Pisac (Pee-Sack) is Pi-Sick!

Trip Start Jun 21, 2008
Trip End Aug 16, 2008

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Flag of Peru  , Sacred Valley,
Monday, July 7, 2008

Hola amigos!
     So it has been a while since my last my last blog, but I figured I would only write when I had worthwhile story or experience to share with you, hence this week´s entry. On Sunday a group of students from Amauta travelled about an hour north to the village of Pisac, site of some ancient Inca ruins (Cusco was the epicentre of the Inca empire so these ruins are scattered throughout the region) and an amazing artesan and farmer´s market. The bus that took us there was probably built in the 70´s and has likely been passed down to the country from a North-American company. The driver travelled fairly quickly considering the many winding roads and cliffs along the way, one bad turn or miscue and we´d have a great view of the mountains as we fell off of them. Our group included: Thomas (Austria), Jamie (California), Amelia (London, Eng.), Carlo and Kat (Brampton), Pete (Conneticutt), Isaac (Orillia) and myself. Pete had been to the ruins a few years ago on a prior trip to Peru so he acted as out pseudo-guide for the day.
     The ruins themselves offered some amazing views of the mountainside and the village. We trekked approximately 13km up, through, and down the ruins and back into the village. Also, because Pisac lies in the Sacred Valley and thus the altitude is lower, the weather is a little warmer, a nice change from our usual cold weather in Cusco.
     According to our info. packets the Pisac ruins are some of the finest and largest in the entire valley. Despite the excellent condition of many of the structures, little is actually known about the site's actual purpose. It appears to have been part city, part ceremonial center, and part military complex. From a semicircular terrace and fortified section at the top, called the Qorihuayrachina, the views south and west of the gorge and valley below and agricultural terraces creeping up the mountain slopes are stunning. The most important component of the complex, on a plateau on the upper section of the ruins, is the Templo del Sol (Temple of the Sun), one of the Incas' most impressive examples of masonry. The temple was an astronomical observatory. The Intihuatana, the so-called "hitching post of the sun," resembles a sundial but actually was an instrument that helped the Incas to determine the arrival of important growing seasons rather than to tell the time of day. This section is now closed to the public, due to vandals who destroyed part of it a few years ago. Nearby is another temple, thought to be the Templo de la Luna (Temple of the Moon), and beyond that is a ritual bathing complex, fed by water canals. In the hillside across the Quitamayo gorge, at the back side (north end) of the ruins, are hundreds of dug-out holes where huaqueros (grave robbers) have ransacked a cemetery that was among the largest known Inca burial sites.It is amazing to consider how the Incas could have possibly ascended these mountains (with dead bodies in tow) to bury their fallen comrades (see the pic labelled Inca burial sites).
     Pisac's famed artisans' and antiques market draws many hundreds of shoppers on Sunday morning in high season, when it is without a doubt one of the liveliest in Peru. Hundreds of stalls crowd the central square -- marked by a small church, San Pedro el Apóstolo, and massive pisonay trees -- and spill down side streets. Sellers come from many different villages, many of them remote populations high in the Andes, and wear the dress typical of their village. The goods for sale at the market -- largely sweaters and ponchos, tapestries and rugs, musical instruments, and carved gourds -- are familiar to anyone who's spent time in Cusco, but prices are occasionally lower, and in most cases the product itself is much better. 
     So as you can read and see I have been enjoying myself in South America. There are endless things to do here, and it makes it even more attractive that it is so cheap to do them. School is going well to this point, my reading and listening comprehension is progressing well but I am still struggling with speaking the language, however I do know enough to get by around the city (not to mention haggle the locals for better prices on goods!). Although I enjoy learning a new language I am especially excited to begin volunteering, which was my primary motivation to travel here.
     Tonight is Isaac´s 19th birthday, so to celebrate his legal drinking age in Canada we are going to play some drinking games and then head out on the town. Interestingly any night of the week, starting at 11pm, all the major bars in Cusco offer free drinks to entice patrons to come in, so we have circumnavigated this practice by getting the free drink and then moving on to the next bar for free drinks, so you can literally go out, get loaded and spend absolutely no money (which I´ve done) and still have a great time!
    This weekend I am travelling on my own to Ollantaytambo, about 2 1\2 hours northwest of Cusco. I am planning on visiting the famous Inca ruins of the area and enjoying some quiet time away from the main city. On Sunday a few of us are hoping to take in the Cusco City football (soccer) match at the Cusco Stadium.
     I hope all is well with everyone who has taken the time to read this blog entry, and you´ll hear from me again once I have another adventure to report!
Cuidate! (take care)

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