[Note: Be sure to click on the photos to see larger versions. I think I got some really good ones today!)
My original plan today was to go up into the mountains way above Tambomachay, but circumstances made it really tough to get up there.
First, the village where you normally go if you don’t want to pay to pass through the ruins themselves was closed. As I am a resident, that usually doesn’t matter, but the site itself is also closed down. That left going up to the north and walking along the mountainside following barely visible sheep and shepherd trails.
As you can see from the pic below, walking along the mountainside is a challenge in many ways. First, the side of the mountain is steep. Second, it’s often very difficult to see the next step ahead of you.
This wasn’t my first time hiking in a place like this and it was kind of cool when I began to realize that I have learned to “read” the grass so I can tell pretty well where the trail is actually going and where my next step should go. Sometimes the trail was only 4-5 inches wide which made for a pretty careful walk.
Of course, I’m not bragging. My ability to read the grass is probably the equivalent of any 4 or 5 year old who’s been raised in the mountains! Still, it’s a new skill for me that is quite useful at 12,000′.
After an hour or more making my way along the mountain, I was stopped by a young shepherd who told me to be careful because his dogs could bite. That certainly got my attention and I turned back around.
Needless to say, I was a bit disappointed, but decided that maybe there was another place to explore that I hadn’t been yet.
Once I made my way back down to the Pisac Highway, I decided to follow the stream from Tambomachay down towards the ruins of Inkilltambo. I knew where the stream went, but had no idea what was between the highway and the ruins much closer to Cusco. It was a place I’d wanted to go for months, but just hadn’t gone because I didn’t think there was much there.
I was sure wrong!
I turned off the highway on what was an old road that soon turned into nothing but a trail making it’s way gradually towards the stream. It was an easy path, but not particularly scenic. Once I got to the stream, I had the option of jumping across and possibly getting wet or making my way across the two thin eucalyptus trunks that stretched from bank to bank.
On my way down, I noticed a pile of large rocks that looked really out of place as there were no rock outcropping in the immediate area. That told me that there was something nearby and pretty quickly I noticed what it was.
Both sides of the stream were lined with rock walls. Where I crossed, the walls were only a couple of feet high, but later on they approached many times that!
In a few places, the walls had obviously been reconstructed. Other places the walls had apparently been washed away, but for most of the next few kilometers, the original walls still stood intact after about 500 years!
There was even one spot where a set of stone steps made their way down to the stream! (Sadly, the bright sun shining through the trees made it impossible to get a decent photo today.)
Along the way were a number of waterfalls and some of the most beautiful scenes I’ve seen in the region. Despite it being the dry season, there was plenty of water flowing today as springs far up the mountain supply this stream with a constant flow. (That was obviously a major reason why the Incas built so much along it’s banks.)
I passed a few local people who didn’t seem too impressed with my presence — especially considering the nearby villages are still closed off to outsiders — but everyone was friendly and took the time to say “Buenas tardes” as I made my way down the canyon.
The views were nothing short of breathtaking in places. I found what appeared to be a ceremonial site that had just about disappeared, but it location overlooking the valley and the remains of a wall and a door indicate that it was likely a place of some significance.
Farther on down the trail I was surprised to find what appeared to be some stone steps going down a slight incline. I’ll admit, I didn’t think much of it since I hadn’t seen anything that resembled any kind of path of Inca origin except one probably wall off to the side far upstream.
As I made my way to the bottom, I looked to the left to see if I could spot what sounded like a small waterfall and was stunned to see the most amazing wall I have ever seen outside of the major Inca sites. I’m still angry at myself for not taking more photos because the high quality of construction indicated that it was obviously a place of great significance.
This is one place where I will return very soon to explore the immediate area and document the wall in much greater detail. It’s certainly not a random wall and there likely is more to find nearby.
The rest of the way down the valley saw some beautiful scenery. I finally made my way to the spot I knew I would eventually reach where I would meet up with the Camino del Inca al Antisuyo. This was one of the four main roads that extended out of Cusco to the far reaches of the empire in a road system that is estimated to have been around 25,000 miles!
This is one of my favorite spots and likely was a favorite of the Incas, too. The old road crosses the stream over a wooden bridge as it makes it’s way on to the village of Yuncaypata just a little ways up the mountain.
I followed the Inca road back towards Cusco along a path I’ve walked many times over the past two years. I always have to remind myself that I am walking along the same road that rulers walked (or were carried!) in one of the greatest empires that ever existed in the Americas.
I’m sure there’s still a lot up there to explore and find. I’ll certainly be back soon!