After visiting the Qeswachaka Rope Bridge, we made our way back to the town of Combapata and the main road going to Puno, but not before making a short stop for lunch at a local menu of the day restaurant. Once at the main road it was only about another 10 minutes the the Inka site f Raqchi.
When you first arrive and make the turn off the main road, you will follow some of the sites terraces that are still used by the locals for growing crops, these terraces will continue all the way to the rather small parking area, just off the main plaza. From here you can enter the main plaza and visit the small church or browse the many shops and stands selling souvenirs before entering the site. From the plaza there is also an old Inka Trail that extends from the North West corner too the West, along this trail about ½ a kilometer is a series of 8 buildings around a courtyard, and is believed to have been a tampu or lodging house for travelers or even the Chaski’s which were the runners that carried messages across the Inka empire.
The entrance to the site is in the North East corner of the plaza and brings you into the West side of the site close to the very large and long 2 story wall that was part of the Temple of Wiracocha, and probably the most dominating feature of the entire site. The wall that you see was actually the center wall of the building which overall, was roughly 90 meters long and 25 meters wide with the center wall being about 20 meters tall. Between the center wall and the perimeter wall there were a series of 11 columns down each side which helped to support the massive roof, which is believed to have been the largest single roof in the entire Inka empire.
The archaeological site of Raqchi is believed to have been one of many regional control points for access to Cusco, as well as a religious site. The general site layout consists of the Temple of Wiracocha which is close to the entrance and located to the west side of the compound. To the South and East of the temple are a series of alternating buildings and court yards, while it is not clear what purpose these buildings served, some think they could have been for priests and other religious personnel or maybe even administrative buildings. Based on the scale of defensive walls that were around the site some people also speculate that they could have been barracks for troops as well.
To the South of the buildings and plazas is a large rectangular area that at one time held more than 150 round buildings, these are believed to have been qullqas or storage buildings and are approximately 10 meters in diameter, these buildings would have been used to store food and grains, as well as pottery, textiles and even military equipment. In this area you will find several of the qullqas that have been partially restored, and even 2 that have roofs on them showing what the structures likely looked like. One of the things that makes these buildings interesting is their round shape, which is not common in Inka construction and no one really knows why these buildings were built this way.
To the East of the Temple of Wiracocha there is a large open area that could have been where celebrations or fairs were held, or even for overflow during times of worship giving pilgrims a place to camp. To the North of the Temple and the West of the open area is a small reservoir or qucha that is fed by several springs and fountains that the Inka constructed, possibly for use in cleansing rituals, it is also believed that there were ceremonial baths here as well.
For our visit we entered the site and walked around the temple, after which we made our way to the qullqas and then South East through the buildings and courtyards that may have been barracks and then followed a trail to the far East end of the complex. Here we then returned on a main trail that runs through the center of the open area, turning right before reaching the small lake, checking out the small set of buildings on the hill and the ceremonial fountains before returning to the main plaza and continuing on to the town of Sicuani, where we spent the night before departing for our next location Lake Sibinacocha, which is ranked as the 22nd highest lake in the world. Want to hear more, follow my blog and you will receive an e-mail when I post the next installment.
As a final closing for this blog I thought it would be interesting to share the legend of why the Temple of Wiracocha was constructed here, but first lets start with who Wiracocha or Viracocha actually was. In Inkan and some pre-Inkan cultures, Wiracocha was one of the most important deities and was considered to be the creator of all things, he was credited with creating the sun, moon, stars, universe, time and even civilization itself. Wiracocha is often depicted as wearing the sun as a crown, holding thunderbolts in his hands and with tears descending from his eyes like rain.
It is said that in the early days of the Inka empire that Wiracocha came to the town that was at this location, but upon his arrival the people of the town did not recognize him, thinking him to be a threat the towns people attacked Wiracocha with stones. Wiracocha then caused fire to fall from the sky so that the towns people would stop their attack, this worked and the towns people then pleaded with Wiracocha for forgiveness, so Wiracocha put the fires out and explained who he was to the people, after hearing this the town brought him many offerings and constructed a wak’a or shrine on the site where Wiracocha had appeared. Later when the Inka Huayna Capac was passing through the province he saw the wak’a in the midst of the plain and asked the towns people why it was there. After hearing the story of what happened Huayna Capac decided that the wak’a should be greater and ordered the construction of the larger temple.
One of the things that is interesting about this story is that there is a volcano nearby and the entire area is covered in volcanic rock, so it is quite possible that at some time in the past, it did actually rain fire.