The journey takes approximately 50 minutes from Cusco via Chicnhero (78km). One of the main features of the village is its two main squares with gigantic pisonay trees. Some accounts say Yucay was the Inca Pachacutec, Huayna Capac, and Viracocha. Throughout their conquests in these lands, they have realized different architectonic works.
One of the places where I have been happiest is Yucay; if I close my eyes, I see his cementless squares when it gets dark. I see families playing ball, drinking chicha, and listening to huayno lying on the green field in the shade of giant hundreds-of-year-old trees called Pisonay. An old church. I close again and see myself walking next to the Inca platforms and stones. I hear the river that comes down from the snow-capped Apu Illa Huamán. I also remember the slow flow of the town, oblivious to the commercial movement of the so-close Urubamba. I mentally caress the Inca walls that remain between the shops and chicherías.
The family of a friend, born in Yucay, told me that they used to turn off the town lights during the full moon to appreciate it in all its spectacle. I always thought it would be a good idea, and it seemed incredible to have found a place in the world where what did it. I felt that Yucay was like my better half or something.
At night Yucay is cold but no more than Cusco or the rest of the valley. They say it has the best climate and was originally the capital of the Sacred Valley of the Incas. The chronicler Cieza de León wrote: “Yucay is very beautiful, tucked between the heights of the mountains, in such a way that with the coat they make for her, she is of healthy and cheerful temperament because it is neither too cold nor too hot. Before, if you consider it so excellent, it has been spoken sometimes by the neighboring rulers of Cuzco, and I say in particular more of this valley than of others because the Incas had it in a lot. They came to it to take their rejoicing.”.
The territory was occupied by the Inca Huayna Cápac, who ordered the construction of the platforms with stones from areas far from Tahuantinsuyo to improve the productivity of corn, basically, and for worship. This part of the valley was also one of the favorites of the Pachacútec and the Inca Wiracocha. Simón Bolívar spent a season in 1823 in the Orihuela farmhouse.
Yucay was the first place of resistance – commanded by Manco Inca – in the first years of the conquest. Here the rebel Inca concentrated an army to make life impossible for the Spaniards; however, he did defeat by the Cañaris (indigenous people of the Pizarro order) led by Apu Chillche. Manco Inca’s son, Sayri Túpac, was named the new Inca, but he quickly gave in to the conquerors and stopped the civil war. He received the lots from this place and lived there until he did poison by his father’s executioner, Apu Chillche. Yucay (pronounced Yúcay) means deception or charm in Spanish, but it seems that this has nothing to do with the origin of the name, as I have asked.
One of the areas that I like the most is the town’s hills. The palace of Huayna Cápac remains almost intact. Despite its importance in history, Yucay is not touristy. The only people who travel these enchanted roads are the settlers with their cattle and the families searching for rest after the farm.
At nine o’clock at night, the town falls asleep. The track (from one side to Urubamba and from the other to Pisaq) is a black language that does not give fear but deep peace. You can hardly hear a distant conversation in Quechua, a barking dog, or the toads of the swamps. The lights are low, so the stellar concert can be appreciated, sitting loosely in one of the two green fields and giant trees. The snowfall turns a strange color if there is a moon, like a radiant blue.
Yucay has no market, which gives me slight disappointment. Nothing is more beautiful to me than the interaction of the market, the sound and the smells, all that melting pot of flavors. Somehow I feel that a town without need is not complete. Residents go to Urubamba to solve all their problems like that or make bank movements or other judicial procedures in the city. Then they return to their quiet life near the crops.
A few days ago, at the house of this friend of mine from Yucay, something happened. He made us hungry at 11 at night and had the crazy idea – which I initially disapproved of – of going to Urubamba by bicycle to look for food. Under the rain! I accepted it like when you get the things you don’t want to do, but you know it will be great! And we went out against the wind and the water on the black road. Dark, dark, wet, all wet. I remembered while he pedaled that we did not allow ourselves to get wet outside the shower for fear of the cold, pneumonia, and I don’t know what else. Perhaps what makes us sick is fighting against water. Perhaps what makes you unhappy is fear. While I was in the middle of that dark nothingness, halfway, intimately wetting even my underwear, watching how the trees reflected on the track, I felt in pure meditation, perhaps some indescribable state of fullness. That 15-minute bike ride to Urubamba has been among the most rewarding things.
Much of my fascination with Yucay is the personal experiences there. Maybe if they come, they’ll say, “Is this that much fun?” Likely, insightful readers. The places we visit fill our hearts in a certain way; we remember them differently. Yucay has given me a lot, to the point that I always want to be close to him, if not between his streets, and do something. Hopefully someday. Perhaps I will even resume my political aspirations, change my residence in RENIEC, run for mayor of Yucay, and win. So my first emergency measure will be to turn off the lights on every full moon from now on and forever.