Wednesday, July 13, 2011


Our first stop in the Sacred Valley was in the town of Pisaq.    Pisaq is a market town, famed for its Sunday fair, which is held in the town's main square, dominated by a large and venerable pisonay tree.  The tree is a distinctive feature of the town, and it has been there so long that it is nearly impossible to think of Pisaq without it.   The town is easily identifiable in early photographs because of the tree.


Pisaq was established by the Spanish in the 1500s but it lies at the foot of the Inca site of Pisaq.   Before asking our driver to take us up the mountain to the ruins, we did a bit of shopping, buying some masks to decorate our Lima apartment with.

In that regard I have to mention the service we received at Artesanias Pisonay on Pisaq's main square.  When we were short of cash, the owner offered to take a small deposit and deliver the masks to our hotel the next day.   Granted, by buying four of their more expensive masks, we were likely making their week's sales in one day, but Alicia, the owner, really did go out of her way to help us get what we wanted.  She made a special trip to Cusco, and arrived when she said she'd be there (in fact she apologized for being 10 mins "late", which most of time in Peru doesn't even count!)  She even brought the packing materials we had requested.

In any case, after that, we moved to visit the ruins of Inca Pisaq.

No one is quite sure who ordered Inca Pisaq built or when, but it seems likely that it was established in the the 1470s or thereabouts, and was perhaps intended to mark the Inka Pachakutiq's triumph over the tribes of the Antisuyu.   It had a clear agricultural purpose, what with its numerous terraces encompassing an area larger than Machupiqchu.   However, it also likely served a military purpose, overlooking the pass that contains the Inca roadway toward the lowlands of the Antisuyu and being marked on that side by a strong defensive wall.

Defensive wall along the southern side of Pisaq, and Amaru (serpernt) Gate

The Amaru (serpent) Gate on the path to the temple of the sun in Pisaq

Pisaq is also notable for containing the largest identified Inca cementery.  Along a cliff, set so that they face the rising sun, hundreds of Inca ossuaries are set into the cliff face.   When I visited Pisaq as a lad of 14 in 1981, there were some tombs yet unraided.   I doubt that today any are left unopened.

Inca cementery

Inca baths

Inca Pisaq's residential sector


No comments: