Incan ruins and alpacas at Sacsayhuamán, Cusco
Some people visit the ruins of Sacsayhuamán in the hills just above Cusco, Peru to see the remarkable Incan walls, bricks carved so perfectly that the thinnest blade can’t fit into the seam between them.
Others come to see the wild-haired alpacas, nature’s best and most photogenic lawn mowers.
The alpacas, their dreded hair making them look like anthropomorphic Disney surfer dude characters, are fascinating for a while. Then, once Todd and I realize that the alpacas are not going to do anything cute or surprising enough to make us YouTube millionaires, we move on to appreciate the historic and architectural point of the place.
We try to stretch our visualization talents, imagining how much larger the walls used to be, before the Spanish conquistadors dragged most of the hand-carved bricks down the hill to town to use as raw material for their boastful churches. It’s like trying to reconstruct a child’s perfect birthday cake from the mashed, milk-soaked crumbs ground into the carpet and frosting stuck between fork tines.
Lucky for us — for all of us — the Spaniards were unable to move the heaviest rocks, so we have a foundation for our imagination to build up from. While tour barnacling we overhear that, from above, the Sacsayhuamán site forms the head of a puma, the main walls the puma’s sharp bared teeth, with the boundaries of ancient Cusco the puma’s body.
Local Incans held out the longest against the Spanish invaders here at Sacsayhuamán, settling in for a siege behind the thick walls. The leavings of war are long gone from the site, any sign of death completely worn away, re-purposed, or overgrown.
The longer we dawdle at the ruins, the more minutia we notice. Todd points out that if you stand in just the right spot, at just the right height, you can make the towering White Christ statue on the adjacent hill look like it’s a wedding-cake-topper-sized tchotchke on one of Sacsayhuamán’s Incan walls.
Or, as we wander into distant corners of the site, we find wild flowers invading cracks and crevices, beautifully contributing to the slow but inevitable decay.
Around a corner, through a field, away from paths worn in the grass by frequent tour groups, we find tired and less successful tour guides taking a siesta in some shade brought from home.