Thursday early morning, January 31, 2019
There was no guarantee that we’d see the Andean Condor today. They glide on thermal currents, using the wind and the sun to soar. Today, it’s cloudy and chilly, but we arose early this morning to travel to Colca Canyon and try our luck.
Along the way, we stopped in the Village of Yanque, not far from Colca Lodge, to visit Immaculata Concepcion Church. This church was built in the 1800s, from white sillar stone. It had been damaged in an earthquake three years ago, so there are now wooden braces supporting the steeple and bell tower.
There is a lovely rock design leading up to the front door. Inside are several altars. At the first one, the Virgin Mary is dressed in local attire, including the hat, reflecting the Collahua culture. Different ethnic groups have their own style of dress, and each dress their female saints in that style. The hats of each village are designed to honor their gods.
Peru is 90% Roman Catholic. However, they have incorporated much of their own religion into their practices. They still honor the gods of the Incas along with the Christian God.
Besides the hats, textiles vary from village to village as well, telling the story of the families, so it is ea know where the person comes from. Some blankets are used by women to carry their babies, and to carry the items they will need for the day, sort of an Inca backpack. They wrap their goods in the blanket, sling it behind their backs, and tie it in front. Woven belts also tell their stories.
The male saints in the church look like Spaniards, complete with beards. Most of the local men did not have facial hair at the time, and they may have thought that all foreigners looked like the Spaniards. Our guide told us that her father is descended from Inca, and he doesn’t have facial hair.
We made a few stops along the way to enjoy the views, which are incredible. The green fields, the beige river, the brown soil all contribute to the beauty of the Colca Valley. This area is very fertile. There are many terraces, dating from the Incas, that are still being used in farming today. The highest cultivated terrace in Peru is near Lake Titicaca, at 15,000 feet. The Incas were very strategic in designing the terraces, taking advantage of the wind and sun, and planting crops where they would grow the best.
When the Inca came to an area, they first tried to conquer by intermarriage. If that wasn’t effective, they’d cut off the water supply. Battle was a last resort. The Inca did not force their beliefs on the people they conquered; rather they respected the conquered people’s right to practice their own religion, and maintain their own political systems. The Inca often adopted the technology of the people they conquered.
Quinoa is an important crop in Peru. At home, we’ve only seen the white variety, which grows from sea level to 12,000 feet altitude, red and black grow at higher elevations. The red and black are said to be of higher quality than the white. Quinoa leaves can be eaten like spinach. The seeds grow at the top of the plant, which can grow to 6 feet in height. The seeds must be rinsed five times to make them edible. The first rinse produces a poisonous liquid that can be used to wash clothing.
We’ll be looking for some of the red and black quinoa to take home with us. But for now, we’re headed for Colca Canyon and the Andean Condor.