Conversations on a train to Chicago

CutbankI’m headed back home for two days of hunting and fixing my mother’s cars. I’ve worked as a mechanic, but now I’m in school in clinical engineering.

Which is?

Mostly I will be fixing medical equipment, which might pay more to support my collection of several vehicles and my BMW motorcycle.

You might do some work on some of the equipment that helps me get around, something that might help with what diabetes has done to my legs.

What kind of treatment are you getting? How long you had it?

I got it from being around something very Orange.

ShelbyBet I know where that happened.

You’re probably old enough to know about Agent Orange. Saw lots of it in you know where.

You fully eligible at VA?

I am.

Had a friend that could never get to be fully eligible for MS treatment even though he ate lunch sitting on top of Agent Orange barrels.

Gotta stay positive though. You know how to count in Spanish?

How?

What do you call four gringos in quicksand?

What?

El quatro cinco.

You heard about Sven and Ole and their great fishing spot, right?

Tell me.

It was so great that Sven told Ole they should mark it. So Ole leaned over and painted a big X on the back of the boat.

You stupid, that won’t work; what if we don’t get the same boat when we come back?

Hey, we better give up our table for the next bunch of diners.

Let me tell you this though, the best ride is from Chicago to San Francisco – great views in the daylight rather than passing through the Cascades at night.

Night all.

Malta

Great day, huh? Waking up in beautiful Montana, larch trees yellow, snow on the ground.

Where you from?

Austin, but our daughter works in Seattle.

And you?

Taught Spanish in Mexico.

You won’t think there’d be much need for Spanish teachers in Mexico.

Also in Guatemala, Alaska . . .

Williston

I’m a TV camerawoman and when I was hired in 1992, I was the third woman to hold that job in my city.

Me? I wanted to be a forester since I was five years old. We were bombed out in our German city, and I went to live with my grandparents in the country. I came to America because of a woman, and I’m still with her 50 years later.

She on the train?

No, she’s a military kid and doesn’t like to travel, but I just spent a week on a 50,000-acre ranch, hunting deer in Missouri Breaks and Bearpaw forest. I carried both a rifle and a camera and only shot with the camera. I did my forestry training in Germany and hunting was part of it there. Hunting makes me feel more connected to land, following the fauna and the flora.

You always travel by train?

Mostly. I like to see the land from the ground up – not at 50,000 feet. And you travel on trains much?

I do, said the camerawoman. I don’t like that you can’t pull over to the side of the road if something goes wrong on a plane.

Let me show you some of the photos I shot of the deer. They always stop at the top of a hill and look back at what scared them before going over the top. So I “shot” this one right at the perfect moment.

And here’s one that we followed for hours.

And this one.

And this one.

And this one.

Maybe we should give up our table,

Red Wing

Here’s my theory on questions: When you drive, you can see the road and you can ask about it. But if it weren’t for the road, you would not be driving. So if it weren’t for the universe, you would not be able to ask a question about the universe.

And where does that lead you?

To my own mysteries, which are:

Number 1: Why does God hate trailer parks?

Number 2: Why do you never see old limousines? Really, you ever see one? Where do they go?

And lastly, Number 3: What did pigeons do before there were cities?

WinonaDid you hear that Hillary Clinton said all black people look alike?

She said it was a joke.

Yeah, but she made it sound as if race doesn’t exist.

It doesn’t, according to the latest National Geographic.

You need to get better reading material.

ColumbusLike what?

I just read a book by Tucker Carlson, whom I admire.

Can’t agree with you on that. He always seems off the news, talking about things his audience of one would like to hear rather than Mueller, investigations, etc.

Hey, he’s telling the truth about the Trump administration – the good economy, the . .

He had a good economy when he came into office. And there’s more than the economy. He’s taking down the American culture, what it has come to represent over more than 200 years.

And he wants to get us into a war because he knows that the wartime presidents are more remembered and admired.

That’s baloney. All I can say is that when I go to bed each night, I say “Thank God for Donald Trump.”

He’s a crass, a racist, incompetent . .

I say thank God for Donald Trump for what he’s done, but you’re a liberal and you don’t want to talk about it. So good night.

Chicago

 

 

 

 

Seattle Seawolves hand New York its first loss

DSC_3688
Seattle Seawolves defense: Two on one and two more coming soon. George Barton tackling above and Shalom Suniula hangling onto a foot.

The Seattle Seawolves combined strong defense, speedy back play and accurate kicking to hand Rugby United New York its first defeat of the season, 33-21.

All scoring came from tries and conversions with no penalty kicks attempted in the game. The Seawolves scored five tries with Brock Staller converting all but one when his kick bounced off the left post. That may have been the only thing he did wrong all night.

He scored two of the Seawolves five tries including a 75-yard run after picking up an errant New York pass.

The Seawolves win scrambles the Major League Rugby standings with San Diego and New Orleans, the two teams New York has beaten, on top of the standings, and Seawolves coming in third behind the two teams they have lost to.

Eric Duechle started the scoring for Seattle, taking a pass off loose play and touching down in the corner seven minutes into the game that had been dominated by the Seawolves forwards.

Four minutes later, New York set up a dazzling double scissors that left Will Leonard scoring under the post. Cathal Marsh converted his first of three conversions.

New York took the lead seven minutes later when Ross Deacon scored from five yards out after peeling off a set scrum.

Seattle continued winning the ball, pushed to New York’s try line where Tim Metcher put one down for five more points. Then Apisai Naikatini pushed the ball back in a loose ruck, but scrum half Phil Mack’s pass to standoff Ben Cima bounced by him. But Shalom Suniula was there to pick it up and cut behind the loose. New York scrambled, but Suniula stretched out a hand to make the try.

Staller ran for his 75-yard try and the missed conversion one minute before the half ended, 26-14.

In the second half, the Seawolves either had the ball in hand or were putting steady pressure on New York. A well placed cross kick by Cima found winger Staller racing down the sideline to gather up the ball and score one more time.

New York finally broke through the Seawolves defense with 12 minutes left in the game and Mike Brown going in for the try.

The Seawolves forwards were dominant in loose play and in the set formations, with the reserves coming in as strong and well settled as those they replaced. Better control in the lineouts for the Seattle team with extra high lifting of the jumpers. Backs seemed peppier in this match with many exciting breakaways.

New York, now 2-1 in the league, head to Texas next week where they should have no trouble. Whatever happened to rugby in Texas? Between Houston and Austin, the Texas teams, have one win in eight tries.

The Seawolves are off the first weekend in March, but there will be plenty of rugby at Starfire Stadium in Tukwila as the United States national team will take on the Uruguay team on Saturday, March 2, at 7 p.m. Why isn’t that on TV?

On Friday night, March 8, at 7 p.m., Brock Staller, a Canadian national player, will be lining up with Canada in Starfire against the U.S. Eagles, which could include several Seattle Seawolves. Should be good, and why isn’t that game on TV?

Seawolves return to Starfire on March 10 against the Houston Sabercats, who have that one win in Texas.

DSC_3685
Ben Cima’s kicks got Seawolves out of trouble or set up scoring.

A professional rugby player fixed our plumbing

A professional rugby player came to my house today to fix our blocked sewer pipes.

A fine rugby player and a hard-working plumber – and thanks to Raymark Plumbing and Sewer for hiring so many Seattle Seawolves, who, let’s face it, can’t make much of a life on salaries from the Major League Rugby, now in its second year.

Perhaps this will be like Johnny Unitas working for Bethlehem Steel during the National Football League’s off-season back in the 1950s. Or, Lou Groza selling insurance. Jim Brown was a marketing rep for Pepsi-Cola, and Frank Ryan taught math at Case Western Reserve University (I was a Browns fan long before the Seahawks were a twinkle in anybody’s eye).

If others do what Raymark is doing to keep good players playing the game in the United States, it could be the start of something big for fans, the players and the league. And some day, soon we hope, the teams will be playing a salary players can live on.

Of course, my player-plumber never asked for advice from an old rugger, but that hardly stopped me.

Keep at it. You may not have studied chemistry and psychology in college to keep my pipes clear, but do this to keep playing rugby well and as long as you can. My teammates built concrete farm silos in the 1970s – thanks, Bruce — so we could play at the Ohio State University and for the Old White in Atlanta. Later, working the night shift on Saturday night left the day open for rugby.

Let others help you to play at the top level as long as you can because some day you will see the play but not get there in time to make it.

And some day, your damned teammates will start dying. First it was Tripp, whom Old Puget Sound Beach heard about while on tour in New Zealand and Fiji, where Tripp should have been instead of in some cancer ward dying.

And whatever happened to Simo, who would stick canned smoked oysters up his nose and pull them out and eat them at highly inappropriate times. And the Round Man, big smile, big girth and a deadly pass from scrum half.

You go to a team reunion and reminisce about the kicker that stared into the setting sun, goal post down there somewhere, and kicked a penalty that won the Heart of America tournament in Kansas City. “Oh, he died in a car accident some years ago,” we were told.

Johnny Mack shot in a bar he managed. Botz dared to be gross, and we thought he’d never die. But he did.

Then Don, who I had a bit of a shuffle once at practice. He was big, I was small and I’m sure he never thought once about it as he walked off the pitch and then painfully off the planet.

Even if you make enough money in rugby to live on, never take time off like Joey Galloway did in an NFL contract dispute. Did he think the prime time of his playing career would last forever? That he could waste year of it?

Just remember, there will come a time when you would rather play rugby than talk – or write – about it. Let Raymark and others help you out.

 

 

Galapagos Islands: wildlife galore, from sea to sky

Monday, October 1, 2018, to Friday, October 5, 2018 — Time to leave Quito, Ecuador, and our Alexander + Roberts guide, Maria, here competing against Sunday morning church bells in the main square. She has another group coming into Quito on Monday afternoon to do the same trip we have made in reverse – Ecuador first, then Peru.

We are leaving this land of volcanoes to a group of islands 645 miles off the coast of Ecuador, where we will spend the next five days. In 1959, Ecuador made the Galapagos Islands a national park, and it became a UNESCO site in 1996. The archipelago includes 19 islands; just five of them, where potable water was found, are inhabited by human beings. That’s about 3 percent of the land mass for humans and the rest national park, where about 95 percent of the natural wildlife is still intact.

BoatWe traveled around the islands aboard La Pinta, staffed with three naturalists, chefs who knew their way around the kitchen, a helpful crew to sail the boat and help us in and out of our wetsuits and the pangas (Zodiacs or small boats).

 

Five days of hiking, snorkeling and exploring the islands’ coastlines by boat. Hard to beat.

First stop was Santa Cruz Island, where we visited what seemed to me to be a tortoise farm. The tortugas, weighing as much as 500 pounds, are not in captivity and can leave through fences to seek food. But they come here for the guava fruit and grazing on grasses, leaves and bananas. Not carnivores.

Those that are hatched here are kept for five years until their shells are strong enough to be released by the park.

Turtle

Then from turtles to iguanas, seals and lots of birds. I’ve seen more variety in fish when snorkeling in Hawaii, but I’ve never swum with a seal before. Tried to get a picture with my underwater camera ($110 Nikon Cool Pix, highly recommended), but he took one look into my mask and took off while my finger was trying to find the shutter button.

Seal eyes open
Seals are much easier to photograph on land; it’s hard walking on flippers

The naturalists accompanied us on treks around the islands and also gave lectures each night, one on fishes, land iguanas (did not see) and my favorite, on penguins. There are about 17 kinds of penguins — more or less with some dispute on that — and all but one lives in the Southern Hemisphere. That one is the Galapagos penguin, which is close enough to the equator to drift into the Northern Hemisphere. The lecturer pointed out that the Galapagos Islands are the only place in the world with both penguins and flamingoes – except for Las Vegas, interjected Mimi, a witty member of our group.

Penguins
Galapagos penguins

Once Galapagos penguins numbered over 2,000 birds, but they are down to about 1,200. The biggest threat is El Nino, a weather condition where the ocean current pushes warm water east into the islands and the coast of South America. The penguins live on the west side of the islands because the underwater current churns up cold water with lots of food. The El Nino reverses that, causing the biggest drop in penguin population. Other threats include:

  • Pollution from lead and cadmium, which may come from underwater volcanic sources rather than human contamination;
  • Fishing when birds are tangled in nets or caught as by-catch (unintended);
  • Tourism, overpopulation by the 100,000 who visit each year;
  • Predators — feral dogs and rats are the worst. Goats used to pick the islands clean, but they have been mostly eliminated in a park eradication program;
  • Diseases brought by migratory birds.

Besides the island of Santa Cruz, we visited the islands of Bartolome, Santiago and Genovesa. We saw birds, birds, birds. And I’ll leave you with that on this last post from our trip to Peru and Ecuador, which was a buen viaje.

Lava heron
Lava heron
Magnificent frigate
Magnificent frigate bird
Galapgos dove
Galapagos dove
Yellow warbler
Yellow warbler
Juvenile red-footed booby
Juvenile red-footed booby
Swallow tailed gull
Swallow-tailed gull
Brown pelican
Brown pelican
Blue footed booby
Blue-footed booby
Great blue heron
Great blue heron
Galapagos mockingbird
Galapagos mockingbird on Sanders’ hat
Short-eared owl
Short eared owl
Iguana-blue footed
Marine iguana and blue-footed booby
Us with seal
Us and a seal of approval

Oh Rose thou art in abundance in Ecuador

Single rose

September 29, 2018, outside Quito, Ecuador — “Oh Rose thou art sick” may be the only line of poetry I remember from my English class on William Blake. I also remember what our professor, Hazard Adams, said about that line: It’s rooted in reality; roses do get sick easily and often. And then Blake and the class wandered off into Los, Urizen, Oorthoon, Enitharmon and other fantastic Blake’s poetry and artwork.

The “Rose thou art sick” is stark reality based on my piddling rose-growing experience, mostly black leaf spots, spindling vines and little adherence to trellises.

Merino RosesSo imagine if you had 99 acres of flowers to keep healthy so you could pick 50,000 blossoms a day. That would be the business of Merino Roses, outside Quito, Ecuador.

There are 422 companies growing flowers in Ecuador, most of them started in the few decades. The country is perfect for growing roses: the daylight on the Equator is consistent at 12 hours a day all year long, the weather is mostly the same. So now the country supports 700,000 acres of greenhouses.

The Merino company’s greenhouses each cover about one acre to grow 69 different flowers — 17 devoted to red roses. The greenhouses control the humidity and ultraviolet rays that can cause variation in blossom colors. Birds and beetles are kept out, and even pollinators such as bees are verboten since these hybrids want no natural you know what. Bamboo fences keep out the wind.

Greenhouses
Greenhouses for flowers
Equator
Each with one foot in different hemispheres

New plants take about four months for the first cut of blossoms, then two more months for the second cutting. After that, the plants can produce every 75 days. Those that don’t measure up go to the compost pile.

The blossoms are harvested, washed, climatized for seven hours, kept in a cooler for five hours and cooled slowly down to the temperatures in the planes that will take them to Europe, the USA and Japan.

The roses are cut according to each specific market. Some markets want short stems, some want longer ones — and the longest goes to . . . Russia. Six feet long and very leafy.

About three weeks before February 14 — Valentine Day — the 50,000 blossoms per day gets kicked up to 110,000 buds per day. The 175 employees are joined by about 50 percent more workers keeping the plant in operation 24 hours a day during this busy time.

Distance in rows
A worker at the end of the row, cutting roses
Gathering roses
Gathering the picked roses
Putting in baskets
Wrapping them in baskets
Baskets
Ready to be shipped from the greenhouse
Trolley
Off to packaging
Sorting by stems
Sorting by stem lengths

The average wage in Ecuador, according to Maria, our Alexander & Roberts guide, is about $376 per month. The rose factory tops that by about $150 to $200 more. Plus workers get two meals per day, except for one on the half day on Saturday. Money for social security and hospitalization is withheld at 8.9 percent, and the employer also pays into the fund. The best thing about the job, says Maria, is that people don’t have to leave there community and move into the cities for jobs.

There is no room for slackers or slowpokes in this factory. Those on the lines sorting and packing flowers move quickly and efficiently to keep up. And the roses hold up very well compared to all they are put through in packaging.

Kathy in warehouse
In the warehouse

The flower industry is much bigger than I would have thought until I read a New York Times article about what would happen when Britain splits from the European Union. Twelve billion flowers and plants are sold through Royal FloraHolland near Amsterdam — more than one third of the worldwide trade. One billion dollars of that goes to Britain, now with no tariffs, no custom inspections and no sanitary inspections. But Britain’s exit from the European Union is fast approaching and that could mean all the incumbrances to free trade listed above. As one flower shopkeeper in London said in the article: “People aren’t buying as much as they used to.”

With this much disruption in the bloom business this could be the

 

“The invisible worm,
That flies in the night
In the howling storm:
Has found out thy bed
Of crimson joy:
And his dark secret love
Does thy life destroy.”
Rose gift
What would a rose factory give its visitors?

With plenty to do in Quito, can hat shops end up on top?

Statue
The Spanish king on the bottom of this Ecuadoran statue on its fight for independence.
Liberty
With an ascending condor, symbol of Ecuador, and Liberty on top

Saturday, Sept. 29, 2018, Quito, Ecuador — With 2.6 million people living in Quito, Ecuador, a city surrounded by volcanoes, it might seem odd that our new Alexander & Roberts guide, Maria, would make our first visit there to a hat shop, one of two we frequented while there.

She could have — and eventually did — take us around the city and tell us about its Spanish founding in 1534 when it was dubbed San Francisco de los Quito. The population that year was 254 people, but they only counted Spaniards and two Moorish slaves. Native population who had been there for thousands of years did not get on the stone tablets now displayed on the main square.

Quito is the second highest capital in the world at 9,350 feet. The highest belongs to La Paz, Bolivia, at 11,942 feet. Quito is in the middle of 16 active volcanoes and when we asked if there had been an eruption, Maria answered back, “Which one?” There was an eruption two years ago.

With 24 provinces and 16.5 million people in the country, Quito is the political capital of Ecuador. Guayaquil and its four million population is considered the economic center of Ecuador.

There are about 1.5 million Colombians living in Ecuador and right now the country is getting 5,000 to 6,000 Venezuelans crossing into the country every day — that’s about two times each day compared to Trump’s feared Central American caravan. The government statistics say the unemployment is about 12 percent. But Maria pointed out that many people are either making a living or supplementing another job by selling oranges on the streets, washing windshields at intersections or working as street vendors. The currency here is stronger, which might not be a surprise since it is the dollar. Many of the dollar coins depict James Madison, George Washington or Susan B. Anthony. Seemed odd to me. Never saw any with James Monroe on them.

The presidential palace was built on top of an Inca building (wasn’t everything?) and the Spanish rule didn’t start to crumple until Aug. 10, 1809, when Ecuadorans gathered in the main square (“Perhaps after wine,” suggested Maria) to demand freedom. Soldiers jailed them, they died but that was the beginning of the move to independence, which came in 1822. The statue in the square stacks things on top of the Spanish king. Then comes guns and battles. A condor, the symbol of the new country, breaking chains and then liberty on top.

Maria could have said all that right at the beginning of our visit, but the Humacatama Sombreros hat shop was right around the corner from our hotel (the lightly guarded presidential palace was around the other corner), and it was a ton of fun.

From the second that they pulled out the hat in the video above, I knew that it would become my winter hat. Kathy bought it for me at $35, which is a very good bargain, and it folded up in my luggage to get it home. But first it was used in demonstrating for sizing, pressing and waterproofing. Nice to witness all that goes into your purchase.

Besides witnessing how hats are made, we got to try on everything in the house, which brought out the best of us, I think.

Large hat 1
Who else could carry off this lovely hat, but Kathy?

The hat-shop tour did not end there. A couple of days later we dropped by Casa Montecristi, a shop that makes and sells what most people refer to as “Panama hats,” although most of them are made in Ecuador.

$3,000 hat
A $3,000 hat

My summer hat is a straw one that seemed expensive to me when I bought it at the John Helmer shop in Portland, Oregon, for about $100. That pales in the face of some of the hats in this shop. The price tag on the one pictured to the left  was $3,000.

Out of my price range, but perhaps understandable when you take into account the amount of work these handmade items take. First the straw to make the hats is sorted and separated into thin, thin threads. From there the threads are

Loose straw
Loose straw and the beginning of a hat

woven together to make the hat. In order to do this, Maria demonstrated the position the weavers need to get into to make sure the straw is going together in a tight fashion. From there the hat is woven, shaped, a band attached and put up for sale.

The thinness of the straw and the tightness of the weave makes the hat more expensive. In the picture below you can see the difference

Weaving position
The weaver is up close and personal with the hat being made

in the thickness and tightness of the weave between my formerly expensive hat, left, and a truly expensive hat on the right.

Straw in hats
A $100 hat, left, and a $3,000 hat, right

A couple of very interesting shops, a couple of interesting days in Ecuador’s capital and I got my winter hat. Can’t beat it.Us in hats

Kathy bought my $35 winter hat but would not let me buy this lovely fascinator for her

 

 

Visiting a popular spot in Cusco: Cementerio

Fest mural
The walls outside the cemetery show lively festival-goers in costumes

Corn mural
Life inside every ear of corn

Thursday, Sept. 27, 2018, Cusco, Peru — “People in Cusco like to visit the cemetery,” said Yakelin, our Alexander & Roberts guide, “and cremation is not popular.”

Cemetery signSo off we went for a visit to a popular spot in Cusco: Cementerio Museo Patrimonial de la Almudena.

The outside walls of the place are covered with murals depicting scenes from life, pictures of people in costumes at Cusco’s celebrations and godlike creatures emerging from an ear of corn.

Inside, the overall impression is a bit more sober, but a closer look is warranted. The rows and rows of crypts holding the bodies are stacked high. The outside coverings of the small outside doors display the wealth of the family with some in shiny metals and others in less expensive materials. The richest are stuck away in a mausoleum, off by themselves.

Cyrpts

We stopped in front of one crypt with no door. It was for an 11-year-old boy who had died recently. It will take at least three to four months before a new door can be put on because the gas from chemicals and decomposing can break the glass.

Families can own crypts, or they can rent them in five-year periods. However, when the rent is unpaid, an “eviction notice” (as Ramsey the doctor who could be a reporter called it) is posted on the door of the enclosure. If not paid, the body is removed and buried in a public common grave.

Indian lady walking

Yakelin said people usually visit at least once a week to replace flowers inside the crypt doors. That’s where things liven up a bit with pictures from the deceased’s life, things that remind the family of them and other things that could be special to them.

Aisle

DecoratingBattery-operated figurines have become popular in many of the crypts with families believing animated figures put some life in a place of the dead.

See that frog in the video below? Right on top of my urn, please.

But first, we are off to Quito, Ecuador.

 

Coca leaf tea, potatoes, corn and llama fetuses for good luck

Pig butt

Thursday, Sept. 27, 2018, Cusco, Peru — If you have a weak stomach, then the meat section of an open-air market is no place to visit. Most North Americans used to shopping where meat comes plastic-wrapped might not find these stalls all they’ve been cracked up to be. They might butt up against something they’re not accustomed to.

We put that part of Cusco’s market behind us in a hurry, but we had a great time finding all kinds of things to buy. Coca-leaf tea? You bet. Never know when we might get altitude sickness again. Our guide, Yakelin, assured us it would get through USSA customs.

Potatoes

Three thousand varieties of potatoes. Did I mention that before? We didn’t buy any spuds, but it was nice to see a couple dozens of those varieties.

Coffee, chocolate, table runners and other fabrics went into our bags as we strolled through the large market.

CornAll 17 types of corn grown in Peru were represented. That included the one Yakelin considered the best, a white corn with big kernels, which actually looked a little overripe to me. Didn’t buy.

She also pointed out to me something hanging from the ceiling. Those, she said, are llama fetuses. They are used as offerings to the earth. If the grass dries up, nothing for the llamas and alpacas to eat, it’s time to get out the llama fetuses.

 

Llama fetuses
Grab a llama fetus to ward off natural disasters

I thought about getting some to try to raise soybean prices up from their death by tariff. Tried my best, USSA soybean farmers, but they would not fit in my luggage or likely get through USSA customs. However, the coca-leaf tea was no problem.

Hats

 

Mortar? Incas made buildings last without it

Stone insets
Incas used “insert tab A into slot B” to hold stones piled on top of each other in place for years

Thursday, September 27, 2018, Cusco, Peru — How could the Incas build foundations that have outlasted the colonial buildings built on top of them? The Inca foundations were built with no mortar, just stones carved and placed on top of each other, surely not the most stable construction technique.

A visit to the Convent of Santo Domingo in Cusco answered those questions. The colonial church, started in 1534 on top of the Inca Temple of the Sun, fell down in the earthquake in 1950. That exposed the Inca foundation underneath. In a wise decision, the church opted for leaving the foundation open so the public could view them. Plus, they have a display that helps explain the Inca technique.

The stones look like they were just stacked on top of each other, but there is an “insert-tab-A-into-slot-B” going on. As our Alexander & Roberts guide, Yakelin, had already pointed out, the walls lean into one another to help support the entire structure during shaky times.

Leaning walls
Inca walls leaned into each other to provide stability

We also visited the Cathedral Basilica in Cusco’s main square. Mostly struck by a painting by Marcos Zapata in 1753 of the Last Supper. Right in the middle of the table is a prepared guinea pig ready for eating – an excellent demonstration of the Catholic’s church blending in with the native culture. Yakelin also pointed out that many people believe that Judas’ face is actually that of Francisco Pizarro. She also noted the halo over Christ. It’s not just a shining band perched over his head. It is a glow behind him, as if the sun were rising behind him. So what was Zapata worshiping?

         From https://medium.com/@julieshentonpeters

 

 

Sacsayhuaman: Where the Inca Empire was lost

Top view
Sacsayhuaman, on the wall looking down at the parade ground

Cusco, Peru, Thursday, Sept. 27, 2018 — In 1536, there were 190 Spaniards in Cusco, eighty who had horses. Juan Pizarro, half brother to Francisco, had freed Manco Inca, made ruler by Francisco Pizarro after he executed Atapaulpa. The newest Inca leader made haste to the hills to raise as many as 200,000 troops to get rid of the Europeans.

The Inca force returned, burnt the city and holed up in Sacsayhuaman where they could sweep down on the besieged Spaniards.

“Thus ended the Inca capital: stripped for Atahualpa’s ransom, ransacked by Spanish looters, and now burned by its own people,” says John Hemming in “The Conquest of the Incas.”

Peter Frost’s book, “Exploring Cusco,” called the “bitter struggle for these heights became the decisive military action of the conquest. Manco’s failure to hold Sacsayhuaman cost him the war, and the empire.”

Spaniards, protected by steel helmets and bucklers, killed thousands of Manco’s forces by wielding steel swords and using their horses to charge into the Incas armed mostly with slings and stones. An example: The Spaniards wiped out about 1,500 Inca holdouts in the last battle for Sacsayhuaman. And not all 190 went up there. One who surely didn’t go was Juan Pizarro, killed previously by a stone dropped from one of the towers at Sacsayhuaman, the first of the Pizarros to go.

Frost tallies the rest of the Pizarro clan: Gonzalo executed in 1548 for rebelling against the Spanish crown; Francisco was assassinated in Lima in 1541 by rivals; Hernando spent 20 years in a Spanish prison for either provoking Manco’s rebellion, killing a Spanish nobleman or both. He died an old man whose wills and other efforts to control his vast fortune all ended in naught.

Big stones
See that rock behind us? Could you drag it three or four miles?

Our guide, Yakelin, said it probably took 20,000 people working for 60 years to complete the Sacsayhuaman. The stone quarry was three to four miles away from the site, and if you look at the size of the stones you can see what a struggle it must have been to drag them to Sacsayhuaman. They had no horses and did not know about the wheel. So they pulled the stones themselves by rolling them over logs. (It seems that someone might have thought, “These logs could be cut into segments, hitched behind a llama and we could open a John Llama dealership.”)

Cut stones.jpg
And once you got it here, could you carve it to make it fit?

The three towers on top of Sacsayhuaman were torn down, and the Spaniards forced the Incas to drag the stones into the city to build cathedrals.

That tickled a question in my mind that I had had since finishing Hemming’s book: Why did anyone in Peru allow anyone to speak Spanish? After independence, why didn’t they put every European they could find on a boat and head them back home – or drown them?

My effort to get those questions answered never worked. But Ramsey, a doctor on our tour who would make a good reporter, got it right when he asked Yakelin about her heritage: Given that she is mestizo (mix of European and Indian blood), what side of the family do you lean toward?

“I don’t worry about Spaniards or Inca,” she said. “No one separates things that way.

“The Incas incorporated others into their Empire, some asked, some forced.”

She learned basic information about Incas in school — some of it wrong. She grew up in Cusco and said they were taught that the Incas only lasted 100 years. Actually, they had been around for at least 400 before the conquest. This short-lived story of the Incas was also used as a justification by the Spaniards for the conquest: The Incas had only ruled for a few generations, and the Europeans “supplanted other equally unwelcome conquerors.” Maybe.

Yakelin explained that Quechua, the native language, is being reintroduced with medical professions and educators required to learn it. The CIA Factbook notes that the Peruvian population is 60 percent mestizo, Amerindian 25 percent, white 6 percent, African descent 3.6 percent and others (Chinese, Japanese, etc.)

It’s a mixed bag in Peru, native religion mixed with Catholicism, Quechua and Aymara languages mixed with Spanish. And no one is being led down to the boats for a journey to somewhere that would no longer feel like home.

Leaving Cuzco
A baby goat, a woman in native dress — who could resist?