Travel

Andahuaylillas and Huaro

The churches in the towns of Andahuaylillas and Huaro, along with the Virgen Purificada in Canincunca make up the Ruta Barroco Andino.  It is sort of surprising to see such opulent churches is towns such small towns.

Andahuaylillas

The town of Andahuaylillas is situated about an hour south of Cusco in the province of Quispicanchi.  Andahuaylillas was founded in 1572 by the Spanish as one of the reducciones that were created to re-settle native populations and facilitate their conversion to Christianity as well as to create a ready supply of easily exploitable labor.  

 Iglesia de San Pedro, Andahuaylillas

Iglesia de San Pedro, Andahuaylillas

 Street corner in  Andahuaylillas

Street corner in Andahuaylillas

After traveling from Puno at over 12,500 feet, Andahuaylillas felt almost tropical at 10,000 ft. The main attraction at Andahuaylillas is the Iglesia de San Pedro.  The Jesuits began construction in 1570.  The building was completed in 1606.

 Ornate entrance to  Iglesia de San Pedro, Andahuaylillas

Ornate entrance to Iglesia de San Pedro, Andahuaylillas

The Iglesia de San Pedro is located on the southwest corner of the Plaza de Armas.  It was originally the site of a huaca, or Inca holy site.  The Iglesia de San Pedro is known as the Sistine Chapel of the Americas because of the ornate baroque interior.  The walls are completely covered with murals and canvases.  The altar is most impressive.

  Iglesia de San Pedro from the Plaza de Armas

Iglesia de San Pedro from the Plaza de Armas

 Riaño's  Camino al Cielo y Camino al Infrierno.   From the blog  De Arte y Cultura

Riaño's Camino al Cielo y Camino al Infrierno.  From the blog De Arte y Cultura

Juan Perez de Bocanegra was the parish priest for Andahuaylillas when the church was completed.  He was responsible for commissioning Luis de Riaño to paint the impressive murals that adorn the inside walls in the 1620s.  Luis de Riaño's most famous mural is the Camino al Cielo y Camino al Infierno which is painted around the main entrance on the inside of the church.  The painting depicts the paths to Heaven and Hell.  

 Baroque interior of the Iglesia de San Pedro.  From  Ruta Barroca Andina

Baroque interior of the Iglesia de San Pedro.  From Ruta Barroca Andina

Many of the paintings incorporate native religious symbols in an effort to evangelize the local population. This is the same reason the church was built on an Inca shrine.  Another example of incorporating native symbolism into the church is the very prominent Sun that sits atop the altar.  Inti, or the Sun, was one of the primary Inca deities.

  Crosses at Iglesia de San Pedro, Andahuaylillas

Crosses at Iglesia de San Pedro, Andahuaylillas

Huaro

About five minutes south of Andahuaylillas is the town of Huaro.  Like Andahuaylillas, Huaro is home to a very ornate baroque church, San Juan Bautista de Huaro.  Both towns are located along the Inca road system that went south from Cusco.  

 San Juan Bautista de Huaro Church in Huaro

San Juan Bautista de Huaro Church in Huaro

San Juan Bautista de Huaro is a Jesuit church that was built in the late 16th century.  Murals were painted on the walls and ceiling, new ones often covering older ones.  The murals are aimed at explaining the Christian cosmology to the native population and they often incorporated Andean symbols.  

 San Juan Bautista de Huaro bell tower

San Juan Bautista de Huaro bell tower

 Choir loft of the San Juan Bautista church in Huaro.  Image from  Ruta del Barroca Andina

Choir loft of the San Juan Bautista church in Huaro.  Image from Ruta del Barroca Andina

There are several canvasses on the walls as well that are typical of the Cusco School of painting. The most notable artist whose work is in the church is Tadeo Escalante.

 Intricate stone patterns in the plaza in front of the church

Intricate stone patterns in the plaza in front of the church

 Street in Huaro

Street in Huaro

There is a long history of human settlement in the Huaro region.  This area was settled by the Wari people long before the Inca and later, the Spanish.  The nearby ruins, Pikillaqta or "Flea Town", date to this period.  Excavations in Huaro itself also revealed Wari settlements.

 San Juan Bautista de Huaro

San Juan Bautista de Huaro

Both Huaro and Andahuaylillas lie in the Vilcanota River Valley.  The Vilcanota ultimately becomes the Urubamba and flows through the Sacred Valley of the Incas, eventually winding around the mountains that kept Machu Picchu hidden for centuries.  Huaro and Andahuaylillas are also situated on what was once the main Inca road that led from Cusco to Lake Titicaca.  They are very small towns that would be easily overlooked if it weren't for their ornate baroque churches.  If you are staying in Cusco, they are well worth a visit.  Another way to see them is by using bus services, like the Inka Express, which run between Puno to Cusco, although your time is rather limited in each town.

 

 Building on the Plaza de Armas in Huaro

Building on the Plaza de Armas in Huaro

Temple of Viracocha, Raqchi

 Central wall of the Temple of Viracocha in Raqchi

Central wall of the Temple of Viracocha in Raqchi

After crossing the highest along route 3 at Abra la Raya, you find yourself in the Vilcanota River Valley. The Vilcanota ultimately becomes the Urubamba River which flows through the Sacred Valley and around Machu Picchu.  These are the headwaters of one of the most significant rivers in the Andes.  The Urubamba eventually empties into the Amazon.

 Vilcanota River Valley on the northern side of the Abra la Raya pass

Vilcanota River Valley on the northern side of the Abra la Raya pass

The first major site along the way is the Temple of Viracocha at Raqchi.  Viracocha was the creator deity of the Incas.  Viracocha was said to have originated from the depths of Lake Titicaca to create the world.  While traveling north from Lake Titicaca, he stopped in Raqchi where he was insulted by the local Canas people.  He got mad and decided to rain fire down upon the Canas.  The fire apparently came from the local volcano, Kinsachata, which still has black volcanic rock on its sides.  The Canas must have been thoroughly impressed by this demonstration since they ultimately became loyal subjects to the Inca and built a statue to honor Virachocha.  Over time, this statue became the focal point of successive temples to Viracocha, ultimately culminating in one of the largest buildings in the Inca Empire, the Temple of Viracocha at Raqchi.

 View of the central wall on the western side of the site

View of the central wall on the western side of the site

The remains of the temple at Raqchi are very imposing.  The temple complex would have dominated the Vilacnota River valley.  The last incarnation of the site was built by Huayna Capac, the last Inca emperor to rule a united empire.

The overall site is nearly 200 acres.  A 2 mile long wall that runs along the hills encloses the site.

 Temple of Virachocha

Temple of Virachocha

The most impressive of the ruins is the central wall of the the temple.  Sitting out on the plain, it resembles a Roman aqueduct.  The wall is 39 feet tall.  The first 9 feet are made of finely worked Inca masonry.  The base of the wall is reminiscent of the quality of stonework on palaces and temples in other Inca estates along the Vilcanota/Urubamba River in Pisac and Ollantaytambo. 

 Detail of the adobe portion of the central wall

Detail of the adobe portion of the central wall

What sets this site apart from other ruins is the vertical scale of the wall.  The upper 30 feet of the central wall is made of adobe.  Today it is capped with tiles to preserve the adobe.  Originally it would have supported a pitched roof that would have covered 25,000 square feet, making it one of the largest canchas, or halls, built by the Incas.

 An interpretation of how the Temple of Viracocha may have looked by Graziano Gasparini and Luise Margolies

An interpretation of how the Temple of Viracocha may have looked by Graziano Gasparini and Luise Margolies

A series of 11 circular columns on either side of the wall helped to support the roof.  The circular columns at Raqchi are quite rare in Inca architecture.  As with the central wall, the base was made of finely worked stone and was topped with adobe.  There is only one remaining intact column.

 Eastern side of the wall.  Note the circular column in the distance.

Eastern side of the wall.  Note the circular column in the distance.

The Inca chronicler, Garcilaso de la Vega described the interior of the temple as being like a labyrinth.  Visitors would walk in a zigzag pattern through the openings in the central wall and the circular columns ultimately arriving at the statue of Viracocha.  The Spanish, seeing the temple as an affront to the church, ended up destroying the temple and statue.

 One of the surviving column bases

One of the surviving column bases

Just to the east of the Temple of Viracocha is what was likely a residential area.  The construction of the back to back buildings mirrors the temple itself, with each building having a large central wall that divides each structure into two symmetrical dwellings.  Like the temple they are made of stone at the base with taller adobe walls on top.

 One of the buildings in the residential area.  This one did not have the taller adobe wall on top any longer, but others can be seen in the distance.

One of the buildings in the residential area.  This one did not have the taller adobe wall on top any longer, but others can be seen in the distance.

 View of the residential sector

View of the residential sector

 The main avenue that runs through the residential area.  The buildings on either side are perfectly symmetrical and the road is oriented east-west.

The main avenue that runs through the residential area.  The buildings on either side are perfectly symmetrical and the road is oriented east-west.

South of the residential sector is a series of 80 circular structures that were probably used for storage.  Circular architecture like this is uncommon in typical Inca architecture.  Archaeologists Bill Silar and Emily Dean believe that these structures were built by the pre-Inca Huari-Tiahuanaco culture.

 Circular storage  qollqa

Circular storage qollqa

 There are approximately 80 structures like this in various states of ruin along this wall

There are approximately 80 structures like this in various states of ruin along this wall

There is a swampy area that was once a reflecting pool near the entrance to the temple.  This is consistent with the design of complexes built under Huayna Capac's rule.  There were similar pools on his estate in Urubamba.

 One time reflecting pool

One time reflecting pool

When the Incas conquered the Canas people, they incorporated the Canas beliefs and holy sites, ultimately putting their own spin on it.  Raqchi became a mythical stop on Viracocha's journey from Lake Titicaca to Cusco.  They built the temple complex in the heartland of the Canas and made them a key part of the Inca empire.  

 Colonial church in San Pedro near Raqchi

Colonial church in San Pedro near Raqchi

The Spaniards attempted to do the same thing.  They saw a resemblance between the statue of Viracocha and Saint Bartholomew.  They encouraged the natives to take Bartholomew as their patron saint. Like the Inca, the Spanish would often construct their churches on the foundations of Inca holy sites in an effort to co-opt the sites.

 

 Detail of bell tower on church

Detail of bell tower on church

 Cross in the small plaza outside of the church

Cross in the small plaza outside of the church

A town four miles up the road from Raqchi, San Barolomeo de Tinta, was named for Saint Bartholomew.  Tinta ended up being the base of Tupac Amaru II's rebellion against the Spanish that tore through the Andes in 1780, ultimately threatening Spanish Colonial rule.  Amaru was finally captured and taken to the main plaza in Cusco where we was drawn and quartered.

 

Much of the background for this post came from Susan Niles' The Shape of Inca History: Narrative and Architecture in an Andean Empire and John Hemming and Edward Ranney's Monuments of the Incas

 

Altiplano, Pucara and Apu Chimboya

The Altiplano

Just down the road from Sillustani are a series of traditional country homes.  While only an hour or so from Puno, it is a different world.  The whole region is known as the altiplano, which translates to “high plain.”  The altiplano stretches from northern Chile and Argentina, through Bolivia and up along the Andes into southern Peru.  The average altitude is 12,300 ft.

 Traditional country home along road to Sillustani

Traditional country home along road to Sillustani

 Weaver near Sillustani.  Note the  toritos,  or little bulls, on the rooftop.  They are a very common decoration in the altiplano, even up into Cusco.

Weaver near Sillustani.  Note the toritos, or little bulls, on the rooftop.  They are a very common decoration in the altiplano, even up into Cusco.

 View from the courtyard of a home near Sillustani

View from the courtyard of a home near Sillustani

Traveling along Route 3 from Puno to Cusco, there is a stark, barren beauty everywhere you look.  Homes and villages are interspersed along the way.

 Walking home along the altiplano

Walking home along the altiplano

 Rural cemetery along Route 3

Rural cemetery along Route 3

Pucara

Pucara is a small town of fewer than 2,000 inhabitants 67 miles north of Puno.  

 Motorcycle in front of small shop just off the Plaza de Armas in Pucara

Motorcycle in front of small shop just off the Plaza de Armas in Pucara

For such a small town, Pucara is widely known throughout the region for the pottery that is produced there.  In particular, toritos, the little pairs of bulls that are found on rooftops from Puno to Cusco originated here.  The toritos are said to be symbols of luck and fertility.

 An ornate  torito  on a fence post outside of the the Iglesia Santa Isabel

An ornate torito on a fence post outside of the the Iglesia Santa Isabel

 More rooftop  toritos

More rooftop toritos

The Plaza de Armas in Pucara is an attractive little square dominated by Iglesia Santa Isabel. Santa Isabel was built by the Jesuits in 1767 in the typical Andean Baroque style that is so common throughout the altiplano.

 Santa Isabel

Santa Isabel

North to Abra la Raya

North of Pucara there are a series of small homes and villages along Route 3.  This high plains slowly grow into much taller peaks in the distance.

 Motorcycle somewhere north of Pucara

Motorcycle somewhere north of Pucara

 The village of Santa Rosa

The village of Santa Rosa

 Farm with the mountain, Khunurana, in the background.

Farm with the mountain, Khunurana, in the background.

 Village church just before the Abra la Raya pass.

Village church just before the Abra la Raya pass.

After passing Santa Rosa, it was just a little bit further to the Abra la Raya pass.  This is where the Puno Department ends and the Cusco department begins.  The pass is at an altitude of 14,172 feet, which I believe is the highest I've ever been.

 Woman at the Abra la Raya pass

Woman at the Abra la Raya pass

The waters which flow from the mountains in the La Raya range ultimately form the headwaters of the Urubamaba River which ultimately flows through the Sacred Valley and around Machu Picchu.

 Apu Chimboya

Apu Chimboya

Sillustani

The dramatic ruins at Sillustani are a little over 20 miles northwest of Puno.  The site consists of a number of funerary towers, or chullpas, that were originally built by the Collas, and ethnically Aymara people that were eventually conquered by the Inca in the 15th century.  The Incas continued the tradition of building these towers.

 Chullpa Hatunwasi Chambilla

Chullpa Hatunwasi Chambilla

 Lago Umayo

Lago Umayo

The site sits on a peninsula that rises above Lake Umayo.  You get to the site by traveling to the small town of Sillustani which sits just to the east of the peninsula.  Lake Umayo lies just northwest of Lake Titicaca roughly half way between Puno and Juliaca.

 The Intihuatana at Sillustani

The Intihuatana at Sillustani

Intihuatana, which roughly translates from Quechua to "hitching post of the Sun", are ritual stones that are used to worship and observe the passing of the sun.  The most famous example is the Intihuatana at Machu Picchu.  On the walk up to the chullpas at Sillustani you walk past this small temple which once housed Sillustani's Intihuatana.

 Chullpa Lagarto (Lizard Chullpa)

Chullpa Lagarto (Lizard Chullpa)

Ancestor worship and the preservation of mummies were central to many Andean cultures.  The chullpas of Sillustani were where the elite of this region would reside after death.

  Chullpa Hatunwasi Chambilla

Chullpa Hatunwasi Chambilla

Most of the chullpas contained the remains of multiple individuals and were likely used to preserve and venerate ancestral lineages, or ayllus.  The chullpas were also used to assert ethnic identity and territorial control.

 Some of the more rustic chullpas

Some of the more rustic chullpas

 Lago Umayo, with Isla Umayo in the background

Lago Umayo, with Isla Umayo in the background

Isla Umayo, the largest island in Lake Umayo, is now a preserve that is used to protect vicuña, the small, wild relative of the llama.  Dating back to Inca times, vicuña have been a protected species.  Their very fine, warm wool can only be collected once every three years.

 Chullpa Lagarto

Chullpa Lagarto

Chullpa Lagarto is a partially collapsed tower that shows the rough interior that is located beneath the finely worked exterior.  High up on the north side of this tower is a carving of lizard, which gives the tower its name.

 The archaeological site seen from the town of Sillustani

The archaeological site seen from the town of Sillustani

Taquile

From the Uros Islands, we continued on to the island of Taquile.  It was another two hours or so by motorboat.  Taquile is about 22 miles from Puno, the major city on the shore of Lake Titicaca.

 Jose, who ferried us around Lake Titicaca.  Some of the traditional Uros boats can be seen in the background.

Jose, who ferried us around Lake Titicaca.  Some of the traditional Uros boats can be seen in the background.

 Taquile and the bow of Jose's boat. A panorama taken with my phone.

Taquile and the bow of Jose's boat. A panorama taken with my phone.

The islanders of Taquile maintain a very traditional lifestyle.  There are no cars or asphalt roads on the island.  Nor are there hotels.  If you want to stay the night, a homestay with a local family is the only way to do it.  Families take travelers in for homestays on a rotating system.  

 Agricultural terraces and the trail up from Puerto Alsuno on the north end of the island.

Agricultural terraces and the trail up from Puerto Alsuno on the north end of the island.

Agriculture, weaving and tourism are the major sources of income on Taquile.  

 The island of Amantani in the background.

The island of Amantani in the background.

Potatoes, quinoa and barley are rotated throughout the terraces annually.

 Moving the sheep to a different pasture

Moving the sheep to a different pasture

During periods when the terraces are left fallow, livestock graze on them to provide fertilizer.

 Cows on the terraces

Cows on the terraces

 A small adobe building on the path.  Probably used for storage.

A small adobe building on the path.  Probably used for storage.

 Apparently, recycled shoes make great hinges!

Apparently, recycled shoes make great hinges!

 Sheep with one hell of a view.  Bolivia is in the background.

Sheep with one hell of a view.  Bolivia is in the background.

One version of the Inca origin story says that the mythic first Inca ruler, Manco Capac, emerged from the depths of Lake Titicaca and then marched on to Cusco to found the Inca Empire.  In reality, the Incas, led by Pachacutec, conquered the Collas in the Lake Titicaca basin in the mid 1400s.  The myth was probably an attempt at incorporating the local Aymara people in to the empire.

 Arco de Taquile in the main plaza.

Arco de Taquile in the main plaza.

Much of the population of Taquile is descended from Inca colonists.  Quechua is still the primary language, although nearly everyone speaks Spanish as well.

 Main plaza in Taquile.

Main plaza in Taquile.

The weaving and knitting traditions on Taquile date back to pre-Inca times.  Men typically knit the chullos (caps with ear flaps) and women weave chumpis (traditional belts).

 Man knitting a chullo in the main plaza.

Man knitting a chullo in the main plaza.

 View of the island looking west

View of the island looking west

 Another of the many stone arches on Taquile

Another of the many stone arches on Taquile

There is one primary school on Taquile and another that teaches traditional handicrafts.

 Girls weaving bracelets outside of the main main square

Girls weaving bracelets outside of the main main square

 Young girl in traditional dress

Young girl in traditional dress

 The view from above Puerto Chilcano.  

The view from above Puerto Chilcano.  

Despite being only about 5 square miles, Taquile is basically a mountain that juts out of Lake Titicaca.  The main plaza is fairly centrally located on the island, but can be easily reached from any of the ports.  It does, however, require climbing a lot of stairs.

 Chewing coca leafs before sailing back to Puno.

Chewing coca leafs before sailing back to Puno.

After going down the stairs to Puerto Chilcano, we caught a boat for the long trip back to Puno. After a quick motorcycle rickshaw ride, we spent the night in a very comfortable bed at Casa Panqarani.

Uros Islands

The Uros Islands are floating islands made of totora reeds that grow near the shore of Lake Titicaca near Puno.  The islands are anchored into place with ropes that radiate out from the edge of the islands.  New reeds are continually laid on top as the reeds at the bottom begin to decompose.

 The Uros Islands

The Uros Islands

To get to the Uros Islands it was a two hour ride in a small boat with an outboard motor. 


 Jose and the boat that brought us to the Uros Islands.  Another floating island can be seen in the distance.

Jose and the boat that brought us to the Uros Islands.  Another floating island can be seen in the distance.

The Uros people are thought to descend from some of the earliest settlers of the Altiplano, the Urus.  Over time they intermarried with the ethnic Aymaras on the mainland and adopted the Aymara language.  Today, Aymara is the predominant native language south of the Puno region and well into Bolivia.  To the north, Quechua is more common.

 A typical home on the Uros Islands

A typical home on the Uros Islands

Totora reeds are used for making the islands, the houses and even the boats, known as balsas. The roofs are waterproof because the reeds expand when they come into contact with moisture, the houses need to be rebuilt and repaired regularly.    

 Balsa

Balsa

Today, the balsas are built with empty plastic jugs inside the reeds to help with buoyancy.  The boats typically last a year or two before becoming too waterlogged to float.  

 The totora reeds are in the background with the mountains on the shore even further off in the distance

The totora reeds are in the background with the mountains on the shore even further off in the distance

The Uros people took to the floating islands to put some distance between themselves and a succession of more belligerent neighbors, the Collas, Incas and ultimately the Spanish.  While fishing was the traditional means of subsistence, today tourism is the main livelihood.  There are no shortages of embroidered tapestries or handicrafts made of totora reeds.

 Children playing on rolled up reed mats

Children playing on rolled up reed mats

Many of the smaller islands are home to only one or two families. The children attend school on one of the larger reed islands.

 Children playing on the Uros with the Chucuito Peninsula in the background

Children playing on the Uros with the Chucuito Peninsula in the background

Llachon

This August we took a short trip to Peru, our second in the last few years.  One of the first places we visited was the small town of Llachon on the Capachica Peninsula in Lake Titicaca.

 Throughout the Lake Titicaca region, arches like this are very common.

Throughout the Lake Titicaca region, arches like this are very common.

 

Llachon is about a three hour drive from Puno.  We took a colectivo (a very cramped, but inexpensive, mini-bus) to the town of Capachica.  From there we hopped on another colectivo to get to Llachon.  On the last leg of the trip I was seated next to the door, so I was the de facto doorman (which allowed me to hop out and snap the occasional photo).  

 Adobe bricks being dried in the sun at one of the places we pulled over to let someone out after departing Capachicha.

Adobe bricks being dried in the sun at one of the places we pulled over to let someone out after departing Capachicha.

I had made arrangements to stay at the Hospedaje Samary with Felix Turpo.  In Llachon, there are no house numbers or road names and GPS is useless.  Finding Felix’s house could have been a challenge.  I asked the colectivo driver if he knew where Felix lived and he gave a vague “down this dirt road and to the right.”  His directions didn’t instill confidence.  By the time we got to Llachon there was only a mother and her daughter left on the bus with us.  Not really wanting to wander aimlessly around the town knocking on doors, I asked the mother if she knew Felix Turpo.  As luck would have it, she was Felix's sister.  She lived just down the road from him.

 As close to an address as you get in Llachon.  The sign that points to Felix Turpo's home, Hospedaje Samary

As close to an address as you get in Llachon.  The sign that points to Felix Turpo's home, Hospedaje Samary

Felix’s home was perched right above Lake Titicaca.  There are no hotels in Llachon, the only option for spending the night is to do a homestay with a local family.

 A view of Hospedaje Samray, overlooking Lake Titicaca.

A view of Hospedaje Samray, overlooking Lake Titicaca.

There are hiking trails in the mountains above the town that lead up to Cerro Incacaros.  Llachon is 12,555 ft. (3,626 m.) above sea level, so it is easy to get winded while walking around, let alone while hiking.  I had picked up a bag of coca leaves in Puno.  These help with the altitude and give you a nice little boost of energy.  I put them to good use hiking in the hills.

 The view from part of the way up the main hiking trail in Llachon.

The view from part of the way up the main hiking trail in Llachon.

The trails were used to get sheep up to pastures in the hills to graze.  

 This girl was leading her sheep back to the village as we were heading up.

This girl was leading her sheep back to the village as we were heading up.

 Woman spinning wool while watching her sheep.

Woman spinning wool while watching her sheep.

 The stone walls divided up different pastures.

The stone walls divided up different pastures.

In one of the pastures, a very friendly donkey walked over to greet us.

 Friendly Llachonian donkey.

Friendly Llachonian donkey.

From near the top of Cerro Incacaros, there were good views of Isla Taquile, which we visited the next day.

 The island of Taquile off in the distance.

The island of Taquile off in the distance.

Before heading back to Hospedaje Samary, we walked down to the lake to get a closer look.  

 Boats like this are the primary means of transport around Lake Titicaca.  We took one the following day to get to the Uros Islands and Taquile.

Boats like this are the primary means of transport around Lake Titicaca.  We took one the following day to get to the Uros Islands and Taquile.

By the time we got back to Felix’s, it was time for dinner--fresh trout from the lake, quinoa soup, and potatoes.  Absolutely delicious.

 The dining room  at Hospedaje Samary.

The dining room  at Hospedaje Samary.

After dinner the sun was setting over Lake Titicaca and we were treated to quite a view.

 Sunset on Lake Titicaca

Sunset on Lake Titicaca

 Enjoying the view

Enjoying the view