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Wednesday, March 24

Peru Dia Cinco - Wherein We Travel above the Clouds and Witness the Site of Spanish Defeat that Saved Machu Picchu

Day Five got us up super early, this time minus Bob, Jordan, and Susy to take care of them, and on the bus to Moray and the Urubamba Valley.

Moray is an enormous ruin about 90 minutes mas o minos from Cusco. Situated at 12,000 feet, it included a temple and a gigantic terraced greenhouse where they experimented with growing and refining different foods that we still eat. The stones absorbed the heat of the day and radiated it back out to stave off frost overnight. Pretty genius. There is also a large flat field where the regional football team has practiced. (Terraces at Moray)

Again, this was all done without mortar. We shall see shortly at least partially how this amazing feat was accomplished.

(Inca Masonry)

We left there and drove to an overlook of what is now called The Sacred Valley of The Incas, more properly the Urubamba. I think I said something like, "If you lived here, every other place would be ugly. Wow.

I have a photo of this, but only in my camera so I'll post it when I get a chance next week.

We descended down into the valley and stopped for lunch at a little place hidden on the side of the road. Ate lots of qinoah stuff from the buffet. I am hooked. Try eating only fruits and vegetables that you can peel or are cooked for 2 weeks and see how quickly that gets old. Qinoah has been my main savior.

We listened to more Peruvian music at lunch that wasn't great. MIDI is only good in small doses for me and when paired with pan flute, it gets old very quickly.

We went on through the valley to the Inca fortress of Ollantaytambo, the site of the only defeat of the Spaniards by the Incas. The temple was still under construction when the Spaniards arrived. The Incas flooded the small river with dirt and turned it into a mud pit, trapping the Conquistadores, who were then easily picked off by sling and spear. No arrows.

The head Inca then had a decision to make: retake their capital of Cusco from the remaining 100-150 soldiers or retreat to Machu Picchu. He chose the latter and ordered them to destroy the trail behind them as they marched. The fortress we say is only partially finished, but because of this strategic retreat we have the well preserved ruins of Machu Picchu, for which we should all be grateful.

(Ollantaytambo. Temple top right. Guardhouse top left.)

The fortress overlooks the small, contemporary village, through which the famous river still runs. Leading up to the fortress and temple are a series of terraces that were farmed by the villagers for the benefit of the Incas. A watchtower overlooks it for security. The interrupted construction gives us the added bonus evidence of how their magnificent feats of masonry were accomplished. I didn't count the steps on the stiff hike up, but it felt like about a thousand. We stopped periodically to identify the flying steps created for easy access from one terrace to another. (Again, pictures at 11.)

We finally summitted the fortress and were greeted with more fab stonework. The more sacred the site, the less mortar that was used. This site has none. Just interlocking enormous stone foundation pieces and trapezoidal windows and doors. Both features have helped the fort standup for 500 years in a region of intense seismic activity.

(Señora Carmen takes a well-earned break to listen at top of Ollantaytambo. Note trapezoidal doorway and also the protrusions on the blocks.)

We walked through a doorway which puts the lie to the thought that the Inca must have been a race huge in stature. They were not. Actually very small people. Almost bumped my head going through it to the top level. There, we saw the part that had been under construction the day that the Spaniards arrived. One enormous stone, we were told 150 tons, was already on place, while another equally as large was actually on a ramp next to it being dragged up to lie next to it. At 50 men per ton, that's a lot of men pulling ropes! The protrusions on the stone that you can see above were used to help pull the stone. The protrusions are also concave on the bottom, so that once the stone is hoisted up the ramp and in place, levers can be employed to prop it up while some brave mason polishes the bottom to make it fit the surrounding stones more exactingly.

(Stone being hauled up ramp)
(Stone that was to be its partner. Stone on ramp to the right.)

When Machu Picchu is open, many visitors miss this site, but they shouldn't. A friend who has been to both said he actually prefers visiting Ollantaytambo.

(From just past the guardhouse looking back at the temple and terraces.)

We returned to the hotel and met up for…pizza! with the rest of our group for our final evening together. The pizza was surprisingly good and I even got my one photo of Macchu Pichu which I'll add later.

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