Home > Ecuador > Visiting Ingapirca, Ecuador’s Main Inca Monument, Part One

Visiting Ingapirca, Ecuador’s Main Inca Monument, Part One

July 23, 2011

We leave the charming city of Cuenca, its skyline dotted with church bells, towers and domes, including the lilac-blue domes of its monumental Cathedral, as we head north onto the Pan-American Highway, for a day’s visit to the famous Inca Fortress of Ingapirca, Ecuador’s largest and most important monument from the Inca Empire’s presence in the country, just one hundred years before the Spanish arrived.

As we cover the near-one hundred kilometers (sixty miles) route, always headed north, the beauty of the rural countryside of Ecuador’s southern Andes unfolds before our eyes with its magic rolling-hills, terraces of maize, vegetables and grain, painting the hilly surface with multicolored patches of green, gold and yellowish tones… The Paute River crosses our path (or, more appropriately, we cross the river’s path over a bridge) as we continue the fascinating journey over the well paved road.  Eulalia, Marcelo and Giovanny join me in commenting about the remarkable beauty of the scenery.

We stop at the outskirts of the quaint and picturesque town of Biblian, to enjoy a rare architectonic feat: the village’s church, entirely carved on the plain volcanic rock, a monument to courage, imagination and religious spirit together, producing a unique construction, built in and made solely of the rocky hillside.  A one-of-a-kind temple, well worth a stop, a brief hike up its stone stairway and a look inside its magnificent altar, behind which stands the naked mountain….

Now we enter the ancient Cañari territory, the indigenous culture which dominated the southern part of present-day’s Ecuador, before and during the Inca conquest of its more northern territories. Cañari descendants are proud of their historic and cultural legacy and, particularly the women, still wear their most colorful pleated skirts, woolen knee-high socks, combining shawls and the traditional straw hats.  Azogues, the provincial capital, is bustling today with the weekly market and its white church dominates the view from atop an elevated natural atrium. The city’s squares and plazas are filled with livestock, pigs, sheep, horses, chicken and tons of food products from the area’s fertile soil which are bought and sold on a fascinating mess of trade, color, noise and the smell of typical food, cooked at outdoor eateries…

Continuing our journey and, just before leaving the Pan-American Highway, we run into a biking competition, racing in the opposite direction, towards Cuenca. The area is known for its sports spirit and it is not unusual to find a variety of sports and competitions, official or not, taking place in a land that invites to enjoy exercise with such soothing landscapes as a backdrop.

Now we leave the main road and start a two and a half mile’s ride over a secondary road, mixture of old cobble-stone and compacted dirt. In the distance, we can already see the bulky silhouette of Ingapirca, its name alone meaning “the Inca’s Fortress or Wall”. The construction, possibly a 14th century complex, served as a “VIP Inn”, a resting place for the Inca Ruler’s travels and his most important officials, servants, messengers, priests and special guests. Later it was fortified by the Cañaris and became a lodging place for troops and even a Temple, of which some vestiges are still found. The large complex stands on an elevated esplanade, surrounded by mountains. As we arrive into the complex, a veil of misty fog wraps the building, creating an inevitable effect of mystery and magic. The archaeological site and monument, a National Cultural Heritage Site for Ecuador is now managed by the local Cañari community. They maintain and run the historic complex and provide the local guides who show the visitors around Ecuador’s most famous and important Inca monument, still standing, almost fully intact, after six centuries.  The rest of the story will continue on the next issue…..

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