Sunday, May 10, 2009

Inca trails

The hardcore way to arrive at Machu Picchu is to hike 4 days along the ancient walking route of the Incas; it seems like an awesome idea. Our personal semi-heroic trail to the monument consisted of managing children, keeping up the strawberry yogurt supply, locating lodging in skanky villages and busy cities, you parents get the idea. We made it up there yesterday, and it was stunning. No sunrise due to foggy am, but rounding the corner of a stone pathway and seeing the whole complex emerging from the dawn mist – tears in my eyes. Pick the most stunning Andean col, then apply formidable engineering and artistic vision. On some levels, I’m a fan of those Inca folks.

Today we’re back down towards civilization in a little village that has been continuously occupied since the 1200’s. It’s a bit touristed these days, but I had a lovely couple hours hoofing along some hillsides, often walking on paths that showed evidence of ancient terracing from the 1400’s. I found myself pondering a bit about regime change. As I looked down into the valley at the small peasant patches of corn, barley, potatoes, quinoa and stone irrigation channels, I wondered how much it mattered whether the boss in Lima (or Cusco) was Pucaran, or Incan, or Catholic, or Fujimori. In many ways, and we’ve had a lovely opportunity to see some up close, the folks in the villages are still just raising the cattle and the children, planting the crops, gathering the firewood, wearing the hats (I’m deep into the “Hats of the Andes” photojournal). The government always demands some of your harvest or money, sometimes the power struggle rages through your own neighborhood. The Inca ruins are a ton like the Roman ruins 1700 years later. Would they have caught up without transatlantic interference? Bolivar liberated in 1820; does the 300 year interval determine how it is now? Most of the folks in this village, and my friends in Otavalo, are indigenous folks small-farming along. Will the new norm elsewhere start looking more like this?

Someone has estimated at the time of the Catholic invasion, the Incas had 19 years of food stockpiled in stone storehouses. Then a bitter civil war broke out between the two sons of the emperor (Huascar and Atahualpa), which weakened the kingdom significantly for the convenience of Pizarro and the boys. This fascinates me. The Incas had convinced the populace from Chile to Columbia that overproduction, stone hauling, and supporting The Man was vitally important. But it turns out that they were quickly brought down by internal and external strife. Keeping your eye on the ball can lead to other problems; may we all remember the importance of noticing lots of elements of life. The bee will bump up against the window until it falls down tired; the fly will buzz around chaotically and locate the other exit.

Hugs. Thanks for helping me journal. P

1 comment:

Stephen said...

hi paul & co.,

this message is from the kingsford-smith family, who's medical care kristen has guided for some years, especially our little one, genevieve (two).

please give a big hug to kristen and a "right on" to all of you. enjoying your blog very much. love the full-family-plunge into south american travel/living. we have similar goals as our daughter grows. you all seem to be really hitting it right.

i spent about a month in bolivia, so i know the flavor a bit, but i really like how you're keeping your collective feet on the ground and moving.

continuing inspriation, meaning, and safety to you all...

steve kingsford-smith & family

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