My Trip to Pisac, the Sacred Valley

[ 1 ] November 15, 2010 |

Pisac ruins, a room with a view

Gratitude and appreciation come in absolutely random ways. Today mine was climbing to the Pisac ruins in Peru and being humbled by nature, community, hard labor and faith. I sometimes now want to pinch myself to be sure I’m in the right lifetime, because the adventure and exploratory missions are so profound these days.

I know I’ve been shaped by my years of crazy travel experiences, but now this soul journey –- spirit quest –- is kicking my ass in so many fantastic ways. I’m learning to stretch and grow a dwarfed side of my existence on this Earth.  It is the art of being quiet, connecting with the planet, immersing into a different culture, honing intuition, being present in every moment, letting go of expectations and relishing the journey on the enlightened path. There’s nothing like a magnificent ancient civilization’s imprint on this Earth to make you feel so insignificant, to realize how far away from nature we’ve become. The Incas are teaching me thousands of years after their existence.

Absorbing the energy in Pisac, the Sacred Valley

Absorbing the energia

I know, even I think I can sound so hippie these days, but I write every honest word I am experiencing as I grow. I’m seeking like the rest of the millions of people on this Earth. The good news is that number is increasing as times get worse and more confusing, deceitful. There’s hope though, I feel it in my bones and my head is in the right set of clouds. That has a lot to do with my new friend Alex Putney, who’s breaking all molds in his theories for the future. He told me about Pisac, that it would be a special and unique adventure. Then I decided to add more thrills to it all by setting out on a mega-day. I can barely keep my eyes open as I log the day’s activities. My body is already asleep and it is now just the direct route from my head to my hands.

Riding bikes into the town of Pisac, Peru, the Sacred Valley

Riding bikes into the town of Pisac, Peru

Pisac is a pueblo (town) about 34 km northeast of Cuzco. Although it is much lower than the big city, as it sits at the entryway to the Sacred Valley here in Peru, there’s a mega-ass hill to climb to get to that valley. When I asked while renting my bike, they said it is very much up and down – the road to Pisac. I forgot that locals are used to climbing all the time. San Francisco has nothing on Cuzco. Just to get to my hostel from the main plaza, I have to climb over 200 steep steps – and I picked this hostel to be closer to Sacsayhuaman, a very energetically charged ruin that sits about 1000 stairs more above the downtown area. I love riding bikes, that’s no secret. I love a challenge, a good suffer-fest to remind myself I’m alive. I just forgot how much suffering I might do at this elevation. Although I’ve been here for days now, altitude can always be felt at 11,000 feet. I got myself somewhat conditioned by hiking up to Sacsayhuaman every morning to meditate. But my lungs hadn’t been put to the test yet.

So at 5 am (which, it seems, is my usual wake-up time here) I got up, fixed myself some tea and a green drink (I’ve introduced it to a the family who runs the hostel and received alright reviews, which I see as a good sign), and looked at the ominous skies. It had rained and thundered last night (so welcomed, so cleansing as long as you’re not caught out in it). I was told it was to rain all day, although there was a break at the moment.

Mi amigo no show! Pisac, Peru

Mi amigo no show!

My young, good-looking friend Julio, whom I met at a restaurant here, was the one who came up with the bike ride idea. I didn’t want to cancel, so I packed a bag full of goodies, including an extra pair of clothing in case I got absolutely soaked, gloves, hat, and other warm stuff and headed down to the plaza to grab a rental. Leo, the young Peruvian who practiced his English on me the day before, met me at the shop at 7am. Now, for $20 I was hoping for a bit better-looking bike. It was definitely more like a downhill mountain bike instead of cross-country, and I started kicking myself right away for not looking at the bike and checking it out before the trip. But the tires were inflated, the brakes worked and I could adjust the seat, so off I went. Julio never showed, so I was on my own.

Biking to Pisac, the Sacred Valley, from Cuzco

Biking to Pisac, the Sacred Valley, from Cuzco

The road climbs up out of Cuzco, the same road I could see on my way up the old steps to the ruins each morning, so I knew a couple of the twists and turns. I made it about halfway before my heart was going to jump out of my body and I had to get off and walk. Hey, no ego here, not at this point in my life, not at this altitude. Once up on the plateau it seemed like the climbing never ended and I started to reconsider my day. However, the scenery continues to blow my mind. I had a “get it together” talk with myself. Yes, I was suffering and my legs were already tired. But then I would look at the dozens of Peruvian women and men heading down to the market with piles on their backs twice as big as their bodies. They did this climb up and down from their home every single day. We don’t know suffering, true suffering. These indigenous people only know a life of hard physical labor and I’m constantly dumbfounded by their endurance, their extremely simple lives, great smiles, warm hearts and twinkling eyes!

Pisac, Peru -- the Sacred Valley

The Sacred Valley of Peru

The burning legs, the throbbing butt pain (it’s been a while since I’ve been on a bike and the seat was massive crap), loads of sweat and heart-throbbing cardio was all worth it when I reached the top of the climb. I saw a totally different side of Peru. I could see lush green valleys hidden away between the ominous Andean peaks. It was a bit like seeing the Emerald City in The Wizard of Oz for me. I took a rest and just sat and stared at the scenery, so very different from the red-clay barren hills surrounding Cuzco. So this is where all the great agriculture takes place. Mother Nature is so damn wicked! This world we live in is so diverse and gorgeous, if we actual practice giving time to notice.

The colorful people of Pisac, Peru

The colorful people of Pisac

I found myself whizzing down the valley on the other side with the biggest smile on my face. Lots of simple adobe houses, lots of llamas and indigenous people on their way to the fields, all in their brightly colored clothing. The contrast was a feast for the eyes. I didn’t even bother with pictures as I really am trying to practice being fully present and in the moment. Oh, what a fantastic morning. The weather was cooperating, the sun was out and the ground was fresh. And, of course, the air here, while lacking in oxygen, is so super clean that it’s a pleasure sipping it in!

Pisac is a pueblo that sits down in the valley. The road literally zigzags back and forth for miles. At first, the town doesn’t look too impressive: a large gathering of mud houses, tile and tin roofs. It’s the central meeting place for those who live in the miles and miles of surrounding farmland. It pretty much revolves around one very touristy square with a market. On Sundays, this market draws thousands – that’s why I was visiting on a Monday.

Fresh empanadas in Pisac, Peru

Fresh empanadas

I needed food and fast after expending so much energy. Now, I always carry a picnic lunch, which is how I’d much rather eat and it allows me to be as raw as I want, plus it is cheaper. But I needed a little fix. The restaurants around the square were just waaaay too Americanized for me and I refused to go into any one of them. Instead, I talked with locals and found what was the real fare in this town: empanadas, freshly made in these huge clay ovens — they had veggie ones, too! — all for 2 soles. which is less than $1. I grabbed a couple to go, found a lovely family who allowed me to leave my bike at their house (guy forgot to give me a lock) and prepped to take it to the ruins of Pisac. Ahhhhh, I’ll always remember Pisac and already want to return and take more time.

Some of the hundreds of terraces on the way up to the ruins, Pisac, Peru

Some of the hundreds of terraces on the way up to the ruins

How to explain to really allow you to understand the amount of effort it takes to get to this sight. You basically climb a huge-ass steep mountain from the moment you step away from the central square. The amount of work and effort building this entryway to the ruins is mind-boggling. It starts with a serious of switchbacks through these steep terraced rock walls, hundreds of them. The guidebook said this is where they grew their food. I guess it was too dangerous in the valley at the time of their rule? As I sucked in and out as fast as I could to get oxygen to my heart and brain, I just kept thinking of the millions of hours and thousands of people it would have taken to finish this task. I mean, extremely heavy stonewalls, one after another on a really steep face of this mountain. The stone steps just kept going.

Soaking in the vibe, Pisac, Peru

Soaking in the vibe!

When I arrived at what I thought from below might be the top, I was met with thousands of more stone steps climbing up, up and up. A Peruvian man in front of me did it all without stopping, slow and steady. He was like this scout leading me up the hill and kept me from blowing up. I had to give my heart a chance to recover almost every 50 feet. They were welcomed stops too, to take it all in. The pueblo below was now very far away. One misstep could be trouble. My legs were already tired from the bike ride; now they were being put to the test. I actually laughed at how much they were shaking as I put one foot in front of the other, stone step by stone step. The ruins are a serious of outcroppings and villages, which seemed to go on and on up the ridge.

I couldn’t resist stopping and sitting down in the old windows between the ancient stones and meditating a bit. If you can quiet the mind enough, you open yourself up to receiving and the energy these beautifully carved stones give off is insane. My friend had told me about it, but to experience it was out of this world. I closed my eyes and focused, both hands touching the sides of the giant window frame. The zap took no time at all.  I could feel the energy pulsating through the palms of my hands and down through my sit bones. I was a conduit, receiving magical energy from every direction. I didn’t think, I just felt and experienced this connectivity. I could have sat there for eternity getting off on the surges. With my eyes closed I was totally somewhere else.

When I opened them back up, it was like going through a time warp. I was suddenly zapped back to reality – and what a reality it was. Before me I could see up and down the grand valley, the lush green fields below, the red adobe houses dotting the land. As I looked out across the layers of huge mountains, I instantly understood why they chose this spot thousands of years ago. Simply heaven on Earth. What I would give to truly see Pisac in all its glory days. I wish I knew what was the purpose of each room, each viewpoint. Only about 20% of the empire is still standing, which is an incredible feat on its own. They built their empire to last, that’s for sure.

The next section weaved you in and around natural rock formations, still following the stone steps. I was dumbfounded at what labor it took to even place each

Pisac, Peru ruins, ceremonial section

Pisac ruins, ceremonial section

narrow step. At one point closer to the top, you come to this sheer face of more stoned terraces and very straight narrow steps in the middle. In my head I could hear drumming and imagined some great ceremony about to take place above. Up I went as I finally approached the main site of Pisac, which was used for ceremonial purposes. To my delight, I heard music resonating through the valley. A local was playing what I can only describe as a flute inside one of the incredibly preserved rooms. The sound made my whole body tingle. I immediately sat down in the middle of the room, closed my eyes and received the glorious offering for my ears. I was at such peace. Complete therapy, cleansing of the chaos, returning to the sacred womb, going deep within. I don’t know how long he played or how long I sat there, but no one else seemed to be around. Thank you, Universe, for this blessing. I ended up buying the flute, which came with a good lesson from this young and talented boy. I will add it to my collection of instruments I’m trying to learn to play.

I spent hours and hours walking around the site, touching the perfectly put-together stone walls, feeling their energy and trying to imagine what life was like here in the thick of it. The acoustics inside these small walled houses I’m guessing was incredible. I would stick my head into one of the carved-out squares, almost like a window, and sing my heart out — lots of ohm-ing, too. Again I say, the vibrational energy was so intense, I had such a wonderful time playing, so much so that the only thing that took me out of my bliss was the sound of huge rolling thunder.

I had not been paying attention to the weather, but while I had my head between rocks, two very dark and dangerous looking fronts had moved in from both sides of the valley. It was time to get down and fast. There was a part of me so curious to stay and feel the full wrath of these storms from the ancient site. I had visions again of a ceremony taking place — the thunder, the lightning, and the gods speaking to the Incas. The scene had to be absolutely unreal. I could see thunderbolts striking down to the ground from some of the darkest clouds I’ve seen in a long time. With every clap of thunder, the entire valley echoed, the mountain vibrated, a very low and deep rumble. One completely stopped me in my tracks. I wasn’t scared at all, simply amazed at what I was feeling. I am so small, I am so humbled, and I am so blessed for this experience.

My adventure-racing skills definitely came in handy as I skirted down all those damn steps as fast as I could, with one eye constantly on the sky. I managed to make it down before the rain set in and I watched it unfold from the safety of one of those gringo restaurant decks, beer in hand. I will be back to Pisac. What a wonderful introduction to greatness! I understand more and more why I was drawn to this area at this point in my life.

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Category: Blog, Travel & Adventure

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  1. Joe Eldredge says:

    A seriously excellent account of Pisac Peru! My son is on a Humanatarian gig in Cuzco and was working in Pisac and your posting was an awesome view for me!!!!

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