Monday, 29 October 2012

Peru - Andean Farmers' Market

Doesn't this photo of the peppers look familiar?  I remember taking a very similar photo at an Ontario farmers' market.  But that's where the similarity stopped.  The rest of the market looked very different from anything I'd seen.  We stopped by this farmers' market on the way to Cusco to catch a glimpse of local life.  

Even these squashes looked slightly familiar
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But not this farmers' transport - never seen a Honda like this one!

Nor farmers' like these...

These long grass-like plants look like guinea pig food

Now that's a familiar sight - little kid eating ice cream!

But not all these varieties of potatoes

or corn

Two Peruvian women were buying young chicks to raise at home.  It's cheaper than buying full grown chickens.

A happy sheep farmer

Sharing a break 


Dried peppers

All kinds of beans

And of course, quinoa!

It was an eye-opening experience, and I hadn't even shown you the photos of the raw meat...

For more on Peruvian food, cooked, go to my food blog

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Road to Cusco - Ollantaytambo Temple

From Machu Picchu, we took the train back to Ollantaytambo where the bus took us to the Temple Hill on its outskirts.  We hiked up 200 steps to the top of the hill - the Temple of the Sun.  The hike wasn't too bad as there were terraces every 50 steps or so to take breaks and to admire the view. The temple was unfinished but what was left there, the wall of the six monoliths, was considered one of the masterpieces of Inca stonework, perfectly fitted together with thin slices of stone and oriented to glow with the rising sun.  There were also first class stone work in the wall of the ten niches as you can see below.

Food stalls where locals eat at the train station - reminded me of food stalls in Asia

Temple Hill - 200 steps led to the top of this "fortress" with terraces built into the mountainside

Different layers of terraces with different grades of stone and stone work- field stone below and the highest quality  of cut stones on top, reserved for temples and kings

First class stonework in the Temple of the Ten Niches

These niches have an amplification effect if you speak into them.
The stones fit together like Lego!

This photo (taken by another member of my tour as I ran out of battery) shows how a boulder had been cut so the stones fitted like lego pieces - awesome!

 Beautiful trapezoidal entrance

Wall of the six monoliths of pink rhyolite - the Incas dragged these from a quarry 6 km away.  Amazing how they got them up to the top.

Inca markings on the monoliths 

Abandoned boulders indicated a hurried departure of the builders
View of Ollantaytambo from the top of the Temple
View of the surrounding countryside and the quarry from the top of the Hill

Original Inca fountain at the base of Temple Hill (photo by JW)

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Machu Picchu - one last look

One of the most striking temples at Machu Picchu was the Temple of the Condor.  Condor, puma, serpent are the animal parallels for heaven, earth and the underworld in Inca myth.  The condor as the symbol for heaven fitted right in with the interpretation of Machu Picchu as a sacred centre for the worship of the Inca gods.   Below you see the condor head carved into the ground rock and its wings represented by the two wing-shaped rock formations behind it.  Awesome!

The stonework at Machu Picchu was so amazing it took most of our attention.  It was easy to overlook the fountains at the site when in fact, these are mind-boggling in their complexity and were also essential for the inhabitants.  Scientists have worked out that the Incas fed these 16 fountains from a spring source some distance from the site.  The engineering was complex.   Jeff Brown's article "Water supply and drainage at Machu Picchu" is fascinating and explained the work behind the fountains and the system of terraces that solved the drainage issues at the site.

Double fountains
The terraces were everywhere, even up the steep sides of the Huayna Picchu - and all for drainage?
They were also used for agriculture but the amazing thing was, each of them were layered with stones at the bottom, then gravel, sand and topsoil.   The drainage enabled the rainwater to go through and therefore stopped erosion.  The Incas were incredible engineers!

All these mortarless stone masonry here were also earthquake proof because mortar would crack when the earth moved.  Without mortar and with the stones fitted neatly into each other, when there was an earthquake, all the stones shook in their spots but would settle back down.  Machu Picchu is in an earthquake zone, sitting on two faults, yet it survived centuries of earth movements.  Astounding!

These terraces led up to the Intihuatana, the ritual stone high above the Sacred Plaza  

One last look at the ever present mountain view.  

Great spot to watch the weather change and the clouds roll in on the mountains as we lingered before our departure.  What an awe-inspiring place!
Next post:  Road to Cusco

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Machu Picchu - flora and fauna, the "locals"

Here's a quick look at the locals at Machu Picchu - all very exotic...

These Angel's trumpets are the perfect match for the buildings and the mountains
There are hundreds of varieties of orchids here, shown are the most common variety

This too is an orchid, even though it doesn't look like one

This rock face near the Sun Gate was full of what looked like air plants 

Many llamas were on site, particularly near the Sacred Plaza - they were quite a distraction

These must be the most photographed pair of rodents (called vizcachas, even though they look like rabbits), atop the entrance to the Temple of the Condor

Look, no hands - a local porter carrying the backpacks for hikers on the Inca Trail

School children on a field trip to the historical site
Dutiful parents acted as escorts with babies on their backs (shown here waiting for the bus going back down to Agua Calientes)
Curious baby peeking out from his mom's back

Couldn't resist showing this tourist, even though he's not a local...they started young!

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Machu Picchu - the Sun Gate

The Sun Gate was where pilgrims on the Inca Trail arrived to celebrate the sun as it rose, if they were lucky.  The sun would beam through precisely between the gates - obviously a triumphal moment for the pilgrims as it would mark the end of their long journey from the bottom of the Sacred Valley.  They could look down from that point at the sacred centre of Machu Picchu and it would be a downhill hike all the way.

For us, it was uphill all the way as we were going in the opposite direction - from Machu Picchu centre (at below 8,000 ft.) toward the Sun Gate (Intipunku) at 9,000 ft.  It was a short hike - 45 minutes for most people, double that for people like us who were not used to high altitude hiking (breathing).  We took the original Inca trail from near what is called the Guard House, the highest point in the Machu Picchu complex and walked along the eastern edge of the mountain.  We passed two temple like structures on the trail - one a giant boulder that seemed to have an altar in front of it and another one that had a similar rock to the one in the Sun Temple in Machu PIcchu.  The last stretch was very steep and the higher altitude made the breathing even harder.  But the views were worth it - and there was a moment when I connected with the spirits of the mountains...

The trail up to the mountain Machu Picchu is even steeper and longer.

The original Inca trail to the Sun Gate

The first boulder with an altar in front and Inukshuks left by hikers 

Looking back at Machu Picchu from the temple on the trail

The sacrificial boulder - again echoing the shape of the mountains behind it
This is the moment when I felt the "apu" - the spirit of the sacred mountains 

Looking down at the Urubamba river curving around the valley and Aqua Calientes below - original Inca terraces up the slope to shore up the trail

The Sun Gate coming into view

Looking down at the Inca trail from the Sun Gate - this was where pilgrims arrive - a park ranger stood guard so  you couldn't go down that way

The pilgrim's entrance to the Sun Gate

Imagine the sunbeam coming through the gate from the top of the mountain - now if only those guys would move!

After the encounter with the sunrise, this would be the panoramic view rewarding the pilgrim (just pretend you didn't see the hairpin bends of the Hiram Bingham highway up to Machu Picchu)