Peru 2008: Cusco to Puno

(It’s been quite awhile since I’ve updated my Peru journal. I hope to finish it in this round of posts!)

July 2, 2008

Today we separated from the few people in our group who ended their trip at Cusco. They departed by air for Lima, while the 12 of us remaining proceeded by bus toward the south, to Puno and Lake Titicaca. Along the way we stopped at the town of Urcos as well as the ruins of Rumicolca and Raqchi.

View from highway south of Cusco, with the mountains reflecting in the still lake below.



The pre-Inca ruin of Rumicolca was constructed by the Huari people. It was used for defense and marked the southern border of their empire.  The Incas later used it as a checkpoint to regulate the flow of people and goods into the Cusco Valley, prohibiting anyone from entering or leaving via Rumicolca at night.

The Incas improved on the Huari stonework and the gateway still stands, with a height of up to nearly 40 feet.


?????????This side shows the Huari construction.

?????????The Incas fortified this wall with their typical tight-fitting smooth stones.


The word Rumicolca comes from Quechua and means, roughly “stone deposit.”


On this facade are the notches typical of so many Inca constructions.




On the road again: A brief stop for a photo opp: Laguna de Urcos.???????????????


This cross was adorned with a colorful cloak – I noticed another one much like it in the town of Urcos. It seems to have been done in celebration of something, possibly the recent Inti Raymi festival.

Shortly after that, we arrived at the small town of Urcos, where we stopped to stretch our feet and look around.

?????The main square of Urcos.

??????????????I was fascinated by this colorful mural.

???????????????????????????????????The cathedral of Urcos, seen from the back.

?????????????????????????????????????A herd of sheep being driven through town.

????????????This taxi driver offers a prayer to “Sr, de Huanca”, probably a local saint.

????????????????????Small market place, another mural in back.


Raqchi was our next stop. This is a much larger site than Rumicolca. It is important because it was a large temple built to worship Viracocha, the creator of the world in Inca belief.

?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????? 729The archaeological site of Raqchi abuts a town by the same name, and surrounding the ruins are farmlands.

Each section of Raqchi has its own function. The two photos above show the central wall of the temple, and is flanked on each side by a row of eleven columns.  In the central wall are doors and windows to allow worshipers to pass through.

730These remains would have been columns which held up the upper roof of the temple. This massive temple is thought to have been 2 stories high and measures 302 ft. long by 84 ft. wide.

736Close-up of a reconstructed column. Note the niches in the wall behind it. At Machu Picchu we were told these niches may have been used to hold religious objects.

The foundations of the wall and the columns are classic Inca stonework, about 13 ft. high, with the rest of their height made of adobe.



732On the other side of this striking trapezoid doorway, rooftops of current Raqchi inhabitants’ houses can be seen.  The tradition of pottery making is carried on by the villagers of Raqchi today.



737This could have been used as an attachment for a roof support.

Adjoining the temple were living quarters and storage areas.







741 ?????????????????????????


The round structures, called “colcas” were used to store grain.

???????????????????????????  The ancient inhabitants’ irrigation system. We’d seen others like this, most notably at Ollantaytambo.

There is a low outer wall beyond the farm fields. The flat area in between may have been a large plaza, perhaps for an overflow of worshipers, perhaps for large ceremonies.

With the people of Raqchi living and working here among these ruins today, descendants of the ancient local people, the Cana, as well as the Incas, there is a continuity and a connection between those who occupied this space before and those who occupy it now. The structures are no longer used as a temple, but the local people have left everything as it has been, tending their crops and herding their sheep among the ruins of ancient walls and a long-gone culture. They continue making pottery and undoubtedly farming was the livelihood of most of the local Cana people during the time of the Inca empire. Of course, tourism is an important means of income for these people, but culture lives on, however fragmented, in the language and customs of Raqchi village today.


Farm fields.



Local woman carrying a bundle of dried plants.


Grazing sheep


?????????????????????Wheat field

On the edge of the community is a marsh, with its own wildlife:




We continued climbing on the drive  toward Puno, evidenced by nearby snowcapped mountains. Ancient glaciers carved this landscape.



At the top of the pass, vendors sell a variety of arts and crafts made by local people to the tourists who come through on buses.


Members of our group waste no time in joining the throng.??????????????????????????????????????

Next stop: PUNO, our destination for the next few days.

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