As Milton, Marc, and I left Alusai and continued our southward trek first to Ingapirca and finally to Cuenca, the scenery became lush and green again. We had the advantage of descending from higher heights to panoramic views of majestic splendor along the way. The mountains, the tundras, and the rivers sang out with the beauty of Canar province.
A visit to Ingapirca also had the advantage of breaking up our ride from Alusai to Cuenca, which otherwise would be about a four hour trek. For many folks and tourists who travel from Cuenca and try to take in the Devil's Nose Train in Alusai and return to Cuenca all in the same day; the trip can be tiring and take eleven hours, which would not include a stop at Ingapirca, where we probably spent about ninety minutes. Besides, Alusai is too adorable of a town, not to spend the evening.
INGAPIRCA (INCA WALL)
Our arrival to Ingapirca was at mid-day. It was another beautiful and sunny day. I had visited Ingapirca once before in July of 2010 when I first visited Cuenca. I enjoyed the visit then, and will never forget the incredible return ride to Cuenca as new highway construction was taking place, and our driver gave us a ride that would challenge any of the most dangerous roller-coasters in the world for thrills and unabated gasps. My first visit of 2010 was met with a chilly, windy, slightly rainy day. The visit was still enjoyable. However, with unusually beautiful weather for this trip, it made the visit all the more pleasurable. Guides are available at the site, and some speak English; but Marc and I had Milton, and Milton was one great guide.
Ingapirca is no Machu-Picchu, but it is the best preserved Inca ruins in Ecuador. Its place of importance helps to explain the pre-Columbian history of the Canari and their eventual loss to the Incas. The Incas arrived from Peru, which is to the south of what is modern day Ecuador. With the conquest of Ecuador, the Incas had amalgamated the largest Pre-Columbian empire in all of South America. The Incas built the city of Tomebamba in what today is modern day Cuenca, and where some ruins still exist. Tomebamba, in size and splendor, was close to rivaling the Inca capital in Cuzco, Peru. The Incas managed to co-exist with the Canari, and solidified their relationship with marriages among the royal families of the two groups. Unfortunately, for the Incas their dominance over the Canari would be a short-lived duration of mere decades, as the Spaniards would appear on the scene, and conquer the Inca Empire.
The Temple of the Sun is the focal point and largest remaining structure in the compound, and also the only remaining sun temple in the Inca Empire. The compound was constructed primarily for religious ceremony and rituals. The Incas were sun worshipers, while the Carnaris worshiped the moon as their primary deity. The Incas, who like the ancient Babylonians, the Egyptians, the Mayans, and the Aztecs were great astronomers. All of these group's sophisticated knowledge of astronomy spilled over into the development of very intricate astrological systems as well.
In the above photo, the Incas constructed their foundations and buildings with stones that were sculpted to fit together without any mortar. There are palaces, temples, houses, storage facilities used even to replenish warriors, bathrooms, theatres, sacrificial altars, burial grounds and tombs.
There is an abundance of guanto bushes (photos below) which grow on the premises. Their fruit is used as a hallucinogen. At one time, the drug was given to family members of dead royalty to ease their passage into the netherworld, as they were buried alive with the deceased.
The Incas also developed an underground aqueduct system, which provided water for the entire complex.
Now llamas and alpacas graze over the land.
Four days with Milton Chiqui Lopez was not only fun, but also a great learning experience as well. Milton, who graduated from Azuay University, has been licensed in many areas of tourism, which includes eco-tourism. His passion for and knowledge of Ecuadorian history, biospheres, and the various indigenous tribes in Ecuador allow for a fascinating, and all encompassing understanding of Ecuador. If you are touring anywhere in Ecuador, and seeking a first rate guide, you cam contact Milton at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Marc and Jim Mola
As we left the compound, we made our way along a trail that took us passed various homes. Indigenous ladies would emerge from some of the homes in the attempt to sell us various handicrafts and antiques.
We arrived at the site of what is known as the Inca Head, which is a natural sculpture that looks very much like the head maybe of an Inca chieftain.
For me, this was the absolute best part of the tour. The photo below captures a scene that could only be appreciated on a beautiful, sunny day. Upon my first siting of this scene, it was like an incredible fairy-tale setting, or something out of a movie like Lord of the Rings. Notice the moss-covered house with its steep roof to the right of the photo, surrounded by the meadows, vegetation, and hills. Oh my God, is that sheep in the meadows? There must be cows in the corn.
Could this little boy in his blue sweat pants be Little Boy Blue? He and the other indigenous children, and parents; and yes, even the dogs along the trail were the perfect end to our tour of Ingapirca.