My morning was decidedly relaxed. I could hear a lot of noise from the Plaza (even though my hostel is some way away) and eventually went to investigate. As I walked along, in the beautiful morning, I passed people getting dressed in their costumes and food stalls being set up.
I decided that today was the day to try street food and started with helado de queso (literally translated as cheese ice cream). This originates in Arequipa and is, apparently, best when bought from an artisan on the street. When I was in Arequipa, I was still being cautious about the street food, so hadn’t tried it. It was fairly bland and the cinnamon and chocolate sauce on the top were the best part! Strangely enough, there were not as many food stalls around today, so the only other things I tried were churro (like doughnuts and often, like the one I tried, stuffed with dulce de leche, which is extremely sweet), and chicha, which was served to me in a glass dipped in water. I suspected that the one glass was used for everyone and the water was not fresh and therefore anticipated stomach problems, but this didn’t eventuate. (Normally, the sellers use disposable cups, so the glass took me by surprise.)
First stop was the cafe where I sat for a while observing the goings on below me. Stands had been erected in front of the stage by the Cathedral, as well as on each side of the Plaza. Groups of dancers commenced on one side, progressed to the Cathedral, where I assume judges sat on the stage, and then finished around the other side of the Plaza. There was therefore plenty of time for observation and the dancers were on the move the whole time. They must have been exhausted at the end of the day as they were very energetic!
I sat on my own for some time before I was joined by an American lady. She had seen me sitting on the balcony from down below and decided to come and talk to me for some reason. (There were plenty of empty tables in the cafe.) She was a retired anthropologist, travelling on her own, and had come here specifically to take ayahuasca and san pedro. She assumed that I was the same age as she was, a fact about which I felt a little insulted as she looked about 10 years older than I feel, but maybe I am deluding myself once again or maybe she was younger than she looked! Interestingly, she had booked at a retreat that, I think, is near Calca and is the same one that Laura and Valentino had been talking about.
After she left to go and meet her Shaman, who was picking her up, I joined the locals in one of the stands and watched the dancers for the remainder of the afternoon.
The costumes were incredible and, I think, all hand made. Every one was different, even within the dance groups, as the embroidery and weaving patterns vary according to the design ideas of the weaver. It was a most enjoyable afternoon.