We now head to the Inca ruins of Qenqo, Puka Pukara and Tambomachay, respectively a shrine, a military fortress and a sacred bathing place of the Inca rulers. Not only physically challenging, these sites provided some interesting visual challenges.

“Qenqo,” in Quechua means labyrinth or zigzag, based on the crooked canal that runs through the main structure, which is a gigantic limestone monolith. Qenqo is known as a “huaca” or natural structure given particular spiritual meaning by the Inca.  It is said that this canal carried liquid of some sort used in religious rituals – historians have hypothesized holy water, chica (corn beer) and even blood.  Though it does appear to be a very holy area, the true purpose has been lost over time.  Still it is impossible not to feel strong spiritual vibes, particularly when walking through the temple which is partially man-made and partially natural chambers within the limestone rockface.    In addition, the “figures” we discovered inside and outside the gallery built within the limestone walls brought a frisson of awe.  To start with take a look at this rock rising from the ground:



I honestly didn’t “see” this one but see if you can. From some angles, the rock is supposed to resemble a frog looking up, a symbol of rain. From other angles some say the rock appears to take the form of a puma.  Can’t see it?  Wait, there is more.  Follow along as we work through the temple built right into the existing rock formations – a truly beautiful and brilliant structure. The passageway was very narrow with low ceilings, but fortunately for me my claustrophobia did not kick in – I was too mesmerized:



Past what looks like an altar:


To some holes which could have been crypts for mummies?


 To this:


Look very closely and see the Puma.

Having a bit of trouble?  Try this one:


This is called “Intihuatana” or “the place where the sun is tied.”  At Summer Solstice this shadow forms (following pic from internet):


The temple exit – watch your step(s):


To more stone outcroppings – here’s an easy shape:


My imagination also sees an alligator but I accept  that it is also the familIar snake/water sign mentioned in last week’s post.

Puka Pukara, also known as the Red Fortress, is a site of military ruins. It is made of large walls, terraces, and staircases, and that is the reason that I took no pictures after this one:


After the climb we were treated to expansive views of the valley below and the mountains surrounding us, and one mountain included fascinating ancient drawings, not unlike the petroglyphs seen in Southwest USA or perhaps the geoglyphs called Nazca Lines also found in Peru:



Easily discernible is the llama/alpaca. I am not sure what the other two symbols are and invite your suggestions.

The road leading to Tambomachay, though very steep was just a simple ramp  so I was less worried about falling off a cliff and able to take a few shots of the bathing areas and the fountains that still work today:





Going up and down a steep ramp at 13,000  feet above sea level on top of climbing and descending the steps of two other ruins is still exhausting – and we all felt like these fellows we met along the way:




Our next stop quickly revived our energy as we were met at the gate of Awanacancha, a weaving center as well as a breeding farm for camelids, by the sweetest group of llama, alpaca, vicuña and guanaco.  A handy chart explained the differences:




I think llama have long thin necks compared to alpaca.  However I soon gave up trying to tell them apart as even they seemed confused as shown by this little one trying to figure it out:


There were definite personalities here, from shy to elegant to totally goofy – here are some of my favorites:










The guanaco is an endangered camelid and very scarce – but I did get a siting in the underbrush:


These gentle animals are not only beautiful to look at, they also provide the soft wool that is used to make the Andean’s famous clothing.  Only natural dyes are used on the wool and the results are gorgeous:


I pause here to tell the first of a series of mishaps that occurred during this trip – my blog  readers will recognize these as WTDGAP – When Things Don’t Go As Planned. Part of the thrill that is generated by travel is not being in total charge of what happens – and by what you do when inevitably things go awry can go amazingly right or horribly wrong.  Some of my best memories come from WTDGAPs (you can read about them here and here and here and here – more on the website – explore!) and this one was no exception.

Spoiler alert: the above serape was a purchase I did make at Awanacancha, so this particular WTDGAP had a very happy ending, although during this episode I was close to frantic, a most uncommon occurrence for one so OBSESSIVE-COMPULSIVE.  I had spied this magnificent poncho when I first entered the weaving center – and even though I dutifully looked around my eyes kept returning to this piece.  I am a firm believer in going with one’s gut – so after a quick try-on, this serape was claimed. At the checkout counter, I was asked for my credit card and passport (Peru has a marvelous system for tourists so they don’t have to stand on long lines at the airport to eliminate tax payment) and I dug into my backpack – and felt nothing – no purse, no cards, no money, no passport.

I knew I had packed these things and I knew I had put them at the very bottom of my backpack to make them difficult to retrieve – so this nonplussed me.  As with all my carryalls I love lots of pockets and zippered compartments – but this sometimes creates a bit of panic as I try to remember which section I have sequestered things – but this time no amount of unzipping, unsnapping or unfolding produced the items.  Being still somewhat rational I retraced what we had done up to this point and was sure there was no point that the purse could have either fallen out or worst case, been stolen. I decided to calmly go back to the van which we used for transport between towns too far for hiking, and see if perhaps my purse had somehow been left on my seat.

Calmly, ha!  I ran full tilt.  Remember, I am in Peru and NOTHING is without steep steps.  With our driver following behind, asking me to take my time, I rushed down three or four switchback style stairs and then dodged cars and trucks across the road to get to back to our van.

Voila!  There my purse was, as expected on my seat, probably having slipped out when I rearranged my backpack items at some point. Having found my precious articles, why did I still feel it necessary to run back UPHILL up those same switchback flights of steps to the weaving center as fast as I had just left it? My lungs didn’t know what hit them – and my pounding heart agreed.

When I could speak again in a few moments we concluded the sale and all was again right with the world.

I accepted the gentle admonishing I received from our guide Edgard about ALWAYS having your passport and credit cards on your person at all times. It didn’t happen again.  However, other members of our intrepid Peru travel group also experienced WTDGAP moments – and I will share those as we go forward.  Right now, I need a Pisco Sour, stat.




  1. Cindy: Unfortunately, the drawings on the side of the mountain are not ancient by any stretch, as not only are the words”El Peru” visible, but the animals depicted in the “shield” are all on the symbol on the modern national flag of Peru. I can understand your excitement in seeing these for the first time, however. Cheers.

    • Thanks for your comment. I was approached by an expert in this field after I wrote this and we did determine that this is modern “advertising.” I should have provided an update- it was exciting for the moment. Appreciate your reading my posts.

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