Hacking Our Manner Along A skinny
As I climbed over a wooded headland, I used to be immediately engulfed by the overwhelming solitude of Lake Titicaca, its icy, intensely blue depths surrounded by glorious vistas rimmed by snow-crowned summits. The rarefied air was calm, the floor of the great lake mirror calm. The silence was profound. Lake Titicaca is sacred to many cultures, and was the cradle of Andean civilisation. According to legend the first Incas Manco Capac and Mama Ocllo rose from Lake Titicaca’s mysterious depths to start their ministry to carry civilisation to a chaotic world.
The beautifully tranquil Island of the Solar is rife with Andean mythology and littered with Inca ruins. As I gazed over the Island of the Moon, over which a full moon had fittingly risen right into a darkish sky smeared with stars, the lunar reflection rippled throughout the calm surface, joining the Islands of the Sun and Moon in a shimmering bridge of gentle. Occasional flashes of lightning danced over the distant peaks of the Bolivian Andes. Even knowing nothing about Lake Titicaca’s history and mythology, this was intensely shifting. With the Inca legends added in, the expertise verged on the spiritual.
Our goal was to trace the rise and fall of the Inca empire through a journey from its Lake Titicaca birthplace, via the imperial heartland to its capital of Cuzco, and beyond by means of the Sacred Valley to the densely forested Cordillera Vilcabamba, where the Incas made their final stand towards the Spanish Conquistadores.
From the lake, we travelled north across the treeless, pale inexperienced Altiplano. The snow-capped Cordillera Real sparkled on our horizon. Small settlements and distant farmhouses had been scattered throughout bleak rolling plains interspersed by low, isolated hills. Occasional campesinos labored diminutive fields, their small herds of llamas and alpacas grazing on skinny pickings.
Beyond Sorata, we shadowed the Camino del Oro, the historical gold mining route. Crossing several chilly mountain passes, we reached Mount Paititi, which many have searched in vain for a legendary Inca city believed to lie hidden beneath impenetrable cloud forest swarming with bears, pumas and snakes with two heads!
Reaching Amarete, distinctive Inca terraces suddenly carpeted all seen mountainside from excessive peak to river. Mile upon unbroken mile of valley-filling terracing contoured beautifully all the strategy to Curva. Peru currently dominates the publicity for Inca terracing, however this Bolivian valley surely boasts probably the most spectacular terracing anywhere. Even after 500 years, these fields nonetheless yield plentiful maize, peas, potatoes and wheat for local communities.
Curva is the home of the Kallawayas, the ancient healers and fortune-tellers of Bolivia’s Apolobamba mountains, who as soon as treated Inca aristocracy. We climbed towards Akhamani, the Kallawayas’ most sacred peak, and hand-caught trout from a tiny stream for supper. We scrambled steeply over darkish rocks to a succession of high passes, where we placed white stones for good luck and strength. Our requests were answered virtually instantly as condors soared magnificently over our heads.
The following daybreak, we struggled out of iced up tents into a bitterly chilly morning and the sight of Akhamani bathed in brilliant sunshine towards a cloudless blue sky and nearly full moon.
From the 5,100m Sunchulli Go, the snow-lined Apolobamba peaks stretched into the distance to our left. To our right, the Sunchulli glacier towered above the calm turquoise Laguna Verde, beyond which scowled a darkish, brooding ridge protected at its base by impossibly steep scree.
Drained and damp, we staggered into the misty stone town of Pelechuco on festival day, which locals rejoice with bullfights in the main square. We paused briefly to observe the alcohol-fuelled festivities before persevering with northwards. Reaching the summit of the Katantika Move rewarded us with a few of the finest scenery in the Andes: glaciers and crevasses glinting in the sun plunged mens slim stone island jeans towards the valley far under, rimming a tranquil, trout-filled lake bordered by Inca paving. And another condor perched not far above my head. Past the cross, the panorama mellowed markedly from jagged, icy summits to countless rolling pampas, and ultimately Peru.
For a number of days, we crossed but more Altiplano, and met just a few hardy campesinos who extract an austere existence from the harsh, unforgiving terrain. Desolation reworked to magnificence as we reached Cuzco, the historic Inca capital and “navel of the Inca world”. Infinite church steeples, bell towers, palaces and different sacred buildings preserve Cuzco’s superior beauty despite attacks by the Spanish and natives throughout the Conquest, and huge earthquake damage.
From Cuzco, we entered the Sacred Valley and followed the Urubamba River in the direction of Pisac, Ollantaytambo and Machu Picchu. These most spectacular of Inca sites have been all royal estates of Pachacuti, the good warrior emperor who started the Inca expansion in round 1440. In Ollantaytambo, the final surviving Inca settlement, individuals nonetheless stay in unique Inca houses and water nonetheless flows alongside an unique Inca channel.
We climbed by clouds to Machu Picchu, the fabled “lost citadel” that perches extremely atop a precipitous Andean peak at the edge of dense rainforest. By no means discovered by the Conquistadores, the abandonment of this religious, astronomical and architectural glory remains a thriller. We’d all seen it in pictures many times earlier than, but nothing quite prepares you for seeing it in its jaw-dropping mountaintop magnificence.
Leaving the Urubamba valley, we plunged down 2km to the Apurimac River, and slogged up almost as excessive on the other facet to reach the deserted, atmospheric ruins of Choquequirao. Not mentioned in any chronicles, the purpose of this twin-level metropolis bordered by three monumental terraces is unknown.
We witnessed the great winter solstice festival of Inti Raymi, enacted at the post-Conquest Inca capital of Vitcos. Hacking our means alongside a thin, winding path by thick jungle, we ultimately reached Espiritu Pampa, the positioning of Vilcabamba the Old – remaining stronghold of the Incas. Peeking from dense forest beneath a towering canopy of timber, the poignant ruins bear characteristic trapezoidal doorways and niches, however massive timber nowadays overwhelm the crumbling stonework – a lot because the Conquistadores overwhelmed the Incas.
The Incas were a shadow of their imperial greatness by the point they retreated here. Nearby, in 1572, the last Inca Tupac Amaru was captured by the Spanish, hauled off to Cuzco and executed, so ending the dazzling, however short-lived, Inca empire.