16 July 2007


No, Pisac is not an alcoholic beverage. You're thinking of pisco, a Peruvian liquor that I rather approve of.

I have backdated this post to 15 July, the day I actually travelled to Pisac.

A local bus, photographed in Pisac.

This was my first encounter with Peru's local buses, and it was very different from the journeys by intercity superbuses. It was easy enough. I had directions to the bus station, where an orderly queue was waiting to buy tickets. Buses appeared to be leaving as soon as they were full, rather than to any timetable. Luggage (some people were travelling with a small trailerload) was lashed on the roof rack.

I secured the last seat, number 31, a fold down affair just beside the door. A half a dozen additional bodies leapt aboard as the engine started and we moved off. From my bucket seat I had an excellent view of the driver crossing himself twice as he pulled into the street. His face wore a worried, almost distressed, expression as he navigated through the streets of Cusco. Every so often he pulled over and additional passengers boarded. One of the standees turned out to be the conductor, a competent veteran of no more than 17 years. He now stowed luggage in the underfloor compartment as the aisle of the passenger compartment became ever more crowded with Andean women in large hats.

More Peruvian transport: a mototaxi and cycle carts, both photographed in Pisac.

As we left Cusco's built up area the driver's face relaxed. He had the traditional dark tan of the Quechua, with deep lines in his face that now wore a merely doleful expression. Twice I thought I saw him smile, but it was only a grimace as he hauled his vehicle round a particularly tight corner. For all his apparent lack of confidence, he drove well and safely. He displayed none of the aggression of the city taxi drivers.

Pisac was a major destination and dozens of passengers spilled out. I started my visit with a stroll to the village square, where the weekly Sunday market was absent. It was a fiesta day and a small brass band was marching through the square to the church. The band wasn't very good, but they sounded as though they had at least played together before. They stopped at the church and, after a last chorus, went inside.

The major attraction in Pisac is a large Inca site high in the hills. Local taxis charge an exorbitant S/.15 or 20 to take you to the top, but a 4km uphill hike in the sun was not an attractive proposition. I waited for some other visitors to share a cab with, and yet another brass band appeared, heading for the town square. How did brass bands replace Andean pipes in Pisac? This one sounded fairly competent.

Eventually I shared a taxi with Phillipe, a French Canadian. We were charged S/.10 each, but at least we were driven to the very top. Climbing even small distances in the thin air is hard work.

An explorer, with some of Pisac´s terraces in the background.

The ruins cover a very wide area, with acres of beautifully walled terraces, and the remains of houses and temples. In a neighbouring hillside I could see the shadows of cave entrances, where the Incas buried their mummified dead. Unfortunately for science, all these caves had been robbed before the archaeologists got to them.

Although the plumbing was not as impressive as that at Tipon, there were still some watercourses containing running water.

Surprise, surpise. I met a couple last seen in Nazca. They had been to Arequipa and Puno while I had been straining to learn Spanish in Cusco.

The way down to Pisac pueblo (village) contained lengths of pathway hewn out of the rock and even the pictured tunnel. If the ancient Incas were not short people they would have had to bend low in the tunnel, just as I did.

The surrounding scrub and farmland was almost devoid of birdlife, which was a great disappointment. However, there were a few interesting plants and I tried out my camera's super close up feature a few times on flowers and cacti.

Peru´s national flower. There is also a red variety.

The path took me to another couple of temples before zig-zagging down through the terraces and hillside to Pisac. The route is staked out by local women urging the visitor to buy their handiwork. The foreigner in Peru just has to get used to the attentions of hawkers. Finally the route enters the village along a street lined with souvenir stalls. Ugh.

Lunch was very overdue. Several establishments on the square offered tourist fare. A sidestreet cafe advertised a menu economico, and I got a two course lunch (soup, then trout with salad) plus a drink for just S/.7 (just over $3).

The bus back to Cusco was a very different affair. When it drew up there was no polite queueing. Peru should play rugby the way these campesinos scrummed to get at the bus. All the seats were taken but no matter, if there is physical room in the bus you get on. It was not at all comfortable, and those wishing to get off had to start early to push though to the front and the door. Eventually the conductor wormed through to collect our fares. Pisac to Cusco was S/.2 so I can't complain about the value for money.

1 comment:

Michele said...

Ola Bill! Enjoyed your journey to Pisac very much. Look forward to Macchu Picchu