unbekannter Gast

Ruins in Peru, 4000 Meters above Sea Level#


By

Hasso Hohmann


I always feel a bit anxious if I arrive for departure of my flight at the end of a trip in the very last moment. Hence I tend to plan to be at the place of my return flight one or two days before departure. Therefore, I had already prepared for my Peru trip in 2004 a tight program for the last two days in and around Lima including the ruin of Marcahuasi, an archaeological site about 80 km east-northeast of Lima Peru, Lima .

At the end of August - and as usual on such journeys - I got up early, before 6:00 am, had a quick breakfast, took a city bus across Lima to the bus station for Chosica. There I arrived just in time at 7.00 am to get a seat in the departing Microbus to Chosica. Because almost all passengers wanted to get to its final destination, the minibus was driving fast and reached Chosica already at 8:15. A height measurement showed 855 m above sea level. Unfortunately, the fast drive was of no help for the onward journey, because I had to wait until 9.00 clock for the connecting bus. On the way to San Pedro de Costa the road has partly been directly into the rock of the steep mountain faces. Over long distances only one lane of the road is open. For this reason it is always determinded by radio in which direction the road can be used.

Looking back onto the road in Rimac Valley
Looking back onto the road in Rimac Valley.
Photo: H. Hohmann 2004

Until 9:00 a.m. I had a look at the small town, bought some provisions for the planned hike, and visited the church of Santo Toribio de Mogrovejo. The church was built in Neo-Gothic style in 1921 and looks unusual. At 9.00 clock we got off, quite on time, into the nearby Andes.

The route between Chosica and San Pedro de Casta is certainly one of the most beautiful in the Andes. Initially, the ascending valley is still relatively broad and fertile. This is the area for farming. Repeatedly, the water from the Rimac River is funneled through long artificial canals to the terraces. But soon the valley becomes narrower and drier. Partly, the narrow road has been worked into the rocks to its sides and the river disappears into a canyon which is no longer visible. At its upper end the canyon becomes so narrow that only a short bridge had to be constructed across the canyon to reach the road to San Pedro de Casta on the other side of the valley. Directly above this bridge, there is a barrier which in case of heavy rain in the drainage area above it can back up the water. When we drove across the bridge, the rock on which the road was built fell revealed a big drop to the bottom of the dried-up reservoir.

From here, the winding road ascends steeply on the other side of the valley. After about an hour driving time there was a 25 minute break. On the bus, I was sitting next to an elderly physics professor from Lima, who had already caught my eye in Chosica and who claimed that he had to go up to San Pedro de Casta fortnightly to leave the terrible air in Lima behind and to fill his lungs with the clean air of the Andes. His son was just about to build a small hotel in San Pedro - probably mainly for his father. After the break, we continued our trip without further stopping except for hop-on/hop-off passengers up to the small plateau of San Pedro de Casta, where we arrived at 12.00 at an altitude of 3.160 m.

I inquired about an accommodation possibility and ended up with the professor's son, carried my luggage to my rented room, took only the the bare necessities into my hand luggage and started out for Marcahuasi. At the beginning also a young Peruvian couple was in on it but gave up already after a few hundred meters, because the woman could not catch enough air anymore. The man continued for about one kilometer and then told me that he also had prblems with the thin air and had a headache - he said they were going straight back to Lima.

San Pedro de Casta from above
San Pedro de Casta from above.
Photo: H. Hohmann 2004
Mother with child in San Pedro de Casta.
Mother with child in San Pedro de Casta.
Photo: H. Hohmann 2004

I walked almost two hours to a pass where a small sign pointed to the ruins. The now much narrower path ascended even more steeply and finally led through a gate into a small hollow surrounded by rock walls with a small stone house and several U-shaped walls, which were probably on occasions joined with a tent to create an emergency shelter. From this little valley I soon ascended southwards to the great plateau and tried to find the ruins of Marcahuasi.

Unfortunately, I had started out in the wrong direction. In this way I got to know the extensive summit plateau of the mountain, which is relatively flat and just under 4,000 meters above seal level. At one point only 5 m are missing. Not far from the deepest spot several broad, softly shaped rocks surround a place like the battlements of a mighty fortress. In two places there are sinks, in which water accumulates to this day, was probably already used in pre-Columbian times. The northern one of them is called Laguna Marcahuasi today. Further to the south on this rock plateau, at the end of a deeply incised, broad valley with a narrow outflow, one can clearly see the remains of an artificially built dam which could once withhold even much more water at this level.

Large basin on the Plateau with small dam wall. Here water could be collected for people living up here and for agriculture
Large basin on the Plateau with small dam wall. Here water could be collected for people living up here and for agriculture.
Photo: H. Hohmann 2004
Stones, strangely polished by weather, on the plateau of Marcahuasi.
Stones, strangely polished by weather, on the plateau of Marcahuasi.
Photo: H. Hohmann 2004

Then I went back and searched the area north of the ascent for the ruins. If one walks from the deepest part a somewhat hidden path to the north, one arrives at a first pre-Columbian building. Farther north, to the east and west, follow in some distance the ruins of the palace complexes, up to three storeys high, as well as some small tombs arranged in groups and rows, the chullpas. Unfortunately, due to the long search it had become quite late. In August the sun sets here considerably before 6 pm. So I could only take pictures of the buildings in great haste in the last light of the day. The mountain scenery, in which the ruins stand, is incredibly diverse and beautiful. Right in the last evening light the entire landscape glowed again. Then I had to go back to San Pedro de Casta quickly.

Multi-storey ruins in Marcahuasi.
Multi-storey ruins in Marcahuasi.
Photo: H. Hohmann 2004
Three-storey palace ruines, 4000 m above sea level.
Three-storey palace ruines, 4000 m above sea level.
Photo: H. Hohmann 2004
Tombs, Chullpas, and ruins of Marcahuasi.
Tombs, Chullpas, and ruins of Marcahuasi.
Photo: H. Hohmann 2004
Chullpas
Chullpas.
Photo: H. Hohmann 2004
Chullpa with two entrances.
Chullpa with two entrances.
Photo: H. Hohmann 2004
Chullpa with five entrances; it was built in different construction phases.
Chullpa with five entrances; it was built in different construction phases.
Photo: H. Hohmann 2004
The last sunset glow, near Marcahuasi.
The last sunset glow, near Marcahuasi.
Photo: H. Hohmann 2004

It was already completely dark when I started the way back. A small flashlight helped me find the way down to the broader main path. From here I went down very quickly, overtaking many Campesinos on their way home in the dark with their tools for workign the field. When I arrived at San Pedro de Casta at 6:20 pm, the professor and some others already worried if I had taken the right path back. They already considered to assemble and send out a search party. Fortunately this was not necessary and we had dinner together in the small hotel.

The next morning the bus left at 7:40. In this opposite direction, the route is also fascinating and spectacular. In Chosica a microbus was already waiting. Thus, I reached Lima already at 11.30 clock.

In 2009, I visited San Pedro de Casta and the ruins of Marcahuasi again. Then I already knew the area and could choose another path which I had studied using Google Earth. This is how I managed to get another series of photos. In addition, I noted GPS positions and took a series of measurements at the Chullpas.