National Geographic : 1942 Aug
The Pith of Peru by the brilliantly lighted altar, and stumbling over squatting and kneeling Indians, their babies, small children, and dogs fairly cov ering the dirt floor of the church. The service began with the playing of the organ. I made out two Indian boys pumping away at a couple of huge bellows such as I have seen blowing a blacksmith forge. The organ was a 16th-century museum piece, with square graduated wooden pipes. A young man with a dark, sensitive face played Gounod's Sacred Heart Mass with closed eyes, save when the waning wind caused his instrument to wheeze. Then he signaled to the sweating pumpers to give him more air. Betweenwhiles, a tall gray-haired gentle man with the air of a grandee intoned the choral parts of the service, reading from a huge hand-illuminated missal. The thin quavering voice of the priest filled in the inter vals, chanting the Office of the Mass. The grandest moment of all was at the Elevation of the Host: the custodians rang the bells in the cupola, the altar boys tinkled the sanc tuary bells, the Indians prostrated themselves. The climax came with the mayors raising their conch horns and blowing them with all their might! One morning before daybreak I boarded the autocarril,a "chartered private train" consist ing of a Diesel-driven automobile mounted on a narrow-gauge railway, which was to carry me from Cuzco to Machu Picchu. There I found Dr. Osgood Hardy, his wife, and a couple of college students. Dr. Hardy was going back to the spot where he had spent several years with the National Geographic Society-Yale University Peruvian Expeditions sent to explore Inca civilization.* Into the Heart of Incaland Our little armchair chariot went scuttling off into the dawn on one of the most scenic journeys in the world, ducking under a via duct of the Inca, then cutting like a rocket through the retreating shadows of night, plung ing ahead into the heart of Incaland. We went screeching through cuts, along the edges of precipices, our siren warning donkey pack trains and llamas laden with firewood and grass to vacate our right of way. The track walker peered from under his straw tepee and regarded us sleepily, having no rec ord of our special train. For a couple of min utes a horseman galloped along beside us, his colored poncho flying picturesquely in the * For detailed reports of the National Geographic Society-Yale University Peruvian Expeditions, see the NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE for April, 1912; April, 1913; February, 1915, and May, 1916. wind. A dozen stacks of cornstalks with hu man legs stepped off the track to let us pass. As the sun rose above the mountain, we dipped down into a broad valley, the hillsides all gold, green, and purple with rippling wheat and barley and newly plowed fields. Husked corn was spread out to dry over hundreds of square yards, for this was their April autumn. At length we entered a dark canyon, with just enough space for our railroad and the Urubamba River to squeeze through. The little stream boils and roars as if with anger at thus being crowded. The rock walls rise nearly 2,000 feet above and lean slightly forward, almost shutting out the light. The sun suddenly broke through the threatening clouds like a lighted lantern raised to the window of a darkened room. We soon began to see and feel the effects of dropping down to 8,000 feet. Cactus re minded us that we were still in arid Peru and on the edge of the Tropics. It was not yet 7 o'clock when our tiny ex press pulled to one side and halted on a switch. It seemed ages since we had left Cuzco. We had covered so much ground geographically and historically. In less than three hours we had skimmed over the threshold of a civiliza tion established for centuries and then de stroyed overnight 400 years ago. We had arrived at Ollantaitambo, the vil lage where the expedition had been stationed years before. We walked a mile or so along a crumbling wall before we found the house that Hardy helped rebuild from the ruins of a colonial mansion. The tenants were hospitable and remem bered Dr. Hardy. They chatted together for some time while we stood around in the patio: children, chickens, donkey, pigs, and other members of the family paused in their daily routine to look on and listen. We then climbed up nearly 2,000 feet to the summit of a ridge crowned by impressive re mains. Here had once stood the strategic out post guarding against enemy advances on Cuzco through the narrow Urubamba Valley. The summit and slopes were chiseled with square openings like portholes built, as usual, of faultless blocks of granite. It was an awe inspiring military work, yet lacking in that esthetic beauty of those battlements and sentry boxes of Old Spain which we had glimpsed from the railway less than an hour before. I pushed on alone, across the flower-carpeted quiet valley into the village. I had to pick my way among Inca ruins. At one point an irrigation groove was chiseled through a wall of rock, and two mangy dogs drank water that was still trickling into a shapely bathing pool.