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15 September 2013 / leggypeggy

Grumpy Woman meets Sexy Woman near Cusco

Saqsaywaman

Three zig-zagged walls of stone from the Inca Empire

Yes, I was the grumpy woman. I confess, but I was hot, peeved and crabby too.

Poor John (who appears in this entry as He Who Walks Everywhere) and I set out from the hostel not long after breakfast. We were heading to another of the historical attractions linked to the pricey ($50 each) tourist tickets we bought to get us into a whole bunch of sites in and around Cusco.

Cusco

The bus that made me walk

Saqsaywaman

More uphill after the entrance

It was uphill all the way to this particular site—not a vertical hill, but it might as well have been. So I negotiated with He Who Walks Everywhere to ride up and walk down. Heck, I reckoned we’d spend a couple of hours walking around a lot of the site’s 3000 hectares once we got there.

I think my exact words were ‘The last thing I want to do is walk all the way up there!’ So we set out to find a taxi.

For starters, He Who Walks Everywhere picked what must be Cusco’s least-trafficked street and off we trudged. About three blocks uphill we came to a bus that had just stalled and was completely blocking the road.

‘Let’s go over a street,’ I suggested, gesturing to the left and adding that ‘no taxi is going to be able to come this way now.’ But He Who Walks Everywhere said, ‘Aw, let’s go up one more street.’

You’ve probably already figured it out, and I found out soon enough—there wasn’t another cross street. Now I’m not accusing He Who Walks Everywhere of choosing that street and ignoring the only cross street on purpose, but you never know.

Anyway the vertical street petered out (actually joined up to the main road) just near the site’s entrance. So much to my annoyance, I had indeed walked ‘all the way up there’.

Saqsaywaman

Blocks are up to 6 metres tall and 200 tonnes in weight

And so we stood before the Sexy Woman.

Sexy Woman—that’s what the site is called. But of course, that’s not how it’s spelt.

Saqsaywaman overlooks Cusco, and after you reach the lower entrance (which is where we were) you have to walk uphill another 500 metres or so before you really arrive at these magnificent and imposing Inca ruins.

Of course, I had to walk up that 500 metres, so I was plenty cranky by the time I got to the top—and discovered it was all very much worth the struggle.

Saqsaywaman sits at an altitude of about 3700 metres (more than 12,000 feet) so no wonder I was puffed by the time I got there. It’s amazing that people can live, let alone work hard there. I really have to praise the 20,000 people who laboured to create this enormous complex.

Saqsaywaman

Intricate stonework that kept this all from falling down in huge earthquakes

Started in the mid-1400s, Saqsaywaman has gigantic polished dry stone walls, made of boulders that have been cut to fit tightly together without mortar. These boulders are so closed spaced that a single sheet of paper cannot be slid between them.

Once you’ve looked around for a bit, you begin to take in how intricate and planned the construction really is. Along one side, there isn’t one wall but three terraced walls or bulwarks—one behind the other—in a zigzag layout.

Each wall is about 6 metres tall and the longest runs for about 400 metres. The boulders (and they are boulders) lean into one another and it is their cut and interlocking shapes that have, no doubt, kept the walls from collapsing in major earthquakes.

But the construction techniques didn’t keep parts of Saqsaywaman from disappearing. They haven’t so much disappeared as been relocated. After the siege of Cusco (when it was the Inca capital) in the 1500s, the Spaniards started to use Saqsaywaman as their main source of building materials.

Saqsaywaman

Some of the ‘small’ blocks that got left behind. This is part of the front zig-zagged wall

Why not make use of all this pre-made stone? As the ancient chronicler Garcilaso de la Vega said of the conquering Spaniards, ‘to save themselves the expense, effort and delay with which the Indians worked the stone, they pulled down all the smooth masonry in the walls. There is indeed not a house in the city that has not been made of this stone, or at least the houses built by the Spaniards.’

Today, only the stones that were too large to be easily moved remain at Saqsaywaman. And it would be a huge challenge to move them. The site is estimated to have 6000 cubic metres of stone, with the largest blocks weighing up to 200 tonnes.

Saqsaywaman

Looking at the plaza from the terraced walls/bulwarks

That’s big stuff and so is the large plaza in the middle of the complex. It’s big enough to hold thousands of people and a visitor can only imagine how this site was used. The day we were there, a group of young people were preparing a floral tribute to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC)

I’m guessing APEC had some sort of meeting in Cusco that day and the delegates were going to visit Saqsaywaman at some stage. As the day progressed, there sure was plenty of security posted in and around the site, but we missed seeing anyone important.

But back to Saqsaywaman. It’s served many purposes. The Inca called it the House of the Sun. The Spaniards thought it was a fortress. It’s been used for religious and military purposes, and now a popular tourist destination.

You can see Cusco’s statue of Christ from Saqsaywaman, and a lot of the city below. And there are acres and acres and acres of Saqsaywaman to explore. We checked out a lot.

I could write on and on about Saqsaywaman (and will add an entry in relation to the drainage), but I just have to say that even though I had to walk a long way uphill to get there, I loved visiting it, or should I say I loved visiting her! She’s one Sexy Gal!

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