June 23, 2008 – June 24, 2008
Take extra film/digital camera cards and extra batteries. You are likely to take more pictures than you ever thought you would. If you have one, take a long lens for your camera. I had a 10x zoom for these but a 20x image stabilized would have really been appreciated.
Inti Raymi is one of the world's great spectacles. While a great tourist event, remember that it still has deep cultural meaning to the local indigenous population. This made it even more interesting to me. The day starts before sunrise. You need to go stake out a spot at the Koricancha where things get started shortly after sunrise. The ceremony begins with the blowing of a conch shell. Priests, handmaidens, musicians, members of the Inca army, and more file into position for some time. Colorful costumes abound. Then the Inca comes out and addresses everyone in Quechua and welcomes the sun. From Koricancha, you need to hustle over to the Plaza de Armas where stage 2 of the festival is held. Getting a good spot here is likely to be tough if you had a good spot for the first ceremony. Others will have opted to go here instead and snagged the primo locations. For us, the first and third ceremonies of the day were the big hits. The Plaza de Armas part was much more like the parades that had been going on for days already. We hopped our bus, got our packed lunches and decamped to Sacsayhuaman. You need to have purchased tickets in advance if you want to enter Sacsayhuaman for the grandest spectacle of the day. It's a long way out of town. I guess you can walk it as we saw many locals doing, but I thing I'd rather not given the elevation and the distance. Try to find transport, recognizing that the roads will be jammed. Seating is bleachers surrounding the 3 sides not occupied by the massive rocks of Sacsayhuaman. A stage is set in the center of the field. In years past, the celebration was done on the rocks proper but concern for damaging the site and better viewing seem to have led to the current setup. Tickets are pricy, way beyond the means of the locals for whom the celebration means so much more. In past years, the locals have been able to watch for free from the large rock outcrop (the Suchana) facing the fortification. This year, the police cordoned off the hill and prevented locals from access. It's not clear to me why they did this but when the Inca entered, there was a huge outcry and the people stormed the barricades and took back the Suchana in order to see their Inca. Huge numbers of people swarmed all over the rock. Here you can see a video my wife took showing the people taking back their viewing spot. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6QaZcrEwJ24 The whole afternoon is pretty much a Kodak moment when it comes to color and costume. The highlight is the entry of Inca Queen and the Inca King. Both are carried on litters by strong men to the stage in the center after a circuit of the field. The stage is where the real ceremonies to welcome the sun are held. These include offering the chicha to the sun, relighting the sacred fire from the light of the sun and offering the still beating heart of a black llama to the sun. Never fear, the llama bit is faked these days but they make it seem pretty real. Hopefully you are not overwhelmed by the number of pictures shown here but even after more severe pruning than over on Picasa, there's just way to much variety to leave on the cutting room floor. For other videos of the celebration see: http://www.youtube.com/user/Mswarren21