Quitaloma Fortress

June 22, 2009

All photos are clickable

Road to Quitaloma
Quitaloma Museum

Today we climbed to the Quitaloma Fortress. It does not look like a tall mountain from a distance -- the base elevation of the valley is high. Quitaloma is 3,765 meters high (12,235 feet high).

The bus took us along parts of the Inca road, as far as it could go. At the base of the mountain, there are several structures rebuilt in the pre-Inca style of architecture (Blocks of volcanic tufa, which are easily cut into blocks, with thatched roofs). I heard there were artifacts and maps inside, but no tourists because there was no (reasonable) road.
Quito in Distance
Structure 4

We huffed and puffed our way to the top, taking many rest stops along the way. From the top we could see for miles around. Quito was in the valley to the west (Remember that Quito is about 9,300 feet). There are taller mountains in the distance, but Quitaloma is the highest point in this vicinity.

We each were given assignments to investigate different portions of this hilltop fortress. There is evidence of about 100 buildings (a settlement), concentric terraces that might be agricultural, a spring, as well as concentric walls around the perimeter. The highest point was right next to a large depression that has evidence of bonfires (sooty soil).

I was assigned to investigate Structure #4 (a stone reconstruction made by the local people), which was the only route to the highest point of the fortress. It was a highly defensible location, with stone passageways that funneled people into progressively narrower halls. When the passageways reached about 2 feet wide, there was a left turn into another passage way, followed by a second left turn into another passage way.

If you think of right handed warriors, they would hold a shield in their left hand and their spear or club in their right hand. Turning left exposes their spear side, leaving them undefended by their shield.

My interpretation is that this structure prevented access to the top-most site. The top-most site has various interpretations, from being a place of ritual, a lookout, or a signal location. A key factor is how one thinks the large depression with carbon deposits is used for and how old are these deposits.

After such a hard climb, I was dissappointed we only spent a couple of hours at the top. I spent all of my time at structures 2 - 4 and did not get a chance to explore the entire site. I could have spent hours up there. All sorts of thoughts ran through my head in the silence -- who were the people who lived here? What were their daily lives like? What did they do when they heard the Incas had taken Quito, a city they could look down upon from their perch? The only thing we know is the indigineous population were the only people in the Andes that resisted the Inca Imperialism for 15 - 17 years.

Dog Following the Group
My New Friend

On a different note, I really enjoy living here in the country. The first night at the Hacienda, George went through a whole box of matches trying to light a fire in our fireplace with the eucalyptus wood that was provided. Tonight, he did it with a single match.

Animals are all around us. Someone left the door open to the project lunch-making room this morning. One of the Hacienda dogs entered and had a feast. We also were joined by another dog (which we named "Perro") when we started our climb up to Quitaloma. He came with us, spent a lot of time with me as I paced off Structure #4 and drew my map, then led me to the place where the group was eating lunch (He got the chicken out of my sandwich and I ate bread and mustard in thanks for his company). He then followed us back down the hill. He started following a subset of our group, the young immortals, who decided to walk home instead of taking the bus, but eventually wandered off.

The donkey still brays at all hours of the night, but the animals and the crackling fire in our room is so much better than counting the number of times "Sweet Home Alabama" was played between 1 am and 4 am in Quito.

©2009 Sandy Schreyer