Before I left Chris to do Inka Trail we visited a community above Sacred Valley, specifically above Pisaq, called Sacaca. On our way we pass to visit a center that rescues animals and sets them back in the wild whenever possible. They have 2 Pumas that used to be the decoration of a nightclub! Can you imagine how stressed these animals were, in a cage, surrounded by people, bright strobe lights and loud music and smoke. I can only hope the one who did it experiences something similar in its life. There are also condors and macaws, Andean deer, even a Jabiru, 2 Coaties, and what amazes me, an Andean Wild Cat, an animal so common I remember seeing them when I was little in Machu Picchu itself and now extirpated from most of its range.
On our way we see a lot of the destruction of last year’s floods, some of it repaired, some being repaired just now. The bridge in Pisaq is a constant reminder of it since the original and bigger bridge was ruined by the river. We stop to photograph the terraces of Pisaq and continue ascending to almost 4000 meters. Around this area they have created what is known as the “Potato Park”, which is nothing more than their own crops of potatoes that amount to about 400 hundred different varieties according to the locals themselves. In case you didn’t know it by now, potatoes are native of Peru and the varieties of tubers in the country amount to 5000 according to the books. A reason for this unbelievable diversity is the fact that Incan society, as well as other societies before them, based their economy on farming, colonization of other territories which demanded adaptation of potatoes to new heights and weathers, and research on how to improve farming products due to natural events such as El Niño, that had the potential to ruin the crops making it necessary to store products to survive.
Once we arrive they welcome us and show us a house they are building. This time of the pause during the rains is when people build their new houses or rebuild the old ones. All the adobe bricks that were made during the dry season are used for this purpose. So we move some rocks and then we climb up the hill to help bring down a eucalyptus tree that will be used to make the beams of the future home.
Our host, Manuel, shows us the crops that were planted with the help of other visitors: potatoes, corn, lettuces, fava beans, etc. I think that’s a brilliant idea because I’ve heard some farmers saying that what the ‘gringos” plant doesn’t grow right, and it seems to me that it was growing alright here at Sacaca.
We come down for a well deserved meal of quinoa soup and, as a main, potatoes, cheese and salad. They finally show us their textiles and I buy some woven strings with white beads, the typical adornment of this part of the mountains. Each community has their own peculiarity on their dresses and one learns that clothing is a language in the Andes. How unfair it is then to say that our ancestors had no written language? The weaving are beautiful, all of Alpaca and dyed with minerals or plants. To buy one of these is to support a millenary tradition.
We come down from the community to visit the market at Pisaq town and try some of the empanadas cooked on the colonial kiln. The market is full of color and the eternal Pisonay tree continues on its plaza. The church has not been rebuilt yet.
-Did you like the visit Chris?
-Yeah, so far I think it’s one of the things I’ve enjoyed most on the trip. It really gets one to see how the Andean people live.
This opinion was kept until the end of our 15 day trip.