Passages - Appendix C | Apani the Indian

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Apani: In Peru, they made me join the army and placed me in one of the Inca's armies in central Chile, as a replacement. When I reported to the general in Angastu, he assigned me to a special project; its nature he did not say. A month later, a large caravan of llamas and Indians approached our base. Our general dressed himself in his finest uniform to welcome them. These men came from Cuzco, dispatched to Angastu for important work. Inca Yupanqui, a great ruler of Peru during many years, had died the year before. These men were here in regards to his death. The lead man of the entourage, an important official sent by the new Inca, Huayna Capac, carried the title of the Inca's "master builder;" he planned and coordinated the construction of worship sites on high mountains to honor the Inca and our Lord the Sun. His caravan of men and llamas took two days to arrive at our camp.

Introduction of the "master builder."

Anco: You had other reasons to respect the master builder?
Apani: Well, yes. Despite his position of royalty, he acted with and towards us without any airs or pretension. Here is an example. As a man close to the Inca, he deserved a litter as conveyance, carried by bearers. Yet, when he arrived at our camp in Angastu, he walked, just like the others in his entourage. This remained his habit throughout, to walk as a common Indian, though lameness in his right leg caused a noticeable limp. Nevertheless, he did not make his health an excuse for soft living, but his constant activity a cure for his health, since by long journeys, simple diet, sleeping in the open air (except when we resided near or on the mountain), and enduring hardships with the rest of us common soldiers, he fought off his physical troubles and kept his body strong against his infirmity.

Description of Vitahuati, the "master builder."

Anco: Did Vita bring other men with him?
Apani: Yes, and these men proved important. He had with him four specialists at reaching high places in the mountains. Their name, cuntur runas, or "condor men," they acquired because they go higher in the sky than the great bird of the mountains. The cunturs, as they told us to call them, were to find the best path up the mountain, locate camps on the route, guide the men hauling the rocks to the top, and then lead the builders there so we might complete our work. As I was one of those designated to assemble the huts, these men remained important to me as well as to all of us.

The "condor men" are the high-altitude climber-builders of the Inca.

Pedro: And then what happened?
Apani: We went to the northeastern side so Vita could evaluate conditions there. We walked past the huge northern part of the mountain and much of the eastern side came to view. And there, as if put in place just to match our needs, rose a ramp like projection of the mountain leading from a height equal to where we stood to the top of the mountain with several angled plateaus along the way. Most of us, though knowing nothing of these things, nevertheless understood this was the route higher. One of my friends, on seeing it with me, said in amazement, "That is the way! It must be. It looks perfect!"The way to the summit is identified.

Anco: How many men hauled to the succeeding camp?
Apani: Well, four cunturs, eighty-five rock bearers, thirty carriers of food, dung, tents, and assorted other stores, and an extra twenty men in reserve composed the entire group. Each man carried, in addition to the weight of his load, a gourd of water, dried fruit, and charqui. They started from camp early, directed by the cunturs, one leading at the front, two at different positions within the file, and the fourth at the rear. They proceeded slowly, the cunturs keeping a steady pace, resting often. The course remained free of snow, but with the ground loose in places, as we builders found out when it came our turn, and this made it difficult. Fortunately, the weather cooperated, with no storms and but a slight breeze. They stayed within our sight until the long line finally disappeared behind a huge outcropping of rocks. It remains to my mind a grand and majestic scene, and I haven't forgotten it. In two hours, they reappeared from behind the rocks, in column, slowly wending their way back to us. Several of the men seemed unsteady as they came towards us, a sure sign of breathing or headache problems.

Apani describes the first carry up the mountain.

Pedro: And your feelings?
Apani: Well, to arrive at the summit meant a great accomplishment. The cunturs hugged each of us and this made us feel important. And the views from there overwhelmed us with their beauty. It is special to see things from the top of a mountain, and especially gratifying to see all our stones there! They were stacked in four piles, according to their color codes.
Pedro: And so you began immediately at reassembly?
Apani: Exactly. Mayta had been part of my builder team, so three of us now composed our group. Our hut was the one with the lower stones marked in green, the upper ones in blue. Before beginning, we all looked over the site, to determine the best positioning of the structures. Finally, we decided a north/south arrangement the best, our hut's end wall separated by two feet from the other hut's end wall. Once this had been determined and settled, we went to work, with the cunturs helping when called on. We made quick work of it, with the lower half of each hut in place by early afternoon. The color-coding helped, of course. Also, we had chipped and shaped those rocks ourselves back at Angastu and we remembered their positions in the completed building.

Apani describes one of the great accomplishments of the Inca.