Raqchi, a few hours drive from Cuzco and a stop on one of the luxury tour buses that take you from Cuzco to Puno, has ruins that tell more of a story than most.
Beyond the attractive but very touristy town square lie the ruins of a top Inca holy site, Temple of Wiracocha (Inca’s creator God), which our tour guide referred to as the Temple of 4 Windows.
Raqchi Ruins Show Pre-Inca Anti-Seismic Engineering
This temple ruin— as well as the complex of passively cooled storage buildings, administrative and residential buildings and all in the Raqchi complex—feature the thick inclined walls and trapezoidal shaped openings for windows and doors that provided the anti-seismic protections in pre- Inca engineering by the Tiwanaku culture that existed roughly concomitant with the Wari.
Unlike the sun-worshipping Inca (note: “in” means sun and “ca” means king), these were matriarchal societies whose highest God was Pachamama, or mother earth. Their civilization had more or less collapsed due to a 20-year drought when the Inca arrived. This temple, engineered with the winter solstice in mind, became a venue for the Inca’s main dog and pony show, so to speak.
On the winter solstice, precisely at noon, shadows disappeared as the sun reached its zenith. At precisely 3 PM the sun would align with the gold altar in this temple, said to be a disk of 2 meter diameter. This was sufficient to illuminate the entire temple, seeming magic to the Pachamama-leaning locals who were duly cowed into accepting Inca superiority.
This tale was shared to us by our tour guide* from the bus, and further used as a preface to recount how the locals had long sought liberation from the Inca yoke. Their legends included a prophesy of how their liberator would appear from the water and would sport a beard, perhaps helping Pizzaro gain a foothold, along with the germs he and his army carried with their weapons.
A temple design strictly with a solstice dazzle in mind??? This writer can only relay our tour guide’s tale, and certainly not verify it. That said, if you too visit the Lorca Museum in Lima as an intro or wrap up of your Peru Tour, you will read of how the Inca’s gold and jewels had more to do with this dazzle factor than wealth per se. The museum displays remind that at that time most of what glittered were stars. Similarly, in Cuzco’s Cathedral you learn of how mirrors were used, perhaps with candlelight, to lure in would-be converts.
Raqchi Homestay Inquiries
Beyond this intriguing tale and sizable ruin worth exploring, there does seem to lie an attractive town, perhaps made relatively wealthy by the tourists who stream to see this famous temple. One can arrange a homestay by asking around in the town’s market. We were advised that overnight visitors should not plan on accessing local WiFi.
*Most of this account is from tour guide Enrique Percy Moya Bejar, who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org