Pucara de Tilcara
February 27, 2014
Tilcara was enveloped by fog when i woke this morning , but the fog soon blew away and was replaced by a clear blue cloudless sky.
A hike is a good way to start the day so I set out to climb a nearby hill that overlooks the city and the river valley. The last short section of rocky trail was steep and exposed but the climb is rewarded with spectacular views all around. I am glad to have a polarizer to filter out some of the glare but I kick myself for leaving the fisheye lens in the room. Damn!
Morning and evening are best for photography but it is so damn hard to drag myself up a mountain before I've had coffee. I remember an early morning photo walk in Prague when the light was just perfect but I had a coffee maker in the apt and the city streets didn't involve any heavy climbing. I was just around the corner from the Charles´ bridge, a very photogenic spot. I´m just not that serious a photographer.
Next I walk maybe a km to Pucara de Tilcara, the site of the original Tilcara settlement. This pre-Hispanic (I keep thinking prehistoric) town was occupied between the 11th and 15th centuries, so it was abandoned once the Europeans showed up. The Europeans sure did a lot of pushing others around, be it in South America or North America.
Pucara is now an archaeological site with ancient buildings, squares, and tombs. Some of the buildings have been rebuilt as they were when occupied. Aside from the stone walls, not that much has changed
The roof design, which looks a lot like current Tilcara construction, features bamboo - like reeds covered in dirt and suspended by what I think are logs but I cannot figure the source of the logs. There aren't any big trees here. Then I realize the logs are dried cardon cactus which resemble giant saguaro of the southwestern US.
The stone remnants of this city, well positioned on a cactus-covered hill overlooking a river valley, bring to mind Machu Picchu, though the Peruvian city is far more interesting in terms of size (MP is much larger), location (MP is on a spectacular mountain-top), and construction (MP's cut and fitted stonework, water system, and terraces are still impressive today). In other words, Pucara is well worth the visit if you are in the area but don't travel to Tilcara just to see the ruins. Machu Picchu alone makes Peru worth a visit.
Afterwards I walk back to town for a lunch of empanadas and ice cream. The dolche de leche ice cream is far far better at Freddos in Buenos Aires.
I stop in at the museum that shares a ticket with the archaeology site. What little that is in English tells the story of the early inhabitants: hunter-gatherers evolve to farmers evolve to city dwellers evolve to being overrun by westerners. I think I´ve heard this story before.
Tomorrow it is back on the bus to Salta (yes, I am backtracking a bit) then over the Andes to San Pedro de Atacama Chile, the driest place on earth. I am still trying to decide whether to be adventurous and take the overnight bus from San Pedro to Santiago or shortcut it with a flight from Calama. The problem is that one cannot buy a Chilean bus ticket without a Chilean credit card. The sleeper seat I want might be gone by the time I´m in that country and, if so, that will make the decision for me. Ciao.