A Daunting Journey by Marino Sanchez



The district of San Pedro de Casta lies 80 km (49 miles) to the East of Lima, in the province of Huarochiri, a region of Lima that makes up part of the Rimac valley where the water creates a basin. Found upon a gigantic geo-morphological surface that forms the branch of the Andean mountain range, is found access to Markawasi.

Traveling along the central highway leaving the city of Lima, we follow the road to Chosica city. Here the road becomes slower where the country lane becomes a dirt and gravel lane bordering the valley, and the river of Santa Eulalia. At an elevation of 1036 meters (3,400′) above sea level (asl) we begin the climb up the mountain. Soon we pass along the opposite side of the “city of the witches”, in the district of Kallawanka at 1761 meters (5,777′), continuing past the massive hydroelectric plant at Huinco at 1880 meters (6,168′).

Soon, one arrives at the bridge of Autisha (2,200 meters (7,218′), where we cross a deep ravine and begin the excessively steep climb up to the village of San Pedro de Casta. We pass the Center of Experimental Agronomy until the dirt road forks to the Southeast. Here we are directed to choose, either to follow the road to Santiago de Iris and Carampoma, or continue to San Pedro.

The villagers of San Pedro are the caretakers of Markawasi, located upon a high rocky terrace at the foot of the stone forest. To arrive to this picturesque hamlet is to make contact with a typical mountain village made up of winding, narrow stone-paved streets, and peasant farmers. The dusty brown houses constructed of adobe mud and straw, have small doors and windows with roofs covered in colorful tiles. The settlement finds itself in a time of rapid social change. With new, modern houses constructed of brick, steel and cement, where former adobe homes once stood.

Rising from the central plaza one finds a long, steep avenue ending in the town cemetery where the remains of ancestors are interred. Here, sprinkled across the field are crosses of stone and wood, and the tomb of the late ethnomusicologist, Juana de Alarco.

From this point, continuing to the end of the great avenue, a pedestrian path climbs upward to the slopes of Markawasi. The lane forks, divides into two branches: the shorter and more steep of the two roads and a longer route. The shorter continues with difficulty up the slope over stony ground and forests of cacti with grazing cattle, ending is a narrow alley that culminats with the astonishing figure. The massive 80′ Peca Gasha, aka Monument to Humanity, “Cabeza del Inka”, the Head of the Inca dominates the lane, the colossal stone monument has a mysterious history, and is key to the cultural identity of the people of San Pedro and to the historical knowledge behind the Sacred Mountain. This natural landscape surpasses anyone’s imagination!

The longer route, forks to a smoother trail bordering to the Northeast flank of the mountain, with access to the Amphitheatre. One can traverse this road rapidly, in a few hours ascent by foot, and quicker on horseback due to the expansion of a recently improved road, built by a nearby mining company. Here are found the great cultural monuments of Markawasi, as well as the immense richness of pre-hispanic antiquity–the “archaeological region of San Pedro de Casta”.

The Sky is the Limit

For three hours, climbing thoughtfully through the steep, vertical slope, little by little, the pilgrim conquers the heights, arriving to the summit of the sacred mountain of Markawasi. The mountain is lush with plants grown in the temperate climate: corn, beans, “arbejas”; the countryside is covered with pastures and alfalfa fields. This mountain landscape is formed by soft slopes, which during the time of the rains is dressed in chromatic greens, running the gamut of colors from garnet to orange, white, pink and others. The culture and natural landscape together combine, marking time to a symphonic rhythm, inviting thoughtful meditation of nature, society and self. Here, silence holds guard, only broken by the wind caressing the “sienes” (type of tree), while the transparent drops of water lick the tired face. Traveling through this pleasant mountain area evokes thoughts of Eden, the mythological Paradise of the West. The fragrances of the plants and the blue sky sprinkled with white clouds remind one of the mythical wars of the Andean Gods, as well as those of man, with their sweet sorrows, hatreds, and titanic battles.

Rapidly this strip of land is abandoned and without warning one enters an ecologically cold niche, dry and with limited flora and fauna; the earthy ground is covered with grasses called Ichu. The land continues climbing into the distance, being limited by hills of all heights; in the lower areas there are the canyons with rivers whose banks are covered with hot plains. This Window to the World is only one sample of Peru, whose bio-diversity creates a marvelous land, naturally bewitching and, of course, a gift from the Gods.

In this rocky escarpment the celebrations of the Champeria: the “water festival”, exists today since antiquity. The importance of water has always beem connected with magical and religious rites, and with the myths related to Wallallo Karwincho–principal god of thunder and lightening, the ancient god of Markawasi. Even today the celebrations are recreated during the first week of October every year.