Monday, January 7, 2013

Off the Beaten Path: Ingapirca, Ecuador

The final approach to Ingapirca, Ecuador
Written by Karen.
We left from the Terminal Terrestre bus station in Cuenca for the largest Incan archeological ruins in Ecuador: Ingapirca.  Translation: the Incan wall.  Ingapirca is approximately 80 km north of Cuenca in the Cañar province and is approximately 10,357 feet in altitude.  So, it's a bit higher than our current altitude in Cuenca of 8,370 feet.

The day was cloudy and cool and rain sprinkles had us getting a little concerned about the weather as we drove closer to our destination.  We drove through multiple smaller towns: Azogues (the capital city of Cañar province), Biblián, Cañar, and El Tombo, stopping often along the way to pick up and drop off passengers.  Our bus wound its way higher and higher up the mountain peak, and then down, and then back up again.  When we reached El Tombo, we were the last passengers on the bus until two local indigenious families joined us for the final drive up to Ingapirca.  The gravel and dirt road to Ingapirca was often rutted and narrow, with homes and working fields right off the road.  The views, the clouds, the light and shadow on the green hills were simply breathtaking.  

As we neared Ingapirca - which is also a small town - one of the indigenious women on the bus pointed excitedly at the ruins off to the left side of the bus and made sure that we could see the ruins as we approached the center of town.  I didn't know what to expect, but it was pretty fantastic to see the outlines and foundations of the ancient Cañari and Incan buildings right out in the open, with indigenious villagers living their lives right up to the archeological ruins and the splendor of the green Andean mountains all around you. 

After a short walk to reach the site of the Ingapirca ruins, we paid our $12.00 USD entrance fee, which included an English-speaking guide and waited for the required tour to begin.  As we walked through the ruins, our guide - who lived over the hill from the Ingapirca ruins and had Cañari ancestors - told vivid stories that made the ruins become alive and multi-dimensional. 

Although the majority of the Ingapirca ruins remaining had been created by the Inca, the local indigenious Cañari people had settled here before they were conquered by the Inca.  Interestingly enough, the Inca and the Cañari wound up living together side-by-side in this military, political and religious complex.  

After our visit/tour of the Ingapirca ruins, a Swedish couple that we met took us back to the small town of El Tombo where we could catch a bus for our three-hour ride back to Cuenca. 

The road to Ingapirca is long, but the visit was really extraordinary.  Maybe it was the weather or maybe the ruins are a bit off the beaten path, but there weren't many people visiting Ingapirca on this day. We noticed that the Ecuadoran government is in the process of making site improvements, including a new museum, which may attract more visitors in the future.  According to the informational brochure that we received at the front reception desk, Ingapirca is the best preserved pre-Hispanic architectonic structure in all of Ecuador.  

However, for me as I stood high atop the ancient architecture with the grand vistas and forever views and the historical stories running through my mind,  I am grateful for the isolation.  As the wind blows briskly in my ears and the clouds start to creep into the valley, I look around and see the indigenous people of today working in the fields, and I get a glimpse of perhaps how life maybe was all those hundreds of years ago.  

The approach into Ingapirca.  The Incan Temple of the Sun is the round structure in the middle of the picture.  The other rock-outlined "rooms" were used for ceremonial baths, food storage, keeping of virgin women, and other administrative purposes. 
Alpaca are kept at the complex in recognition of the past usage by both the Inca and the Cañari.
Walking through the outside rooms and toward the rock in the middle.  This was considered a sacred rock by the Cañari people.  Under the round circle of river stones next to the rock was a collective tomb.  A woman was surrounded by a dozen males and females, along with gifts.  The stone foundation behind the rock is what remains of the Cañari Temple of the Moon.  The Incan Temple of the Sun is to the right of the picture.
One of the foundational walls used by the Cañari.  One of the architectural differences between the Cañari and the Inca at this complex was that the Cañari used river stones, while the Inca carved their rock into squares and rectangles.
Rock used for sacrifices - both animal and human.  The neck would be positioned into the hollow of the rock and then summarily cut off.
Unique, rounded architecture of the Incan Temple of the Sun
Incan architectural blocks that have been brought back to the site.  Over the years, these blocks were removed from the site and used as foundational stones to build homes in the area. The circle in the stone was recently created to insert a pole for a house or shelter.  Other architectural blocks - similar to these - have been used to build numerous churches throughout Ecuador. 

One side of the Incan Temple of the Sun 
These Incan architectural blocks carved from the local green rock called andesite have no mortar to hold them together.
Incan Temple of the Sun.  At the time of each solstice, the sun would shine through the center opening and directly upon an object inside the temple.  The two priests would be sitting at each end of the temple and would bring out the sacrifice at the appropriate time.  The two stone pads in the front were for the two guards to stand.
View of the Incan Temple of the Sun with stone retaining walls.  We were told by our guide that the elliptical shape of this building was unique in the Incan empire.  
Views of the surrounding hills
An indigenous woman in traditional dress carrying a load freshly picked from the fields and leading three good-sized pigs back home.  Right after this picture was taken, the pigs broke free from their leash and started running back home.  
Views of the surrounding hills as we drove back to El Tombo.
On the other side of the mountain watching the clouds creep in as we drove back to Cuenca.


Anonymous said...

Karen & Adam, Bob and Joyce are sharing your adventures with us. We are enjoying your travels. You do a great job of describing what you are seeing, where you are and your thoughts. Safe Travels Phil & Judy Petrie

Observers of Life said...

Hi Phil and Judy!

Great to hear from you! We're glad that you are enjoying the blog! :)

Take care -

Karen and Adam.