Inti Raymi

Procession entering Qorikancha
Procession entering Qorikancha

Today was the big annual festival of Inti Raymi, a re-enactment of an Inca ceremony to give thanks to the sun and hope for a good harvest during the year. It was an early start by my current standards. After breakfast, I made my way down to Qorikancha, where I thought the ceremony was due to start at 8am. As it turned out, it was at 9am but it was providential that I had arrived relatively early as the crowds were already large.

People were standing 3 or 4 deep around the grassy arena, so it was going to be difficult to see anything. Fortunately, there were some enterprising locals renting out chairs and stools for people to stand on so, for 5 soles, I hired a chair. I still had someone standing in front of me, on a chair, but could just about see between the branches of the bushes and arms waving cameras around in the air, hoping that the lens was aimed in the right place.

Ceremony at Qorikancha
Ceremony at Qorikancha

Inti Raymi consists of three ceremonies. The first is at Qorikancha, the second is in the Plaza de Armas and the last, a longer one, takes place at Sacsayhuaman for the entire afternoon. It is a public holiday so everyone is out and about, if not watching the ceremonies, at least having family picnics on the mountain sides

I never really discovered what was taking place in each individual ceremony. A King and Queen presided over them and there was a lot of colour and noise. At Qorikancha, the ceremony was relatively short and, just before it appeared to be finishing, I made my way to the Plaza where thousands of people were already waiting. The crowds were too much for me so I retreated to my regular cafe. However, quite a few people had beaten my to it, including a tour group who had paid to reserve a table right by one of the windows.

The ceremony in Plaza de Armas took place around the central monument
The ceremony in Plaza de Armas took place around the central monument

I had some time to wait for the next performance to begin and had a coffee in the meantime, sharing a table with a couple of Peruvian men. Once proceedings commenced, however, everyone congregated around the windows and I was fortunate in that an American in the tour group let me stand on her chair whilst she stood in front of me. That way, I could get a view of half of the Plaza and could hang out and round the side of the window, albeit a little precariously, to see the rest.

Hordes of people going up to Sacsayhuaman
Hordes of people going up to Sacsayhuaman

Afterwards, I made my way up the hill to Sacsayhuaman. It is possible to purchase seats with prime viewing here but these were $140US so I had resisted the temptation. Instead, I wandered around the hillside until I spotted a space where I thought I might get a bit of a view and there was a minuscule space on the grass for me to sit. Once settled, I started talking to a lady next to me, whom I had, surprisingly, given that there were very few foreigners in this particular spot, not registered was English. It transpired that she lived near Yeovil, (where Dad is in a nursing home), had lived in Australia and her grandfather came from Whakatane, (just along the coast from Tauranga). It is a very small world! She had been to Peru several times and had come specifically for a Summer Solstice ceremony this time. She was accompanied by a Shaman from Puno, with whom she had travelled previously, and who was going through South America opening up the chakras of various places. This was new information to me as I had never come across actually places representing specific chakras before e.g. crown, heart, throat etc.

Sacsayhuaman procession
Sacsayhuaman procession
Ceremony in full swing at Sacsayhuaman
Ceremony in full swing at Sacsayhuaman

We stayed, uncomfortably, on the hillside for most of the ceremony. In order to see the arena, I had to stand up but there were people behind me objecting to this. However, a number of people stood eventually, so I didn’t feel guilty. Sitting was not particularly easy either because of the slope and the very prickly kikuyu grass.

I watched most of the ceremony (although managed to miss the llama sacrifice) before making my way back to the city, with hordes of others. It was obvious the festival was winding down as most of the street sellers had disappeared and there was not the activity that there had been over the last few days. I was glad to arrive back as I was quite exhausted! It had been a long, hot, day.

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