07 September 2011

Picturesque Pisac

Today was my third trip to the small village of Pisac, 32km from Cusco. It’s easily accessible in a 12-seater people carrier for 4 or 5 soles (that’s about $1.50 for a 45-minute ride over the hills and down some dramatic roads into the Sacred Valley, that leads eventually to Machu Picchu).

Set atop the spectacular hills that tower over Pisac is an ancient Inca citadel. I haven’t yet explored these ruins – having seen the Inca ruins at Saqsayhuaman, Chinchero, Tipon and Moray, I’m saving my next ruin experience for Machu Picchu. But from the village you can easily see the Incan agricultural terraces cascading down the incredibly steep hillsides.

The reason I go to Pisac is the shopping! Every Sunday the town comes alive when its famous weekly market fills the central plaza and surrounding narrow streets with stalls selling an amazing variety of products. The plaza itself is where the locals buy their veges – so many varieties of the humble potato! – and come to eat, while the neighbouring street sellers aim more at the tourist market, selling colourful textiles and pottery, beautiful silver and semi-precious stone jewellery, as well as a wide selection of the more usual tourist produce: hats, scarves and t-shirts, paintings, and assorted niknaks.

On my three trips, with various volunteers, I’ve bought a silver pendant, two pairs of silver earrings – one set inset with lapis lazuli, the other with serpentine (the stone of Machu Picchu) – and a silver ring, inset with the seven colours of the rainbow that are used in the flag of Cusco. The total cost for these four items – after a bit of good-natured haggling -- was about $55 – amazing prices!

To be honest, it’s not just the shopping that attracts me. I love the bustling market atmosphere and the quaint architecture of this beautiful rural Andean village. It has a delightful small church, where today we listened for a short while to a mass presented in both Spanish and the local Quechua language. Many of the locals still wear their colourful traditional costumes. And today we were invited to watch part of a wedding ceremony that was taking place in the courtyard of a local house – a privilege indeed!.

Local women stand at the back of the church, carrying their babies on their backs
Colourful wedding guests
The wedding party

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