Thursday, May 9, 2013

Adventure in Peru 8: Pisaq

After a few days in Cuzco, our time in Peru was coming to an end, but we still had yet to visit the principal attraction that had brought us to the country:  The Parque de la Papa.  This is a sort of peasant reserve dedicated to the preservation of Andean agrobiodiversity.  It is located in a rural zone outside of Pisaq, a major city in the Sacred Valley of the Incas that extends from just outside cold Cuzco more or less to Machu Picchu at a lower, more humid, tropical elevation.  The wide, flat parts of the Valley have from ancient times been used for large-scale farming of corn--I understand that something about its topography makes it a bit warmer than surrounding areas of the same elevation.

The hillsides bordering the valley are marked by pre-Hispanic terraces, which look like lines with or without green bushes having invaded the edges

Some of the lower terraces are still maintained and used, as you can see at the lower right of this photo below.

There is also of course the simpler, more common division of less-steep hillsides not into defined terraces but rather a patchwork of small fields bordered by hedges and trees.  You can see similar arrangements of the land throughout the Andes.

Pisaq itself is a small but bustling town.  I don't know much about its history, but most of the center seems to be very old colonial construction, with many lovely patio gardens visible through gates and doorways.

We stopped at the Pisaq market as a sort of gateway to the agricultural diversity we were to study in the Potato Park.  Many other tourists seem to have had the same idea, though their path was to take them to Machu Picchu and not the highland park we were visiting.

At the bottom of this photo is a type of chuño, a dehydrated form of potatoes used since Inca times and before for long-term storage.

Here is kaya, which is like chuño except the preserved tuber is not potato but rather ibia or oca (Oxalis tuberosa, another traditional Andean crop).

Here are a bunch of sacks of potatoes, all of different varieties.

Aside from the superior diversity in potatoes, the Pisaq market wasn't as varied or yummy-looking as a typical small-town marketplace in our home region of Boyacá, Colombia.  Particularly in terms of fruits and vegetables, Colombia seems to have Pisaq beat.

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