Friday, March 5, 2010

FACT: the secret tunnels of Peru exist!

The book, Tombs of Terror, is set in Peru inside secret tunnels carved through the Andes Mountains. People are amazed to learn those secret tunnels do exist.

While living in Peru I often heard stories about people falling into one of the tunnels and wandering through them for miles until finding their way out. Other stories of people vanishing into thin air, even in the midst of a group, were often attributed to them falling into one of the secret tunnels and never being found again. I thought the mystery of the tunnels would make an intriguing setting for a book.

Then, years later I heard the Peruvian government had discovered some tunnels and capped them to keep people out of them.

When I returned to Peru in 2008, I wanted to see the tunnels for myself.

We were able to go through a short, uncapped tunnel section located in The Sacred Valley near the ruins of Sacsayhuaman, Peru. The tunnels, we were told, were minor tunnels and very small and confining. Inside the solid stone maze, the tunnels were as dark and void of light as I described in the book. You could not see your hand in front of your face and only knew your eyes were open by blinking hard or letting your lashes blink open and closed on your had. In the inky blackness each step needed to be felt with your hands so that you avoided smashing your head on the low ceiling.

We were told ancient Inca priests had used torch light to travel these tunnels between ceremonies. Since our trip was spur-of-the-moment, we did not have torches or even flashlights. Instead, we used the flashes from our cameras to light the way in front of us, then we would travel forward by memory a few feet...just as Jonathon has to in the book.

I took the photo above not to capture an image, though it did that, but to see my path! If you look carefully at the photo you can see a member of our group just disappearing around a turn in the tunnel system. The photo also reveals two black marks, one on the upper left wall of the tunnel and a second black mark on the right wall of the tunnel. I was also told the black marks are built up oil stains left by the passing hands of Inca priests over the years.

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