Saturday, March 17, 2018

Much Pleasure at Machu Picchu

No trip to Peru is complete without visiting the famed Machu Picchu, which is considered one of the modern seven wonders of the world. I was not disappointed when I saw it. Indeed it stands up to its fame and deserves the title, constructed at about 7,900 ft high above the clouds (see the picture to the right). The scenes from above there are spectacular. Those who inhabited it had excellent views and enjoyed a wonderful life at the top up there. The trip started by landing at the airport in Lima the capital. Lima was hot and humid in March, and I was told it never rains there. Located at the Pacific ocean it has a mild weather all year round. It has some 350 ruins that date back to more than thousand years, before the Incas time. Incas were the kings of the people who are called Kashua, and their spoken language is also called Kashua. The Miraflores district is one of the rich areas in Lima, together with San Isidro, which was built in 1870. The parque del amor has a statue erected in 1993 by one of the famous Peruvian artists. The design of the park is inspired by Gaudi of Spain.
The Spaniards came in 1532 and built many churches. The architecture of the churches was based on the Muslim Andalusian architecture, and it was obvious that the artwork insides the churches was done by Moors. Before the Incas the Peruvian people worshipped three deities: The moon, the ocean and the earth. The Incas worshipped the sun. There are some 350 archeological sites in Lima that date back to more than a thousand years before the Incas, for example the Huaca Pucllana which was constructed 2000 years ago. The original royal language was called Panakka, and is extinct now because the Spaniards made sure to destroy it first. The language that is still spoken today is the Runasimi (also called Katchua). They had no written language and therefore their history was not preserved.
The population of Lima is 11 millions. It is the third largest city in South America after Sao Paulo in Brazil (20 million), and Buenos Aires in Argentina (14 million). The picture to the right was taken in the main square of Lima and you can see the colonial buildings with wooden balconies that were certainly the work of Moors. Peru was a dictatorship between 1968 and 1980 when inflation was at 3000% by 1990, but now it is a democracy and its economy is doing quite well. The main sources of Peru's economy are: mining (gold, silver, copper, aluminum and molybdenum), agriculture (potatoes and gourmet coffee), and tourism. Lima was liberated from Spain in 1821 by San Jose Martinez, whose statue is in the main square downtown. Lima is also called the city of the kings, and was one of three major cities the Spaniards constructed, the other two being Bogota and Buenos Aires. The flight from Lima to Cusco takes about one and half hour. Cusco has all the Inca attractions. It is located at an altitude of more than 12,000 ft. which makes it hard to breathe up there and I got a headache for the first night but got better afterward. The coca tea helps alleviate the breathing problem a little but the moonya tea was the best. Moonya is a kind of wild mint plant that can be found only at that altitude.
The first place we visited in Cusco was the village of Chinchero by the sacred valley. There people still speak the Kachua language and live the primitive life of the original natives of the land. They grow some 3,000 kinds of potatoes and they raise llamas and alpacas. Their food consists of mainly potatoes, quinoa, coca leaves, and cuy (which is the guinea pig). They weave nice textiles made of the alpaca wool. The rainforest is only three hours away from here. The words thank you in Katchua language are "Sul Payke" or "Anyay". After Chinchero we visited Ollantaytambo where we climbed up the temple of the sun. The Incas brought skilled architects from lake Titicaca. The Spaniards destroyed the temples and replaced them with churches, and the only village that survived was Machu Picchu because they never found it, and it was discovered in 1911 by Hiram Bingham of National Geographic and since then it got its world fame and was voted as one of the modern seven wonders of the world.
The Incas believed in the supreme god whom they believed created the world. They pictured him as a bearded man, and they thought the Spaniards were messengers from him because they were bearded too while the Incas did not have beards. That was a big mistake the Incas made, and of course the Spaniards took advantage of that very well. The Incas made terraces in the mountains for agriculture. They used granite rocks in some of their temples which is very hard rock and since they did not have iron, they used Hematite ores to break the blocks. They did not have any animals of burden either. So they moved by foot. They sent messengers through the Inca trail for thousands of kilometers by foot. Imagine the messengers had to deliver oral messages by foot because they did not know writing.
The picture to the right is an example of a church built by the Spaniards over Inca temple. They put mirrors inside because they noticed that the natives of the land believed the mirrors captured their souls and they believed that after death their souls went to the other world guided by dogs. I am wearing a Peruvian hat in the picture that is made of alpaca wool. We visited more places in Cusco such as the Dominican church which was damaged by the last earthquake in 1950. The Peruvians were grateful to the earthquake because it revealed old walls of Inca origin that were hidden by the Spaniards. Needless to say the Spaniards stole tons of gold and silver from the Inca temples and stored all that gold in the "tor del oro" in Seville, Spain. There are two rivers running under the city of Cusco, and the area used to be a lake in ancient times. The three sacred animals in Peru are the condor, puma and snake. Their national flower is the Kantuta flower. The 9th Inca (king) Pachakuteq is known to have united the people from the north (Motche) who were good with metal work, and the southeast (Titicaca) who were good with pottery, and south (Nazca) who were good with textiles. The ruins of Saqsaywaman include the original zigzag wall that used to protect the city of Cusco and is only 40% preserved. The zigzag made the wall strong enough to withstand the strong earthquakes unlike the Spanish buildings. The zigzag also symbolizes the lightening which they believed is the connection between heaven and earth. We also visited Pukapukara which is at an altitude of 12,500 ft., the highest we got up to. The whole area was called Cosqo which means the center navel of the world. The Pakapukara was one of the relay stations along the Inca trail that extended for about 3,000 km from Quito in Equador down to Chile, and was used by the runners who carried the oral messages of the king. We also visited Q'enqo which means labyrinth and it has a temple for mother earth. It was a place where they mummified the rich dead.
Last place we visited in Cusco was the Cathedral of Cusco that belongs to the Vatican. Next to it was another church that belonged to the Jesuits. The Cathedral of Cusco was built on top the most important religious place of the Incas and that was the temple dedicated to the great Creator of the Incas (remember the one they pictures with a beard?) The Cathedral took 100 years to build due to a civil war between Pizzaro and his rivals at the time. The people who were mixed between Spaniards and natives are called Mestiso. The Cathedral has lot of gold and silver. The gold represented the sun and the silver represented the moon in Inca culture. There is a statue of a crucified dark skinned man of the natives and they call him the lord of the earthquake(Korpuskristi), because the last earthquake stopped when they carried that statue out of the church. There is also a picture of the last supper that has a guinea pig as the meal. The Peruvians mixed Catholicism with their original religion and created something new. They have a symbol of the cross with two bulls and a pot which represents the amalgam of the Catholic cross and the bulls that the Spaniards introduced to help with agriculture and the mother earth represented by the pot. Peruvians used to be 90% Catholic but now they are only 82% Catholic. It seems they are abandoning Catholicism and returning to the religion of their forefathers. Come to think of it, their original religion was a bit better than Catholicism in my opinion.