This weekend, we visited the town of Pisac, known for a Sunday market (both arts and foods) that predates Incan times, and for nearby Incan ruins.
Craig was treating me to this trip for my birthday, so we were able to spend more on lodging than we normally do. After a little internet research, I chose La Casa del Conde, a country guest house with great reviews.
To get to Pisac, you take a ‘collectivo,’ or group van. You walk to Puputi street just below Recoleta in Cusco, and wait to hear a man yelling out destinations that match yours. That man puts you in a van, and when the van is full, it takes off. The cost for the one-hour ride to Pisac was 5 soles ($1.80) each. I had been warned to look for an older driver, for safety reasons, but we wound up riding with an impatient teenager who wanted to pass every bus, truck and car on the narrow, winding mountain roads. It was a little harrowing — ok, that’s an understatement, I nearly wet myself a few times — and I vowed to look for some grey hairs on the driver next time.
The collectivo dropped us off on the side of the road in Pisac and we set off to find our hotel. Honestly, I’m not sure whether I would have had the guts six months ago to book a hotel that cars and mototaxis can’t reach. The directions said “At the edge of town, take a right toward the chapel and then take the only dirt road owards Chihuanco until you find Casa del Conde.”
Walking along that dirt road in the sunshine, in the valley between the mountains, was so freeing. Craig and I couldn’t stop grinning. Soon, we spotted the gate of our hotel and rang the bell. When the door opened, we were rewarded for our minor act of courage.
The cost of the room was a super-indulgent $80 a night and included breakfast. But hey, it was my birthday celebration.
We went into town and checked out the Saturday market, which is almost as big as the Sunday one and includes all sorts of handcrafted items. Once upon a time, genuine Incan relics from the ruins above Pisac were sold in this market regularly. Now, the “relics” are just souveniers and knock-offs.
Now, for our hike. We had seen the path heading up the mountain. It was daunting, to say the least. Most people get a taxi to the top of the mountain and do a 2-hour hike down, so we decided to try that instead. While looking for a taxi, we got sucked in to a tourist deal and wound up spending at least 5 times what we should have. I knew it was happening, but it was easier than looking for & communicating with a taxi on our own, and since it was still only about $30 (should have been $5) we took it. The car was nice, at least.
We didn’t have any real expectations, but if we had, the hike and ruins would have blown them out of the water. Words cannot describe the the sense of walking around in the sky, or the thrill of rounding a bend and spotting yet another set of ruins in the wild.
There are many Incan ruins at Pisac, including liturgical baths, a military citadel, tombs, worship sites, agricultural and residential sites. The Incans were fond of building on peaks above their terraced farmland (they hauled fertile soil up the mountain for planting so they could live at ridiculous altitudes). The various sites we wanted to see were connected by a dizzying collection of mountain paths, stone stairways, and even an underground tunnel.
Our cab driver met us at the lower parking level and drove our exhausted bodies back to town. I enjoyed taking photos of the Quechua women in the produce market while we had lunch.
When it was time to go home, we had to wait an eternity for a collectivo (the first one filled up before we could get on) and then we had to fight and elbow our way in, even though we were first in line. Still, it was a gorgeous, scenic hour-long drive in a comfortable van for less than $2. And this time our driver was a little more solid.
Craig and I both think we’d go back to Pisac in a heartbeat, and this time we’d hike up to the ruins. We did things we didn’t think we could do, over and over on this hike. Why not?