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© 2008 Mark Collins


Peru 2004 - Day 7, Sacsayhuaman Q'enko & Tambomachay

Today was spent visiting sights closer to Cuzco, starting with the ruins of the Inca temple of Sacsayhuaman, then the nearby Q'enko and Puca Pucara and finally Tambomachay.

Inca ruins at Sacsayhuaman - MTCThe ancient city of Cusco, Peru, was laid out in the shape of a stylized puma, and Sacsayhuaman is at its head. Another name for Sacsayhuaman is Saca Huma, which means the head of a puma. Pronounced like "sexy woman", Sacsayhuaman is Quechua for "satisfied falcon," a name that refers to the carrion-eating birds that feasted on the dead after a hideous battle was fought here in 1536, when Spanish invaders annihilated the defending Inca forces.

The construction took over 70 years and, it is estimated, over 20,000 men.

Apart from the impressive Inca ruins, the wildflowers here were beautiful and vigorous. What a fantastic place.

Wild flowers at Sacsayhuaman - MTCWild iris at Sacsayhuaman - MTC

The building complex occupies the edge of the northern slope of the city of Cuzco, and the views of that city are wonderful - the main square, Plaza de Armas, with its Cathedral and other churches was clear to see.

The southern side of the building was enclosed by a polished wall almost 400 meters long, the eastern and western sides were delineated by cultivation terraces and more walls.

Although usually described as a fortress, it is now thought it may well have been a temple devoted to worship of the sun.

Wild flowers at Sacsayhuaman - MTC

Cuzco from Sacsayhuaman - MTC

Cuzco main square from Sacsayhuaman - MTCThe ruins cover a huge area, but they constitute perhaps less than a quarter of the original complex, which could have housed thousands of  people.

The building was the site of one of the most vicious battles between the native peoples and the Spanish in 1536.

According to Garcilaso, a chronicler born c.1508,  and raised in the Cuzco area, there were three strong towers on top of the three bulwarks.  The main tower, in the centre was circular and was called Moyoc Marca (Round precinct). The second two were rectangular and called Paucar Marca (Precious precinct) and Sacllar Marca (Precinct with water).

This picture shows the base of the central circular tower, which consist of three circular stone walls, connected by a series of radial walls.  There are three channels constructed to bring water into what many experts believe to have been a reservoir. 

The summit of the Inca ruins at Sacsayhuaman - MTC
Inca ruins at Sacsayhuaman - MTCThree parallel walls, built in a zig-zag pattern, were part of the defensive fortress, and correspond to the teeth of the puma.

 The blocks of stone are enormous - and these are just the foundations. One block has been calculated to weigh more than 300 tons!

The spanish conquerors used this building as a stone mine for their rebuilding of Cuzco. The stones now remaining have withstood not only attempts by the Spanish to knock them down, but also more than half a millennium of earthquakes and other natural forces

Massive stone door at Sacsayhuaman - MTCInca ruins at Sacsayhuaman - MTC

Close to the doorway pictured above is a serpent pattern carved into the rock. Almost exactly the same size as the human brain and spinal column, this carving is believed to represent the seven chakras, and it is said that the seven gouged-out areas were once filled with gold, crystals and gemstones.

One authority believes that another name for Sacsayhuaman is the Serpent-Lightning Temple, because it is believed that in ancient times the Incas performed rituals here to awaken the inner serpent, or kundalini energy, located at the base of the human spine.

Carving at the Inca ruins at Sacsayhuaman - MTC
The party at Q'enko - MTCA few minutes walk took us to Q'enko which is a rock outcrop which has been carved and shaped by the Incas into a complex pattern of steps, seats, geometric patterns and a puma design.  The Incas held rocky outcrops in reverence, believing them to posses some spiritual force.

On the top of the rock are zig-zag channels wjhich served to course chicha (local maize beer) or sacrificed llama blood for the purpose of divination.

Here is our excellent guide, Rosa, explaining all this to us (left and below).

Niche in the cave at Q'enko - MTCPossible altar at Q'enko - MTC

Inside the rock are large niches and what is generally supposed to be an altar. It may also have been a place where the mummies of lesser royalty were kept along with gold and precious objects.

This rock is supposed to be shaped like a Puma, however I couldn't quite see it - perhaps the years have not treated it well!


Rock in the shape of a puma at Q'enko - MTC

A short drive took as to Puca Pacara, the name means Red Fortress.

Rather than a fortress it was likely this building was a tamba, or kind of post house.  Travellers may have lodges here with their goods and animals before entering or leaving Cusco. Another possibility is that served as a guard post controlling the flow of people and produce between Cuzco and the Sacred Valley.

Puca Pacara, Cuzco, Peru - MTC
Rugs for sale at Tambomachay - MTCA small road opposite Puca Pucara leads to Tambomachay (Cavern Lodge), which is commonly referred to as the 'Baños del Inca' or Inca baths.  It was possibly a site for ritual bathing, with the quality of the stonework suggesting that it was reserved for the higher nobility.  It is also very likely it was a place of water ceremonies and worship.

Nowadays, like all other tourist locations in Peru, it is used by local people to sell their wares - here an bright assortment of blankets and rugs!

There are three tiered platforms, the top one has four trapezoidal niches that may have been seats.  On the next level an underground spring emerges directly from a hole in the stone work and cascades down to the lower platform, creating a cold shower just high enough for an Inca to stand beneath, if he crouched a bit! 

On the other side of the valley is another platform commanding excellent views back down to Puca Pucara and from where I took the picture on the right.

Tambomachay, Cuzco, Peru - MTC

On the middle platform platform the spring water splits into two channels, both pouring the last metre down to ground level.

How could we resist pictures of us standing in the recesses?

Spring at Tambomachay - MTC
Mark at Tambomachay - MTCAlan at Tambomachay - MTC
Wild flower at Tambomachay - MTCOnce more we found the fauna here lovely! This flower looks rather like a violet.

After a day spent exploring ruins, it was back to Cuzco for a late lunch and a walk around the town.  Who is that strange man standing under the balcony?!

In the main square we noticed that the lamp posts have puma faces cast into them - a lovely touch!

we also likes the statue of the puma family to be found in side street near the cathedral.

Alan and blue balconies in Cuzco - MTC
Puma face on a lamp post in Cuzco - MTCPuma statues in Cuzco - MTC

We succumbed again to the charms of the children and gave them a few soles in return for a photograph.

During the evening we witnessed a parade around the square in celebration of Easter.  An rather gory effigy of Christ in a glass coffin was accompanied around the town by a guard of soldiers (perhaps policemen) carrying rifles.

Considering Jesus' teaching on violence this seemed very peculiar!

After an earlier meal than usual we retired to bed early as we had to be up at four the next morning to catch our train to Machu Picchu.

Mum & Alan posing with some Peruvian children - MTC