Pre-Inca Wonder

Trip Start Nov 10, 2007
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Trip End Nov 15, 2009


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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

I have wanted to go visit Cajamarca since reading Jerad Diamond's Guns, Germs & Steel where he recounts the devastating story of Pizarro's slaughter of the Incas.  I don't know exactly why that story spoke to me so loudly, maybe it speaks to Diamond's story telling ability.  Or maybe to my own need to more fully understand the awful history of European dominance over indigenous people in the pursuit of riches and resources..  So am I talking about Pizarro and the Incas or current president Alan Garcia and the natives who are fighting to protect their Amazonian homeland from petroleum exploitation?  Does anyone read and learn from history?  I wonder.  Or is greed just so powerful in some people that they are so easily bought?  I refuse to become cynical but it's difficult at times.
The trip here was amazing (see last entry) and now all of a sudden I am in a big city with all that entails and it's a bit overwhelming.  I found a nice little hotel a few blocks from the plaza and settled in.  Egnar,he tour company operator from Chachapoyas, along with his wife and young son, had accompanied us from Chachas and we agreed to meet at the plaza in the morning.  I was looking forward to a quiet day but Egnar had arranged for all of us to take a tour to Cumbe Mayo so at 9 am we were off.  In the indigenous language Quechua, Cumbe Mayo means fine river, which is a quite fitting name for this ancient aqueduct. It is located about 12 miles southwest of Cajamarca, and stretches on for nearly five miles. 
  On the way there we passed potato farms and noticed a typical construction of the highlands.  The walls consist of several layers of blocks with an occasional layer of rocks  between them.  You'll notice there are no windows.  The rock layers are meant to absorb solar heat and without windows, the homes maintain their warmth longer into the cool nights.  

It is believed that the aqueduct was build around 1500 B.C. Its function seems to be for aesthetic and religious reasons, rather than to provide irrigation.  There are numerous petroglyphs and the aqueduct features some amazing feats of ancient engineering including tunnels through stone and a zigzag  carved out of the rock.  This large rock is thought to be an altar for sacrifices where the blood could run into the water as part of a fertility ritual.    
The mountains here are stark and windswept with spires that jut out from the ground.  The trail began through a narrow cut in the rocks. and continued along steep mountainside where we passed groups of locals herding sheep and women spinning yarn.  They all wear a distinctive hat with a tall crown and the women wear multiple layers of skirts.  What also struck me was that there wasn't much smiling going on and a lot of begging. It makes me wonder about their lives.
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