24 June 2011

Waterworks everywhere

This is at Tipon, a small village on the main road southeast from Cusco. It’s about 25km outside of the city, and on the way to work – Oropesa is just a few kilometres further on.

Today Tipon is famous for its cuy – that’s guinea pig, to you and me. Peruvians eat guinea pig on special occasions – Mother’s Day, birthdays, Saints’ Days, etc – and they come out from Cusco especially to eat Tipon’s cuy as it has a succulent reputation. No, I haven’t eaten it … yet. I’m not much of a meat-eater anyway, and the problem with cuy is the way they serve it – intact, with the poor little critter lying on its back, feet in the air, grimace on what’s left of its face.

In the past, Tipon was yet another of the many extraordinary Incan sites – and it’s still impressive. According to the brochure that came with the entrance ticket, ‘this wonderful complex of hillside farming terraces, long staircases, and water channels carved in bare stone is one of the royal gardens built under Inca Wiracocha’.

The site is at an altitude of 3500m (11.480ft), and offers stunning views over the village of Tipon and the surrounding area. The narrow dirt road up to the site is a little hair-raising for the acrophobic, especially if you’re travelling in a rattly local taxi with questionable brakes!

Its twelve terraces are bordered by highly polished stonewalls and it has vast agricultural terraces that diminish in size as you ascend the site. Most remarkable is the irrigation system, which is still used by the local farmers. Stone-lined conduits feed both the spring water and the rainy-season run-off throughout the site, along open channels, over vertical drops and through decorative waterfalls. It is a striking example of the Incans’ mastery of irrigation and hydraulic engineering.

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