Paddle Tres Chimbadas on a catamaran, looking for the resident Giant River Otter family and wildlife- hoatzin, caiman or horned screamers
●Cultural Activities – Visit an ethnobotanical trail.
We were properly hungry now and as dinner was a communal affair at a set time we headed to the main dining-bar-lounge area. Dinner was not ready so we ordered a jungle cocktail (of fruits I’d never heard of). Then dinner was ready, so we all lined up and helped ourselves- Peruvian buffet style. Nice wholesome food- nothing special but tasty and filling. The Lodge gave a self service 3 course meal every day of soup, hors d’oeuvre, salad, hot main course and pudding. Coffee, tea, fruit juice and filtered water was always available. Whilst we were eating Ines outlined our next day (if we wanted) to us, an Australian couple and an American couple (who all turned out to be lovely). A 5am get-up was planned (Steve said no way, he wasn’t going to; me- I said I WAS going, come what may) to get to Tres Chimbades oxbow lake, at dawn and watch the wildlife awake. Then a stroll back to the river looking at the jungle flora and fauna. We’d then return to the lodge for breakfast and have some rest time (they don’t know me- I don’t do rest time) before having a walk through the midday Amazon to the canopy tower and the clay lick. After lunch we would have our own time until mid afternoon when a Medicine Trail trip was proposed. Then it would be dinner and a night walk. This is what we call a FULL day. Of course, I agreed to the whole lot. Steve started bending, everyone else (except 1 lady) was up for it too.

After dinner we headed back to bed. The kerosene lamps were lit now (they get blown out at 10pm so the jungle can sleep too). Just as we walked into
the bathroom area yet ANOTHER frog wandered along our shelves! (The irony is that this is ALL the frogs we, or any of our group, saw in our whole
time in the Amazon- in the wild jungle:0 in our room:3). The mosquito nets were ready, there were hot water bottles (yes, go figure) in our beds and it was so dark we fell asleep quite quickly.

Peruvian Society under Spain
In Peru (as in most Spanish colonies) a class system was very evident.
At the top were Peninsulares – noble residents of Peru, born in Spain, white
Below them Criollos (Creoles) – locally born residents of Peru, mostly Spanish or white origin, not less than 1/8 Spanish
Below the Mezitsos – people of mixed descent less than 1/8 Spanish origin
Near the bottom Amerindians
At the lowest rung of all- African Slaves

These are large birds with bright yellow tails but plain bodies. They are colonial breeders, with each colony producing long woven basket-like nests in close trees. They can mimic other birds and tend to be a bit musty smelling. They eat anything.
Mealy Parrot
These parrots are one of the largest parrots. They get their name from the whitish flour or meal on their backs and neck.

Posted by PetersF 19:41 Archived in Peru Tagged animals birds monkeys rainforest peru amazon cusco puerto_maldonado Comments (0)

Peru : Tambopata rainforest

Tambopata river, Tres Chimbades lake

Wednesday 29th August – Rainforest

Ines knocked on our “door” at 4.30ish and we both got up (as I knew Steve would when he thought about it), got dressed, grabbed a coffee and some fruit, before heading down with the others to the river. The boat took up further up the river for about half an hour (still in the dark) to a sandy beach and some rickety steps to walk up. Once there paddle around the lake in a catamaran, searching for the resident family of nine giant river otters and lakeside wildlife such as caiman, hoatzin and horned screamers. The lake provides wonderful opportunities to photograph majestic trees, water reflections and animal life.

The path led almost at once into the forest and our guide and another guide pointed out things on the way. It was just beginning to light up as we arrived at the Tres Chimbades oxbow lake and boarded our catamaran. We sat down on benches and were punted off through the reeds and into the main lake. As the dawn light grew we could see the mist rising on the warmer water and the Red-bellied Macaws and Cocoi herons sitting high up in the trees on the lake side.
Cocoi Heron / White-Necked Heron
The Cocoi Heron (Ardea cocoi) is a large 4ft wading bird. It spends much of the day wading in shallow water at the edges of rivers and oxbow lakes. Patiently waiting for fish, frogs, and small animals, the Cocoi Heron catches them with a swift strike of its heavy, dagger-like bill. It is easily recognised with its white body and black cap. Only Black Caimans, Anacondas, and cat species will eat them. Its name comes from the Tupi language, meaning “hopping bird”. It used to be a White-necked until an African species was given the same name.
The Anhinga (Anhinga anhinga) is visible at most oxbow lakes and rivers. This large, long- tailed bird needs open areas of water to fish in. The Anhinga is easily recognised by its thin neck, sharp, needle-like bill, and long tail. It shares the same habitats as the similarly shaped Neotropic Cormorant but has a longer tail and pointed bill. Anhingas are excellent swimmers and paddle the water surface with webbed feet searching for fish. After seeing a meal, they catch their prey with a stab of their sharp beak. They spend the rest of their time with wings partly open as they perch on branches or snags that stick out of the water. Like the Cocoi its name is a Tupi one, meaning Snake Bird. Surprisingly Anhinga do not have waterproof feathers, though this may help them swim below water. They fly frequently and are very visible in flight.

I saw a faint movement in the water and yes, it was a Black Caiman sliding in. As we punted further through the reeds I saw a pretty yellow Great Kiskadee flitting in front of us, then we spotted a colourful Amazon Kingfisher just above our heads, getting ready to dive.
Amazon Kingfisher
This Kingfisher (Chloroceryle amazona) often perches over the river or lake keeping its eyes open for fish or crustaceans. When it spots one it dives in to pierce it with its dagger-like beak. Its shape is so beautifully aerodynamic that it was used as the model for Japan’s high speed trains!

By now the mist had almost evaporated, leaving a crystal clear air. At the lake side, not 1, not 2 or 3 but dozens of red-eyed, crested Hoatzin birds. I’d been really hoping to see these odd, unique birds.
The Hoatzin (Opisthocomus hoazin) is the weirdest bird in the world. Quite a large bird it lives in groups around the edge of Amazonian lakes, nibbling the vegetation. We didn’t bother them, but a caiman did finally cause them to flap off. They do not like to fly because they have small, weak breast muscles (unlike normal birds). It has no close relative and no-one really knows their heritage, although fossils suggest an African origin, so maybe it floated across the Atlantic. Certainly it is an ancient bird. Uniquely they are born with claws at the end of their wings. This may be an adaptation to prevent them falling into the water when they leave their clayside nests. It is the only herbivorous bird in the world. It eats young leaves and has crop bacteria to help digest the leaves (like cows). This is the reason for its other name, Stink bird, which comes from the fermenting taking place in their crop. Their name means “pheasant” and they make grunting noises as they sit and eat.

Caimans are crocodilians related to alligators. There are four species in the area, but we saw the largest, the 15ft Black Caiman. An ancient species, their name comes from the extinct Carib language word for crocodile. They eat whatever is easy to catch, generally fish and large insects, though the largest will attack birds and otters. An ancient Peruvian caiman (extinct) grew to 40ft. After hatching the young are carried by the mother’s mouth to the water.
As we quietly punted round we saw first the snout, then the studded back of a large Black Caiman. Then, look, I spotted colourful Yellow-ridged and White-throated Toucans in a tree overlooking the lake end. One of the guides was very taken with my telephoto and took quite a few photos with it!

Toucans are medium sized birds with huge bills (giving them the nickname ‘flying banana’). They glide between the crowns of rainforest trees and add colour to the canopy with striking plumage black, white, red, blue and yellow. Quite a number live in the Peruvian rainforest, including Channel-billed, Yellow-Ridged and White-throated Toucans, Chestnut-eared, Curl-crested and Lettered Aracari, and smaller Emerald and Golden- collared Toucanets. Toucans eat fruit, insects and eggs. They are quite clever and can learn tricks and mimic other animals. Like many other animals of the rainforest their name is Tupi. They don’t often fly and have quite small wings. Of course their distinguishing feature is their huge bills, sometimes accounting for over half their length. Despite this their beaks are light as they are made of bone struts filled with spongy keratin. This probably helps keep them cool. Their beaks have forward serrations, which suggests they evolved originally to catch fish, though their diet now is main fruit (which they can get with little effort due to the beak length). Their grey tongues are frayed to improve their taste sense. Another unique aspect of toucans is their tail- the 3 rear vertebrae are fused and attached to the spine with a ball and socket joint, allowing them to move their tails forward to touch their heads.

Ines thought it was a bit early for the otters to show, although she thought she’d spotted a den, so we went piranha fishing (Golden Piranha). Steve didn’t catch anything, but several people did- goodness, those teeth up close. We threw them back, of course.
Piranha (piraña)
This is a South American omnivorous fish, famous for its sharp teeth and voracious appetite. It is related to the omnivorous Pacu (family Serrasalminae). Piranha have super-sharp triangular teeth in both jaws which interlock so it can puncture and tear flesh. They both predate and scavenge and are important to the ecology of the Amazon. As it is the Amazon the number of species is still unknown; maybe up to 60. Research suggests that the school hunting technique of piranha may have evolved from co-operative schooling as a defence from predators (especially dolphin). Piranha will eat almost anything; some species are more carnivorous, others tend towards herbivorous meals.
Other Amazon Fish
Although we did not see these in the Amazon the huge Pirarucu (aka Paiche or Arapaima) was undoubtedly below us at some stage. It is the world’s largest freshwater fish, growing up to 10feet. An air breather (it needs to surface every 15 mins to gulp air) it is a carnivorous catfish. It maybe the world’s most ancient fish, dating to at least 200 million years (Jurassic). Its Tupi name means red fish.
Another fish we must have passed over is the Tambaqui. This large fish eats only fruit and seeds, despite being a close relative to the pirana. They play an important role in spreading seeds through the forest as they only digest the fruit.
A well-known fish is a catfish, the Candiru (Pencil catfish). Supposedly it swims up your urine stream, thinking it is a fish gills and lodges itself in your genitals using head spines, In reality it finds its victims using sight and the physics of fluid dynamics makes it impossible to swim up a stream of urine. It will feed off the host’s blood, mucus or scale mites for a few minutes before dropping off, leaving the host unharmed. It is a Tupi name meaning transparent.
Lastly the Electric Eel, which is a fish, not an eel. It can grow 8ft long and deliver a charge of 600 volts to stun its prey. The male makes a saliva nest for the eggs.

Interestingly the lake has two sides- it (as does most of the land here) belongs to the local tribe- one side has been licensed for agriculture (if they want), but the other side must be left to the jungle. As it happened the “agriculture” side mainly consisted of palms and banana trees, so it was not cropped like we understand although they did collect and sell the palm nuts and bananas. The sunrise red had turned to golden dawn light and
suddenly we heard screeches and calls- it was the very rare Giant River Otters.
Giant River Otter
The giant otter is the largest of the Mustelidae family (which include weasels, otters and ferrets). It reaches a length of 5 foot by eating 3kg of catfish and pirana every day. There are only 5,000 left in the wild- this covers the whole of the Amazon, making us very lucky indeed. The giant otter lives in extended family groups of 3-20 and each is uniquely identifiable by its throat patch. Their various calls all have meaning, whether to warn or alarm.
We were really lucky as it was a family group with the parents teaching the three cubs to swim and fish (apparently otter cubs are not especially keen on swimming and need a lot of instruction), so they were out and about a lot. We got really close and could see and hear them for quite a long time. Our guide said it was unusual to get so close and many sites I’ve read agree. After 20/30 minutes looking at the otters they all vanished, and we saw why- a large Caiman was stalking in the rushes. It was about 7- 8 am (we hadn’t put watches on) and the sun was definitely up, so we punted back to shore and began a slower walk through the forest, looking at detail in forest fauna and flora. Among other things we saw

  • a strangler fig
  • coca trees
  • a variety of palms
  • some unusual nests/cocoons on the forest floor
  • long lines of green leaf-cutter ants
  • a palm tree with a bulge.

I was interested in the symbiosis between a nest of red ants and certain trees- a tree would harbour a red ant nest and in return the red ants would kill any sapling that grew too close. When we were nearly back to the river a guide pointed out a furry mass that turned out to be a hundred furry caterpillars all joined in a huge ball on a tree. Some cats came to say goodbye as we got back on board to return for breakfast at the lodge. On our way we came across more monkeys.
from left- mass of caterpillars, arboreal termite nest, capirona tree, brazil nut tree

The Brazil-nut tree (Bertholletia excelsa) is common in the Amazon. It rises high above the canopy, reaching up to 40m. Yellow flowers grow on it, which eventually turn into large fruits, containing between 1 and 2 dozen seeds. Nuts are contained in large woody rounded pods that break open when they fall on the forest floor. Unusually for the forest it does not have buttress roots, relying instead on surface and underground roots. The Capirona is a hardwood tree that grows over 100ft high, well above the canopy. Its rough bark peels easily leaving a smooth surface that epiphytes cannot colonise, leaving the tree free.
from left latex tree, cercropia, ficus on a palm, army ants

The Latex or Para Rubber Tree is common in the Amazon and grows up to 150 feet high. It can be harvested by scoring it and allowing the rubber latex to drip out and be collected. The Cercropia is the most abundant Amazon tree. It is quick to exploit any gap in the forest cover and is a common sloth tree as the leaves are very tender. To protect itself it hosts Stinging Ants (Azteca) in its hollow trunk, rather than using phytotoxins (hence the sloths preference). The Ficus, one of many species of fig has a smooth mottled trunk with lichens. The bark can be soaked to produce a worm killing tea. This is why many rainforest animals scratch and eat the bark.

Brown and White Capuchin Monkeys
These smallish monkeys live close to each other and often forage alongside Squirrel Monkeys (which is why we saw them both). They eat anything, fruit, nuts, lizards, insects, eggs, etc. Their name is due to their resemblance to the robes worn by capuchin monks. They are tool users- to break palm nuts they put them in the sun to dry for 2 days, then crack them open using a hammer and anvil stone.
Squirrel Monkey
These smallish monkeys have distinctive faces (Totenkopfaffen or deaths-head in German). They live in very large groups with a hierarchy- some females have a pseudo-penis to display dominance over smaller monkeys. Unlike other New World monkeys they do not have a prehensile tail. Their society gives them the ability to post sentries and they are rarely caught by predators. The females typically have colour vision, but males do not.
We went back to our rooms to have brief rest (well, sleep in Steve’s case and probably others) before a second mid-morning rainforest walk. Almost as soon as we left the lodge clearing, a large troop of Dusky Titi monkeys came to say hello, including one with a small baby attached. Ines took the camera from me to take a better picture! The monkeys hung around for quite a while before leaving.
Dusky Titi Monkey
These cute monkeys rarely go to the ground, spending most of their life in the trees and vines. Unlike most primates, they mate for life and form strong attachments to their family. They eat less meat than most monkeys. They rarely stay close to other monkeys, as they tend to be attacked- Capuchins have been seen killing them. Ines pointed out various things on our way to the canopy tower, including a Wandering Fig (look at the pictures for a clue to its name) and a Potoo bird.
Potoo Bird
A difficult bird to see as it sleeps in the day and eats at night. During daylight it sits totally still against tree trunks, virtually invisible to the eye. It has a small beak but a huge mouth for catching night time insects. It does not make a nest but lays a single egg in a tree nook. The story is that it’s sad call is because its spirit has been separated from its lover, the moon.

We saw a gecko, some unusual insects and various nests and cocoons before we arrived at the canopy tower. It was a long way up and quite wobbly, which I don’t like, but I’m glad I got to the top because the view over the rainforest and river was spectacular. We saw a variety of birds flying, mainly over the river- apparently one was a Bat Falcon, but too far for us to see properly.
Gecko, fungi, beetle nests
Bat Falcon
The Bat Falcon (Falco rufigularis) is a small, colourful falcon found along tropical rivers at the edge of rainforests. It hunts across rivers and small birds adapted to the forest understory therefore rarely fly across the Tambopata and tend to become isolated the same species that reside in the forests on the opposite bank. The Bat Falcon is named after its favourite prey. Like other raptors it has a notch on its beak, designed to sever its prey’s verterbrae. Then back down and along towards a clay lick. We saw several different trees and plants, all of interest to the locals, such as the brazil-nut tree, cocoa palm, cohune palm, ceibo tree. Then, just as we headed towards the clay lick Ines told us to stop and be quiet as there was a mass of macaws in the trees ahead. We saw Blue and Yellow Macaws, Scarlet Macaws and the less common Chestnut-fronted Macaws.

Macaws, like most Psittacidae, nest only in dead palm trees. They are clever, about the level of a 3/4 year old human and live to about 70. Blue and Yellow and Scarlet Macaws are named for their predominant colours. Oddly the Chestnut-fronted was named in the lab for an obvious colour, which is not at all obvious in the field! It’s smaller and less intelligent than the Scarlet and Blue and Yellow. All the Macaws come to clay licks to supplement their diet. If lucky, the less common Red and Green Macaws visit too.
In the hide at the clay lick the macaws resolutely stayed away- using the binoculars I’m fairly sure we spotted why. A yellow hide with brown-black rosettes... a jaguar! A long way away, but definitely there. No wonder the birds were in the trees! Ines said the jaguar would probably stay there until it caught something so it was unlikely we’d see any wildlife as it would be in hiding (very sensible!).
Big Cats
The Jaguar (Panthera onca) is quite widespread in the Amazon. It is closely related to the Snow Leopard. It does not mind water and will happily jump in to take its prey, mainly capybara, tapir and peccaries. It has 3/4 rosettes arranged around a smaller central spot. Its Tupi name, yaguara, means beast. Other big cats we could have spotted were the Ocelot, so called for the ocelli (white spots) on its ears and the Jaguarundi, the smallest of the three and a puma’s relative.
Accordingly, we headed back to the lodge for lunch and a rest. Steve had a good sleep after lunch and I lay in the hammock watching the birds in the trees.
Heliconia flowers
By mid afternoon everyone was up again and rested, so we took the boat further upstream again to the local medicine man’s forest area. Now, TBH, I hadn’t been sold on this visit to begin with, but it was much more interesting than I had thought. The medicine man was very clear and explained his craft and the local fauna so well.
Some interesting things were:
1. a bitter, fizzy twig (I had to spit)
2. quite a few impotence cures
3. local Viagra (maca root)
4. a stop by the medicine huts to “try” some medicine, most of which seem to heave been preserved in amazingly strong alcohol
from top left clockwise: oje tree, sanipanga,cat’s claw, kapok tree
Some medicinal plants we saw-
Oje: the bark produces a milky white latex that fights rheumatism, toothache, snakebite, anaemia and fever.
Cat’s Claw (Una de Gato): a sharp vines with spikes like a cat’s claw. The bark is used for ulcers, arthritis, asthma, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, tumours, AIDS.
Kapok: this grows to 200 feet. Its also called Sumaumeria or telephone tree (it used to be used as a drum). The fruit capsules contain over 100 seeds surrounded by kapok, a fluffy waterproof fibre that we use as a stuffing. It can treat conjunctivitis.
Cordoncillo: anaesthetic (we chewed this leaf and ended up with a numb tongue) Shapumvilla: stops bleeding
Wasai/ Huasai: kidneys, malaria, jaundice, diabetes
Pusangade venado: luck
Tawari tree: the bark cures infections and inflammation and may help cancer.
Sodo plant: addiction cure
Pusangade Motelo: anxiety
Cola de Raton: digestif
Canelilla: fertility treatment
Sangre de Grado: antiseptic, contraceptive
Copaiba: the resin is anti fungal and used for acne
Cedar: fever, cough, gangrene
Lipstick Tree: OK not a medicine, but still used!
Then, as it was dusk, we cruised back to the lodge. Due to the time we began to see a variety of animals along the bank, including an agouti and (noise only) some peccaries. Dinner, our favourite, quinoa led to an interesting cross-continent discussion as it turned out we all had a different name for this legume! Our American acquaintances were very keen to develop a holistic practise and had been fascinated by the medicines we saw and planned a further visit. Ines suggested a night walk, and a few of us went back to fetch our head- torches. And... ANOTHER poison dart frog was hopping around our room!
The walk was OK, but so many other people had the same idea as us that most interesting fauna had long gone due to the noise. However, we did see a HUGE black spider (I had no idea what it was and had no intention of getting close- Steve swears it was a Wandering Spider and I said it better not
wander anywhere near me).
Wandering Spiders
This spider species (Phoneutria) looks large and intimidating. A Wandering Spider will actively search for prey (wandering) rather than lying in wait at a web. The infamous Brazilian Wandering Spider (notorious for having the most toxic spider venom in world- even more than the Black Widow) does not live in Peru, but two closely related species do. They are aggressive predators that feed on small mammals, lizards, frogs and large insects- they are all poisonous!
We also saw quite a few evening/ night insects including stick insects. We came across some leaf cutter ants being very busy with their leaves, and some HUGE black ants that S was very interested in, until Ines suggested he move back a bit. It turned out that they were bullet ants- they give the most painful bite it is possible to have (on a scale of 1-10, they would be 12). They are one of the largest ants in the world and use powerful jaws to dismember prey to feed their larva (the adults eat nectar).
To say the least we were exhausted, so a quick fruit (and alcohol) cocktail and an early night all round.
A few Amazonian foods we tried
- quinoa (we know this well)
- camu camu (a bit sour, like a lime and with 40% more vitamin C)
- tumbo (banaa passion fruit) looks like a fat banana, but its tart. You don’t eat it raw so we had it in ice cream.
- aguaje (moriche palm fruit) firm yellow pulp, very nice.
- cocona (amazon tomato) but actually citrus. Yellowy, like a pepper. Used for salads.

leafcutter ants
The next morning, up early, we were lucky to see a Spix Guan and some large Morphos.
Spix Guan
Spix’s Guan (Penelope jacquacu) is an arboreal bird, turkey size and shape. Like most of the Cracidae family Spix’s Guan makes a rattling noise with its wings (which we heard). It’s named for Johan Baptist Ritter von Spix who discovered it.
Morpho Butterfly
This butterfly, which has over 400 varieties in Peru, is named after Aphrodite (Venus), although its name means change. The shiny blue wings are caused by iridescence, the scales deflect rather than absorb light. Their properties are being studied as an anti- counterfeit device. Underneath their brownish colour is a camouflage. They feed on rotting fruit and prefer to stay near water. They have the larges wing to body ratio of any butterfly.

Posted by PetersF 19:48 Archived in Peru Tagged animals birds rainforest peru monkey amazon tambopata tres_chimbades Comments (0)

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