One thing I've noticed about Peruvians, is that they are always walking down the road carrying something on their back. This one was so bad, I hardly recognized what it was until I saw the small human legs sticking out beneath this stash. Not only do they carry crops, but their children, entire meals with all the dishes for several people, the laundry they take to a stream for washing.. everything on their back.
I was only going to see the ruins today before I head into Cusco when I rode my motorcycle up to the entrance. As usual the children are very interested in the bike, and they were so thrilled when I asked them if they'd like to sit on it!
I walked up to the entrance where there were several tourist buses and it quite honestly looked a bit crowded. I was in my motorcycle gear, and saw there would be a lot of climbing and walking. Do I want to do this now? Or since I am in no hurry, maybe find a place in town to stay where I can park my bike, secure the bags, change clothes and come back. That's what I chose.
When I returned to the ruins later that afternoon, hardly any people, the buses are gone.. awesome! I met a man who was willing to guide me around. His name is Benedicto. I have been so spoiled with free tours lately, I agreed to Benedicto and his price to show me around. He doesn't speak much English either, and I quite prefer to talk in Spanish anyway. Every little bit helps and I learn more every day.
As we walk toward the ruins, he starts off by showing me his favorite wild plant, Muna. Benedicto was born in the village here, and he carries a bit of the indigenous belief of prayer to Pachamama (Mother Earth) as well as a Catholic tradition. Interestingly, he carried a little glass bottle of Muna oil with him as he believes it helps in meditation.
Pisaq is super impressive with large agricultural terraces everywhere, but it also has some military points, temples, and a cemetary built into the rock.
I must have got Benedicto off on a roll, as soon as we got to the water, he started praying to Pachamana with gratitude for the water.
On the other hill across from the beautiful water was a cemetery. The tombs are those holes in the rock and is believed to only have had religious/spiritual dignitaries buried here. Again, it's hard to know because when the Spanish came in, they stole or destroyed EVERYTHING!
Benedicto was full of amazing information and I'm only too happy I can understand and talk to him in Spanish. I remember thinking as he is talking that his native language is Quechua, but we both communicate in Spanish. The language of the people who destroyed the area. It's sort of sad and clear how the world evolves from these things. With a diagram he draws, he is telling me how important this region was to the Inca Empire before there were borders. At one end of the oval is Colombia and the bottom part of the oval goes as far south as about the middle of Chile. And right in the middle is Cusco, Ollantaytambo and Pisaq.
There are several temples here, but "The Temple of the Sun" is the most notorious. Benedicto explained that the water bath in the photo below was used by the pilgrims or visitors to the temple to clean themselves after their long journey before venturing in.
The ruins below take the shape of the condor. The condor is a very large bird and an important part of Inca culture. If you can see the buildings at the top of the terraces in this section form the outline of a Condor spreading its wings to take off. The Condor is regarded by the Andean people as the guardian spirit of the dead.
Just another view of the condor about to fly to the valley.
I've really enjoyed Benedicto today (and Edwin and Victor in the previous days). He is also one of those lovely Peruvian men that was easy to trust, and knowing how much I loved the smell of the Muna, he asked if I'd like to see how they make the Muna oil at home. He rides a motorcycle too, so it was fun to follow his little red 150cc Honda on the dirt roads of his village on my KTM. This is where he lives and his little garden out the front.
For those of you who eat Quinoa, it's a staple part of their diet here and he grows the red quinoa around the house.
I love meeting people and experiencing their culture first hand. I could be on a tour bus, listen to the guide and get back on the bus and go back to a hotel full of English speaking tourists. Or here, I have his full attention, I get all my questions asked, and even further, I got to see his modest home and garden.. Love it!
I spent the night in Pisaq and met a really nice American lady who was there indefinitely. She was hoping to set up a health retreat. While Cusco and Ollantaytambo are full of tourists in adventure gear, Pisaq seems to be "Spiritual Central" with flowing pink rainbow skirts and headbands. Lots of organic food, crystals, shamans, yoga houses, etc etc. I don't mind exploring my spiritual side. And since the retreat is not ready yet, I got a good price to stay at her place for a bit. (I loved the courtyard cushions for computer work, however trying to upload one set of photos for a single blog post took 12 hours alone, because Pisaq is in a valley with poor reception. So unfortunately to utilize my time to catch up on the blog, I will have to move back to Cusco.)
For now, I found my favorite place for cheese and onion empanadas!! So good from the wood fire..and cheap!!
In the very same space they sell Cuy (guinea pig). This is a very common meal choice around here, but it's not for me. I spent about an hour playing with the little guys and wished I could devise a plan for them all to escape.
This is a photo I borrowed from my time in Cusco of cooked little Cuys.. I'm still not eating one.. no way! ;-/
Mmmm... potatoes. We're cookin' tonight! I got broccoli, cauliflower, choclo (local corn), herbs, and with the potatoes, we made one heck of a good green organic salad.. the kind you dream of because it's hard to accomplish while on the road.
I've lost a lot of weight lately and really did need a new belt. I bought a hand woven one (the red and white one at the far right side) off this lady.
After our vegetable buying extravaganza, I wanted to go for a Sunday wander. My friends tell me about a path I can walk up to the ruins that follow a 500 year old viaduct. Which is what I do.
Michaelangelo didn't like that I was traveling alone and he thinks I should have a boyfriend. I know what you're thinking, but he wasn't like that. Very young guy, oooooold lady. Anyway, he asked me if we could do a prayer and offering to Pachamama for me to find a new boyfriend. I disrespectfully laughed and then got quiet real quick. He was serious. I'm not really sure where this is coming from, because it's not like I had a long conversation with him about my status! I was asking more of the questions about Pachamama and the relationship the people have in this mostly Catholic country. He simply had asked if I was traveling alone, I said yes, he asked where is my boyfriend, I said "No tengo Novio.." He was so genuine, seems very mature for his age, kind and soft spoken, and quick to suggest this, so I said OK. (I'm waiting to find out how much money he wants, I asked him, he wants nothing..) He is just walking the path up to the ruins where he found me, which is not the tourist route. He goes there daily to sell hand-made bracelets to tourists and he explained his culture and his connection to Pachamana. Since I've got nothing else to do today, I said yes.
In his pouch he carries something very special. Meteorite stones. (I couldn't tell you if they are or not, but we'll go with it). He had me lay on a high rock (which sort of felt like an offering in itself!) with my arms extended each side. I have to admit at this point I got slightly worried. But at the risk of sounding cruel, Michaelangelo has a deformity and walks with a limp. I asked him about it and it's a spinal problem he was born with. So technically, I can outrun the little guy if he gave me reason to.
He placed the meteorite stones, one in each hand, one on my belly, one at my feet and the last above my head. He did his prayers to Pachamama in Quechua (local language), and asked to use the water I was carrying. I gave it to him and we made our offering to Pachamama by pouring the water on the dirt at each location. After his prayer he played the flute.
When he was finished, he told me to stay here and meditate for a while, however long felt right to me. I said ok, but what can I pay you? I figured he was doing this for money which was okay with me because it is definitely a unique experience of his culture. He said nothing again, had our good-bye hugs and he started walking away playing the flute. I called him back and asked if I could see the bracelets he makes. He agreed, opened up another pouch and showed me. I bought a few and sent them home to my nieces. I know this could be a gimmick, and I'm normally the type to shy away from people. But I really felt this guy was genuine. I could at least take a load off how many bracelets he needs to sell today. Another goodbye hug and he continues walking up to the Pisaq ruins.
I stayed behind as he suggested and listened to his music as he walked...the sound of his flute got weaker and farther away. When I couldn't hear him anymore I looked up at the top. He was waiting there until I saw him (he was so far it was hard to spot him!) He gave a gigantic wave, and I waved back. What the heck was that. Loved that guy, so sweet, and what a special unexpected way to spend a Sunday afternoon...