July 17, 2010
Cusco Market and Pisac Ruins
We had all decided the previous day to hire a driver to take us to Pisac and surrounding areas. Zed and I met Santiago in the plaza by the church . A couple of the members of the other family were not feeling well so it was just Zed, Santiago and myself off for the day. We walked to the market (food etc.) in Cusco where the sights dazzled my eyes and the smells permeated the air. It was very busy with people shopping and eating. Several ladies were cooking or boiling food to be eaten. I wasn't sure of what it was, but I was sure I did not want to taste any of it. The market was under a roof and there were hundreds of stands or booths. Some sold vegetables and some fruit. We saw bread, round and the size of a platter, being sold. There were many items I did not recognize. We stopped at one stand and Santiago showed us the worms they sold. There was a food item similar to peyote, which we were told was illegal, but it was out in the open. The meat section made our eyes bug out and our jaws drop. There were long calves' tongues, brains, whole faces of calves, calf feet, livers, hearts and the stomach lining of animals. There was jerky made from whole animals and simply salted very heavily. There were clothes and shoes and many handicrafts, also some jewelry. We left the market and walked back toward the center of town to meet our driver. While we waited, we ducked into a small coffee and pastry shop where Santiago ate a sandwich as he did not have breakfast, Zed ate some brownies and I order a cinnamon caffe latte. While standing on the curb waiting for our driver, we saw a new car with a wreath on it and Santiago told us that people would baptize a new car by washing it in the river and then putting a wreath on it. We climbed into the van and headed toward Pisac where we hiked for two hours. The ruins there were very interesting. On one of the last steps going down, I came down hard on my left knee which had been scoped the previous year and it hurt some after that. I was very pleased and proud that I hiked at Machu Picchu the day before and did this hike the next day. As we descended into the town of Pisac, we could see the plaza full of revelers. We passed through an open bazaar with acres of jewelry, souvenirs and handicrafts. My legs were getting very weak from all the hiking I had done and I thought my knees would give way and I would fall flat on the street. We sat for about five minutes and then Zed and I did a little shopping for folks back home. We were entertained by dancers and musicians in the plaza. Their costumes were a palette of vivid colors moving in the sunlight. We were told that the people love to celebrate and this went on for a couple of days and nights. This was still part of the celebration of a patron saint that we first observed in the streets of Aguas Calientes. On our way back to Cusco, we stopped at a small llama farm. They had llamas with wool reaching to the ground, alpacas, a few vicunas and guanacos. We found out there is a small patch of wool on the breast of the vicuna which is shorn once a year to be spun and dyed and woven into a sweater or hat etc. This makes any article made from vicuna very expensive. Zed fed the llamas as they were very friendly. There were three women sitting on the ground, legs extended in front and no back support, weaving. They sit there for long hours doing that and we observed there were often very young children close by, entertaining themselves all day long. Our last stop for the day was the sacred ruins of Sacsayhuaman (pronounced like sexy woman). This is the biggest sun temple of the Incas. It got a little cooler while we were there and sprinkled a little. As we climbed to the top, it started sleeting! It only lasted about five minutes and we continued our tour. Huge rocks and walls enclosed a huge grassy arena. We learned that people from Cusco and surrounding areas used to play soccer on the space, but could no longer do so as it is a sacred place. There were tall smooth rocks that looked like a slide and people were sliding down them. Santiago urged Zed to try it. He ran up the rock and then slid down. It was fairly steep and made for a hard landing. There is a large white statue of Jesus (Cristo Blanco) overlooking Cusco. We were told that at one time there was a large population of Jews living in Cusco and they gave this gift to the city as a token of their appreciation of being treated well. We arrived at our hotel about 4 and we freshened up and waited in the lobby for the guides who were to take us river rafting the next day. Due to a mix up in communication, they did not show. Zed and I walked a few blocks to watch a local dance show featuring folk dances and music. We stayed a short while and Santiago met us outside where he got us a cab to head to the Collindas restaurant to eat. The other family was leaving Cusco the next day and we were rafting. We told Santiago our rafting guides did not come so he left to get our wet suits for the next day. We bade him farewell and had our last meal with our travel companions. Zed ate octopus for the first time and decreed that it was tasty.