Yesterday was a fairly non-eventful day as I spent the whole day just buying souvenirs. I was ruthless in my haggling ability. There were tears and I'm sure I didn't make any friends, but I got my stash for about 50% the original price and that makes bargain-hunting-Pete happy
I then went and posted the lot home, along with a chunk of clothes I haven't worn ONCE on the trip. 5kg in total. Postage costs came to around 45 euro and there should be a large cellotape-wrapped cardboard box winging it's way to ye back home!
Today was gonna be my first encounter with the Inca ruins in the Sacred Valley. I took a precarious bus up to the town of Pisac through steep winding roads along cliff edges that are gradually giving way due to the recent extreme weather. Occassionally we'd encounter a mudslide that had freshly formed overnight, and the driver would have to navigate his way over it. This in a bus with no suspension and crammed tightly with poncho-wearing villagers.
First thing on arriving at Pisac, though, was to check out the infamous Sunday market (something that the Rough Guide *spit* even recommends as one of the top 20 things to do in Peru). And it didn't disappoint: people arrived in from villages throughout the Sacred Valley, the women carrying their babies on their backs, sometimes with herds of llama in tow to carry the goods back. It was a photographic dream, and I spent several hours here hiding out in the shadows so that I could capture the locals with my zoom lens. I even went and bought some more damn souvenirs... I don't know what it is, but I really like the Peruvian touristy kitsch. So ...erm.. that's a huge alpaca rug that's now crammed into the bottom of my backpack, plus some other stuff which will probably never see the light of day when I get back to Eire!
After having had my fill of cute kids and bartering locals, I decided to venture up to the main attraction of Pisac: the ruins of an Incan citadel.
The route up to the ruins was closed due to a collapsed bridge and yet more landslides, so my only option was to get a taxi up. The driver took it upon himself to be my guide, even though I just wanted to get a lift up there and then wander around myself. It took the help of an Argentinian tourist to explain this, so the driver said I had 1 hour and to meet him in the car park. 1 hour clearly wasn't gonna be enough, but he ran off before I could explain. The guy was gonna have to wait around 2 hours for me until I got my fill of photos ... he wasn't gonna get paid until I got back anyway.
The citadel looks down onto a valley of ancient terraced slopes that served as preventative measures for landslides (the modern Peruvian could learn a lot from the Inca in this respect... apparently landslides happen in the area every 4-5 years!). The actual citadel is, as I would discover over the coming days, a typical Incan site consisting of walls of huge blocks amidst narrow passageways and stairs up to the Temple of the Sun which sits at the top (and where you can get a spectacular view of the rolling mountains). The Inca didn't decorate their walls or carve elegant patterns as the Mayan did. Instead, elegant stonework is the trademark of Incan architecture. Huge blocks of limestone are slotted together in a seemingly random pattern, but the pieces all fit together so perfectly that you cannot see any mortar between (on many occasions they didn't even need mortar, so stable were the structures).
The views up here were spectacular too. Even when it decided to downpour heavily and I had to don my uber-fashionable poncho!
Back to the hostal, and I proceeded to begin the torturous itinerary re-calculation due to the whole Easter Island/Pantanal avoidance.
Easter Island was a tricky one for me, though ... after deciding to give it a miss in my last entry I started to have serious doubts about that decision. If it was just a case of money, then I knew I would regret it later on. I felt the Moai were calling to me like sirens across the ocean (I must be drinking too much of this Coca maté tea!).
I was going to have to put it back on my itinerary, crazy-pricing system or nothin'. So Easter Island, I'm comin' for ya!