Travel Journal

Sacred Valley - Pisac

What do you know, we actually had a flight leave as scheduled for Cusco. Arriving at the airport we were taken aback by the sheer numbers of people with signs waiting for incoming visitors. Of course, we didn't see our pickup taxi, but he eventually showed up late.

The drive to Pisac took just over an hour. We chose this town to start our Peru experience for two reasons: it was at the lowest of elevations so would be easier on us as we adjusted to the high altitudes of the area. Secondly, it was Sunday and Pisac market is the biggest in Peru on this day. We drove through an amazing countryside under clear blue skies. The mountains were ENORMOUS, making Whistler's seem so insignificant. Everywhere we looked was an amazing view. We had to climb quite high over the mountains to reach Pisac at the head of the "Sacred Valley".

Because it was Sunday market day, tour buses jammed the narrow road. To top it off, the main bridge into town was closed and they were actually working on it. All traffic was diverted to the next bridge 30 minutes away, or one could walk over a foot bridge nearby and walk 20 minutes to town. Our driver suggested we walk, and after asking some guy with a bicycle cart if he could take our luggage to the hotel, he indicated we should follow the cart over the foot bridge and into town. It was a hot, dusty and long walk, but felt good after sitting for most of the day so far.

Our hotel was right on the main square where the market was. The whole square was a mass of stalls covered by white tarps. Several streets branching off the square were also totally filled with vendors. It was a shopper's paradise! After dropping off our luggage, we dove right in. The plan was to purchase most of our souvenirs here so we wouldn't need to think about it later. For sale were alpaca-knit and other woven items, silver jewelry, leather goods and ceramics. Len and both picked up 100% alpaca sweaters for a ridiculously cheap price.

Afterwards we sat on the hotel deck that overlooked the square, watching the action over dinner and a jug of Sangria. The market was closing down but local people were still milling around, congregating in front of our hotel. Suddenly a procession came marching into the square accompanied by drums and flutes. The participants were in full costume, including traditional warrior and animals. They proceeded to dance a story of conquest. Another costumed group appeared out of nowhere and dancing went on for over an hour. What a spectacle! At one point they all marched of the square and we thought it was over...but 15 minutes later they all returned for more singing and dancing. We found out later it was one of many festivals celebrated in the area (don't know which one). There were very few tourists left in town to witness the event so we felt very privileged to have a front row seat. It was the best dinner show I've been to!

The next day in Pisac we planned a hike through Pisac temple ruins, situated on the mountain above town, and back down into the main square, taking about 3 hours. We took a taxi up the mountain to the entrance to the ruins, where we were quickly approached by a local asking if we need a guide. As we had not much information on these ruins and the price he quoted was so cheap, we decided to use his services. He told us he'd been guiding for 10 years now, but actually he was an artist and musician. Sure enough, during the hour and a half walk through the ruins, between the information sessions on the history of the area and what we were seeing, he would pull out his wooden Andean flute to play traditional melodies. The sound eerily echoed off the cliff faces--this was how, we were told, guards would send messages to warn of approaching strangers etc.

After we left our guide we followed a trail down the mountain, passing some more Inca houses and being wowed by amazing views at every turn, we ended up back in the main square. We were to meet up with a taxi which would take us to the town of Ollantaytambo, and hour and a half away. Pisac was a wonderful introduction to Peru and we knew we were going to love this country. We were a wee bit sad to leave Pisac but excited to put down "roots" (OK 4 days) in Ollantaytambo to really get to know the Sacred Valley.