Saturday, August 15, 2015

Week 31 - Zone Conference in the hills above Cusco

First, before anything else, Hna. J insisted that I include this photo of her from our jungle canopy walk last week in the Amazon jungle near Puerto Maldonado.  This is the suspended bridge that's not shown on the tourist brochures, and when you get this far, you're committed to cross it.  Note the 4" wide single plank, no netting, and just a couple of cables to hang onto.  Hna J has developed a sense of adventure and fearlessness, she was the first one across, and hollered back at me to take her picture.  She's about 60ft above the ground, headed for the next zipline.

Once a year (at least) the missionary Zone Conferences are held at an outdoor location, rather than in the chapel - that's OK with us, as we're always up for an adventure and new experiences.  We got word that this one was to be held at a unique location, just on top of the hills above Cusco, and that we were to dress appropriately for being outdoors all day, which was fine with us, and with all the missionaries, like Hnas Guzman, Guajardo, Purse, Esplin, and Essig.

 Hnas. Hasler, Johnson, and Harbertson are also appropriately attired for the occasion.  And got some chat time in, which they don't get to do very often.

Two zones (Inti Raymi - ours, and Tahuatinsuyo) crammed into one double-decker tourist bus, and off we went.  Almost immediately, we turned off the main road away from the tourist sites, and headed up a steep switchback road.  Not a well traveled, or well maintained road, as the electrical lines across the street were so low that they had to be lifted up several times to allow the bus to pass under, and we had to dodge and back up around several gaps, washes, and construction sites.  All part of the adventures for the missionaries riding on the top deck.  The more prudent of us (seniors and the Presidente), rode inside in comfort.

After unloading at the top of town (literally, on the north edge), we had about a 2-mile walk to the selected site.  A good trail, as can be seen heading from left to the right way across the valley.  Note the Inca-era terraces up the hillside.  They are still irrigated, and appear to be in use, though not intensely cultivated.  There are a few sheep and cows that graze them.

To give some perspective on the close proximity to Cusco, here's a view looking back to the south into town.  Our apartment is just out of view to the right of the "V".  Yet there are no tourists up here, and the locals don't seem to think it's anything really special, as we only saw a couple of people who live in small huts up here, and a guy tending some sheep and cows.  There were a few kids playing in the small creek that flows through the bottom.  There are "ruins" from walls, terraces, and other structures in view almost all the time.  There are a few houses down in the trees, out of sight from here.

This is a tile kiln.  The Spaniards forced the conquered Incas to build it to fire the tiles for the roofs of the cathedrals they made them build.  The penalty for not working hard enough was they got thrown in the kiln.  Still in pretty good condition.

As part of the warm-up for the conference, there was a team-building exercise.  Each team had to build a structure out of spaghetti and marshmallows to support 5 oranges.  Elder Hasler's team won, but he had played this game before.  Hey, I'm not whining, but they should tell you all the rules at the beginning.  It was all good fun.

I've never seen Presidente y Hermana Harbertson so relaxed.  I didn't know he even owned a shirt that didn't come with a collar and tie (it is white though).  I think they really enjoyed the day, especially since the Zone and Hermana leaders ran most of the conference.

Hermanas Guajardo and Essig (the Hermana leaders) are instructing.  Note the terraced seating.  Using both sides, you could probably seat 200 people here, maybe twice that or more if you really packed them in standing.  Why would a little mini-amphitheater be built up here?

Elder Caprio illustrates the steps to conversion:  repentance, faith, obedience, prayer, bring thousands of souls to conversion.

Hermana J does a quick inspection of the focal point of the amphitheater.  It's 4.5 meters long, 3.2 meters across, and 1.7 meters deep.  It has a natural or diverted stream flowing through the bottom of it, and there is an opening that can be plugged at the outlet (far) end, so that the water will fill up.  There are also a set of stone steps leading down into it.  The exact age of it is unknown, but those who are familiar with the type of construction say that it's likely pre-Inca, meaning more than 1200 years old.  It's still in perfect condition.

Hermana Harbertson instructs.  Her topic was burdens: which ones need to be carried, and which ones should be discarded.  He's pretty lively, and had everyone's attention.

Luckily, a delicious lunch was carried in and cooked for us by Hno. William and his esposa, who are caterers and good members here.  The highlight was REAL tacos, everyone's favorite.  Elder Bryant and Hna. Essig make sure Hna J has a couple before the elders go through the line again, and snarf up everything that's left.  They did, and there wasn't, but everyone had plenty, including us.

Elder Reyes puts the finishing touch on Hna J's lunch.  Hno. William scurries around to make sure all the stations are loaded with good food.

At the end of the afternoon, we posed for a group Zone picture.  This is our Zone, Inti Raymi, representing half of the missionaries at this conference, Tahuatinsuyo being the other Zone.  We know and love and work with all these wonderful young missionaries, and are grateful to serve under Presidente Harbertson's inspired direction.
 There were 3 of these rock cairns near the site where we held our outdoor conference.  They could have been built 50 years ago, or 1500 years ago.  No one knows for sure, and this isn't an active archaelogical site, though there is one nearby that we will be exploring soon.
After the conference, we came back up another day with the Rhoades, so we could show them the site, and get a good look at it ourselves.  This is as good a panoramic view as I could get, backing up a near-vertical rock cliff.  Couldn't get the left side of it in view.  What an interesting place?  What could it have been used for?  Note the stone steps leading up to the middle terrace, the watercourse that diverts down the right into  an underground aqueduct leading to upper side of the pool with water flowing year round. 
What could it have been used for, and why was it so well-built to endure centuries without deterioration?  More investigation of this and other nearby sites to come!
We had (another) delightful and productive week.  This conference added to our understanding of the importance of our service, as well as giving us new experiences and adventures.  Stay tuned for more!

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