The highlight of yesterday’s sightseeing was an excursion to another Inca ruin, Sacsayhuaman, which served primarily as a religious site until the Spaniards invaded, when it became a fortress to defend against the Conquistadors. The foreign explorers, who arrived in Peru looking for El Dorado after hearing that its people were covered in gold, handily beat the Incas because the Incas were not warriors. Indeed, it sounds like any victories the Incas enjoyed against the Spaniards were due more to luck than any real strategic skill. They focused on agriculture and the worship of their gods, and were generally a peaceful people unless provoked or unless the indigenous tribes refused to accept their rule.
Awesome. Breathtaking. Spectacular. Those words and others came immediately to mind as I caught my first glimpse of Machu Picchu, right before my very eyes.
Last evening a “paco” (which means priest in the local dialect) performed a tribute to Pachamama, aka Mother Earth, in an old church located on the grounds of the hotel, which was once a convent. Using locally farmed ingredients such as coca leaves, quinoa and rice, as well as cookies and sprinkles – because, according to him, women like sweets and Mother Earth is a woman – he created a colorful sacrificial package for the Andean peoples’ revered goddess, which he then burned while performing a ritual chant. As an atheist, I generally have no use for such spiritual gobbledygook. However, when such a ceremony is performed in a setting as magnificent as this, it’s hard to resist the mystical incantations of a millenias-old civilization.