Sunday, August 29, 2010

From Puno to Cusco--Raqchi

The last stop we made before driving into Cusco (another 1 1/2 hours) was the community of Raqchi which today is a small but thriving farming community. Tourism is important to these people as well. The guide book says 90% of the community residents are devoted to pottery of different shapes and sizes. The pottery is sold all over Peru and is valued for the volcanic rock and clay mixture. We didn't buy any pottery. If I had read the guide book before we visited there, I would have picked something up. The people of Raqchi follow the traditions and patterns of ceramic art of the Ancients. The real draw, however, is the 1400s temple of the god of Wiracocha.

The chapel is made of volcanic rock thrown by a nearby volcano, Volcan Kinsachata, which gave to the Andean Indians a quarry of good building material. The road in front of the Catholic chapel is the great Inca road leading to Cusco. The guide book stated the road also ran as far as Argentina.

In Old Lima is a statue dedicated to the Pony Express of the Inca culture. Runners ran relay-style from Colombia, through Ecuador, through the small towns of Peru to Cusco and then on to Lima. From Peru they ran into Bolivia and then to Chile.

The temple is in the background. Living quarters connected to the temple are actually in the form of a neighborhood with a narrow road or alley way running between perfectly symmetrical houses with adjoining patios. The guide book said the priests and virgins lived here.

As we were approaching Raqchi, our guide Felix pointed out the Inca stairway on the outside of an ancient wall. This wall is part of the ancient wall that surrounded the community and ran along the Inca Trail to Cusco, the seat of the Inca Empire.

This is the residence for the priests and virgins. When the Spanish conquered the Inca, they plundered their silver and gold, took their idols which were kept in niches found in all the Inca ruins, and destroyed many of the temples as they strove to wipe out their pagan practices. They used the stones of the Inca temples to build their own cathedrals. One thing we have learned, however, about these Ancients is they had a belief in a heaven or pre-earth life and a belief in life after death. Earthlife was very important to them as well and they named the earth Pachamama. (They offered sacrifices to Pachamama for good crops, favorable weather, etc.) They buried their dead with precious belongings and food to carry with them to the next life. Their jewelry and pottery reflect these beliefs--the Inca cross, the eternity circles, and even the mysterious mountain petroglyphs or art, one which has a a giant "tree of life" which the locals call the "candelabra." There is a picture of that candelabra or tree on a January blog.

Notice the Inca blocks of stone fit together without mortar. Above the foundations the walls are of pure adobe or rolled clay.

This Inca community had storage bins or "silos" for storing potatoes and grain which were discovered in the 1960s when the site was discovered by archeologists. Farmers had been using the land for centuries, but only when Peru began preserving their archeological sites, did this area become important. The guide book states that the Inca leaders in this community made sure no one went without food. It reminded us of the church welfare program which provides humanitarian services and food for the needy and not just members of the church. Emma is standing in the doorway of a silo that was found in perfect condition. In it was evidence of potatoes and grains.

Emma, Spencer, and Kate are standing near the foundation or platforms. The field of storage buildings is in the background. The stone blocks topped by the rolled clay adobe are quite beautiful. We were amazed that such construction could survive the centuries.

Only the wall on the right has been restored to show what the design of the temple was originally.

One picture we didn't get was the Inca baths. The Incas had hydraulic engineering knowledge. The water is distributed by perfectly preserved stone channels which run underground and distribute pure, clear cold water to the west and east sides of the platforms. No one has discovered the source of the water but it flows "non stop" according to the guide book.

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