Why did the Incas always build on hill tops?

Today I set off for Tipon once again. As the bus stop was nowhere near the historic centre, I wasn’t distracted from my mission today. The lady in the tourist office had told me that the bus station was some way out of town. I never actually found the correct place but waited at a bus stop on the right road out of the city until a bus came along that had Tipon on the front.

Walking up to Tipon
Walking up to Tipon

The journey took about an hour and Tipon was the terminus for the bus so that part was easy. I then elected to walk up to the archaeological site rather than take a taxi. (I was being a little stubborn here as I had had enough of being harassed by people selling souvenirs and massages, which is a constant in Cusco, and I put taxi drivers in the same category.) Of course, it was quite a long way in the heat of the day up a vertical stairway, so I almost regretted my decision. Why did the Incas always build on hill tops?! And why were the steps they built so deep? It makes them very difficult for short people!

On the way up to the Tipon archaeological site
On the way up to the Tipon archaeological site

Tipon is another site whose origin is a little mysterious. It was most likely to have been an experimental laboratory for agricultural produce with various micro climates. The terraces were extremely well kept with no llamas or strimmers/brushcutters in sight. (All the sites I have visited so far have had the accompanying sound of strimmers/brushcutters. I don’t think they have discovered lawn mowers in Peru yet!) The main feature of Tipon is the irrigation channels and water fountains. The Incas were renowned for their hydraulic engineering apparently.

The terraces at Tipon
The terraces at Tipon

Apart from a tour group that came and went, there were not many other visitors, so I sat for a while and then followed the irrigation channel up the hill, further and further. I eventually decided I had gone far enough when I topped another hill and saw it trailing onwards and upwards. It was extremely cold and windy at the top so I was pleased to descend again (although there was a good view towards Cusco and up the valley the other way.)

View from Tipon down the valley
View from Tipon down the valley

After spending a couple of hours wandering around, I retraced my steps back to the village from where I caught a collectivo for my return trip to Cusco.

Corn drying in Tipon
Corn drying in Tipon
There were a lot of people congregated here - maybe the local chicha house?!
There were a lot of people congregated here – maybe the local chicha house?!

In true collectivo fashion, the vehicle was packed to the gills and yet we still picked up more people. I counted about 20 people plus the driver and conductor at one stage. There were at least 4 people standing up (or at least, standing as well as they could, given the restrictive height of the van.) For some strange reason, this trip cost more than the bus but at least it went right into the city centre so I didn’t have to walk far once I got off.

Saint being taken into the Cathedral
Saint being taken into the Cathedral

Back in the centre, I discovered that today’s event was even bigger than yesterday’s. There were about ten times as many people and I had to fight my way through the hordes to get to my cafe. I was absolutely starving, as I hadn’t had any lunch, and it was nearly 5 o’clock by then, so I had coffee and lemon meringue pie i.e. pudding before the main course!

Street cleaners at work in the Plaza
Street cleaners at work in the Plaza

From my perch in the cafe, I was able to watch the last of the Saints being manoeuvred through the Cathedral door. They had obviously all been taken out for another airing and been processed round the Plaza, complete with their accompanying bands. If anything, the noise was even greater today than yesterday.

Cooking cows hearts on the barbecue
Cooking cows hearts on the barbecue

Feeling suitably refreshed, I started to have a wander around but decided I was too tired, so fought my way through the crowds and up a side street that I thought might be less crowded. Not so! It was, in fact, absolutely packed with lots of ladies grilling cows’ heart kebabs on their barbecues and people sitting around drinking beer.

I made my way to Jack’s Cafe, where I had had an excellent very large bowl of soup once before, and, as I was so cold, it was exactly what I wanted at that moment. Once there, I ended up sitting at a table with an unbelievably talkative English woman, who had booked a private tour but joined up with other people on tours along the way, as well. She was a little disappointed to be doing the Inca Trail on her own as the other people who had booked had fallen sick and pulled out, so she had about 5 porters, a cook and a guide all to herself!

I could hardly get a word in edgeways so concentrated on drinking my soup. Afterwards, I picked up my laundry and retreated to my room for one final night, thank goodness!

Corpus Christi in Cusco

I set off this morning to go to Tipon. However, there was far too much happening in town for me to proceed with my intentions and I spent the day observing the celebrations for Corpus Christi instead. I had understood that the major event was tomorrow but I was obviously wrong.

Dancers in the middle of the food stalls
Dancers in the middle of the food stalls

In San Francisco Plaza, covered tables had been set up in rows and ladies on every stand produced exactly the same plate of food for exactly the same price of 22 soles. As I found out later when I tried a plate (for I really could not not try it!), it comprised guinea pig, chicken, a fried cornbread, seaweed, sausage and some sort of fish roe. There must have been some significance in the specific food but I have no idea what. There were so many stalls that it was hard to select one and I noticed that a lot of the cooks were offering samples of the bread so maybe that was a critical factor. One man also told me that the state of the guinea pig’s skin gave a good indication of whether it was going to be well cooked or not. (Needless to say, I couldn’t tell!)

Corpus Christi lunch!
Corpus Christi lunch!
Roasted guinea pig and chicken
Roasted guinea pig and chicken

The plate of food was interesting but I don’t think I would be rushing to have it again. The chicken was excellent and the guinea pig did not have an overpowering taste, but the rest of it was either tasteless (seaweed), too greasy (corn bread) or totally unappealing (fish roe). I washed it down with a beer but mistakenly ordered a brown beer instead of light so even that was a bit of a struggle to drink. However, I was able to sit for an hour and observe the crowds, which is always entertaining.

One of the tables used to rest the Saints
One of the tables used to rest the Saints

The main event seemed to be a continuous parade of saints, who were mounted on platforms and were carried firstly into the Santa Clara church and later into the Cathedral in Plaza de Armas. Many of the statues were extremely heavy, judging by the sight of the men straining to carry them, and these ones were preceded by tables so that the men could rest the statues occasionally. Each Saint was accompanied by it own brass band, so the noise was phenomenal, as they were all playing within 50-100 metres of each other and all, of course, were blasting forth different tunes.

One of the many groups in the procession
One of the many groups in the procession

There was a huge variety of local costumes to view and each region or town must have arrived with their own particular Saint. It was all very colourful.

Later in the afternoon, I made my daily visit to the Cappuccino Cafe in the Plaza from where I was able to watch the parade of Saints continuing. On my way back to my room, I passed several areas where the party was continuing, with much beer being consumed! It is obviously a very festive occasion.