Eat local: Viña Casa Marin, Lo Abarca, San Antonio Valley, Chile

Vina Casa Marin, in the San Antonio Valley, was founded in 2000 by owner-winemaker Maria Luz Marin, Las Condes, Santiago, Chile-

Viña Casa Marin, in the San Antonio Valley, was founded in 2000 by owner-winemaker Maria Luz Marin, Lo Abarca, Chile

Our second winery visit was Viña Casa Marin, in the neighboring San Antonio Vally (just south of Santiago), founded in 2000 by owner/winemaker Maria Luz Marin.  Against the advice of her colleagues and friends, Ms. Marin chose Lo Abarca, surrounded by steep hills in the coastal valley, as the site for her winery.  With a degree in agronomy and winemaking from the University of Chile, María Luz is the first female Chilean winemaker and winery owner. Cutting edge, she successfully created the first cool-climate winery in all of the South America and the Pacific Coast. Currently the closest to the ocean of all Chile’s vineyards, Casa Marin is planted with Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, Sauvignon Gris, Gewurtztraminer, and Riesling.  Known for her “daring and innovative” techniques, Ms. Marin’s Cipreses Sauvignon Blanc 2014 took the gold medal for the fourth year in a row at Concours Mondial du Sauvignon 2015.

The vineyards of Vina Casa Marin are the closest to the Pacific Ocean in Chile, Las Condes, San Antonio Valley, Chile-

The vineyards of Viña Casa Marin are the closest to the Pacific Ocean in Chile, Lo Abarca, San Antonio Valley, Chile

“Viña Casa Marín is located in a privileged and unique terroir but one that can seem adverse. The town of Lo Abarca is just 4 kms. from the Pacific Ocean and is covered by a constant fog during the summer and winter months. It’s also a very windy area with cold temperatures during the grape growth and ripening period. However, these conditions make the vines produced a superior quality fruit than other valleys with higher temperatures and with massive production. The harvests are not abundant, but the plants that grow here are strong with healthy grapes and greater flavor and mineral concentration that add unique qualities and character to the wines.

“According to geologists, this area was once part of the ocean which is why there have been high levels of calcium and minerals (each adds to the grapes) found in excavations the winery has done. In fact this is where the new plant name “tierras blancas” (white soil) came from because of its color and the abundant presence of calcium carbonate. Casa Marín’s terroir is made up of 50 hectares of hills and valleys, of which 10 newly planted.” — http://www.casamarin.cl

After our tour of Vina Casa Marin and a wine tasting, we were joined by winemaker Ms. Marin for a delicious luncheon with her wines at the winery's "Cipreses" vino bar, Las Condes, San Antonio Valley, Chile-

After our tour of Viña Casa Marin and a wine tasting, we were joined by winemaker Ms. Marin for a delicious luncheon with her wines at the winery’s “Cipreses” vino bar, Lo Abarca, San Antonio Valley, Chile

 

Our appetizer was shrimp, scallop and salmon crudo with Cartagena (Vina Casa Marin's second label) Sauvignon Blanc 2015, Las Condes, San Antonio Valley, Chile-

Our appetizer was shrimp, scallop and razor clam crudo with Cartagena (Viña Casa Marin’s second label) Sauvignon Blanc 2015, Lo Abarca, San Antonio Valley, Chile

 

After our tour of Viña Casa Marin and a wine tasting, we were joined by winemaker Ms. Marin for a delicious luncheon with her wines at the winery’s “Cipreses” vino bar.

Our first course was avocado cream and sweet salmon tartare with poppy seeds with Vina Casa Marin Sauvignon Gris 2015, Las Condes, San Antonio Valley, Chile-

Our first course was avocado cream and sweet salmon tartar with poppy seeds with Viña Casa Marin Sauvignon Gris 2015, Lo Abarca, San Antonio Valley, Chile

 

The salmon tartar was excellent and well paired with the Sauvignon Gris, a varietal that we had not previously tasted in the USA.  The winemaker described the wine: “Round and robust, not a delicate wine but a very complex one. Elegant touches of French oak offset by green pepper and cantaloupe flavors. Fabulously long, clean and fresh to the end.”

“Sauvignon Gris is pink color wine grape that is a clonal mutation of Sauvignon Blanc. The grape is primarily found in Bordeaux and Chile, where it was imported with Sauvignon Blanc and Sauvignon Vert cuttings. The grape produces less aromatic wines and is often use for blending.” — Wikipoedia

Our main course was Conger eel fillet with black olives over vegetable lasagna, yellow pepper and shrimps with Vina Casa Marin Pinot Noir Lo Abarca Hills 2010, Las Condes, San Antonio Valley, Chile-

Our main course was Conger eel fillet with black olives over vegetable lasagna, yellow pepper and shrimps with Viña Casa Marin Pinot Noir Lo Abarca Hills 2010, Lo Abarca, San Antonio Valley, Chile

Our desset was warm brownie with chocolate ice cream with a shot of tea milk with Vina Casa Marin Pinot Noir Lo Abarca Hills 2009, Las Condes, San Antonio Valley, Chile-

Our dessert was warm brownie with chocolate ice cream with a shot of tea milk with Viña Casa Marin Pinot Noir Lo Abarca Hills 2009, Lo Abarca, San Antonio Valley, Chile

 

Loma Larga Vineyards, Lo Ovalle, Casablanca Valley, Chile

Loma Larga is the leader in coastal cool climate Chilean wines, located in Lo Ovalle, Casablanca Valley, Chile

Loma Larga is the leader in coastal cool climate Chilean wines, located in Lo Ovalle, Casablanca Valley, Chile

Less than an hour’s drive from the Pacific Ocean coast at Valparaiso, Chile, Loma Larga Vineyards in Casablanca Valley is the first winery that we visited in a four day exploration of the Chilean Winelands from the ship.  Our small group of four couples was led by our beverage manager, who specializes in wines and worked far in advance of our trip to set up special experiences at the leading wineries of Chile, located mostly south of Santiago and Valparaiso. 

Just 15 miles from the Pacific Ocean, Loma Larga was the first winery in the Casablanca Valley to plant red varieties, Lo Ovalle, Chile

Just 15 miles from the Pacific Ocean, Loma Larga was the first winery in the Casablanca Valley to plant red varieties, Lo Ovalle, Chile

Loma Larga is owned by the Diaz family, whose interest in wine dates back to the Fourth Paris International Exhibition of 1889 when Don Manuel Joaquin Diaz Escudero Alvarez de Toledo, grandfather of the current owners, personally brought French vines back to Chile from Bordeaus.  Intending to keep the tradition alive, the Diaz family studied the climate and soil conditions in the Casablanca Valley and planted their first vines in 1999, naming the vineyard Loma Larga for the “long hill” on which it sits.

We toured the vineyards, planted in 1999, on the horse-drawn carriage at Loma Larga, Lo Ovalle, Casablanca Valley, Chile

We toured the vineyards, planted in 1999, on the horse-drawn carriage at Loma Larga, Lo Ovalle, Casablanca Valley, Chile

 

Loma Larga's winery is very modern with the latest equipment, Lo Ovalle, Casablanca Valley, Chile

Loma Larga’s winery is very modern with the latest equipment, Lo Ovalle, Casablanca Valley, Chile

Loma Larga was the first winery in the valley to plant red varieties like Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Syrah, all self-rooted since there is no risk of phylloxera (it has never been found in Chile, to date).  It was a risky venture, especially considering the region’s frequent frosts — 40 percent of Loma Larga’s crop was lost to frost in 2013.  However, tastings show that owners Patricio and Rosita Díaz-Santelices had the right idea.

Walking through Loma Larga's winery facility, I was struck by the besuty of the pallet of new wime bottles awaiting filling, Lo Ovalle, Casablanca Valley, Chile

Walking through Loma Larga’s winery facility, I was struck by the beauty of the pallet of new wine bottles awaiting filling, Lo Ovalle, Casablanca Valley, Chile

 

 

Loma Larga's cask aging room at the winery, Lo Ovalle, Casablanca Valley, Chile

Loma Larga’s cask aging room at the winery, Lo Ovalle, Casablanca Valley, Chile

 

Cédric Nicolle, from France’s Loire Valley joined as winemaker in 2009; he put the focus on making pure and fresh wines that express fruit and are easy to drink, Lo Ovalle, Casablanca Valley, Chile

Cédric Nicolle, from France’s Loire Valley joined as winemaker in 2009; he put the focus on making pure and fresh wines that express fruit and are easy to drink, Lo Ovalle, Casablanca Valley, Chile

 

Eat local: Mercado San Pedro (Cuzco municipal market), Peru

Entrance to the Mercado San Pedro (Cuzco municipal market), Peru

Entrance to the Mercado San Pedro (Cuzco municipal market), Peru

The central (municipal) market in Cuzco (Mercado San Pedro) is a major draw for both local shoppers and tourists.  In addition to food stands, there are many types of housewares, clothing, and souvenirs sellers plus a large number of food stalls and small cafes, some as tiny as a hot plate and a table full of ingredients.

Our first sight at Mercado San Pedro -- "Three little piggies went to market...", Cuzco, Peru

Our first sight at Mercado San Pedro — “Three little piggies went to market…”, Cuzco, Peru

 

Our next sight at Mercado San Pedro -- "That's more like it -- regular fresh fuit, bright and colorful...", Cuzco, Peru

Our next sight at Mercado San Pedro — “That’s more like it — regular fresh fruit, bright and colorful…”, Cuzco, Peru

Cherimoya, nicknamed the ice cream fruit, at Mercado San Pedro, Cuzco, Peru

Cherimoya, nicknamed the ice cream fruit, at Mercado San Pedro, Cuzco, Peru

The cherimoya is believed to be native to the inter-andean valleys of Ecuador, Colombia and Peru. Seeds from Mexico were planted in California (Carpinteria) in 1871.  Mark Twain called the cherimoya “the most delicious fruit known to man.”[4] The creamy texture of the flesh gives the fruit its secondary name, custard apple.  “The fruit is oval… with a smooth or slightly tuberculated skin.  The fruit flesh is white and creamy, and has numerous dark brown seeds embedded in it.  When ripe, the skin is green and gives slightly to pressure.  Some characterize the fruit flavor as a blend of banana, pineapple, papaya, peach, and strawberry.  The fruit can be chilled and eaten with a spoon, which has earned it another nickname, the ice cream fruit.  Indeed, in Peru, it is commonly used in ice creams and yogurt.” — Wikipedia

A cheerful bread seller, Mercado San Pedro, Cuzco, Peru

A cheerful bread seller, Mercado San Pedro, Cuzco, Peru

The Peruvian version of "chicken noodle soup" as a mid-morning snack at Mercado San Pedro, Cuzco, Peru

The Peruvian version of “chicken noodle soup” as a mid-morning snack at Mercado San Pedro, Cuzco, Peru

Of course this is where we filled up our shopping bag at Mercado San Pedro, Cuzco, Peru

Of course this is where we filled up our shopping bag at Mercado San Pedro, Cuzco, Peru

Fresh, local large-kernel Peruvian corn, Mercado San Pedro, Cuzco, Peru

Fresh, local large-kernel Peruvian corn, Mercado San Pedro, Cuzco, Peru

The bright colors signal synthetic dyes and machine weaving, Mercado San Pedro, Cuzco, Peru

The bright colors signal synthetic dyes and machine weaving, Mercado San Pedro, Cuzco, Peru

There were quite a few "cafe" counters for snacks and meals at Mercado San Pedro, Cuzco, Peru

There were quite a few “cafe” counters for snacks and meals at Mercado San Pedro, Cuzco, Peru

"Photograph my beans and grains, but NOT me!", Mercado San Pedro, Cuzco, Peru

“Photograph my beans and grains, but NOT me!”, Mercado San Pedro, Cuzco, Peru

A slow morning for the cheesemonger, Mercado San Pedro, Cuzco, Peru

A slow morning for the cheesemonger, Mercado San Pedro, Cuzco, Peru

However, business is very good this morning at the bread stall, Mercado San Pedro, Cuzco, Peru

However, business is very good this morning at the bread stall, Mercado San Pedro, Cuzco, Peru

Making sausage is a grind..., Mercado San Pedro, Cuzco, Peru

Making sausage is a grind…, Mercado San Pedro, Cuzco, Peru

 

Center for Weavers, Chinchero (Sacred Valley of the Incas), Peru

Chinchero weaver spinning wool at the Center for Weavers of Chinchero ("Awayricch'arichiq"), Chinchero (Sacred Valley of the Incas), Peru

Chinchero weaver spinning wool at the Center for Weavers of Chinchero (“Awayricch’arichiq”), Chinchero (Sacred Valley of the Incas), Peru

Beginning in the late 1970s, Chinchero weavers have worked as a group organized by Nilda Callanaupa, a native of Chinchero, with the mission of reviving ancient Chinchero weaving styles and techniques. At the time of the inception of the group, Chinchero’s textile tradition was dying out due to demographic changes and the growth of the tourist market, which demanded more homogenized, non-traditional weavings. As a result, the weavers were using aniline dyed colors and synthetic yarns to produce very simple textiles that did not reflect the community’s ancient weaving style and aesthetic.

Chinchero weaver preparing for weaving at the Center for Weavers of Chinchero ("Awayricch'arichiq"), Chinchero (Sacred Valley of the Incas), Peru

Chinchero weaver preparing for weaving at the Center for Weavers of Chinchero (“Awayricch’arichiq”), Chinchero (Sacred Valley of the Incas), Peru

The group of weavers and their children joined the Center for Traditional Textiles of Cusco in 1996 and its mission to ensure that the ancient traditions of textiles would not be lost. There are 30 weavers and 35 children, who first learn to weave narrow bands of jakimas in traditional patterns, ensuring that the tradition is passed to the next generation.

A selection of plants and herbs that are the sources of the all natural dyes for wool at the Center for Weavers of Chinchero ("Awayricch'arichiq"), Chinchero (Sacred Valley of the Incas), Peru

A selection of plants and herbs that are the sources of the all natural dyes for wool at the Center for Weavers of Chinchero (“Awayricch’arichiq”), Chinchero (Sacred Valley of the Incas), Peru

The principle objectives of the weavers are: to weave the ancient patterns, revive the use of natural dyes, to produce high quality textiles of natural fibers, to reintroduce the traditional dress and the use of traditional textiles in the home, and to commercialize their high quality textiles in order to generate a sustainable income.

One of the weavers showing samples of the variety of colors from natural dyes at the Center for Weavers of Chinchero ("Awayricch'arichiq"), Chinchero (Sacred Valley of the Incas), Peru

One of the weavers showing samples of the variety of colors from natural dyes at the Center for Weavers of Chinchero (“Awayricch’arichiq”), Chinchero (Sacred Valley of the Incas), Peru

 

Two weavers showing the differences in darkness fron natural dyes achieved with the addition of a natural darkener at the Center for Weavers of Chinchero ("Awayricch'arichiq"), Chinchero (Sacred Valley of the Incas), Peru

Two weavers showing the differences in darkness from natural dyes achieved with the addition of a natural darkener at the Center for Weavers of Chinchero (“Awayricch’arichiq”), Chinchero (Sacred Valley of the Incas), Peru

The president of the weavers’ association notes: “We strive to achieve the highest quality, and therefore only sell new textiles. All of our weavings are made from natural fibers and we use all natural dyes to create our colors. Each piece is woven by hand and then reviewed to ensure that there are no errors. We also wash and iron all the textiles to guarantee that the colors will not fade and that the textiles will remain in top condition.”

Weaving demonstration (#1) at the Center for Weavers of Chinchero ("Awayricch'arichiq"), Chinchero (Sacred Valley of the Incas), Peru

Weaving demonstration (#1) at the Center for Weavers of Chinchero (“Awayricch’arichiq”), Chinchero (Sacred Valley of the Incas), Peru

Textiles in the village of Chinchero are woven on a backstrap loom using sheep, alpaca and llama wool. The majority of the patterns in Chinchero are created using the warp complimentary technique, which results in double-faced patterns.

Weaving demonstration (#2) at the Center for Weavers of Chinchero ("Awayricch'arichiq"), Chinchero (Sacred Valley of the Incas), Peru

Weaving demonstration (#2) at the Center for Weavers of Chinchero (“Awayricch’arichiq”), Chinchero (Sacred Valley of the Incas), Peru

Textiles woven in Chinchero are also available for sale in Cusco at the Center for Traditional Textiles of Cusco, a non-profit organization established in 1996 to aid in the survival of Incan textile traditions and to provide support to weaving communities. The Center also sells textiles woven in eight other Peruvian communities.

Weaving demonstration (#3) at the Center for Weavers of Chinchero ("Awayricch'arichiq"), Chinchero (Sacred Valley of the Incas), Peru

Weaving demonstration (#3) at the Center for Weavers of Chinchero (“Awayricch’arichiq”), Chinchero (Sacred Valley of the Incas), Peru


Eat local: Peruvian BBQ at Wayra Ranch, Urubamba Province (Sacred Valley of the Incas), Peru

In the Wayran Ranch entry, the colors of Peru mix and mingle, as the country’s culture and tradition are represented in works of popular art, Urubamba Province (Sacred Valley of the Incas), Peru

In the Wayra Ranch entry, the colors of Peru mix and mingle, as the country’s culture and tradition are represented in works of popular art, Urubamba Province (Sacred Valley of the Incas), Peru

After our traditional Andean Ritual to Mother Earth (Despacho), as described and illustrated in our previous blog post, we headed to a relatively new and authentically local ranch for a fabulous Peruvian BBQ luncheon, followed by a Peruvian Paso horse demonstration and a performance of the marinera dance. Wayra – a quechua word for wind — Ranch lies in the heart of the Sacred Valley of the Incas, at the foot of the Chicón and Pumahuanca glaciers, the two apus (mountain spirits) of Urubamba Province, on the road to Ollantaytambo, Peru. It sits at an elevation of 9,416 feet (2,870 meters) above sea level.

In the Wayran Ranch lounge, the colors of Peru mix and mingle, as the country’s culture and tradition are represented in works of popular art, Urubamba Province (Sacred Valley of the Incas), Peru

In the Wayra Ranch lounge, the colors of Peru mix and mingle, as the country’s culture and tradition are represented in works of popular art, Urubamba Province (Sacred Valley of the Incas), Peru

“In our lounge, the colors of Peru mix and mingle, as the country’s culture and tradition are represented in works of popular art and in the ranch’s architecture.  The pieces of art have been made by Jaime Lievana, Federico Bauer and many anonymous artists and are nurtured by the spirit of the Andes, with their majestic mountains and endless skies, the birthplace of the wind.” — http://www.wayrasacredvalley.com

Home made empanadas for our family-style BBQ luncheon on the terrace at Wayra Ranch, Urubamba Province (Sacred Valley of the Incas), Peru

Home made empanadas for our family-style BBQ luncheon on the terrace at Wayra Ranch, Urubamba Province (Sacred Valley of the Incas), Peru

Our luncheon was on the terrace, an informal but colorful environment where we were able to enjoy the mountains, popular art, mural paintings and an inspirational garden while being served a delicious series of courses, family-style. Of course, no luncheon would be proper in Peru without starting with a fresh made Pisco sour. Local South American wines accompanied our luncheon.

Home made breads for our family-style BBQ luncheon on the terrace at Wayra Ranch, Urubamba Province (Sacred Valley of the Incas), Peru

Home made breads for our family-style BBQ luncheon on the terrace at Wayra Ranch, Urubamba Province (Sacred Valley of the Incas), Peru

Fresh salad from local gardens for our family-style BBQ luncheon on the terrace at Wayra Ranch, Urubamba Province (Sacred Valley of the Incas), Peru

Fresh salad from local gardens for our family-style BBQ luncheon on the terrace at Wayra Ranch, Urubamba Province (Sacred Valley of the Incas), Peru

A mix of colorful local Peruvian potatoes for our family-style BBQ luncheon on the terrace at Wayra Ranch, Urubamba Province (Sacred Valley of the Incas), Peru

A mix of colorful local Peruvian potatoes for our family-style BBQ luncheon on the terrace at Wayra Ranch, Urubamba Province (Sacred Valley of the Incas), Peru

Large kernal local Peruvian corn and tamales for our family-style BBQ luncheon on the terrace at Wayra Ranch, Urubamba Province (Sacred Valley of the Incas), Peru

Large kernel local Peruvian corn and tamales for our family-style BBQ luncheon on the terrace at Wayra Ranch, Urubamba Province (Sacred Valley of the Incas), Peru

Grilled beef hears (tasty!) for our family-style BBQ luncheon on the terrace at Wayra Ranch, Urubamba Province (Sacred Valley of the Incas), Peru

Grilled beef hearts (tasty!) for our family-style BBQ luncheon on the terrace at Wayra Ranch, Urubamba Province (Sacred Valley of the Incas), Peru

Grilled salmon for our family-style BBQ luncheon on the terrace at Wayra Ranch, Urubamba Province (Sacred Valley of the Incas), Peru

Grilled salmon for our family-style BBQ luncheon on the terrace at Wayra Ranch, Urubamba Province (Sacred Valley of the Incas), Peru

Grilled chicken with outstanding crispy skin for our family-style BBQ luncheon on the terrace at Wayra Ranch, Urubamba Province (Sacred Valley of the Incas), Peru

Grilled chicken with outstanding crispy skin for our family-style BBQ luncheon on the terrace at Wayra Ranch, Urubamba Province (Sacred Valley of the Incas), Peru

Tasty BBQ local pork for our family-style BBQ luncheon on the terrace at Wayra Ranch, Urubamba Province (Sacred Valley of the Incas), Peru

Tasty BBQ local pork for our family-style BBQ luncheon on the terrace at Wayra Ranch, Urubamba Province (Sacred Valley of the Incas), Peru

The first platter of home made Peruvian desserts (and local fruit) for our family-style BBQ luncheon on the terrace at Wayra Ranch, Urubamba Province (Sacred Valley of the Incas), Peru

The first platter of home made Peruvian desserts (and local fruit) for our family-style BBQ luncheon on the terrace at Wayra Ranch, Urubamba Province (Sacred Valley of the Incas), Peru

A platter of local fruit for dessert for our family-style BBQ luncheon on the terrace at Wayra Ranch, Urubamba Province (Sacred Valley of the Incas), Peru

A platter of local fruit for dessert for our family-style BBQ luncheon on the terrace at Wayra Ranch, Urubamba Province (Sacred Valley of the Incas), Peru

Sinful home made Peruvian "donuts" with local homey for dessert for our family-style BBQ luncheon on the terrace at Wayra Ranch, Urubamba Province (Sacred Valley of the Incas), Peru

Sinful home made Peruvian “donuts” with local homey for dessert for our family-style BBQ luncheon on the terrace at Wayra Ranch, Urubamba Province (Sacred Valley of the Incas), Peru

Peruvian Paso Horses (from the Wayra Ranch) demonstration after our luncheon on the terrace at Wayra Ranch, Urubamba Province (Sacred Valley of the Incas), Peru

Peruvian Paso Horses (from the Wayra Ranch) demonstration after our luncheon on the terrace at Wayra Ranch, Urubamba Province (Sacred Valley of the Incas), Peru

Peruvian Paso Horses, with their elegance and noble spirit, symbolize a centuries-old tradition of cultural fusion and folklore that defines and enriches Peru. In the Wayra Ranch presentation, Paso horses from their own stables demonstrated their flowing gait and graceful motion to the rhythm of ‘la marinera,’ the national dance of Peru, accompanied by two award-winning dancers and Peruvian music.

Peruvian Paso Horses (from the Wayra Ranch) demonstration and a performance of the marinera dance after our luncheon on the terrace at Wayra Ranch, Urubamba Province (Sacred Valley of the Incas), Peru

Peruvian Paso Horses (from the Wayra Ranch) demonstration and a performance of the marinera dance after our luncheon on the terrace at Wayra Ranch, Urubamba Province (Sacred Valley of the Incas), Peru

For more photographs and information about Wayra Ranch, visit: http://www.wayrasacredvalley.com/ENGLISH_wayra_ubicacion.html

 

Andean Ritual to Mother Earth (Despacho), Ollantaytambo, Peru

The son of the medicine man (Andean "priest") prepares for the Despacho ceremony (Andean Ritual to Mother Earth), Ollantaytambo, Peru

The son of the medicine man (Andean “priest”) prepares for the Despacho ceremony (Andean Ritual to Mother Earth), Ollantaytambo, Peru

While visiting the Sacred Valley of the Incas (around Ollantaytambo, Peru), we had the opportunity to visit the home of a native medicine man (Andean “priest”) and experience an Andean Ritual to Mother Earth (Despacho), a traditional ceremony that has been practiced for centuries in the Andes Mountains.  “The Andean people believe all are connected and as a way to show continuing appreciation and gratitude for the crops we eat, the water we drink and the land we live on they make an offering.  The offering is a gift, charged with intention, love, reciprocity and reverence, unifying all living energy of the physical and unseen universe.” — RaisingMiro.com

“Despacho describes the Andean practice of making offerings to the mountains (apus), Mother Earth (Pachamama), and other spirits of nature in reciprocity, reverence, and thanksgiving.   A despacho is an act of love and a reminder of the connections we share with all beings, elements, spirits, and sacred places.  At the deepest level, it is an opportunity to enter into the essential unity of all things, the living energy of the universe.  A despacho is created during a celebratory ceremony.  In the cosmology of the Andes, all life is perceived as one grand, infinite ceremony.  Because physical survival is so hard in the high mountains, life is experienced as a true gift to be lived, not a problem to be solved.  There are at least 300 variations of despachos in the Quechua-speaking Andes (primarily Peru and Ecuador).  While there are certain elements common to all despachos, the particular healing intention — such as bringing harmony and balance to the earth, honoring new beginnings, or getting rid of an illness — determines the design of the offering, some of the contents, and even the way that offerings are added.” – Earth Caretakers, © Meg Beeler: http://home.earthlink.net/~megbeeler/earthcaretakers/id39.html

The medicine man (Andean "priest") initiates the Despacho ceremony (Andean Ritual to Mother Earth) with coca leaves (3 given to each person), Ollantaytambo, Peru

The medicine man (Andean “priest”) initiates the Despacho ceremony (Andean Ritual to Mother Earth) with coca leaves (3 given to each person), Ollantaytambo, Peru

“As the ceremony begins, red wine and white liquor (pisco) are offered to the spirits of the mountains and to Mother Earth.  The medicine persons and all the participants feed each other coco leaves–the sacred plant of the Andes–into which their prayers have been blown.  These gifts are a sign of community and strengthen connections.” —  Earth Caretakers, © Meg Beeler: http://home.earthlink.net/~megbeeler/earthcaretakers/id39.html

Ritual offerings prepared for the Despacho ceremony (Andean Ritual to Mother Earth), Ollantaytambo, Peru

Ritual offerings prepared for the Despacho ceremony (Andean Ritual to Mother Earth), Ollantaytambo, Peru

“The offering is created on Andean weavings that represent the masculine and feminine in balance (mastanas and uncunas).  White paper, for clarity, is placed on the weavings for a base.  A bed of incense is laid, to carry the prayers of the offering into the cosmos.  Flower petals (red for Pachamama, white for mountains) are laid in a pattern, commonly in a circle, four directions, cross, or flower pattern, depending on the intent.   Sets of coco leaves, called kintus, are prepared with intent by each participant, then collected by the medicine people and placed in a pattern on the offering, again reflecting the particular intent.

“After the initial “bed” is created, some or all of the following symbolic representations are prayed over, offered up, and added: fruits of the earth (seeds, raisins, grains, nuts, corn, quinoa); sweets (wrapped candy, sugar); representations of the sea (a shell) and the stars (a starfish, the five-legged star of return, unfolding into the Fifth world); silver and gold papers representing threads to the earth and the cosmos; confetti; miniature tin figures of animals, people, and tools; beads; llama fat from while llamas (symbolizing the sun); a baby llama fetus (representing that which is unborn or not yet manifested); white cotton (for the clouds that surround the mountains and bring rain); many-colored wool (for the rainbow bridge into the cosmos); condor feathers; and so on.” — Earth Caretakers, © Meg Beeler: http://home.earthlink.net/~megbeeler/earthcaretakers/id39.html

The medicine man (Andean "priest") conducting the Despacho ceremony (Andean Ritual to Mother Earth) -- with coca leaves, Ollantaytambo, Peru

The medicine man (Andean “priest”) conducting the Despacho ceremony (Andean Ritual to Mother Earth) — with coca leaves, Ollantaytambo, Peru

 

 

The medicine man (Andean "priest") blesses each of the offerings as they are combined during the Despacho ceremony (Andean Ritual to Mother Earth), Ollantaytambo, Peru

The medicine man (Andean “priest”) blesses each of the offerings as they are combined during the Despacho ceremony (Andean Ritual to Mother Earth), Ollantaytambo, Peru

“A despacho contains symbols of everything: elements, weather, clouds around mountains, rainbows, the four directions, lakes, rivers, fruits of our labors, earth, stars.  Every item represents a part of the Andean cosmology, is imbued with intent for connection to the mountains and the cosmos, and affects the totality of energy in the universe.” — Earth Caretakers, © Meg Beeler: http://home.earthlink.net/~megbeeler/earthcaretakers/id39.html

The medicine man (Andean "priest") prepares to tie up the ritual offerings for burning during the Despacho ceremony (Andean Ritual to Mother Earth), Ollantaytambo, Peru

The medicine man (Andean “priest”) prepares to tie up the ritual offerings for burning during the Despacho ceremony (Andean Ritual to Mother Earth), Ollantaytambo, Peru

 

 

The medicine man (Andean "priest") blesses an Andean amulet during the Despacho ceremony (Andean Ritual to Mother Earth), Ollantaytambo, Peru

The medicine man (Andean “priest”) blesses an Andean amulet during the Despacho ceremony (Andean Ritual to Mother Earth), Ollantaytambo, Peru

“When the offering is complete, the bundle is folded, tied, and wrapped in sacred weavings.  The shaman may circle the group with the despacho bundle, cleansing the luminous bodies of each participant to remove any heavy energy, and blessing everyone.  These heavy energies, or hucha, become part of the offering, as the earth eats heavy energy and composts it.  Finally, the offering is burned.  Participants do not watch the offering burning, so Apuchin (the old condor) can come to eat any remaining hucha, and because watching might hold back some of the filaments being sent into the cosmos.” — Earth Caretakers, © Meg Beeler: http://home.earthlink.net/~megbeeler/earthcaretakers/id39.html

An Inca Cross (Chakana) at the home of the Andean medicine man (priest), Ollantaytambo, Peru

An Inca Cross (Chakana) at the home of the Andean medicine man (priest), Ollantaytambo, Peru.jpg

“The chakana (or Inca Cross) symbolizes for Inca mythology what is known in other mythologies as the World Tree.  The stepped cross is made up of an equal-armed cross indicating the cardinal points of the compass and a superimposed square.  The square is suggested to represent the other two levels of existence.  The three levels of existence are Hana Pacha (the upper world inhabited by the superior gods), Kay Pacha, (the world of our everyday existence) and Ukhu or Urin Pacha (the underworld inhabited by spirits of the dead, the ancestors, their overlords and various deities having close contact to the Earth plane).  The hole through the centre of the cross is the Axis by means of which the shaman transits the cosmic vault to the other levels.  It is also said to represent Cusco, the center of the Incan empire, and the Southern Cross constellation.” — Wikipedia

 

Ollantaytambo (Sacred Valley of the Incas), Peru

The 14th century Inca city of Ollantaytambo in the Sacred Valley of the Incas; note the stone granary built into the mountain, about 1:3 of the way up, center-right; Peru

The 14th century Inca city of Ollantaytambo in the Sacred Valley of the Incas; note the stone granary built into the mountain, about 1/3 of the way up, center-right; Peru

Quaint Ollantaytambo (known to locals and visitors alike as Ollanta), Peru, is the best surviving example of Inca city planning, with narrow cobblestone streets that have been continuously inhabited since the 13th century.   The town is in the Sacred Valley of the Incas at an altitude of 9,160 feet (2,792 meters) above sea level, near Cuzco in the Southern Sierra region of Peru.  This is where the Incas retreated after the Spanish took Cuzco in 1533.  Much of the town is laid out in the same way as it was in Inca times. 

“The Incas built several storehouses (Quechua: qollqa) out of fieldstones on the hills surrounding Ollantaytambo.  Their location at high altitudes, where there is more wind and lower temperatures, defended their contents against decay.  To enhance this effect, the Ollantaytambo qollqas feature ventilation systems.  It is believed that they were used to store the production of the agricultural terraces built around the site.  Grain would be poured in the windows on the uphill side of each building, then emptied out through the downhill side window.” — Wikipedia

A typical street and houses, virtually unchanged since the 15th century, Ollantaytambo (Sacred Valley of the Incas), Peru

A typical street and houses, virtually unchanged since the 15th century, Ollantaytambo (Sacred Valley of the Incas), Peru

Walking through the side streets of Ollantaytambo (away from the narrow main street which is full of trucks, buses and automobiles on the way between Cuzco and Machu Picchu), we had a sense of stepping back 550 years in time.  Our guide had made arrangements for us to visit a home built in the late 1400s and still occupied by Inca descendants with the interior arrangement unchanged over the centuries — a dirt floor, a cooking fire in the corner (the thatched roof blackened by years of smoke), guinea pigs being raised in a corner, a log bed at the other end of the room, and an altar with offerings and family photographs.  

Ollantaytambo Fortress and Templo del Sol (center, at the top of the foreground mountain, 15th century), Ollantaytambo (Sacred Valley of the Incas), Peru

Ollantaytambo Fortress and Templo del Sol (center, at the top of the foreground mountain, 15th century), Ollantaytambo (Sacred Valley of the Incas), Peru

“The part of the hill occupied by Ollantaytambo Fortress facing the town is occupied by the terraces of Pumatallis, framed on both flanks by rock outcrops. Due to the impressive character of these terraces, the Temple Hill is commonly known as the Fortress; however, this is a misnomer as the main functions of this site were religious. The main access to the ceremonial center is a series of stairways that climb to the top of the terrace complex. At this point, the site is divided into three main areas: the Middle sector, directly in front of the terraces; the Temple sector, to the south; and the Funerary sector, to the north. The Temple sector is built out of cut and fitted stones in contrast to the other two sectors of the Temple Hill which are made out of fieldstones. It is accessed via a stairway that ends on a terrace with a half finished gate and the Enclosure of the Ten Niches, a one room building. Behind them there is an open space which hosts the Platform of the Carved Seat and two unfinished monumental walls. The main structure of the whole sector is the Sun Temple, an uncompleted building which features the Wall of the Six Monoliths. The Middle and Funerary sectors have several rectangular buildings, some of them with two floors; there are also several fountains in the Middle sector…The unfinished structures at the Temple Hill and the numerous stone blocks that litter the site indicate that it was still undergoing construction at the time of its abandonment.” — Wikipedia

The huge, steep terraces that guard the ruins of the Inca’s Ollantaytambo Fortress mark one of the few places where the Spanish conquistadors lost a major battle.  The rebellious Manco Inca had retreated to this fortress after his defeat at Sacsaywamán (above Cuzco).  In 1536, Hernando Pizarro, Francisco’s younger half-brother, led a force of 70 cavalrymen to Ollantaytambo, supported by large numbers of indigenous and Spanish foot soldiers, in an attempt to capture Manco Inca.  The conquistadors, showered with arrows, spears and boulders from atop the steep terracing, were unable to climb to the fortress.  In a brilliant move, Manco Inca flooded the plain below the fortress through previously prepared channels.  With the Spaniards’ horses bogged down in the water, Pizarro ordered a hasty retreat, chased down by thousands of Manco Inca’s victorious soldiers.  Yet the Inca victory would be short lived.  Spanish forces soon returned with a quadrupled cavalry force and Manco fled to his jungle stronghold in Vilcabamba.  — based on LonelyPlanet.com

The pathway at Ollantaytambo Fortress leading to Templo del Sol (the Temple of the Sun), Ollantaytambo, Peru

The pathway at Ollantaytambo Fortress leading to Templo del Sol (the Temple of the Sun), Ollantaytambo, Peru

 

Our intrepid explorer at Ollantaytambo Fortress hiking up to Templo del Sol (Temple of the Sun), Ollantaytambo, Peru

Our intrepid explorer at Ollantaytambo Fortress hiking up to Templo del Sol (Temple of the Sun), Ollantaytambo, Peru

 

Mortarless stone walls of Ollantaytambo Fortress showing the custom fitting of individual stones, Ollantaytambo, Peru

Mortarless stone walls of Ollantaytambo Fortress showing the custom fitting of individual stones, Ollantaytambo, Peru

The Temple of the Sun was like a calendar for the Incas and had specific purpose especially on the 21st June, the winter solstice and the 21st December, the summer solstice (Southern Hemisphere dates).

Three of the stone panels of the Wall of the Six Monoliths of the Templo del Sol (Temple of the Sun), Ollantaytambo, Peru

Three of the stone panels of the Wall of the Six Monoliths of the Templo del Sol (Temple of the Sun), Ollantaytambo, Peru

 

Eat local: Belmond Sanctuary Lodge, Machu Picchu, Peru

A llama on the upper agricultural terraces wishes visitors "Buenos Noches", Machu Picchu, Peru

A llama on the upper agricultural terraces wishes visitors “Buenos Noches”, Machu Picchu, Peru

For our night at Machu Picchu we were fortunate to have been able to book rooms at the only hotel at Machu Picchu, the Belmond Sanctuary Lodge, adjacent to the entrance gate.  Thus we were able to extend our walking tour until the gates closed.  After a refreshing shower, we changed into fresh clothes and met our group for dinner at the dining room of the Sanctuary.  We were most pleasantly surprised to discover that the restaurant was excellent, serving many local dishes, which our group was very pleased with.  And we were adventuresome, as shown in the photographs…

Seared foie gras wtih quince as a first course, Belmond Sanctuary Lodge, Machu Picchu, Peru

Seared foie gras wtih quince as a first course, Belmond Sanctuary Lodge, Machu Picchu, Peru

Scallop ceviche with black sesame crusted avocado cubes as a first course, Belmond Sanctuary Lodge, Machu Picchu, Peru

Scallop ceviche with black sesame crusted avocado cubes as a first course, Belmond Sanctuary Lodge, Machu Picchu, Peru

Assorted Peruvian potato causas as a first course, Belmond Sanctuary Lodge, Machu Picchu, Peru

Assorted Peruvian potato causas as a first course, Belmond Sanctuary Lodge, Machu Picchu, Peru

Local salmon trout as a main course, Belmond Sanctuary Lodge, Machu Picchu, Peru

Local salmon trout as a main course, Belmond Sanctuary Lodge, Machu Picchu, Peru

Seared local alpaca with raviolis as a main course, Belmond Sanctuary Lodge, Machu Picchu, Peru

Seared local alpaca with raviolis as a main course, Belmond Sanctuary Lodge, Machu Picchu, Peru

 

Yes, alpaca is related to the llama.  They are raised domestically only for their fur, whereas llamas are bred for both fur and use as pack animals (they are believed to have been the secret to the Inca’s construction of Machu Picchu and other royal and religious sites).  The alpaca steaks were quite tasty and sampled by a number of us.

Wild mushroom risotto with truffle foam as a main course, Belmond Sanctuary Lodge, Machu Picchu, Peru

Wild mushroom risotto with truffle foam as a main course, Belmond Sanctuary Lodge, Machu Picchu, Peru

 

Assorted local Peruvian desserts, Belmond Sanctuary Lodge, Machu Picchu, Peru

Assorted local Peruvian desserts, Belmond Sanctuary Lodge, Machu Picchu, Peru

Peruvian corn cake with pistachio ice cream for dessert, Belmond Sanctuary Lodge, Machu Picchu, Peru

Peruvian corn cake with pistachio ice cream for dessert, Belmond Sanctuary Lodge, Machu Picchu, Peru

 

A walking tour of Machu Picchu, Peru

Wide-angle elevated view of Machu Picchu from the upper agricultural terraces showing the Urubamba River on the west (left side), the granite quarry and the two urban sectors adjacent to the main square, Peru

Wide-angle elevated view of Machu Picchu from the upper agricultural terraces showing the Urubamba River on the west (left side), the granite quarry and the two urban sectors adjacent to the main square, Peru

Our small group was very fortunate to have Peter Frost, a world renowned explorer and National Geographic expedition leader, as our private guide for an afternoon walk through the restored ruins of Machu Picchu, Peru, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  [For an introduction to Machu Picchu and the Inca Trail’s Sun Gate entrance to the site, please see our previous two blog posts.]

“Machu Picchu is an Inca settlement located in the High Andes of Peru in the Urubamba Valley, north of Cuzco.  The site, perched high above the Urubamba river, has been variously described as a fortress, imperial retreat and ceremonial precinct.  It was founded by Pachacuti Inca Yupanqui in c. 1450 CE, had capacity for around 1,000 residents at its peak, and ranked amongst the most sacred of all sites for the Inca.  Following the collapse of the Inca empire, Machu Picchu was abandoned and forgotten, only to be rediscovered in 1911 CE by the explorer Hiram Bingham.” — Ancient History Encyclopedia, http://www.ancient.eu

General view of Machu Picchu from the south, with Huayna Picchu mountain in the background, Peru_

General view of Machu Picchu from the south, with Huayna Picchu mountain in the background, Peru

“Machu Picchu is a fine example of the Inca practice of shaping architecture around the natural terrain.  Ridges were made into plateaus for building upon and slopes were terraced using stone bulwarks.  Further, constructions were made to aesthetically blend with their surroundings.  For example, the profile of the Sacred Rock [the Intihuatana stone]  actually mimics one of the mountain peaks behind it.  Finally, very often windows and doorways were deliberately positioned to capture the best views of the surrounding mountains.

“Rock was a material the Incas had special reverence for. Stone was even thought of as a living substance and in the Inca language (Quechua) the word for it translates as ‘to begin’.  Stone was shaped with great skill and natural rock outcrops were moulded to suit various purposes… The Intihuatana Stone (‘Hitching Post of the Sun’), also known as the intiwatana, sitting at the highest point of the sacred complex, was carved with great care into a device for astronomical observations and made a tangible link between the earth and sky. The carved stone pillar on top of the polygonal stone base was used like a sundial to record the movements of the sun and, during solstices, priests symbolically tied the sun to the earth using a cord.” — Ancient History Encyclopedia, http://www.ancient.eu

In the two photographs above, one of the remaining visible granite quarries used by the Incas for construction of the buildings at Machu Picchu from around 1450 to its abandonment around 1530 can be seen on the left side, below (and to the west of) the upper urban sector.

The two urban sectors adjoining the main square at Machu Picchu with the main temple and the Intihuatana stone on the hilltop on the left, center; Peru_

The two urban sectors adjoining the main square at Machu Picchu with the main temple and the Intihuatana stone on the hilltop on the left, center; Peru

“Machu Picchu (meaning ‘old hill’) was an imperial estate founded by and belonging to Pachacuti Inca Yupanqui, the Inca ruler, in the mid-15th century CE.  The ownership of the site was later passed to Pachacuti’s successors.  On its rediscovery by the explorer Hiram Bingham in 1911 CE (although local residents in the valley had always known of the site’s existence) it was claimed as the last capital of the Incas.  However, this proved to be untrue when the actual final capital was discovered at Vilcabamba, further downstream in the Urubamba Valley. 

“Another hypothesis concerning the site posed by early historians was that Machu Picchu was a fortress and the strong walls, large towers, and dry moats were cited in support of this theory.  The need for fortification perhaps sprang from a series of severe droughts which made the competition for resources fierce.  This would also explain why the site was not occupied for very long as when the water situation improved the necessity for such citadel sites declined.  Once again though, further study has revealed that most of the architecture was designed for religious purposes and the fortifications may well have been put in place to ensure only a select few could enter this sacred site.  In further support of this interpretation, a road was discovered which linked the site to several residential settlements dotted along the valley.  The most likely purpose of Machu Picchu, then, was as a sacred site, probably to the sun god Inti and with the additional purpose of reminding the recently conquered local population of the power and might of Pachacuti and the Inca empire centered at its capital Cuzco.  The site was abandoned by the Inca shortly before Pizarro and the Spanish conquistadors arrived.  The invaders never reached Machu Picchu, though, and the site would remain unknown to the wider world for 400 years.” — Ancient History Encyclopedia, http://www.ancient.eu

Details of the agricultural terraces and retaining walls built by the Incas on the western side of Machu Picchu, Peru_

Details of the agricultural terraces and retaining walls built by the Incas on the western side of Machu Picchu, Peru_

“To feed the people in their swiftly growing empire, the Inca terraced great areas of mountain land, transported rich soils to the terraces, employed highly sophisticated irrigation systems, and experimented with a variety of crops.” — http://www.sacredsites.com

Three Windows Temple showing the detailed stone workmanship by the Incas at Machu Picchu, Peru_

Three Windows Temple showing the detailed stone workmanship by the Incas at Machu Picchu, Peru

 

Each granite block was dressed and shaped on-site by the Incas; mortar-free, the walls have withstood centuries of earthquakes and weathering at Machu Picchu, Peru_

Each granite block was dressed and shaped on-site by the Incas; mortar-free, the walls have withstood centuries of earthquakes and weathering at Machu Picchu, Peru

“Two thousand feet above the rumbling Urubamba river, the cloud shrouded ruins have palaces, baths, temples, storage rooms and some 150 houses, all in a remarkable state of preservation. These structures, carved from the gray granite of the mountain top are wonders of both architectural and aesthetic genius. Many of the building blocks weigh 50 tons or more yet are so precisely sculpted and fitted together with such exactitude that the mortarless joints will not permit the insertion of even a thin knife blade.” — http://www.sacredsites.com

The Main Temple at Machu Picchu, Peru, exemplifies the Inca's design, architectural and construction skills -- in a culture without writing

The Main Temple at Machu Picchu, Peru, exemplifies the Inca’s design, architectural and construction skills — in a culture without writing

“The Inca fashioned monumental architecture equal in beauty to any culture of the old world. Massive, multi-sided blocks were precisely fitted together in interlocking patterns in order to withstand the disastrous effects of earth quakes (in an earthquake, the stones on Inca terrace walls lock together, allowing the entire wall to simultaneously flex and cohere).  Both secular and sacred architecture had spacious windows, niches for idols, and other purely artistic sculptural elaborations.  Splashing fountains abounded and masterpieces of hydraulic engineering brought fresh water into buildings, while other channels removed wastes.” — http://www.sacredsites.com

A typical window with a stunning view of the surrounding mountains at Machu Picchu, Peru

A typical window with a stunning view of the surrounding mountains at Machu Picchu, Peru

 

The Intihuatana stone (meaning 'Hitching Post of the Sun') has been shown to be a precise indicator of the date of the two equinoxes and other significant celestial periods at Machu Picchu, Peru

The Intihuatana stone (meaning ‘Hitching Post of the Sun’) has been shown to be a precise indicator of the date of the two equinoxes and other significant celestial periods at Machu Picchu, Peru

“One of Machu Picchu’s primary functions was that of astronomical observatory.  The Intihuatana stone (meaning ‘Hitching Post of the Sun’) has been shown to be a precise indicator of the date of the two equinoxes and other significant celestial periods.  The Intihuatana (also called the Saywa or Sukhanka stone) is designed to hitch the sun at the two equinoxes, not at the solstice (as is stated in some tourist literature and new-age books).  At midday on March 21st and September 21st, the sun stands almost directly above the pillar, creating no shadow at all.  At this precise moment the sun “sits with all his might upon the pillar” and is for a moment “tied” to the rock.  At these periods, the Incas held ceremonies at the stone in which they “tied the sun” to halt its northward movement in the sky.  There is also an Intihuatana alignment with the December solstice (the summer solstice of the southern hemisphere), when at sunset the sun sinks behind Pumasillo (the Puma’s claw), the most sacred mountain of the western Vilcabamba range, but the shrine itself is primarily equinoctial.  

“Shamanic legends tell that when a sensitive person touches their forehead to the Intihuatana stone it opens their vision to the spirit world.  Intihuatana stones were the supremely sacred objects of the Inca people and were systematically searched for and destroyed by the Spaniards.  When the Intihuatana stone was broken at an Inca shrine, the Inca believed that the deities of the place died or departed.  The Spaniards never found Machu Picchu, even though they suspected its existence, thus the Intihuatana stone and its resident spirits remain in their original position.”  — http://www.sacredsites.com

Closeup view of the eastern urban sector; note how the diagonal stairs and roof lines echo the surrounding mountainscape at Machu Picchu, Peru

Closeup view of the eastern urban sector; note how the diagonal stairs and roof lines echo the surrounding mountainscape at Machu Picchu, Peru

 

 

Closeup of the upper agricultural terraces (with a very advanced, integrated Inca-designed watering system) at Machu Picchu, Peru

Closeup of the upper agricultural terraces (with a very advanced, integrated Inca-designed watering system) at Machu Picchu, Peru

“These monumental landscaping projects, called andenes in the [Incas’] Quechua language, so impressed the colonial Spanish that they named the Andes mountains after them (recent satellite photography has shown that these Inca terraces covered more land than is currently cultivated in the central Andean nations).” — http://www.sacredsites.com

The shape of the southeast corner of the noble houses in the eastern urban sector mirrors the surrounding mountains at Machu Picchu, Peru

The shape of the southeast corner of the noble houses in the eastern urban sector mirrors the surrounding mountains at Machu Picchu, Peru

 “At the time of Columbus’ landfall on the New World, the greatest empire on earth was that of the Inca.  Called Tawantinsuyu or ‘Land of the Four Quarters,’ it spanned more than 4,300 miles along the mountains and coastal deserts of central South America.  The vast empire stretched from central Chile to present Ecuador-Colombia border and included most of Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, northern Chile and northwestern Argentina (this is a land area equal to the entire portion of the United States from Maine to Florida east of the Appalachians).  It exceeded in size any medieval or contemporary European nation and equaled the longitudinal expanse of the Roman Empire.  Yet for all its greatness, Tawantinsuyu existed for barely a century

“Around 1438… the Inca emperor Viracocha and his son, Pachakuti, defeated a powerful rival, the Chankas.  From this time the empire building era of the Inca began.  Other rival tribes around the Cuzco area were soon united and campaigns were launched into the Titicaca basin and beyond.  During the ensuing reigns of the emperors Pachakuti, and Topa Inca the Inca armies expanded the frontiers of Tawantinsuyu from southern Columbia to central Chile.

“In the few short years before their overthrow by the Spanish in 1532, the Inca developed one of the largest and most sophisticated empires in the entire pre-industrial world.  (In discussing Inca achievements, however, it is important to state that they were not the singular invention of a few inspired emperors but rather the ultimate elaboration of numerous pan-Andean institutions.)  The Inca accomplished their phenomenal growth through a mixture of diplomacy and warfare, and a sociopolitical management system based on highly effective taxation and the dependable provision of goods and services to the peoples of their realm.” — http://www.sacredsites.com