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South America » Peru » Cusco » Ollantaytambo
February 9th 2012
Published: March 14th 2012EDIT THIS ENTRY

I woke up to a perfect day. The weather was so nice that, over breakfast, I decided to take a return trip to las Canteras. Dark emerald green humming birds darted across my path. I was feeling a bit lazy and wanted nothing more than a relaxing day exploring the quarries. Of course, I was in for more adventure than I intended.

I arrived at the first quarry after about an hour. I hadn't taken a sip of water. I had barely broken a sweat, and I wanted to keep it that way. I explored the igloo-like tombs that sat perched on top of boulders, like old birds peering down into the valley below. I found nothing within any of them. I took a couple pictures and headed down toward the second quarry.

The trail brought memories of pain and exertion, but the switchbacks weren't so bad now that I had acclimated. I was starting to get hungry, or maybe I just wanted to eat. A dark cloud rolled overhead. A cold wind blew and it began to rain.

I felt like turning back, but decided it would be better to wait out the rain. But where? I looked down the trail at the Inca graves. I saw the old bird perched on a rock not so far away. I made a jog for it, wondering if I'd even fit into its miniature trapezoidal door. I did. Easy. I even had room to stretch out. I watched the rain passing through the valley and set to making avacado sandwhiches inside an Inca tomb.

I thanked whatever spirit for having me for lunch and hiked up to the third quarry. The sun broke through the clouds, warm and brilliant. The altitude and the quick ascent had left me a little dizzy. The feeling had a surreal effect. I felt like I was having a lucid dream. I glanced up at Inti Punku, on top of the mountain. A silent monster was creeping in. The cloud rolled over the mountain top, devouring all in its path. It bowled toward me. Silent. Powerful. Unstoppable. I froze like a deer in headlights, then ran for shelter.

The rain fell heavy for over an hour. I waited under the lip of the most giant boulder on the mountain. When the rain stopped, the fog remained. Birds chirped quisitively, as if to confirm the rain had passed. It was cold. Eerie. The haze permeated every nook and cranny of an ancient rock slide. It oozed out of caves and whipped around boulders, like a legion of ghosts securing the area they had claimed so long ago. Large stones in perfect geometical shapes littered the scree. They lay at all angles, like so many sticks in the woods. They captured a moment. They described motion followed by an abrupt and everlasting pause. I stepped quietly over them, as if not to inhibit the work in progress, the work left undone.

The fog was thick and I could barely see the boulders in front of me. On my way down the stony path I saw two stone walls leading into a small cave. The shrine was indistinguishable from its surroundings. I entered very cautiously.

The cave was dark and I had to flatten myself against the wall to allow light to enter. When it did, I gasped. Before me lay a pile of bones. Skulls, vertebret, hips. rib cages. There must have been three or four bodies thrown in together. They were not set in any form that seemed intentional, just a jumble of human remains. I took some pictures and left cocac leaves on the stone alter. I was deeply impressed. The Inca had truly been one with these mountains. Here, they were reunited. Together, they lay for all eternity: Inca and stone. I backed out of the cave and raced another rain cloud to Ollanta.

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