August 26, 2007
Today I signed up for a tour to Cumbe Mayo, the main pre-Inca settlement in the area. The ruins were far above the city, and on the bus ride to the top, our guide told lots of fantastic stories. For example, he said that before the Europeans arrived, the natives loved to work and always sang while working. They had such large food stores that they were able to throw huge parties for several weeks every year. There was no concept of ownership so people never fought over land and possessions. The people were clean to the point of changing outfits five times per day and never wearing the same outfit twice, choosing to burn their clothes instead.
Then the Spaniards came and ruined everything. The native people cried when they had to work. They died of European diseases. They fought over their possessions. And in this very region, Atahualpa, the leader of the Incas at the time of Pizarro's arrival, was killed despite the famous payment to the Spaniards of a room filled once with gold and twice with silver. I'm not sure if everything our guide said was true, but he sure was a great storyteller.
The main man-made object at Cumbe Mayo was the aqueduct, which we were explained was the oldest canal in South America. It was built thousands of years ago by people much older than the Incas. The aqueduct's straightness was impressive, but sometimes it became jagged seemingly for no reason. Our guide explained that this was probably a representation of the stairway to heaven. So even the ancient Cajamarcans liked Zeppelin.
The real highlights of Cumbe Mayo, however, were the hundreds of rock formations that were spread throughout the site. Besides providing a beautiful natural landscape, often they looked like people (an eye and large nose) and animals (an elephant). We spent hours interpreting the rocks like kids looking at clouds. There were also balancing rocks and caves to keep us entertained. Cumbe Mayo wasn't a huge city like Machu Pichu or Choquequirao, but it was yet another interesting ancient Peruvian settlement to visit.
The photo album for this entry is here.