I had heard that the Ingapirca (Inca Wall in the Quechua language) Ruins, a couple of hours outside of Cuenca, were worth visiting and it’s true. Originally settled by the Cañari indigenous people, they were invaded by the Incas in the late 1400’s. Eventually they intermarried and got along, not requiring the Cañari to give up their culture which exists today.
The location of the ruins has been used by different peoples over the eons. When the Incas arrived and conquered the Cañari, they built a town over the existing settlement. The Cañari used random shaped stones and mud or something to hold the stones in place while the Incas used rectangle stones (often squares) and didn’t use any mortar to hold them in place.
Some highlights of the ruins and the day:
- There are a number of burial tombs, including one that was of an important female who died and had 10 followers surrounding her in the grave to go with her into the next life. Apparently those individuals were chosen for this “adventure” and took some poison and were all in the fetal position.
There is a large stone marking the burial site as well as many small smooth stone directly over the grave. The large stone is lined up exactly with a pathway and on the summer and winter solstices, the sun shines directly on the stone as it rises on it during one of the solstices?
- The Sun Temple rises high above the area and is the only oval shaped sun temple built by the Incas. This reflects the Cañari influence. The temple is aligned halfway between two mountains which are 24 KM apart. On good days they could use reflective metal to send messages to the temple and then pass them onto the next mountain. On days without sun, a runner would go from one mountain to the temple to pass on a message and another runner would take the message onto the next one. This would happen repeatedly as needed.
- The Sun Temple was built over a very large stone which was considered sacred by the Cañari. This stone is no longer visible because of the temple structure.
- On top of the Sun Temple there are two identical rooms which are back to back. They each have 3 small alcoves where the sun shines through the door opening into the corresponding alcove to indicate the solstices. There is also one larger area where apparently a mummified priest’s body was kept and could be seen by the current priest during ceremonies.
- We had an English speaking guide who I’m sure is from the area, and probably Cañari based on his passion for the history and events. He taught himself English over the last 5 years and did an excellent job. The most interesting guide we have had yet!
- The entrance fee to the park is $2 per person and no charge for the guide however there is no charge for seniors…what a deal!
- This is one of the very few places where we have seen signs in Quechua (pronounced ketch you wa). This is the native language of many people in Ecuador and Peru.
- It was a full day event to get there and back via 3 buses there and one bus and one taxi back. We left at about 8:10 in the morning and didn’t return until about 7 that night.
- Our hostess, Miriam, went with us which helped to navigate the buses immensely. She had never been there before and enjoyed herself as well. She took the Spanish version of the tour.