by Joey Ayoub
VISITING QORIKANCHA increased my desire to see all Inca sites a thousandfold. I had bought the “Boleto Turistico” (BT) that allows us to visit 16 different places which are: Museum of Contemporary art, Museum of Regional History, Museum of Popular Art, Qorikancha, Qosqo Center of Native Art, Monument to Pachakuteq, Sacsayhuaman, Q’enqo, Puka Pukara, Tambomachay, Pisaq, Ollantaytambo, Moray, Chinchero, Tipon and Pikkilaqta.
All of the ruins, with the exception of Pikkilaqta which is a Pre-Incan city, date from the Inca area. Perhaps one of the most attractive aspect of these sites is their relative proximity to Cuzco. Cuzco was, after all, a kingdom in itself and later the capital of the Inca empire so it is no surprise that so many of the Incas’ wonders lay in its proximity.
Four of these sites – Tambomachay, Puka Pukara, Q’enqo and Sacsayhuaman – can be visited in a day. I simply had to start at Tambomachay and walk down to Cuzco’s Plaza de Armas. By doing that, I’d pass by Puka Pukara, Q’enqo and the famous Sacsayhuaman and would be able to visit all of them with the BT.
Tambomachay (photographs later) is popularly known as El Baño del Inca or the Inca’s Bath although it literally means “Resting Place”. It is a triple-tiered stonework built on top of a natural spring. Due to the presence of the small stone opposite the cascades which was probably used for signaling purposes, archeologists are not sure if Tambomachay was used as a military outpost located on the outskirts of Cuzco, as a sort of spa for the Inca political elite, or both. I wondered around Tambomachay, walked deeper in the surrounding fields, originally thinking that there were more ruins. I ended up voluntarily losing myself and enjoying the scenery.
About an hour later, I walked up to Puka Pukara, or “Red Fort” in Quechua, which was about 300m away from Tambomachay. This too was probably some sort of guard post or hunting lodge or stopping point for travelers since it looks down on the Cuzco valley.Apparently, sometimes the stones look pink-ish, which explains the name.
I ended my day’s ruins tours with Q’enqo which is the smallest of the three. Meaning “Zigzag” in Quechua, Q’enqo is a single large limestone rock on which animal images were carved: a puma, a condor and a llama. Zigzaging channels where the Incas probably performed ritual sacrifice of Chicha (corn beer), supposedly to the Andean divinities. There’s a large cave with a large stone altar that Inca masons built by widening one of the natural cracks behind the rock. No one really knows the purpose of the shrine inside the cave and part of Q’enqo was destroyed by the Conquistadors.
I saw parts of Sacsayhuaman from a distance but didn’t want to enter. I decided to leave it for next Saturday as the day’s highlight. But before that, I’ll be visiting my childhood dream: Machu Picchu.
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