Friday, August 19, 2011

Colca 2: Choquetico

On the 29th of July the eleven of us, plus my infant niece, who had traveled to Arequipa ventured into the Colca Valley.   We had hired a van to take us to the town of Cabanaconde and back to Arequipa on the following day.   After passing through the Salinas y Aguada Blanca National Reserve, over the high puna at Patapampa, and through the mountain passes, we descended into the valley near the town of Chivay.  After lunch in Chivay we headed down the Colca Valley toward the canyon carved by the Colca River and toward Cabanaconde.

One of the sightseeing stops along the way was at a locale called Choquetico, near the town of Pinchollo.  The attraction of the stop at Choquetico -which is simply a stop at the shoulder of the road and a peek over the edge of the cliff- is a pair of carved boulders.

Choquetico is something I had not know about until I noticed what looked like a representation of a carved boulder on a model of the Colca Valley in Arequipa's Museo Santuarios Andinos.  My interest piqued, I made sure to ask our driver about it and was pleased to confirm that indeed we would be stopping there.

The reason for my excitement was that what I expected to see, and indeed did see, was an ancient carved boulder made to resemble the terracing on the slopes opposite, on the other side of the river, or at least what they looked like in pre-Inca times.

There are a few similar image stones scattered throughout the Peruvian Andes, perhaps most famously at Saywite.  They were apparently instrumental in fertility or rain ceremonies directed at the earth.   

If one looks at the photos one will notice the presence of a well atop each stone, with channels leading from it.   It seems that chicha or llama blood were poured into the well until it ran down the channel to the terraces carved into the stone, as water from the mountains above would flow down the slopes to water the agricultural terraces.  In "watering" the stone's terraces the priests thus symbolically watered the valley's slopes.

Overlooking the site are a pair of tombs placed high up on a cliff.   They would be nearly invisible but for the red paint applied by the ancients - in the Andes red was a color assiciated with nobility (the Inca royal "crown", for example, was a red tassel at the forehead).  Bothe tombs were sacked long ago, but their presence underscores the sacred nature and ritual nature of the site to the ancient Collaguas -as the people who inhabited the valley before the Incas arrived were known.

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