Sunday, 7 June 2009

Qhapaq Ñan, The Grand Route of the Andes

I recently attended a great talk and screening of a very personal journey by Megan Son and Laurent Granier. This posting is a bit of a crib form their website which you can find here

The route is huge and comprises a stone paving up to 20 meters wide, steps climbing heights of over 4500m, walkways over water and suspension bridges. Runners, chasquis, carrying messages on knotted strings called quipus ran in relay from one end of the Inca empire to the other, some 6000 kilometeres.

This royal road joined the cities of Quito, Ecuador to the north and Santiago, Chile in the south permitting the Inca to control his Empire and to send troops as needed from the capital, Cusco. Along the route were warehouses, relay stations, llama corrals, living quarters and military posts spaced intermittently of varying sizes and grandeur.

Much of this route stood at an altitude between 3500 and 5000 meters and with sections reaching 20 meters in width, it connected populated areas, administrative centers, agricultural and mining zones as well as ceremonial centers.

The Qhapaq Ñan unified this immense empire through a well organized political system of power. Today, it has the potential to strengthen the bond between the different peoples of the Andes, who share a longstanding common culture.

Megan and Laurent have have travelled for more than five years together on historic routes utilizing traditional modes of transportation.

Their adventure was of immense proportion and at times dangerous. They have written a beutiful book which is currently in French only but hopefully they will have it translated. In the future they hope that the route will become UNESCO protected and safeguard the habitats and lives of those that live near it.

At the moment I am planning next year's visit to Cajamarca which lies along the route so hope to walk some of it myself.

I have been trying to maintain some contact with Peruvians and other South Americans and have recently begun volunteering with a project called Latin American Disabled Peoples Project.(LADPP) This is based in Kennington, South london and you can see a link to it on the right of this posting. Hopefully I will be helping them put together a summer programme for children and young people. We recently all went to the Natural history museum and the children enjoyed a day of 'monsters'!

I am off to Spain next week, for a 3 week visit to Madrid, Burgos and Olviedo. I have put together an interesting programme of meeting up with buddies in Madrid, then a week doing immersion English with Spanish speakers in Burgos (Vaughantown), then 5 days cycle touring if I can rent a bike, and finally meeting up with my wife and staying a long weekend at a posh hotel in Olviedo.

Other than that I have been searching out contacts in Cajamarca and have made 1 friend on Skype but a nice lady at the Peruvian Embassy is helping me as well - more of this anon.