Friday, July 24, 2015

Peruvian Highlands - Pisac

Pisac
Having maintained a trip to the Peruvian highlands on my Travel List for a long time, I finally made the journey at the end of May with a planned duration of just over two weeks.  The destination for the trip was the Sacred Valley with the high point focused on Machu Picchu.  Of course, Machu Picchu is not literally the high point of the journey with respect to elevation. That honor falls to Cusco at 11,200 ft.  With a very long flight and a desire to minimize potential effects of altitude sickness, the plan was to arrive in Cusco and then immediately head down to the small town of Pisac.  Pisac is situated at 9,800 ft and that lower elevation may make the difference while bodies adjust to operating at high elevation.

Upon arrival at Cusco airport, our Bed & Breakfast in Pisac had arranged for a taxi to pick up our group and baggage up and take us to Pisac about 20 miles away.  What we did not know was that the road from Cusco to Pisac was narrow, windy, and that our driver had aspirations for driving F1! 

White knuckled, we arrived in the center of Pisac to be transferred to a moto-taxi.  The last bit of distance from Pisac to the B&B was to be covered on a dirt trail.  Too far to walk with baggage.  With four people and luggage crammed into a small moto-taxi, we jostled our way to the B&B.
Moto-taxi
Pisac viewed from the B&B along the unpaved trail.
Arriving at the B&B, we unpacked and settled in for a two night's stay.  The B&B is surrounded by a wall, somewhat of a compound, situated about a 10 minute walk to town.
Bed & Breakfast main house
B&B cabins
Besides a place of respite to acclimate to high elevation, Pisac offers two other benefits for the traveler.  One, is a public market which is one of the largest craft markets in Peru.  The other, is an outstanding collection of Incan ruins situated in the mountain above the village.

After a good night's rest, the plan was to attack the ruins in the morning and then leisurely explore the marketplace in the afternoon.  To reach the main entrance to the ruins, we opted for a short five mile taxi ride up the mountain.  The terracing and panoramic views were stunning.  The terraces are enormous engineering wonders clinging to the sides of the mountain.
Pisac ruins main entrance
Terraces
More terraces
and more terraces
Rather than taking a taxi back down the mountain into Pisac, we challenged ourselves to hike back down the mountain through a narrow canyon.  The descent took about an hour in the heat of the afternoon before reaching the terraces at the base of the mountain and Pisac, proper.
View of Pisac from the canyon
Following a clean up and brief rest, we headed out into the center of town and the market.  The market spills out from the main plaza with stalls packed in selling all manner of crafts.
Pisac main plaza
Tucked in and hidden within the market complex are a few ancient ovens baking some tasty empanadas.  Also produced in these ovens is what may be the national dish of Peru, guy.  Of course, guy, is guinea pig.  Despite their temptingly glistening skin, I chose a local restaurant for my dinner.  My choice was a well presented and delicious alpaca lomo saltado.  The dish was a combination of stir fried alpaca and vegetables served with thick slabs of french fried potatoes and rice.
Ancient ovens
Peruvian delicacy, guy
Alpaca lomo saltado
One last look at the B&B
The next stage in the journey sees us heading toward the town of Ollantaytambo along the Urubamba River and the start for many of the Incan Trail.

16 comments:

  1. The terraces don't look to be in use (maybe just getting fallowed?). Is there much (any) cultivation of crops going on? Maybe it's too cheap to import food vs growing it in the mountain?

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    1. The terraces at the Pisac ruins are governed by the Ministry of Culture and is similar to a National Monument in the USA. Therefore, no active agriculture can occur here. We did see terraces throughout the Sacred Valley still in use by local farmers and the Sacred Valley is a hub for agriculture.

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  2. Great p[cs, and a wise choice to descend a few thousand feet for altitude acclimatization.; I found myself wondering what crops they grew at these high altitudes. Maize, presumably; ? beans/squash as in Mexico?

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    1. Peter, there were great amounts of local produce being sold in the markets including maize (many varieties with kernels larger than I have seen in the States), avocados, tomatoes, squash, gourds, various tree fruits, cocoa, coca, coffee, quinoa, and large varieties of potatoes. The Sacred Valley is dominated by agriculture both plant and animal.

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  3. Looks like you had a wonderful (and well planned) trip.


    -- Jeff

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    1. Yes, Jeff, it was a wonderful trip, indeed! This was destination #1 in the itinerary. Part of the fun of travel is planning, no?

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  4. Eating Guy is a trick that the locals inflict on tourists to see if they will actually eat it. :)

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    1. That may be true! I saw many locals eating but not so many tourists doing so. The locals I talked to said it was very good but was a lot of work for little meat.

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  5. Excellent photos Jonathan, sounds like a great trip!

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  6. Beautiful scenery Jon, with the terraces cutting into the mountain sides. I'm quite conservative when it come to trying new food, and would probably also have deviated from the proposed "guy", but that alpaca dinner actually looks tempting.

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    1. Beautiful scenery, for sure. The alpaca stir fry was indeed good. After discovering saltado in Pisac, I sought the dish out in other towns too. All were delicious.

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  7. Amazing sights, Jonathan. I should think Shangri-La would look like this - barring those barbequed hamsters :)

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    1. Barbequed hamsters is exactly what these reminded us of too.
      I was tempted to try but did not.

      The other sites in which we stayed were equally amazing. Beautiful country!

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  8. Lovely looking pictures! Not sure I could have eaten the "guy" either, but your diner looked good!

    Christopher

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    1. Glad you enjoy the photos of Pisac. Wonderful part of Peru to explore. Had I been with another guy, we might have encouraged each other to attempt the "guy."

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