Sunday 17 May

We take a local collectivo to Pisac to see the Sunday market there. It is quite an early start, and so we eat breakfast when we arrive, at a small streetside café just off the main square in Pisac. We order toasted buns, freshly squeezed orange juice and hot chocolate. John is very tempted by the pancakes, but is too late to change his order. Café meals are never rushed in Peru, and we are in there for over an hour.


Pisac Market


Selecting Potatoes


Tourist Fayre

The market is very colourful. It is an enchanting amalgum of a local market and tourist souveneers, with a large tree dominating the centre of the square. John and Jay become deadly rivals after Jay secures a beautiful deep blue and red daysack for 14 soles. I am soon haggling for two small watercolours of a similar style to those found by Jay yesterday.


Intihuatana Ruins

Later, we take a minibus up to the ruins above Pisac. The guidebook recommended the walk all the way up from the town centre in the valley, but we are short of time, and even the walk from the end of the road where the minibus dropped us to the Temple of the Sun is an effort in the heat. Even after Machu Picchu, the stone work of these ruins is impressive. However, after the spectacular setting of the former—the cloud forest, the jagged peaks, and the Uramamba River far below—the arid and dusty hills around Pisac fail to inspire.

The dust becomes a real menace when we return to the town in order to catch a ride back to Cusco. We negotiate a ride in the back of a camionette for three soles each. We are waiting to leave, but the driver is determined to find more passengers before starting off. As we wait, the wind blows up and a choking dust-storm comes down the street to envelop us. When the driver decides that the fare will have to increase to four soles, it is just too much. We pile off the camionette, and wait for a bus. With much pushing and shoving, aided considerably by those behind us in the queue, we finally manage to squeeze onto a bus for Cusco. Without quite knowing what is happening, I find myself propelled towards the one remaining seat at the front and then am quite unable to move as other passengers fill every remaining available space in the bus. Thanks to John’s negotiations with the conductor, we are dropped just outside the Inca ruins at Qenko. I half-expect to have to leave the bus head-first through the front passenger window, but somehow a way to the door is made through the mass of bodies and sacks.


Sacsayhuamán


Sacsayhuamán

Quite unlike the other Inca ruins, Qenko consists of a large rocky outcrop weathered into potholes and channels, to which the Incas subtly added their own masonary skills to create a place rich in ceremonial meaning. Carved zig-zags might have been channels for sacrificial llamas’ blood. Just across the road is Sacsayhuamán (a catholic priest we met earlier suggested a notable aid-memoire for this place—‘sexy woman’). The scale of the stones used to construct the zig-zagged defensive walls only becomes clear at close proximity, and it is hard to imagine that they were dragged up the hill-side without even the knowledge of the wheel. It is obviously a favourite place for a Sunday afternoon picnic with the people of Cusco. On a hill behind the fortress, screams of delight can be heard from gringos and locals alike sliding down polished stone chutes in the hillside.

By the time we have descended by foot back into Cusco, it is dark. It being a Sunday, our first-choice restaurant is closed, but we find another not far from the main plaza. John, Jay, and I decide to take the plunge and try the local speciality—guinea pig. James, not feeling one hundred per cent, opts for breaded chicken. However, when it transpires that only two guinea pigs are available, I nobly surrender my choice in exchange for some delicious chicken in a spicy tomato source. Jay and John are less impressed with the cuy—skin, bones, a few internal organs, and a reproachful stare from small black eyes set above a toothed mouth holding a slice of carrot.