Caretas Article on Llactapata by Nicholas Asheshov

Caretas

Un Tesoro a la Vuelta De Amenazado por Vacas

by Nicholas Asheshov

['Treasure next to Machu Picchu menaced by cattle']

Translation of the original article as it appeared in the Peruvian magazine, Caretas

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One of the most attractive ruins around Machu Picchu is Llactapata, a delicate Inca site hidden high in the cloud forest with the charm of having a superb view, the best, of the Sacred Citadel.

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Early in the morning you can watch, as the Incas themselves certainly did, the clouds clear as the sun’s rays hit first one, then other parts of the citadel.

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Llactapata is 200 ms higher than the main plaza at Machu Picchu and three clean and clear kilometers away over the deep canyon of the Aobamba.

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From Llactapata you can see the tiny, bright jackets of tourists as they wander among the walls and ancient terraces of the citadel.  Three formidable 6,000m snow peaks provide a dramatic backdrop to the forested ridges, cliffs, deep valleys and turbulent rivers.

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But the ruin of Llactapata itself is deteriorating fast.  Hugh Thomson, who was there a few weeks ago with a National Geographic film crew, tells me:  “The cattle are battering down the long corridor which is now only half the height it was when you and I were there in 2003.  Soon there will be little left and the other sectors are all woefully neglected and lost in undergrowth again.

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He added that, “the lovely two-storey temple on the hill is unreachable now.  Still, we caught the light on the June solstice dawn streaming straight down the corridor just as the Inca designed it to do.”

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Hugh, together with Gary Ziegler, had led a group of machete-wielders up this mountainside six years ago and, on the basis of compass bearings and drawings Hugh had found in Hiram Bingham’s diaries at Yale, re-discovered this jewel.  That it is in plain view of half a million tourists a year tells you something about the still-immense hidden areas of the Amazon forests.

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Last week I talked about Llactapata for a moment with Fernando Astete, the head archaeologist for the Instituto Nacional de Cultura, INC, at Machu Picchu, and one of Peru’s leading Inca-ologists.

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“That’s a difficult area.  It’s just outside, legally, the Machu Picchu national park.  The locals are titled owners and they’re mostly just interested in finding grazing for their cows.  We’re sending in people to ‘sensibilizarlos’, but they are often very difficult.”

 

 

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