THE ROUTE OF THE RIVER
The river was channeled in Inca times and has left its mark. The path starts from Aqokqasa hill; above the road the site of Tunasmoqo is recognized.
This particular image is really interesting, as it signifies the original movement/route of the river. Over time, the river bed had been moved by the Incas, so the incas had all the remaining surface to use for vegetation and to grow food. The river bed was designed to determine a special type of environment and to allow the growth of plants and the design of terraces. And it can be seen very well on the left side of the picture. This image is truly significant as far as landscape planning goes.
On the right, the terraces can be seen to have different levels, while its not visible on the left side. To explain the direction of the river, Adine said:
“You can see the river which runs straight but you see on the right hand side and left site, a sort of the curve. It’s as if you were looking at a bottle shape and the water runs in the middle. The round part of the water is an artificial modification by the Incas, it is not natural. What is natural in the picture above is what is seen on the top of the picture. The upper part of the picture you see that the river moves right left right left then it goes right. It is kind of more disturbed. The upper part of the picture shows the river that is not modified. This is a landscape design as the entire area has been modified by the Incas.”
When asked about the possible reason for the modification, Adine explained that there could not be a single simple answer to that. For example, why would the Inca do the modification in this particular area and not somewhere else? There are infact a variety of reasons that lead to a landscape design; first and foremost, it is the amount of surface available. Because it is a mountainous environment, so everything is a slope, and everybody is searching for a flat surface. So whenever the Incas found a flat surface they used it. If they could not find it, they would create it. The main reason is that, the Inca liked to have very flat terraces, the Inca have this idea that they want a flat surface and they create what they need. The specialty is that their way of modifying the environment has an aesthetical value in it. According to Adine:
“They would never do something that is visually counter intuitive or would look strange to your eyes. This is why for us we don’t immediately see the modification of the landscape.”
For someone from the Andean culture, or from Peru the modification can be easily distinguishable. However, for a westerner 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 the lowest part, and the look at the upper part, how uneven the river is. So the upper part is the natural one where as the lower part is modified. How you know is because, the behavior of the river is not naturally like that, it is to be similar to itself. So when the behavior is suddenly changed so much, it is not the natural flow of the river that’s changed, its somebody else who has altered it, in this case, the Inca.”
This is how the western eyes can only recognize the modification of the landscape. However, an Inca could tell right away. Even a student from Cusco who’s never done it, they’ll see it immediately, even a little kid can show it without knowing the word landscape.
Another interesting element that can be seen through this image is the paths created by those who lived and traveled through there.
“You see the river and left to the river you see a trail that kind of follows the river. In the lower part of the pic, you have the river, the terraces and then you have the trail. There is a space. Then when the terraces end, the trail gets closer to the river and moves up. The point where it gets kind of narrower and closer to the river on the left side, you kind of see a zigzag line – That is not Inca. That is the modern trail”
Adine further explained that no Inca would ever do a zigzag line unless its compulsory for them. That is, unless there is no other space and they absolutely have to do it. The reason for it is that the Inca believed that one’s body has to be directed to what can be seen in front of them, because if one moves their body too much to the sides, they can easily get dizzy or even become sick. The body has its own GPS in a way and the Inca were aware of it.
Therefore, to experience Machu Picchu in its authenticity, it is very important is to follow the Inca trails as much as possible. Those trails have been thought out not only to connect sites, but to show things that could go unnoticed. To walk on a pre-Hispanic trail of any kind, it is to walk on a landscape that has been designed prior to its opening. The connections are several and its never casual. In fact, there actually are paths created for Inca, paths for priests, for militaries and anyone who does not belong to these groups, were not allowed to go through these paths. Why? Adine answered
“It is because you will see a landscape that you’re not trained to see. It’s like if you’re a 5 year old taken to the Opera, they would not understand, it is too complex. So there are landscapes that have been designed to give you a perception or to connect you with what you see in a very special way. This is because images have a power on your mind and of course, we have thousands of years of art explaining this idea. Similarly, the sceneries are pieces of art and so some paths and trails or walks are not for everybody. There is a hierarchy, and for a western mind that is very difficult to grasp. Because for us, a path is a path, you just choose the most convenient and quickest way. There is also a western mindset where you only think about the functional aspect of conquering the mountains. Alpine trails have been designed to conquer mountains which for an Inca mind is completely incomprehensible because you don’t conquer your ancestors for example, you honor them. You don’t conquer anybody or any place, you respect them.”