Saturday, June 15, 2013

Race of the Chasquis, part 1

The Inca were famous for their public works projects, one of the most impressive of which is their road system. It stretches throughout Peru, and into Ecuador, Bolivia and Chile. After 500 years, much of it is still traceable.The messengers who ran on these roads to deliver messages for the empire were called chasquis.
Our site is close to the intersection of the major north-south Inca Road, (the Capac ñan) and a transverse east-west road that runs from the coast, over the Andes through our valley, and then down to the jungle. The intersection is in Sausa, a few miles from my house. Some people in Sausa, led by Sergio, decided to organize a foot race on the 5 kilometers of the Inca road leading into Sausa. They called it the International Race of the Chasquis. To make it international, they invited Peace Corps to participate. I agreed to be the organizer, which involved a lot of emails and meetings and the job of pulling together the costumes for our runners. That was the coolest part--they ran the 5k race dressed in the traditional outfits of chasquis.

Kristi and I walked the route with several of the organizers prior to the race. The race started at the ruins of an Inca bridge. This is Sergio, the mastermind of the event, with the bridge in the background. The Inca road went steeply up over a hill from there.
We prepared for the ascent.
The Inca roads vary a lot. Some part are very overgrown.

This section was grassy with stones along the sides.
 We found the ruin of a waystation where the chasquis kept supplies for their long-distance runs.

It was a misty day, and the rain was on its way. We could see it in the distance, heading toward us.

When we got to the top of the mountain, we came upon a family who were watching their animals in a high pasture. They invited us to come in under their tarps.

We shared some herbal liquer that Sergio had brought along.
By then it was raining, but we continued on. The views of the villages in the valley below were soft and lovely.

The next section of the Inca road went along the top of a ridge high above the Mantaro River,
and then, finally, down into the town of Sausa where the race would end.
It was a help to know what to expect when the day of the race came and it was a pleasant hike. But I think it took a whole day before I felt really warm again, after hiking soaking wet at 12,000 feet. Ah, the Andes...

1 comment:

  1. Thank Alane! I am an Inca messenger, I Chasquis, through your eyes.