After a week filled with Inca ruins and their history, the Hufford and Lezovich families continued our pursuit of the ancient culture. We had one more landmark on our boleto turistico, and we were determined to use it up. Luckily we found a colectivo and a driver, Freddy, who was willing to drive to Pisac and Cusco, Peru.
I rode shotgun with Freddy who rubbernecked as much as I did. The countryside fascinated us as we passed through another part of the Sacred Valley. The houses grew shabbier, the terrain steeper and varied, as the van climbed. At one point Freddy pulled over to accommodate other vehicles dodging the detritus of a mudslide. Even at this altitude small houses cling to the earth and appear ready to slide off at any moment. Half-clad children followed by curs march from one hut to the next. Clearly this is the 54% of the population that lives in poverty.
I assumed, rightly, that Freddy had never seen this part of his homeland. He was unfamiliar with the directions to reach the ruins and stopped a few times to ask others. He also was unfamiliar with the formalities to enter the park which we managed easily.
The ruins cover a large expanse of land and hold many terraces running across the flanks of the mountain and down to the valley below. They’re unbroken by steps or paths that would cause erosion. Where steps do exist, they consist of stones that are set into the terrace walls.
A rustic bridge and a footpath leads to a honeycomb of graves that now are off-limits to visitors. Hundreds of them were plundered by huaqueros, grave robbers.
Freddy seems pleased to be viewing this wondrous landmark carved by his ancestors. He asks for a photo with Mike, a popular subject among the Peruvians.
An old man approaches Mike and offers him some coca leaves. Mike is tempted to decline, but the man is so old and he indicates that it’s his only means of support. For a few soles, we buy a bag of coca leaves, excellent for making maté de coca (tea).
By now we’re starved and ask Freddy to find a cafe in Pisac. We enter a restaurant-cum-family-residence and sit down to a delicious lunch of fried trout, plantains, rice and beans (about $7US). While waiting for it to be prepared, the Huffords and Lezovi pass the time by teaching Freddy how to play blackjack. He’s a quick learner and laughs frequently when he wins a hand. The owner’s young son lurks nearby and finally succumbs to Michelle’s overtures and smiles a good-bye as we leave.