Several important Inca-era ruins are in the Cuenca area. Two Who Trek took a bus trip to see one of these, the Baños del Inca (Inca Baths) at Coyoctor. The Baños del Inca is a smaller but no less historically significant archeological site, compared to others in this part of Ecuador.
The name is a bit misleading. The site was actually created by the Cañari people, who settled in the area over one thousand years ago. In the early 15th century, the Incas conquered the Cañaris and absorbed them and their way of life into the Incan culture. The Incas then modified the Coyoctor site to meet the Inca ritual of water purification. Collectively, the site includes worship of the moon deity of the Cañari and the sun deity of the Inca.
The site has suffered from other changes over the years. For many years, it was part of the farm owned by the Carrasco family who built two large dwellings upon the top of the ruins. Those houses, now over a century old, still stand and are used as an interpretive center.
Two Who Trek hopped aboard a tourist bus in Cuenca. The bus then headed to the northeast, traveling along the Pan-American Highway.
The hour and a half journey took us through picturesque valleys and over mountains, through cities and towns, and finally ended in the quaint village of El Tambo.
At the museum complex in the center of town we boarded the Ecuadorian Railroad rail car described in an earlier post. After a short, slow, fifteen minute ride, we were at the Baños del Inca ruins
We approached the site with our guide, stopping at the base of the great stone structure. Here we learned about what is thought to be the uses of various parts of the community.
From the base, we moved around the site to the top. The first area we came to contained the storage and living areas.
Maria, our guide, explained the uses of the area to us. Unfortunately, she only spoke Spanish and most of us had only had a couple of days of classes at this point. Carlos, one of the teachers at our school accompanied us and translated.
Here is a closer view of the baths area. An intricate chiseling pattern allowed the water to enter the chambers. This is the place where it is believed that Inca warriors underwent a water ritual of purification.
Somehow, something was lost in the translation. The guide told how the Virgins assisted in warrior baths, and Joe’s thoughts wandered so he missed the rest of the explanation.
From there we moved to the houses built by the Carrasco family. Originally this area had been used for rituals and by lookouts watching for approaching danger.
A more recent addition is this house represents the homes used by the Cañari people. Inside is a diorama of the archeological site.
We then left the Inca Baths, returned by train to El Tambo, hopped on the bus, and went to a restaurant for an almuerzo. What a great way to spend an afternoon!