I went to Pisac today, which is a town about 16 miles from Cusco. Every Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday, there's a huge open air market there, as well as these incredible old terraces. The guidebook also mentioned something called the 'Castille de Cuy,' or Castle of the Guinea Pigs, which to this day remains shrouded in mystery.
After school got out, I went looking for a bus that would head to Pisac, but when I got to the bus stop, a woman told me that I was better off taking a taxi, so I grabbed a taxi and bargained the price down with him to about 25 soles ($8). Then off we went. The trip there takes about 40 minutes, and goes all over the mountains and valleys in the area. I saw two types of llamas, llamas, and Alpacas (There are 4 types of camelids in south america: Llamas, Alpacas, Vicunas, and guanacos) I hope to see all four types while I'm here. I also saw all kinds of pigs, cows, sheep, oxen, and dogs.
On the way there, we had a flat tire. The driver drove for a couple of miles on the flat(whu-whumph, whu-whumph), and then said we should probably change it. His spare was also flat as all hell. We limped the last couple of miles onto town, and bade a fond farewell at a repair shop. Then I walked into town.
The center of Pisac is devoted to the market. There are row after row of booths with colorful alpaca clothing hanging up, bizarre carved animals, bowls, and people (some of which are doing excitingly lewd things), food, herbs, blankets, coins, ...you get the picture. It's much cheaper than any place in cusco, so I figured it was as good a time as any to start shopping for friends, relatives, and myself. The first thing someone told me was that the sweater I had bought in cusco(after being assured that it was alpaca) was acrylic. EIT. Caveat emptor, I guess. Or Emptor should know what alpaca feels like before he buys a sweater. Unpeturbed, I haggled and bargained my way through the market, entertaining myself and vendors with long (fake) stories of friends who told me that this market was cheaper than the one in cusco, and how I hate to go back to them and tell them that they were wrong, and that the prices here are astronomically expensive(unless you knock 15 soles off that blanket, senor). Anyway, it was fun, and I bought lots of stuff and had fun lying in spanish.
After an hour or so of shlepping around the Mercado, I went hiking up near the terraces in the mountains outside of Pisac. I started walking up the terraces, which is about a 90 minute walk to the top, and realized that the only thing at the top is the top-there's no good view of the terraces, since you're looking straight down, so I veered off on a side trail and started walking along a moutain face. After a mile of so, I was about 500 feet over Pisac, and had some incredible views. The mountains here are some of the most incredible, formidable, terrifying places I have ever been. The mountainsides are ridiculously steep, at something like a 70 degree angle. The paths are about a foot wide and rocky. And on top of it, the hills are filled with spiky 'unfriendly plants,' big honkin rocks, and all kinds of cactii. Of course, I love it. On my way down, I ran into an indian who was up there, who gave me some coca leaves to chew, and we talked in a mix of limited english and (very) limited quechua. I'm kind of interested in learning quechua. It's a very cool sounding language. The recurring theme is the word 'chock'. The street I live on is called Choquechaca, which (I got a quechua-spanish dictionary) could conceivably translate to 'the place where I throw up.'
My english is kind of deteriorating, albeit slowly. While writing this, I've corrected a ton of mistakes where I type in a homophone. I guess after a week of not seeing written english, you start to forget how to write.
Tomorrow I'm going to Arequipa, home of the Colca Canyon, one of the deepest canyons in the world. I should see tons of condors, and possibly the other two types of llama. It's about a 9 hour busride, so I'll get there late tomorrow night, find a hostel, and then spend the weekend checking out the coolness and hiking around con mis amigos. Cool stuff
I never found out what the guinea pig castle was. I guess I'll have to go back. Getting back to cusco from pisac, by the way, was fun. These old, dirty buses roll into the main square in Pisac, and hundreds of people rush to the bus to try to get a seat. I missed the first one but caught another one a few seconds later. The bus costs 2 soles, or about 60 cents. It stayed in first gear the whole time, and went about 15 miles an hour, possibly to be as easy as possible on the engine?
While I've been writing this, I heard a spanish pop cover of 'If I was a rich man,' from Fiddler on the Roof. With Synth background and a nice popppy beat. Yesterday I heard the Cranberries in spanish, which was also odd. It's just getting dark as I'm writing this, at 6:45. I'm going to go and pick up some huevos, queso, and pan at a mercado on my street and make myself dinner. Buenos Noches.