30.03.2012 - 30.03.2012
Up at 0800 (lovely!) for our Sacred Valley tour. First stop, on the outskirts of Cusco is Saqsaywaman ("Satisfied Falcon" though Juan tells us most tourists call it "Sexy Woman"!). This was the major ceremoinial and parade ground for the Incas in Cusco. It is immense in scale, even though only 20% of the original structure now remains) with huge stone blocks carefully joined in the Inca way. The outer walls (from above) are zigzag-shaped like lightning bolts.
It was used for religious purposes but after the Spanish invasion it was the site of a battle by Manco Inca, the remaining Inca leader, who hoped to retake Cusco in 1536 and almost succeeded in laying siege to the small Spanish force there. When reinforcements arrived from the coast, the Incas were defeated at Saqsaywaman and retreated to Ollantaytambo. Saqsaywaman is the head of the puma shape in which Pachacutec (we´re actually getting to know these guys!) had originaly designed the city of Cusco.
We head NE out of Cusco, cross the mountain divide and descend into the Sacred Valley, the valley of the Urubamba River, near Pisac.
Ancient Pisac was a horticultural experimental centre where hybrid varieties were grown for use throughout the Inca empire which we have seen has tremendous variation in elevation and soil conditions. Potatos, tomatos, quinoa and many other crops were refined here and then introduced where the conditions permitted. Today archaeologists are working to restore the many terraces that extend well up the mountain slopes.
This is also the site of the oldest known Inca cemetery, but its cliffside tombs and mummies, like those of the Nazca we saw earlier, have been robbed for any valuables, leaving only a few bones and skulls in some.
We carried on to the present-day town of Pisac for lunch and a little market shopping before driving to Ollantaytambo where we caught the train to Agua Caliente a couple of days ago. This is the place where the Inca rebels, led by Manco Inca, made their last defiant stand against the Spaniards in 1536.The Ollantaytambo site was never completed, but stands as a reminder of how inventive and industrious the Inca and their subjects were in stone building. Some walls, at the top of a slope about 50-100m high are exactly joined and locked with three separate layers of shaped stones (granite for the most part, chiselled they believe with other rocks containing hematite). They were "renovating" to add new walls in vertical pallisade style when tools were exchanged for weapons and the site was prepared for a last battle against the Spaniards pursuing from Cusco.
When the Spaniards finally arrived and attacked on foot and horse the Inca used their usual weapons, arrows, slings, catapults, knowing the Spaniards would come close, confident of success (they had never lost a battle with the Inca...until now).But when they were close enough the inca rolled many of the huge building stones from the heights above the terraces down the steep hill causing pandemonium among the armored cavalry, their horses and the foot soldiers.When the Spanish recovered from this unexpected attack and advanced again the Inca opened a dam they had prepared out of sight in the mountains above and flooded Ollantaytambo. The Spaniards were routed and survivors retreated to Cusco, pursued by the Inca through the valley. This was the only Inca victory however, and Manco Inca could see that reinforcements would be brought in soon to finally defeat them so evacuated the site and retreated first to Vilcabamba, near Macchu Pichu, and soon thereafter to the Amazon junge where no trace has been found since of their final fate. Today many of the great boulders that rolled down the sloped still dot the broad lawn at the bottom, next to the little town of Ollantaytambo.
Weary from "battle" (up/down/up/down), we drove back down the Sacred Valley, over the mountains and back into Cusco for some dinner and our last night in the former capital of the Inca Empire.