Wednesday, February 10, 2010
CACHI -- PLUS A PRE-INCAN CIVILIZATION
Cachi is a very small and very beautiful colonial town about a five hour drive from anywhere, aka Salta. It's in the pocket between two sets of mountains, so that despite how arid everything is around it, it's actually quite lush from the underground water that pools from the surrounding mountains. This shot is taken from the town cemetery, the highest point in the area. The custom of burying the dead on mountain peaks comes from both Incan and pre-Incan civiliations.
The main building in Cachi is the town square. Simple and stark, and quite beautiful for that.
Inside the white building is a museum with an open-air courtyard containing a series of rocks with pre-Incan carvings.
We had lunch away from the tour buses at an EXCELLENT restaurant up the street from the town square. It's called Platos y Diseño and I highly recommend it. After that, Pablo got us back to Salta for an evening walk, then picked us up early the next morning for a drive to the Humahuaca Gorge -- one of the most stunning days of our trip. From rock carving we got to see the layout of a pre-Incan town of several thousand people. When the Inca arrived, the earlier people simply left. The foundations are all made of granite boulders; as you can imagine, they've stayed exactly where the first people put them.
BTW, in Salta there's a museum containing the mummified bodies of three children sacrificed by the Inca. They weren't selected from the poor and thrown in wells to drown, as the Aztec priests did in their sacrifices. (Nor were their still-beating hearts removed.) Instead, they came from royal families throughout the region and were "wedded" symbolically at a regional ceremony before being brought back to their villages where they were frozen at the tops of mountains. (Boys as well as girls, in an early and rare example of gender equity.) The priests gave the children corn booze and, when they were passed out, put them in stone holes and let them freeze to death. Apparently the bodies were found with their muscles relaxed, so the deaths were painless. (I´ll bet they found that such a relief.) The point was to bond various clans together. It's believed there are hundreds and hundreds bodies in these stone graves, preserved by the freezing mountaintop air. May they rest in peace.
I leave you with a shot of the rugged landscape.
Tomorrow, the amazing salt plains, llamas, and farms who really want to get away from the crowd.