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Vilcabamba

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Until recently VILCABAMBA was a relatively safe and accessible corner of the Peruvian wilderness; indeed the BBC were filminghere as late as 1983. Chosen by Manco Inca as the base for his rebel state in the sixteenth century.

 

In 1911, after discovering Machu Picchu, Hiram Bingham set out down the Urubamba to CHAULLAY, then up the Vilcabamba valley  to the village of Pukyura where evidence suggested he might find the Inca Ruins of Vitcos. Stuck up on a high hill overlooking a major headwater of the Vilcabamba river, Bingham "discovered" Vitcos - know locally as Rosapata - les than two weeks after finding Machu Picchu. It was a relatively small but clearly palatial ruin,based around a trapezoidal plaza spread across a flat-topped spur. Down below Rosapata, Bingham was shown a spring flowing from beneath a vast white granite boulder intricately carved in typical Inca stly and surrounded by the remains of an impressive Inca temple. This white rock huaca -  Chuquipalta  - 15m long and 8m high, was proof that he really had found Vitcos. It was clearly the great Inca oracle where blood sacrifices and other "pagan" rituals had, according to the chronicles, so infuriated two Spanish priests (guests at the rebel Incas' refuge) that they exorcised the rock and set light to its temple sanctuary.

 

Within another fortnight Bingham had followed a trail from Pukyura down into the jungle zone asfar asthe Condevidayoc plantation, near some more "undiscovered" ruins at Espiritu Pampa - Plain of the Spirits. After briefly exploring some of the outer ruins at Espiritu Pampa, Bingham decided they must have been built by Manco Inca's followers, and were certainly post-Conquest Inca constructions since many roofs were Spanish tiled. Believing that be had already discoveredthe Inca's last refuge' in Machu Picchu, Bingham paid little attention to these later discoveries. Consequently, and in view of its being accessible only by mule trail, Espiritu Pampa remained covered in thick jungle vegetation.

 

Only in 1964 was serious exploration first  undertaken by Grene Savoy, he found a massive ruined complex with over 60 main buildings and some 300 houses along with temples, plazas, wells and a main street. Clearly this was the largest Inca refuge in the Vilcabamba area, and Savor rapidly becamse convinced of its identity as the true site of Vilcabamba.

More conclusive evidence has since been provided by the historian John Hermming, who, suing the chronicles as evidence, was able, to match descriptios of Vilcabamba, its climate and altitude, precisely with those of Espiritu Pampa.

 

The site of Vitcos, Marampata and Espiritu Pampa, set in amazing and highly contrasted scenery, will hopefully soon re-open as superb hiking country for the outward-bound traveller. 

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