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Monday, December 15, 2008

Futile Puno cache hunt






On 8 December I traveled from Huancané to a small Aymara town just to the southeast of Puno, Peru. I was traveling with some friends solely for the purpose of sightseeing along Lake Titicaca. We’d seen the geocache Fertile Puno (GC1ACE4) on www.geocaching.com and wanted to find it. The drive from Huancané took about 2 hours across the flat altiplano (high plains). We arrived at the town of Chucuito and rolled into the plaza in front of the Catholic Church. There across the street was a fenced-in area with the ruins of an old Inca temple. The cache description said to be sure and see this place. But first we had a cache to look for. The needle led us to the location described in the clue. We began the search but, as the description stated, this is a muggle-rich area. In plan view of our activities were about five Aymara women selling souvenirs and about five young people waiting to serve as tour guides of the Inca temple ruins. We decided to line the two families up to get a picture while I stood behind the group looking for the cache. This was supposed to be an easy find but I could not find it. Next each of the other guys tried looking for it but none of us could find it. Apparently the cache, a micro, had been muggled. Since looking for this one without being seen was difficult, I suspect that the last finder in June 2008 was observed. Afterwards some curious muggles probably found the cache. Several kids came over and started poking around while we were there. Unfortunately the only other caches in the area were out on some of the islands on Lake Titicaca and out of our reach at this time. Even though this was disappointing, the owner of this cache had brought us to a location none of us would have visited otherwise. The two families I was traveling with live in Huancané and had never heard of this place. We contracted one of the tour guides, a ten-year old boy and were given the tour of the old Inca temple ruins. As you might have guessed from the name of the cache, this was a fertility temple. It was kind of awkward listening to a ten-year old explain the symbology. I won’t go into the description nor show pictures of the stones as they were somewhat graphic. Suffice it to say that this temple was built by the predecessors to the Inca in this area (probably Aymara ancestors) and then later used by the Inca. At the time the women who were infertile would come and perform the temple ceremonies. If a male child was born later he lived. If a female child was born, she was sacrificed to their gods. This was during the time of the Inca wars with the conquering Spaniards and they wanted all the male children they could get to help in the fight when they grew up. From Chucuito we head back to the northwest to Puno to find a good restaurant for a leisurely meal before returning to Huancané. It’s a bummer to not find a cache but it all goes to show you that caching is more about the places you see. We all got on line to log our DNFs but showing appreciation to the owner of the cache for taking us to the Inca temple ruins. We made it back to Huancane in time to visit Ruben, and Aymara friend. He showed me his loom and some of his handy work. It was great to spend time with these folks. I speak Quichua, the dominant tribal language of the mountains of Ecuador and Peru but not Aymara. I was a little like a fish out of water on the language but enjoyed the opportunity to visit with them.

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