×

THE GREAT INKA ROAD

  • Pisac is a Peruvian village in the Sacred Valley of the Incas. Pisac is perhaps best known for its Inca ruins, known as Inca Písac, which lies atop a hill at the entrance to the valley. The Inca constructed agricultural terraces on the steep hillside, which are still in use today. They created the terraces by hauling richer topsoil by hand from the lower lands. The terraces enabled the production of surplus food, more than would normally be possible at altitudes as high as 11,000 feet.  COURTESY PHOTO

  • Ollantaytambo is a town and an Inca archaeological site in southern Peru.  COURTESY PHOTO

  • Macchu Picchu, a remote 15th century Inca fortress, is one of the new Seven Wonders of the World. COURTESY PHOTOS

  • Aguascalientes is a good town for a hike. COURTESY PHOTO

  • Diane Goodman conquered her fear of heights while making the long trek to historic MacchuPicchu. The site is situated on a mountain ridge 7,970 feet above sea level.

  • The Temple of the Sun. COURTESY PHOTO

  • Tipon consists of wide agricultural terraces irrigated by a network of water channels fed by a natural spring. COURTESY PHOTO

  • Cusco was the center of the historical site of the Inka Empire from the 13th to 16th century. COURTESY PHOTO



Thursday, September 07, 2017

EDITOR’S NOTE: In the July 27 and Aug. 17 editions, we shared the first two parts of Diane Goodman’s one-month journey with Ohio State University’s Fulbright-Hays Group Projects Abroad as she walked along the Inka Trail in Peru. Her blog of the trip can be found at shantimayal957.weebly.com.

I have come to explore the Great Inka Road. I have read it is one of the world’s monumental engineering achievements. At its height, there were 24,000 miles in its road system that linked mountain peaks and tropical lowlands and crossed rivers and deserts. Today the road runs through Andean communities in Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Argentina, and Chile.

Cusco is often spelled Cuzco and in Quechua, the indigenous language, Quosqo. It is situated at 11,150 feet above sea level in Southeast Peru near the Urubamba Valley and the Andes Mountain Range. It is not surprising that I felt the altitude as I walked up and down the streets of this city that is built on the edge of mountains. It was the center of the historical site of the Inka Empire from the 13th to 16th century. In 1532, it was taken over by the Spanish conquest. It was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Many people believe that this city was planned and built in the shape of a puma by the last emperor of the Inka civilization, Sapa Inca Pachacuti. Cusco was the center for the Spanish colonization and the spread of Christianity in the Andean world. As history states, the Spanish conquered the indigenous people and replaced their temples with Catholic churches, at times using the very same stones of the original Inka structures. A major earthquake in 1950 caused the destruction of more than half of the city’s structures. It is from this beautiful setting that we investigated other rich treasures of the Andean word and the Inca Empire.

July 10: Heading out to Machu Picchu

Ollantaytambo is a town and an Inca archaeological site in southern Peru. Today we catch a bus out of Cusco by 7:30 a.m. and head to Ollantaytambo to catch the train to Aguascalientes. Most of us are asleep on this bus ride as we know we will be catching a train ride through the Sacred Valley to Aguascalientes, the stopping point for the evening, before going to Machu Picchu the next day. I am daydreaming about tomorrow and walking the Inca ruins of Machu Picchu. There is an excitement in the air as most of us have had this on our “living list” to climb for years. Most of us climb the Temple of the Sun before we catch our train even though some of us (me!) have a strong fear of heights. Ollantaytambo was the royal estate of Emperor Pachacuti who conquered the region and built the town and a ceremonial center. Its location is en route to one of the most common starting points for the four-day, three-night hike known as the Inca Trail.

July 14: Visiting Tipon

Tipon consists of wide agricultural terraces irrigated by a network of water channels fed by a natural spring. One could say we saved the best for last. We reached this ruin very early in the morning so no one else was walking along the footsteps of the past with us. I could feel the energy rising up from these terraces. The wind was lightly blowing the spirit of the past directly through me. I was sick this day and our guide, Julio, offered to do a cleansing with sacred water. I took him up on his offer. This humble shaman blessed six of us this day. I was feeling better by the evening. With his chant in Kichwa I will never know what he said. I do know that he is connected to the earth and all of her graces. He offered them to me on this day. What a beautiful farewell gift from the Inka empire of Peru.

July 10: Aguascalientes and Machu Picchu

We jump on the Peru Rail for our slow three-hour train ride down the valley to a lower elevation in Aguascalientes. The views are lovely. It feels like the spiritual architecture of Peru just takes one to a higher plane of consciousness. When we arrive to Aguascalientes it feels like a typical cowboy town along the railroad tracks. This is a tourist destination where people stop for the night to catch an early bus ride up to Machu Picchu. This town is known for its hot baths (aguascalientes). We pull in by 3 p.m. and several of us decide take an afternoon hike along the railroad tracks to a botanical garden and waterfall. The next thing we know we are hiking home in the dark with flashlights. Follow along the trail with me via train and hiking. You will be able to tell we are on the edge of the beginning of the Amazon jungle by all of the vegetation along the trail.

July 11: Machu Picchu (Old Peak)

Machu Picchu is a 15th-century Inca fortress situated on a mountain ridge 7,970 feet above sea level. It is often mistaken to be the “Lost City of the Incas.” It is the most familiar icon of Inca civilization. The Inka Road system lead directly to this point. The Incas built the estate around 1450 but abandoned it a century later at the time of the Spanish conquest. The Spanish never found Machu Picchu and so did not destroy it, as they did many other sites. It did become covered in vegetation as it lay abandoned over all the years. The terraces built by the Inca were used by modern day farmers for farming. It remained unknown to the outside world until American historian Hiram Bingham brought it to international attention in 1911. In 2007, Machu Picchu was voted one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. I was able to overcome my fear of heights and reach the top of the mountain where the hitching post of the sun was (the sun dial).