For me it is not Machu Picchu, but the ruins in the Urubamba valley that allow to see the true greatness of the Incas. It is here that one finds the administration and military centers of the empire, astronomy observatories, defense towers, temples and even a scientific genetic laboratory! And all those places share what characterizes in general Inca’s architecture: beauty, harmony, peace, greatness and majesty.
Pisac is a truly surprising place. After looking at small Inca ruins close to Cusco the grandeur of Pisac comes as a surprise: from the feet of the citadel in the mountain saddle the ancient terraces go down almost to the bottom of the valley. The small buildings far away make you realize just how big the whole area is! Not to mention the breathtaking views over the valley.
Pisac tells also a lot about Inca society:
– It was a privilege to live high in the altitudes. The highest houses, so difficult to reach, were for the powerful. The houses in the lower parts of the slope were meant for the pheasants, one can also see that the stonework there is not that elaborated as in the higher parts.
– Inca appreciated and respected the beauty of the mountains. Nowadays we have an ugly custom of destroying the earth in order to adjust it to our expectations and convenience. Inca’s architecture seems to be a part of the mountain and belongs there as do the trees or rocks, made to fit the natural shape of the landscape.
– Being a scientist, especially an astronomer, was the most respected profession! The astronomy observatory in Pisac – Intihuatana – is constructed out of a special rock and such perfect work can be seen otherwise only in temples or royal palaces.
Moray is something I would call a genetic agricultural laboratory. Incas had a brilliant idea – they adjusted a naturally existing craters (the craters come from meteors but I doubt that Inca knew it at that time!) to simulate different climat condtitions for the crops. A general agricultur approach at that time was to transform the slope of the mountain into a series of terraces, called andenes. The system was so efficient that the food was produced in great qunatities! The archeologist say that unforutantely most of this ancient knowledge is lost – we now use less than 20% of what used to be a prospering agricultural area at that time!
But back to the laboratory idea… In Moray the circular andenes cover the whole inside of the crater, their radius getting smaller as they reach the bottom. Because of this special geometry the tempreture difference between two terraces can get as high as 1-2°C! In this way Inca could grow different sorts of patatoes or corn, make it resistent/adjusted to the certain climate comditions and then send it to various parts of their imperium. Isn’t it ingenious?!
Ollantaytambo ruins are impossible to miss. It is the first thing you see whan you reach this small village – the majestic buildings on the steep slope. I remember staring at them and thinking how could anybody construct a building in a place (seemingly) so unreachable?
The legend tells the place belonged to general Ollantay, an Inca general who rebelled againt the highest Lord Pachacutec, because of a disagreement over his affection for the Lord’s daughter.. The truth however is more boring – the town was a personal estate of Inca Pachacutec and provided lodging for Inca nobles.