August 30, 2012
Since we're living here for three months, here's a little more about Pisac. It is an Andean village of about two thousand people that lies about an hour northeast of Cusco by road (a paved road that winds up and out of Cusco past the Incan ruins of Sacsaywaman, Q'enqo, Pukapukara, and Tambomachay before descending into the Sacred Valley - Pisac is some 600 m or 2000 feet lower in elevation than Cusco). The main part of the village is centred at the Plaza de Armas, which contains a huge, very old-looking pisonary tree. Radiating out from the main square are narrow streets arranged in small blocks, perhaps 8 by 10 blocks in total for the main core. The streets are busy at all times of the day with people walking, dogs lounging, and occasional vehicles passing - moto-taxis, bicycle-powered carts, a few cars, and every now and then a tourist bus squeezing through to park in the main square.
The streets have a narrow drainage channel running down the centre and no sidewalks, just two-storey buildings or walls on either side that give the streets an enclosed, maze-like feel. Despite stray dogs constantly peeing and defecating, the streets are kept remarkably clean - that unpleasant odour of sewage and garbage that can be all-too common in populated areas in developing countries isn't too overpowering here. The following photo gives a birds-eye view of the main part of Pisac.
Every day of the week - at least at this time of the year - a huge craft market sets up in the main square and surrounding streets. The market is a little larger on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and larger still on Sundays when food stalls and lunch vendors fill out the rest of the space in the main square. Many of the crafts on sale are of a very high quality, including ceramics, clothing, woven goods, hats, belts, bags, paintings, etc., although many stalls offer an identical array of items. I think the struggling world economy must be impacting the market because although we wander through the market almost every day and see plenty of tourists wandering around, few people seem to be actually buying things. It is difficult to see current demand even coming close to matching the huge supply of goods available here.
Walking uphill from the market you come to the trail that leads up to the Incan ruins above Pisac (the trail that also goes past Kusi Kawsay school). We've not ventured up there yet because it costs an unbelievable US$28 per person to visit the ruins (although this price also includes additional Sacred Valley ruins at Ollantaytambo, Chinchero, and Moray - for an additional US$24 you can add on the ruins near Cusco and various Cusco museums too).
Pisac is surrounded by steep mountains, many etched by horizontal lines indicating past terracing. The River Urubamaba flows past the village and onwards to towns further down the Sacred Valley, including Calca, Urubamaba, and Ollantaytambo. Around Pisac are many agricultural fields, most being ploughed and prepared for Spring planting just now.
The weather while we've been here has been mostly warm and sunny in the day (highs of mid-20s Celsius or mid-70s Fahrenheit) and cool at night (dropping down to 4 degrees Celsius or 40 degrees Fahrenheit on occasion). There has been the odd overcast day and two or three brief rain showers, but other than that it has been pretty idyllic. Now, if only something could be done about the mangy stray dogs this would be a paradise on earth.