I left for the ruins of Pisac while it was still dark but right as the light began to change. My hostel lay just a hundred meters or so from the official entrance. I was told it was at least an hour’s hike to the site, so I was surprised when the ruins began almost immediately, as I entered a steep ravine filled with terracing directly above the valley floor.
Alone in the half light, with the moon, shifting clouds, and the sound of waterfalls, crossing an amphitheatre of ancient terraces and stone steps, climbing up a knife-edge ridge past guard towers overlooking the sweeping valley, alone with the mountain and the remnants of Incan stone and spirit, it was hard not to entertain the naive but ultimately satisfying illusion of discovering a lost city. As I climbed higher I entered a thick cloud layer clinging to the mountain. The further I climbed into the clouds, the more I felt disconnected from the town below, as if I had traveled much further than a few kilometers.
Despite the lack of views the climb was dizzying; stairs, buildings and terraces all hugged cliffs that, in the fog, seemed to drop off into infinite space. I am sure the Incans reveled in this euphoric feeling of almost flying; flying, ironically, through their masterful use of rock.
Near the peak I passed a series of guard towers where I would later observe panoramic views into three separate valleys. Weaving my way along the crest of the ridge, I finally came to a place of running fountains and exquisite stonework - the main temple complex. It was here that I expected to first meet other visitors or guards, but it would still be hours until I encountered anyone. The sun was murkily visible through the clouds; I noticed where it was rising made a line with both a doorway and an altar, and wondered if this was intentional. A spider web, covered in dew, was shimmering in the diffused light and I spent several minutes photographing it.
Suddenly I sensed a gentle stirring behind my back, and when I turned around I was greeted with soaring views of brightly lit mountains. All at once the clouds lifted from the ruins, pulling back in swirling streams. It felt, as if in studying the spider web, I had unlocked a secret, and so Pisac revealed itself to me in all of its glory. It was an ecstatic moment, as I spun round and round, taking in the views and taking pictures, feeling as if I had come to this special place of water, light, air, and stone by a mysterious passageway.
I would explore Pisac for the next several hours, scrambling up and down a mountainside of flowering cacti and humming birds, finally exiting by way of its western slope, a lush ravine of waterfalls and overgrow terracing. Here the Incans built several hundred tombs into the side of a sheer cliff, though despite this precaution they have long since been ravaged by grave robbers.
I returned to my room content, totally exhausted, and wondering how, which I had yet to visit, could compare to such a place. Though not as unified, rebuilt, and aesthetic as the most famous of all Incan ruins, Pisac is as impressive in scope, in some ways more grand, with different building sites and its enormace terraces draped generously across the entire mountain.