CHAPTER X. Searching for the Last Inca Capital

The events described in the preceding chapter happened, for the most part, in Uiticos [6] and Uilcapampa, northwest of Ollantaytambo, about one hundred miles away from the Cuzco palace of the Spanish viceroy, in what Prescott calls "the remote fastnesses of the Andes." One looks in vain for Uiticos on modern maps of Peru, although several of the older maps give it. In 1625 "Viticos" is marked on de Laet's map of Peru as a mountainous province northeast of Lima and three hundred and fifty miles northwest of Vilcabamba! This error was copied by some later cartographers, including Mercator, until about 1740, when "Viticos" disappeared from all maps of Peru. The map makers had learned that there was no such place in that vicinity. Its real location was lost about three hundred years ago. A map published at Nuremberg in 1599 gives "Pincos" in the "Andes" mountains, a small range west of "Cusco." This does not seem to have been adopted by other cartographers; although a Palls map of 1739 gives "Picos" in about the same place. Nearly all the cartographers of the eighteenth century who give "Viticos" supposed it to be the name of a tribe, e.g., "Los Viticos" or "Les Viticos."

The largest official map of Peru, the work of that remarkable explorer, Raimondi, who spent his life crossing and recrossing Peru, does not contain the word Uiticos nor any of its numerous spellings, Viticos, Vitcos, Pitcos, or Biticos. Incidentally, it may seem strange that Uiticos could ever be written "Biticos." The Quichua language has no sound of V. The early Spanish writers, however, wrote the capital letter U exactly like a capital V. In official documents and letters Uiticos became Viticos. The official readers, who had never heard the word pronounced, naturally used the V sound instead of the U sound. Both V and P easily become B. So Uiticos became Biticos and Uilcapampa became Vilcabamba.

Raimondi's marvelous energy led him to penetrate to more out-of-the-way Peruvian villages than any one had ever done before or is likely to do again. He stopped at nothing in the way of natural obstacles. In 1865 he went deep into the heart of Uilcapampa; yet found no Uiticos. He believed that the ruins of Choqquequirau represented the residence of the last Incas. This view had been held by the French explorer, Count de Sartiges, in 1834, who believed that Choqquequirau was abandoned when Sayri Tupac, Manco's oldest son, went to live in Yucay. Raimondi's view was also held by the leading Peruvian geographers, including Paz Soldan in 1877, and by Prefect Nunez and his friends in 1909, at the time of my visit to Choqquequirau. [7] The only dissenter was the learned Peruvian historian, Don Carlos Romero, who insisted that the last Inca capital must be found elsewhere. He urged the importance of searching for Uiticos in the valleys of the rivers now called Vilcabamba and Urubamba. It was to be the work of the Yale Peruvian Expedition of 1911 to collect the geographical evidence which would meet the requirements of the chronicles and establish the whereabouts of the long-lost Inca capital.

That there were undescribed and unidentified ruins to be found in the Urubamba Valley was known to a few people in Cuzco, mostly wealthy planters who had large estates in the province of Convencion. One told us that he went to Santa Ana every year and was acquainted with a muleteer who had told him of some interesting ruins near the San Miguel bridge. Knowing the propensity of his countrymen to exaggerate, however, he placed little confidence in the story and, shrugging his shoulders, had crossed the bridge a score of times without taking the trouble to look into the matter. Another, Senor Pancorbo, whose plantation was in the Vilcabamba Valley, said that he had heard vague rumors of ruins in the valley above his plantation, particularly near Pucyura. If his story should prove to be correct, then it was likely that this might be the very Puquiura where Friar Marcos had established the first church in the "province of Uilcapampa." But that was "near" Uiticos and near a village called Chuquipalpa, where should be found the ruins of a Temple of the Sun, and in these ruins a "white rock over a spring of water." Yet neither these friendly planters nor the friends among whom they inquired had ever heard of Uiticos or a place called Chuquipalpa, or of such an interesting rock; nor had they themselves seen the ruins of which they had heard.

One of Senor Lomellini's friends, a talkative old fellow who had spent a large part of his life in prospecting for mines in the department of Cuzco, said that he had seen ruins "finer than Choqquequirau" at a place called Huayna Picchu; but he had never been to Choqquequirau. Those who knew him best shrugged their shoulders and did not seem to place much confidence in his word. Too often he had been over-enthusiastic about mines which did not "pan out." Yet his report resembled that of Charles Wiener, a French explorer, who, about 1875, in the course of his wanderings in the Andes, visited Ollantaytambo. While there he was told that there were fine ruins down the Urubamba Valley at a place called "Huaina-Picchu or Matcho-Picchu." He decided to go down the valley and look for these ruins. According to his text he crossed the Pass of Panticalla, descended the Lucumayo River to the bridge of Choqquechacca, and visited the lower Urubamba, returning by the same route. He published a detailed map of the valley. To one of its peaks he gives the name "Huaynapicchu, ele. 1815 m." and to another "Matchopicchu, ele. 1720 m." His interest in Inca ruins was very keen. He devotes pages to Ollantaytambo. He failed to reach Machu Picchu or to find any ruins of importance in the Urubamba or Vilcabamba valleys. Could we hope to be any more successful? Would the rumors that had reached us "pan out" as badly as those to which Wiener had listened so eagerly? Since his day, to be sure, the Peruvian Government had actually finished a road which led past Machu Picchu. On the other hand, a Harvard Anthropological Expedition, under the leadership of Dr. William C. Farrabee, had recently been over this road without reporting any ruins of importance. They were looking for savages and not ruins. Nevertheless, if Machu Picchu was "finer than Choqquequirau" why had no one pointed it out to them?

To most of our friends in Cuzco the idea that there could be anything finer than Choqquequirau seemed, absurd. They regarded that "cradle of gold" as "the most remarkable archeological discovery of recent times." They assured us there was nothing half so good. They even assumed that we were secretly planning to return thither to dig for buried treasure! Denials were of no avail. To a people whose ancestors made fortunes out of lucky "strikes," and who themselves have been brought up on stories of enormous wealth still remaining to be discovered by some fortunate excavator, the question of tesoro - treasure, wealth, riches - is an ever-present source of conversation. Even the prefect of Cuzco was quite unable to conceive of my doing anything for the love of discovery. He was convinced that I should find great riches at Choqquequirau - and that I was in receipt of a very large salary! He refused to believe that the members of the Expedition received no more than their expenses. He told me confidentially that Professor Foote would sell his collection of insects for at least $10,000! Peruvians have not been accustomed to see any one do scientific work except as he was paid by the government or employed by a railroad or mining company. We have frequently found our work misunderstood and regarded with suspicion, even by the Cuzco Historical Society.

The valley of the Urubamba, or Uilcamayu, as it used to be called, may be reached from Cuzco in several ways. The usual route for those going to Yucay is northwest from the city, over the great Andean highway, past the slopes of Mt. Sencca. At Ttica-Ttica (12,000 ft.) the road crosses the lowest pass at the western end of the Cuzco Basin. At the last point from which one can see the city of Cuzco, all true Indians, whether on their way out of the valley or into it, pause, turn toward the east, facing the city, remove their hats and mutter a prayer. I believe that the words they use now are those of the "Ave Maria," or some other familiar orison of the Catholic Church. Nevertheless, the custom undoubtedly goes far back of the advent of the first Spanish missionaries. It is probably a relic of the ancient habit of worshiping the rising sun. During the centuries immediately preceding the conquest, the city of Cuzco was the residence of the Inca himself, that divine individual who was at once the head of Church and State. Nothing would have been more natural than for persons coming in sight of his residence to perform an act of veneration. This in turn might have led those leaving the city to fall into the same habit at the same point in the road. I have watched hundreds of travelers pass this point. None of those whose European costume proclaimed a white or mixed ancestry stopped to pray or make obeisance. On the other hand, all those, without exception, who were clothed in a native costume, which betokened that they considered themselves to be Indians rather than whites, paused for a moment, gazing at the ancient city, removed their hats, and said a short prayer.

Leaving Ttica-Ttica, we went northward for several leagues, passed the town of Chincheros, with its old Inca walls, and came at length to the edge of the wonderful valley of Yucay. In its bottom are great level terraces rescued from the Urubamba River by the untiring energy of the ancient folk. On both sides of the valley the steep slopes bear many remains of narrow terraces, some of which are still in use. Above them are "temporales," fields of grain, resting like a patch-work quilt on slopes so steep it seems incredible they could be cultivated. Still higher up, their heads above the clouds, are the jagged snow-capped peaks. The whole offers a marvelous picture, rich in contrast, majestic in proportion. In Yucay once dwelt the Inca Manco's oldest son, Sayri Tupac, after he had accepted the viceroy's invitation to come under Spanish protection. Here he lived three years and here, in 1560, he died an untimely death under circumstances which led his brothers, Titu Cusi and Tupac Amaru, to think that they would be safer in Uiticos. We spent the night in Urubamba, the modern capital of the province, much favored by Peruvians of to-day because of its abundant water supply, delightful climate, and rich fruits. Cuzco, 11,000 feet, is too high to have charming surroundings, but two thousand feet lower, in the Urubamba Valley, there is everything to please the eye and delight the horticulturist.

Speaking of horticulturists reminds me of their enemies. Uru is the Quichua word for caterpillars or grubs, pampa means flat land. Urubamba is "flat-land-where-there-are-grubs-or-caterpillars." Had it been named by people who came up from a warm region where insects abound, it would hardly have been so denominated. Only people not accustomed to land where caterpillars and grubs flourished would have been struck by such a circumstance. Consequently, the valley was probably named by plateau dwellers who were working their way down into a warm region where butterflies and moths are more common. Notwithstanding its celebrated caterpillars, Urubamba's gardens of to-day are full of roses, lilies, and other brilliant flowers. There are orchards of peaches, pears, and apples; there are fields where luscious strawberries are raised for the Cuzco market. Apparently, the grubs do not get everything.

The next day down the valley brought us to romantic Ollantaytambo, described in glowing terms by Castelnau, Marcou, Wiener, and Squier many years ago. It has lost none of its charm, even though Marcou's drawings are imaginary and Squier's are exaggerated. Here, as at Urubamba, there are flower gardens and highly cultivated green fields. The brooks are shaded by willows and poplars. Above them are magnificent precipices crowned by snow-capped peaks. The village itself was once the capital of an ancient principality whose history is shrouded in mystery. There are ruins of curious gabled buildings, storehouses, "prisons," or "monasteries," perched here and there on well-nigh inaccessible crags above the village. Below are broad terraces of unbelievable extent where abundant crops are still harvested; terraces which will stand for ages to come as monuments to the energy and skill of a bygone race. The "fortress" is on a little hill, surrounded by steep cliffs, high walls, and hanging gardens so as to be difficult of access. Centuries ago, when the tribe which cultivated the rich fields in this valley lived in fear and terror of their savage neighbors, this hill offered a place of refuge to which they could retire. It may have been fortified at that time. As centuries passed in which the land came under the control of the Incas, whose chief interest was the peaceful promotion of agriculture, it is likely that this fortress became a royal garden. The six great ashlars of reddish granite weighing fifteen or twenty tons each, and placed in line on the summit of the hill, were brought from a quarry several miles away with an immense amount of labor and pains. They were probably intended to be a record of the magnificence of an able ruler. Not only could he command the services of a sufficient number of men to extract these rocks from the quarry and carry them up an inclined plane from the bottom of the valley to the summit of the hill; he had to supply the men with food. The building of such a monument meant taking five hundred Indians away from their ordinary occupations as agriculturists. He must have been a very good administrator. To his people the magnificent megaliths were doubtless a source of pride. To his enemies they were a symbol of his power and might.

A league below Ollantaytambo the road forks. The right branch ascends a steep valley and crosses the pass of Panticalla near snow-covered Mt. Veronica. Near the pass are two groups of ruins. One of them, extravagantly referred to by Wiener as a "granite palace, whose appearance [appareil] resembles the more beautiful parts of Ollantaytambo," was only a storehouse. The other was probably a tampu, or inn, for the benefit of official travelers. All travelers in Inca times, even the bearers of burdens, were acting under official orders. Commercial business was unknown. The rights of personal property were not understood. No one had anything to sell; no one had any money to buy it with. On the other hand, the Incas had an elaborate system of tax collecting. Two thirds of the produce raised by their subjects was claimed by the civil and religious rulers. It was a reasonable provision of the benevolent despotism of the Incas that inhospitable regions like the Panticalla Pass near Mt. Veronica should be provided with suitable rest houses and storehouses. Polo de Ondegardo, an able and accomplished statesman, who was in office in Cuzco in 1560, says that the food of the chasquis, Inca post runners, was provided from official storehouses; "those who worked for the Inca's service, or for religion, never ate at their own expense." In Manco's day these buildings at Havaspampa probably sheltered the outpost which defeated Captain Villadiego.

Before the completion of the river road, about 1895, travelers from Cuzco to the lower Urubamba had a choice of two routes, one by way of the pass of Panticalla, followed by Captain Garcia in 1571, by General Miller in 1835, Castelnau in 1842, and Wiener in 1875; and one by way of the pass between Mts. Salcantay and Soray, along the Salcantay River to Huadquina, followed by the Count de Sartiges in 1834 and Raimondi in 1865. Both of these routes avoid the highlands between Mt. Salcantay and Mt. Veronica and the lowlands between the villages of Piri and Huadquina. This region was in 1911 undescribed in the geographical literature of southern Peru. We decided not to use either pass, but to go straight down the Urubamba river road. It led us into a fascinating country.

Two leagues beyond Piri, at Salapunco, the road skirts the base of precipitous cliffs, the beginnings of a wonderful mass of granite mountains which have made Uilcapampa more difficult of access than the surrounding highlands which are composed of schists, conglomerates, and limestone. Salapunco is the natural gateway to the ancient province, but it was closed for centuries by the combined efforts of nature and man. The Urubamba River, in cutting its way through the granite range, forms rapids too dangerous to be passable and precipices which can be scaled only with great effort and considerable peril. At one time a footpath probably ran near the river, where the Indians, by crawling along the face of the cliff and sometimes swinging from one ledge to another on hanging vines, were able to make their way to any of the alluvial terraces down the valley. Another path may have gone over the cliffs above the fortress, where we noticed, in various inaccessible places, the remains of walls built on narrow ledges. They were too narrow and too irregular to have been intended to support agricultural terraces. They may have been built to make the cliff more precipitous. They probably represent the foundations of an old trail. To defend these ancient paths we found that prehistoric man had built, at the foot of the precipices, close to the river, a small but powerful fortress whose ruins now pass by the name of Salapunco; sala = ruins; punco = gateway. Fashioned after famous Sacsahuaman and resembling it in the irregular character of the large ashlars and also by reason of the salients and reentrant angles which enabled its defenders to prevent the walls being successfully scaled, it presents an interesting problem.

Commanding as it does the entrance to the valley of Torontoy, Salapunco may have been built by some ancient chief to enable him to levy tribute on all who passed. My first impression was that the fortress was placed here, at the end of the temperate zone, to defend the valleys of Urubamba and Ollantaytambo against savage enemies coming up from the forests of the Amazon. On the other hand, it is possible that Salapunco was built by the tribes occupying the fastnesses of Uilcapampa as an outpost to defend them against enemies coming down the valley from the direction of Ollantaytambo. They could easily have held it against a considerable force, for it is powerfully built and constructed with skill. Supplies from the plantations of Torontoy, lower down the river, might have reached it along the path which antedated the present government road. Salapunco may have been occupied by the troops of the Inca Manco when he established himself in Uiticos and ruled over Uilcapampa. He could hardly, however, have built a megalithic work of this kind. It is more likely that he would have destroyed the narrow trails than have attempted to hold the fort against the soldiers of Pizarro. Furthermore, its style and character seem to date it with the well-known megalithic structures of Cuzco and Ollantaytambo. This makes it seem all the more extraordinary that Salapunco could ever have been built as a defense against Ollantaytambo, unless it was built by folk who once occupied Cuzco and who later found a retreat in the canyons below here.

When we first visited Salapunco no megalithic remains had been reported as far down the valley as this. It never occurred to us that, in hunting for the remains of such comparatively recent structures as the Inca Manco had the force and time to build, we were to discover remains of a far more remote past. Yet we were soon to find ruins enough to explain why such a fortress as Salapunco might possibly have been built so as to defend Uilcapampa against Ollantaytambo and Cuzco and not those well-known Inca cities against the savages of the Amazon jungles.

Passing Salapunco, we skirted granite cliffs and precipices and entered a most interesting region, where we were surprised and charmed by the extent of the ancient terraces, their length and height, the presence of many Inca ruins, the beauty of the deep, narrow valleys, and the grandeur of the snow-clad mountains which towered above them. Across the river, near Qquente, on top of a series of terraces, we saw the extensive ruins of Patallacta (pata = height or terrace; llacta = town or city), an Inca town of great importance. It was not known to Raimondi or Paz Soldan, but is indicated on Wiener's map, although he does not appear to have visited it. We have been unable to find any reference to it in the chronicles. We spent several months here in 1915 excavating and determining the character of the ruins. In another volume I hope to tell more of the antiquities of this region. At present it must suffice to remark that our explorations near Patallacta disclosed no "white rock over a spring of water." None of the place names in this vicinity fit in with the accounts of Uiticos. Their identity remains a puzzle, although the symmetry of the buildings, their architectural idiosyncrasies such as niches, stone roof-pegs, bar-holds, and eye-bonders, indicate an Inca origin. At what date these towns and villages flourished, who built them, why they were deserted, we do not yet know; and the Indians who live hereabouts are ignorant, or silent, as to their history.

At Torontoy, the end of the cultivated temperate valley, we found another group of interesting ruins, possibly once the residence of an Inca chief. In a cave near by we secured some mummies. The ancient wrappings had been consumed by the natives in an effort to smoke out the vampire bats that lived in the cave. On the opposite side of the river are extensive terraces and above them, on a hilltop, other ruins first visited by Messrs. Tucker and Hendriksen in 1911. One of their Indian bearers, attempting to ford the rapids here with a large surveying instrument, was carried off his feet, swept away by the strong current, and drowned before help could reach him.

Near Torontoy is a densely wooded valley called the Pampa Ccahua. In 1915 rumors of Andean or "spectacled" bears having been seen here and of damage having been done by them to some of the higher crops, led us to go and investigate. We found no bears, but at an elevation of 12,000 feet were some very old trees, heavily covered with flowering moss not hitherto known to science. Above them I was so fortunate as to find a wild potato plant, the source from which the early Peruvians first developed many varieties of what we incorrectly call the Irish potato. The tubers were as large as peas.

Mr. Heller found here a strange little cousin of the kangaroo, a near relative of the coenolestes. It turned out to be new to science. To find a new genus of mammalian quadrupeds was an event which delighted Mr. Heller far more than shooting a dozen bears. [8]

Torontoy is at the beginning of the Grand Canyon of the Urubamba, and such a canyon! The river "road" runs recklessly up and down rock stairways, blasts its way beneath overhanging precipices, spans chasms on frail bridges propped on rustic brackets against granite cliffs. Under dense forests, wherever the encroaching precipices permitted it, the land between them and the river was once terraced and cultivated. We found ourselves unexpectedly in a veritable wonderland. Emotions came thick and fast. We marveled at the exquisite pains with which the ancient folk had rescued incredibly narrow strips of arable land from the tumbling rapids. How could they ever have managed to build a retaining wall of heavy stones along the very edge of the dangerous river, which it is death to attempt to cross! On one sightly bend near a foaming waterfall some Inca chief built a temple, whose walls tantalize the traveler. He must pass by within pistol shot of the interesting ruins, unable to ford the intervening rapids. High up on the side of the canyon, five thousand feet above this temple, are the ruins of Corihuayrachina (kori = "gold"; huayara = "wind"; huayrachina = "a threshing-floor where winnowing takes place." Possibly this was an ancient gold mine of the Incas. Half a mile above us on another steep slope, some modern pioneer had recently cleared the jungle from a fine series of ancient artificial terraces.

On the afternoon of July 23d we reached a hut called "La Maquina," where travelers frequently stop for the night. The name comes from the presence here of some large iron wheels, parts of a "machine" destined never to overcome the difficulties of being transported all the way to a sugar estate in the lower valley, and years ago left here to rust in the jungle. There was little fodder, and there was no good place for us to pitch our camp, so we pushed on over the very difficult road, which had been carved out of the face of a great granite cliff. Part of the cliff had slid off into the river and the breach thus made in the road had been repaired by means of a frail-looking rustic bridge built on a bracket composed of rough logs, branches, and reeds, tied together and surmounted by a few inches of earth and pebbles to make it seem sufficiently safe to the cautious cargo mules who picked their way gingerly across it. No wonder "the machine" rested where it did and gave its name to that part of the valley.

Dusk falls early in this deep canyon, the sides of which are considerably over a mile in height. It was almost dark when we passed a little sandy plain two or three acres in extent, which in this land of steep mountains is called a pampa. Were the dwellers on the pampas of Argentina - where a railroad can go for 250 miles in a straight line, except for the curvature of the earth - to see this little bit of flood-plain called Mandor Pampa, they would think some one had been joking or else grossly misusing a word which means to them illimitable space with not a hill in sight. However, to the ancient dwellers in this valley, where level land was so scarce that it was worth while to build high stone-faced terraces so as to enable two rows of corn to grow where none grew before, any little natural breathing space in the bottom of the canyon is called a pampa.

We passed an ill-kept, grass-thatched hut, turned off the road through a tiny clearing, and made our camp at the edge of the river Urubamba on a sandy beach. Opposite us, beyond the huge granite boulders which interfered with the progress of the surging stream, was a steep mountain clothed with thick jungle. It was an ideal spot for a camp, near the road and yet secluded. Our actions, however, aroused the suspicions of the owner of the hut, Melchor Arteaga, who leases the lands of Mandor Pampa. He was anxious to know why we did not stay at his hut like respectable travelers. Our gendarme, Sergeant Carrasco, reassured him. They had quite a long conversation. When Arteaga learned that we were interested in the architectural remains of the Incas, he said there were some very good ruins in this vicinity - in fact, some excellent ones on top of the opposite mountain, called Huayna Picchu, and also on a ridge called Machu Picchu. These were the very places Charles Wiener heard of at Ollantaytambo in 1875 and had been unable to reach. The story of my experiences on the following day will be found in a later chapter. Suffice it to say at this point that the ruins of Huayna Picchu turned out to be of very little importance, while those of Machu Picchu, familiar to readers of the "National Geographic Magazine," are as interesting as any ever found in the Andes.

When I first saw the remarkable citadel of Machu Picchu perched on a narrow ridge two thousand feet above the river, I wondered if it could be the place to which that old soldier, Baltasar de Ocampo, a member of Captain Garcia's expedition, was referring when he said: "The Inca Tupac Amaru was there in the fortress of Pitcos [Uiticos], which is on a very high mountain, whence the view commanded a great part of the province of Uilcapampa. Here there was an extensive level space, with very sumptuous and majestic buildings, erected with great skill and art, all the lintels of the doors, the principal as well as the ordinary ones, being of marble, elaborately carved." Could it be that "Picchu" was the modern variant of "Pitcos"? To be sure, the white granite of which the temples and palaces of Machu Picchu are constructed might easily pass for marble. The difficulty about fitting Ocampo's description to Machu Picchu, however, was that there was no difference between the lintels of the doors and the walls themselves. Furthermore, there is no "white rock over a spring of water" which Calancha says was "near Uiticos." There is no Pucyura in this neighborhood. In fact, the canyon of the Urubamba does not satisfy the geographical requirements of Uiticos. Although containing ruins of surpassing interest, Machu Picchu did not represent that last Inca capital for which we were searching. We had not yet found Manco's palace.