Thursday, October 18, 2018

The Moonstone Trek: Part 2 - Huaracondo to Chillipahua

After leaving the market town of Huaracondo (click HERE to read/watch Part 1), my van threaded its way through the winding mountain roads toward the trailhead. I was excited to get out and start my adventure through the Andes Mountains to Ollantaytambo. 

At the trailhead, I met my muleteers. These guys were amazing. They transported my supplies across the rugged land and cooked

Sunday, August 19, 2018

The Moonstone Trek: Part 1 - The Road to Huaracondo

This is Part 1 of my video series: “The Moonstone Trek: My Journey from Cusco to Machu Picchu.” In 2017, I went to Peru to learn about its history and culture. As part of that visit, I undertook a trek from the ancient capital of the Incas to their famous “lost city” in the Andean cloud forest. My route followed an Inca road system once used by royal chaskis (runners) who carried information and goods across the largest pre-Columbian empire in the Americas.  For five days, I traveled by bus, train, and foot over mountains and rivers that range from 7,000 to more than 15,000 feet above sea level. Along the way, I explored archaeological sites, visited market towns and rural villages, and admired breathtaking views of glacier-capped mountains and the brilliant Milky Way. Join me on this enchanting journey down one of the lesser-known branches of the Inca Trail and discover the geography, architecture, and people of this great land.

In this episode, we explore the colorful markets of Izcuchaca and Huaracondo. Along the way, I also make a stop at the Inca ruins known as Quillarumiyoc (the Moonstone of the Andes); that visit is documented in my video here

Friday, June 8, 2018

Quillarumiyoc: The Moonstone of the Andes

Quillarumiyoc is a pre-Columbian archaeological site located 30 miles northwest of Cusco, Peru. It lies upon the plain of Anta, a rich agricultural area where potatoes, barley, and quinoa have been grown for centuries. Farmers inhabit the area now, but 500 years ago the Incas visited this site to worship the cosmos, and perhaps the moon goddess (Quilla) especially. Indeed, Quillarumiyoc is Quechua for “stone of the moon,” and its most distinctive feature is a crescent that is carved in the limestone rock. But in reality, very little is known about the site, including whether Quillarumiyoc was its original name, or if lunar worship truly was its main purpose. Few tourists visit the complex nowadays, but those who do are treated to a spectacular display of stone terraces, water channels, caves, and thrones set against the backdrop of rolling hills and forest.

I came here in October 2017 at the start of my week-long trek through the Andes Mountains. My group was traveling by bus to

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

The Coricancha: Part 4

This is the final blog post (and video) about the Coricancha, or “Great Enclosure,” located in Cusco, Peru. Here are the links to Part 1 and Parts 2 and 3.

My final hours at the Coricancha were spent investigating the many trapezoidal doorways and niches, as well as the mysterious enclosures located on the eastern and western sides of the complex. I also investigated the instructive model that site curators constructed to theorize what the entire structure may have looked like before the Spaniards attacked it with their crowbars. Next, I ventured outside to investigate the top of the distinctive, curved wall on the Coricancha’s exterior, paying particular attention to the perplexing square- and rectangle-shaped protrusions on the stones. My visit concluded with an examination of two modern paintings – of the Milky Way and invisible “ceque” lines – on display in an open-aired hallway, and which emphasize this site’s astrological and religious function.

In previous posts and videos, I spend a significant amount of time discussing the trapezoid shape used at the Coricancha and throughout pre-Spanish architecture;

Thursday, April 12, 2018

At the Door

At the Door: A Short Story
by Andrew C. Katen

One minute, I was sitting in my work cubicle. The next, I was standing outside a doorway, across from a stranger. Had I just been transported to another dimension? Perhaps I was just dreaming.
“Welcome,” the man said in a soft, soothing voice. He was dressed casually, in material that flowed easily. I don’t usually remember such details, but I believe his clothes were white, or maybe cream-colored. Seems like he wore a short-sleeved collared shirt that was tucked into slacks. His hair was blonde, jaw square, and teeth perfect. The man exuded neatness, cleanliness, and impeccability. Was he a television actor, or an angel?

            When he smiled, I felt the sincerity of his kindness in the depths of my soul. This man was genuinely pleased to see me.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

The Coricancha: Parts 2 and 3

This is the second in a series of blog posts and videos about the Coricancha, or “Great Enclosure,” located in Cusco, Peru. Read the first post here.

The Coricancha is one of those historical sites that allow you to truly appreciate a bygone era – not just by looking at old ruins or perusing informational plaques, but by literally feeling the spiritual energy of the past. When I visited, I spent my first half-hour in a blissful trance, overcome with wonder that I was really there – physically standing inside the Great Enclosure of the Incas. After a year of researching Peru’s history, I had often imagined how this visit would feel, but I never expected to have such an intense emotional response. The weather was perfect that day – clear and warm – and the afternoon sky seemed to make the Inca stones glow as if with their own energy. Strolling around the interior courtyard, I felt the details from my research begin to play out as a drama behind my eyes. At every turn, I almost expected to happen upon the ghost of an Inca priest or Spanish conquistador.

Friday, February 16, 2018

The Coricancha: Part I

One of my favorite places to visit during my time in Cusco, Peru, was the ruins of the Coricancha. Five hundred years ago, this temple was the most important huaca – or sacred place – of the entire Inca empire. In this first of several blog posts and (embedded) video segments, we’ll take a look at the Coricancha’s distinctive exterior, including the exquisite masonry of the curved western-facing wall and the zig-zagging canals that it overlooks.  In following segments, I’ll lead you on a tour through the Coricancha’s courtyard, impressive halls, chambers, and trapezoidal doorways – pointing out the features I found most interesting or mysterious.

The Coricancha resides just a couple blocks south of Cusco’s Plaza de Armas and is an easy and charming walk from the main square. Most