As we entered the sacred grounds, I saw this plant to the side and almost touched the blooms, out of habit. Our guide, as he began his spiel, warned us about touching this beautiful plant and relayed its hallucinogenic properties. The dust from the flower basically disables any free will a person has and places them in a stupor. Recent bank robbers in the Andes have used this plant to enable a quick and easy get away, by blowing the dust of the flower into people’s faces or touching their hands with the dust (they wear rubber gloves to evade the dust themselves).
Our guide Luis was Ecuadorian. He spent 18 years in New York and communicated well. He was extremely informative about all the various stations of the ruins and how the entire fortress/temple was set up and organized. As we turned the first corner the guide showed us how the Agave plant was used for sewing needs. The fiber is used as thread and the thorn as a needle and they sewed human skin, pelts and wool with these tools.
We then learned that the Canaris worshiped the Moon and elements like water, wind and
fire. The Incans worshiped the Sun and animals, with special emphasis on the Puma. The layout of the Incan settlement resembles a Puma outline, if you look from a distance or from above. The temple represents the brain area.
The first hut we saw was a replica of a family hut that was rectangular and had a very high and sloped thatched roof to enable the water to run off. The second area was basically their burial grounds and the commoners were buried in one section with no identification. The last Canari empress was buried with a large stone as a headstone. The headstone had a cut in the top that allowed the sun to hit her grave on the December 21st solstice and see over her. Her servants were drugged with the dust from the plant above and buried in a crouching position all around her, to protect her and ward off evil spirits. They were alive when this transpired.
I was enthralled with all the complicated thinking that went into the construction of this site.
They laid stone blocks, after sanding down with other rocks, side by side and adjacent to the other stones. Not even a razor blade could be inserted between some of the rocks as tight as they remain today. The green tint is a result of the heavy copper content in the stones. I was awestruck with their precision, given they only had natural tools to work with.
We toured the temple and discovered that as Ingapirca was built by the Incans it was constructed to have the sun intersect various windows and portals at various times of the year. The emperor’s balcony and private shrine was built so that the Sun intersected the doorway on the solstices and every quarter. This way they knew when to plant, harvest and when the new year was to be celebrated. Parts of the walls are missing, but you can still fathom the intent, from the angles that the front door intersect the depressions on the back wall.
The four of us then opted to take the additional hike and walk the route above and see the pool that the emperors bathed in and the carved face on the side of the mountain. Remember these were constructed in the mid 1550’s.
Not only was I blown away by the carved face, but all of us ran out of gas. After all we were at 10,000 feet and all well over 50. Periodically we had to stop and rest and catch our breath. None of us were in as good as shape as we thought. We headed back down the mountain and joined our driver. Thirsty and worn out, but well satisfied that we had seen one of Ecuador’s most spectacular and historical remaining sites.
A special thanks to Earl and Alex for letting us tag along and for being great people. They are amiable, intelligent and experienced travelers. It was a great day. So much so that we are imposing on them again and touring the surrounding craft villages on Tuesday. Peace and Safe Travels!
I loved this post! I enjoy reading about history, culture and the tapestry that brings both into modern day. Fascinating to read about the Canari people, and their connection with the ancient Maya. Everyone knows about the Maya, so it’s great to read about some of their counterparts.
I wonder how true the stories about that plant are. I guess we’d be fools to test it out ourselves, hey?
And that face blew me away! not only was it in the rock, but even in the plant life. Thanks for sharing this insightful post.
Absolutely loved your story..
Thanks for sharing your blog.
The carved face is quite creepy. Ancient ruins are always a great way to spend a day especially when those ruins are at 10,000 feet. Nice read.
The first thing I wanted to do when I saw the photo of that plant was to touch it! Such a strange yet beautiful specimen with its oddly downward-pointing flowers. Do you know what species it is or what the locals call it?
Then I read the paragraph below the photo. WOW. Of course oddly enough that only makes the plant that much more intriguing. I mean obviously it has evolved this psychoactive dust as a defense mechanism but from what? Certainly not tourists that were too touchy-feely with it. Such an odd characteristic indeed…
How does it reproduce? Do bees spread its pollen or does the dust affect them too? Where there a lot of them around or just the one? It’s right on the trail, how do people not touch it?? So many questions now hehehe 🙂
Sorry, I’m rather stuck on this plant now but I assure you the rest of the article was not lost on me. I’ve always been impressed by ruins and some of the stuff ancient civilizations were able to accomplish before they got distracted by television and the internet.
Great photos too 🙂