THE FLOW OF THE RIVER
This river was channeled in Inca times and definitely left its mark. The path starts from Aqokqasa hill, and right above the road, the site of Tunasmoqo can be seen.
This particular image is really interesting, as it clearly shows the original movement/route of the river. Over time, the river bed was moved by the Incas, so that they could use the remaining surface for blossoming vegetation and growing their food. The river bed was designed to create a special type of environment and to allow for the growth of plants, while also being able to design terraces. This can clearly be seen on the left side of this picture, which is truly significant as far as landscape planning goes. On the right side of the image, however, the terraces have different levels.
In order for viewers to better visualize the initial direction of the river, Adine explained:
“You can see the river, which runs straight, but you also see, on both the right and left sides, a sort of curve. It’s as if you were looking at a bottle shape and the water was running in the middle. The round part of the water flow is an artificial modification made by the Incas. It is not natural. What is natural in the picture above is what is seen on the top of the frame. The river moves right-left, right-left, and then it goes right. It is kind of more disturbed. That is the river that was not modified. In fact, the rest is a landscape design, as the entire area was altered by the Incas.”
When asked about the possible reasons for all the modifications, Adine explained that there could not be a single answer. For example, why would the Inca make alterations to this particular area and not somewhere else? There are, in fact, a variety of reasons that lead to landscape design. First and foremost, the amount of surface available. Because this is a mountainous environment, the optimal goal is to search for a flat surface. Therefore, whenever the Incas would find a flat surface, they would use it and if they could not find one, they would then create a new one. The main reason for this is that the Inca liked to have very flat terraces, and this is just because their way of modifying the environment had a very strong aesthetic value to them. According to Adine:
“They would never do something that was visually counter-intuitive or that would look strange to the eyes. This is why we don’t immediately see the modification of the landscape.”
For someone from the Andean culture, or even just from Peru, modifications are easily distinguishable. However, for a Western individual, the change is not easy to point out, no matter how obvious. Using this picture by Fernando Astete as an example, Adine explained:
“Look how straight the river is at its lowest part, and the look at the upper part, notice how uneven the river is. So the upper part is natural whereas the lower part is modified. You know this because the behavior of the river is not naturally like that. However, it is not the natural flow of the river that’s changed, it’s somebody else who has altered it. In this case, the Inca.”
An Inca could notice modifications right away. Even today, a student from Cusco who’s never dived into this question could see it immediately. Even a little kid could show it, without even knowing the word landscape.
Another interesting element detectable in this image is the paths created by those who lived in and traveled through the area.
“You see the river, and left to it you see a trail that kind of follows its path. In the lower part of the picture, you have the river first, the terraces, and then finally the trail. There is a space. When the terraces end, the trail gets closer to the river and moves up. The point where it gets kind narrower and closer to the river is on the left side, where you kind of see a zigzag line – That is not Inca. That is the modern trail.”
Adine further explained that no Inca would ever build a zigzag line unless there was no other space left. The reason behind this is that the Inca believed that one’s body had to be directed to what can be seen in front of them. If one moves their body too much to the sides, they can easily get dizzy or even become sick. The body had its own GPS and the Inca were aware of it.
Therefore, in order to experience Machu Picchu in its full authenticity, it is very important to follow the Inca trails as much as possible. Those trails have been planned not only to connect sites, but to also clearly show things that could possible go unnoticed. To walk on a pre-Hispanic trail of any kind, means walking on a landscape that has been designed prior to its opening. The connections are several and it is never random. In fact, there are paths created by the Inca for priests, militaries and other travelers, who were actually not allowed to go through their territories. Why? Adine answered:
“This is because you will see a landscape that you’re not trained to see. It’s like you’re a five year old taken to the Opera. You would not understand, it is too complex. So there are landscapes that have been designed to give you a specific perception of them or to connect you with what you see in a very special way. This is because images have the power to influence your mind and, of course, we have thousands of years of art production supporting this concept. Similarly, the sceneries are pieces of art, and therefore some paths and trails or walks are not for everybody. There is a hierarchy. For the Western mind that is very difficult to grasp, because to us, a path is a path, you just choose the most convenient way. We also only think about the functional aspect of conquering the mountains. To an Inca mind, however, this is completely incomprehensible, because you didn’t conquer nature, they honored it. In fact, they didn’t believe in conquering anybody or any place, they simply respect them.”