National Geographic : 1982 Jul
Peru's Pilgrimage to the Sky By ROBERT RANDALL Photographs by LOREN McINTYRE and IRA BLOCK CLIMBED one last rise and then stopped, stunned by an explosion of color and reverberating music. In an isolated valley beneath glistening glaciers, costumed figures danced among thousands of pilgrims. They would spend the night here, at the concrete-block sanctuary of this sacred place called Qoyllur Riti (Star of the Snow). This days-long Peruvian pilgrimage, held some nine weeks after Easter at the time of Corpus Christi, commemorates a miraculous appearance of Christ in 1780-but many anthropologists believe its roots are pre-Columbian. To arrive at this spot 50 miles east of Cuzco, I had accompanied Indians on a frigid moonlit trek through the rugged Andes. As I watched the pageant, my companions put on the feathered costumes of the chunchos (right), representing jungle Indians. They believe that the creation of the sun drove the precursors of these jungle people-who lived in a world illumined only by the moon-into the rain forests, where light could not penetrate. As darkness descended on the valley floor, I huddled with friends for warmth, anticipating tomorrow's climb.