#potd: Rumicolca – the Wari and Inca southern entry point to Cusco valley

Built over 500 years ago by the Inca’s, this defensive wall & entry point is named ‘Rumicolca’ and was used by them to control the flow of people & goods into the Cusco valley from the south-east. As with so much the Inka did, it was in fact an improvement on a structure built by others centuries before, in this case by the Wari (or Huari in Spanish) people.
cusco_sthgateRumicolca is an impressive structure some 12m tall and 3-4m thick. It’s located some 32km south-east of Cusco city, in the valley of the River Watanay (or Huatanay). The original Wari construction is believed to have been an aqueduct over where the river would then have flowed, but by the time of the Inca drought had lowered the water level of both the river and the nearby lakes of Huacarpay & Sucre, a process that continues today.

Impressive as the Inca structure is, arguably more impressive is the legacy of the Wari culture & empire, which existed from around 500-1100AD, although archeologists & others differ on the exact dates. The Wari originated from the region & city now known as Ayacucho in present day south-central Peru, in the Andes – this is a region that has continued throughout history to be rebellious, and as recently as the 1980-90’s was the base for the Sendero Luminosa (or Shining Path) maoist inspired peasant rebellion. The Wari came to dominate much of the south-central highlands of Peru and most of the coast, and went as far south as the shores of Lake Titicaca, where they ran into the Tiwanaku (or Tiahuanaco in Spanish) culture & empire, in what is now called Bolivia. Continue reading

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Pic of the day 39 – Mount Illimani

wpid-IMG_20140314_131328.jpgMount Illimani sits to the south east of La Paz and towers over the city.

At 6438m high it is Bolivia’s second highest mountain. It is located towards the southern end of the Cordillera Real, a range of mountains that mark the northeastern edge of the Altiplano – which is the (fairly) flat highland area sitting between the two branches of the Andes, and includes Lake Titicaca & La Paz. The Cordillera Real is the most dramatic part of the Cordillera Oriental in Bolivia, with 6 peaks over 6000m. Serious mountain climbers can have a great time here, indeed from La Paz you can take a 4 day trip up Illimani. We will be skipping that option!

Illimani means ‘water bearer’ in Aymara, the dominant local indigenous language, and is considered to be the queen of the mountain gods. We are lucky enough to have a good view of Illimani from the roof of our hostel as we look south east. We’ve been even luckier with the weather, which most days so far has meant warm & sunny daytimes with temperatures into the 20+degrees. Indeed in the morning its been great to watch the mists and clouds that shroud Illimani & the cliffs above La Paz, slowly burn off. This pic was taken from the hostel roof, with our trusty digital camera.

Pic of the day 35 – Taquile island guide seeks partner!

wpid-IMG_20140308_091217.jpgOver lunch on Taquile island, our guide explained numerous of his peoples’ customs. One of the customs was related to the type of hat the men wore, especially at fiestas. There were different hats/ways of wearing them for boys up to about 17yrs old, single male adults over 17yrs old, married men, and also elders. Our guide ruefully revealed he was the wearer of a ‘single man’s’ hat!

Note – our tour was organised via our hostal and was with Lagos Tours, it cost us 80 sols each (about £17), and included: transport to/from port, boat trip that lasted from 8am to 6pm, tri-lingual guide, lunch, visits to the 2 islands, fee for visiting Taquile island.

Our hostal in Puno was the Pumabackpacker. We paid $20 (£14) a night for a double room, shared bathroom, breakfast, free Wi-Fi. Not brilliant, but OK for the price.

Fiesta on Taquile island

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Our trip on Lake Titicaca last Wednesday continued on by slow boat from the Uros peoples’ island towards Taquile island, a further 90minutes away. With the sun out this was a pretty laid back journey. Our guide explained there was … Continue reading

Pic of the day 34 – the Uros’s reed islands

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On Wednesday, 5 March, we took a trip onto Lake Titicaca. We had an excellent tour guide from Taquile island, a native Quechua speaker, who also spoke perfect Spanish and good English, and you could tell he really cared about the Lake.

Our first stop was one of the Uros peoples’ reed islands, a floating island made from reeds, on which some of them live – the pic above shows the island we visited, it measured approx 60m in diameter, had 13 homes housing 50+ people. Now only a few of the Uros are prepared to allow tourists onto their islands, and in fact we think this is their way of capitalising on ‘tourist interest’ whilst maintaining privacy, which is pretty smart of them, but can leave the tourist feeling a bit ‘set up’. Hence on landing, after a talk on their history and how they make the floating islands, it was clear we were expected to buy goods. In fact we opted to pay for a 20minute trip on one of their reed boats (pic below) instead. These days of course they use rowing or motor boats, and keep the reed ones for us.

The Uros are believed to have reached the area of the Lake approx 2000 years ago, probably having originally come up from the Amazon jungle on a hunting trip. They based themselves around the Lake, but being hunters not farmers they focused on what they could catch on land and water. As a result they began living on both the Lake shore and the reed beds that are prominent in this shallower part of the Lake, and are so dense you can indeed walk on them.

When the Spanish invaders arrived in the mid-16th century there were believed to be 20000 Uros in the area, but they were persecuted, forced to work in the mines etc, and numbers dwindled. Today there are about 2500 Uros people living in the area, some on islands, some on the reed beds, and some on the shore, with many remaining very isolated. They are the only people officially allowed to hunt on the Lake in modern times. There language is Aymara, and very few speak much Spanish.

The reed islands are relatively new, invented in the mid-1980’s after heavy rains caused the Lake waters to rise and flooded many of their homes on the reed beds. The islands take up to 2 years to make, and are eventually 2 to 3m thick. They are held in position by being tied to long poles driven into the bottom of the Lake, which here was only 4-8m deep (it is 275m deep at its deepest). Reeds are also used to make their homes, and the white bottom part of each reed is a source of food – looks but doesn’t taste like a leek! Of course other aspects of their lives are more modern – solar power gives them electricity, TV’s, mobile phones etc. So satellite TV whilst living on a floating reed island – makes for an intriguing mix!wpid-IMG_20140307_171151.jpgwpid-IMG_20140307_171727.jpg