on October 8, 2010
Pisac is a town that was up and running prior to the Incas and the local tribe folk had a thriving community working the land. There are well established agricultural terraces which are deemed to be some of the finest in Peru. They were grand, but we were reminded of our visit to China and the fantastic Longji Rice Terraces (See my earlier journal "in the vicinity of Guilin) and these in Pisac paled into insignificance alongside Longji. And remember Longji had been established several centuries before these in Pisac. But I mustn’t detract from Pisac’s terraces as they were impressive and really complimented the surrounding landscape.At this level we saw a water feature similar to the one we had seen near Cusco, although it was not quite as impressive as the one we saw first. Looking upwards we saw the clear layout of an Inca building and the guide explained that this was a temple dedicated to the Sun God. We were told that we’d be able to get closer to a Sun Temple in Machu Picchu but for now we just took in the new features that we observing and learning about. And then, as we started our descent, we saw our first floating staircase. Now it seems strange to get excited about a couple of rocks that have been built in to a wall to act as vertical stepping stones but it really would have been an innovative move back in the early 1500’s in rural Peru. And they were so well constructed that these old "staircases" are still there today. More to the point they are still useable! It was a gentle walk up alongside the terraces and we soon found our way to the furthest point that we would be climbing to on this visit. If we’d had more time there was a longer walk up into the hills but we were content to rest at this level and check out the main points of interest. We’d noticed some caves in the hills and it wasn’t until our guide pointed out that these niches were in fact burial caves that we took on the importance of these craggy slopes. We were in reality looking up at the town’s cemetery and the niches were where individuals would have been placed in the foetal and tightly wrapped in cloth to form what some people call "burial bundles". I think that the bodies would then have been "entombed" in the small cave but as I understood, from the guide, the Spanish invaders checked out these final resting places in their obsession for gold. Certainly they would have found valuable trinkets that would, as with the tribe’s custom, have been placed alongside the bodies. After our visit to the pre-Inca town we head for the colonial town of Pisaq. It’s right at the southern end of the sacred valley and known as a centre of excellence for local potters. On any organised tour, no matter how tailor made an itinerary, it always seems to be compulsory to stop off at a local market and sure enough after weaving our way through the through the really tiny alley ways we find ourselves in the centre square of the town and the buzzing market, now aimed at tourists, of Pisaq. At one point we thought we wouldn’t be able to squeeze through the streets and took great delight in checking out the Spanish style house with their individual balconies. It was almost essential in colonial Peru to have an impressive balcony to show to the rest of your community that you were someone!Having negotiated the streets we agree with our guide that we’ll only want three quarters of an hour in the market and agree a meeting place at the edge of the square. There are numerous colourful stalls filling this market place. This market started off its life as a local market where farmer in the area would bring their excess produce for bartering or exchange with others who had goods that they wanted. That was how subsistence farming worked in this area, but as tourists started to arrive so the locals saw a chance to make a better living. This permanent craft market was duly born! It’s full of knitted and woven goods including hats, gloves, scarves, shawls, finger puppets, bottle carriers, bags and purses. There are ceramic wall plates and drinking vessels. Remember that you need to barter for your goods and it’s recommended that you aim to pay no more than two thirds of the asking price. Personally I always aim for 50% and sometimes have to remind myself that I’m negotiating over a few pence.But I always enjoy the act of the bartering and have been known to be negotiating for goods that I really wasn’t that bothered about!
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