ruins of Wiraqocha
Temple, one gigantic wall
still raised to the sun
Between Cusco and Puno, we stop at Raqchi, a small pueblo on the Urubamba River that forms the entrance to the stunning ruins of an Inka temple. Amaru, a living Inka yachac, a traditional Inka shaman, holds an artist's rendition of what the qhapana might once have looked like. Both the temple and the surrounding complex are called the Temple of Wiraqocha (or Viracocha), the creator god of the Inkas and pre-Inkas.
The Spanish destroyed most of the temple structure, but this lone wall, shortened and damaged, still remains. Originally, it stood 20 meters high, forming the central wall of a huge two-story structure, 92 meters (302 feet) by 25.5 meters (84 feet), flanked by eleven columns and an outer stone wall on each side. The walls and columns supported what must have been the largest single roof in the Inka empire, spanning 25 meters (82 feet) on either side of the peak. The central adobe wall and columns, pierced by trapezoid windows and doors for passage from one side to the other, rested on andesite stone foundations measuring 4 meters (13 feet). Andesite is a volcanic stone with embedded crystals, the same stone that makes up the Andes mountains, for which it is named.
The temple was part of a heavily-populated tambo, "place to rest," spread across 264 hectares. In addition to the qhapana, the complex included twelve living quarters for priests and administrators, 100 round stone qolqas for storing grain, astronomical observatories, ceremonial fountains and enclosing walls. As we pass through the ruins we watch a number of workers busily restoring the central temple wall, which still stands like a sentinel to the sun.