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.)
The dessert stall
Manufactured cream of some sort! (Ponche in Spanish)
Food stalls including guinea pig
Helado de queso (or cheese ice cream!)
A variety of chicha for sale
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!
Photos after the dancing!
Dancing with ribbons
Animated and colourful dancers
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.
There is a lot of skipping and jumping in the dances
These characters keep popping up!
Every dance group had their own band
Every costume is different
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.
This morning I rather regretted my arrangement with Laura to go and view the Earthship. I had had a message from Bobbie to say that she was coming to Cusco for the procession this morning and Sound and Light Festival this evening. I arranged to meet her later on but would have liked to have stayed in town. There was also a festival in Calca, however, and I was hoping to see that.
A float being prepared for the procession
One of the floats created by the Fine Arts students
All the floats had a political theme apparently
As it happened, the day turned out totally unexpectedly and, once I left Cusco, was out of my control. Laura and Valentino had a yoga class at the Viva Peru Cafe in Huaran, which is on the way to Urubamba from Calca, that was scheduled to finish at 11.30am, so I had promised to be there then. I thought I was going to be late as the collectivo driver was very reluctant to leave Cusco without a full van, which meant sitting there for some time. Then, after driving up the road a little way, he stopped to pick up a lady, who had a baby on her back and a toddler by her side. Of course, there wasn’t a seat and, after the driver told someone to move so she could sit down (interestingly, none of the men did), one of the ladies in the seat behind the driver offered her her seat. The poor woman had to clamber over three large paint buckets, of what I assumed was chicha, and a gas cylinder that were parked in the door well, to get to the seat, whilst the other woman manoeuvred around the lady with the children and the other obstacles. This caused another delay but eventually, we were on our way and I arrived right on time.
The cafe was in an entirely unexpected place, off the main road and up a rough track. Inside, it was completely modern, had excellent coffee and a very tempting array of food. Outside, was a beautiful garden with a view of the mountains. As the yoga class hadn’t finished, I decided to have coffee and a muffin whilst I waited. I was then joined by Laura, Valentino, Shalloney and David, another guest at the house in Calca whom I hadn’t met. The latter two were also interested in looking at the Earthship. We stayed chatting for a while and then I found out that Valentino had another class at 1pm so they suggested going to see the Earthship after that. Consequently, I stayed 3 hours at the cafe and didn’t end up seeing any of the festival in Calca but I just had to go with the flow….!
We set off to walk to Orin at about 2pm. This was where the Earthship is located. It is owned by one of Valentino’s Mexican friends (Carlos) and he has created a place where artists can rent small houses and work at their leisure and without distractions. There is also a communal area where they can relax or cook together. Some of the place is still under construction although Carlos is hoping to open the complex in August. The Earthship is next to his own house (also under construction!) and comprises a bedroom and bathroom. The exterior walls are built of tyres and glass bottles are utilised on the interior. The purpose is to use as many recycled materials as possible.
By this stage, I was becoming a little anxious that Bobbie would be waiting for me in Cusco so we walked back to the main road, via the village of Orin, and caught a collectivo back to Calca from where I was able to get a van to Cusco almost immediately. Consequently, I was back in the city just after 5pm and made my way to the Plaza in the hope of finding Bobbie. After a quick circuit around, I went up to my favourite cafe, which I had told her about, thinking, if she wasn’t there, I could use the wifi to message her but, there she was, patiently waiting! (Our arrangement had been a little vague.)
We had a coffee and then a pisco sour before going back to my room so that I could collect my jacket and put on some socks and shoes. We then had dinner at a local cafe where the only choice was what was on the menu, after which we went off to investigate the happenings in the Plaza.
We arrived there just in time to see a wonderful firework display, which lasted quite some time. The whole area was packed. A stage had been set up in front of the Cathedral and there was music going continuously throughout the evening. After the fireworks, we ventured into the middle of it. However, in trying to get out, we were pushed from all sides by Peruvians. I’m not sure how they thought this was going to get them anywhere any quicker, as there were just too many people for progress. We made it out and didn’t return!
Sound and Light in the Plaza de Armas
People being entertained at the Sound and Light Festival
Plaza de Armas Sound and Light Festival
Outside of the Plaza de Armas, it appeared to be one giant street party with food stalls everywhere. There were also people selling rum and coke (bottles, not just individual drinks) and, in one plaza, a VW combi van had been converted into a bar. There were thousands of people sitting around eating, drinking and chatting. Whilst this particular evening was classified as a Sound and Light Festival, it is also the Inti Raymi Festival this week, which celebrates the start of the Andean calendar, which begins on 21st June with the Winter Solstice. In effect, then, this was like one giant New Year’s Eve party.
We walked around for quite some time, sampling odd food and drink before I decided at about 10pm that I had had enough of the crowds and said goodbye to Bobbie, who was going to wander a bit more before returning to her hostel.
(Apologies for the quality of the night photos. My camera doesn’t seem to cope well with low light.)
I was reluctantly on the move back to Cusco today. Calca has been a very interesting place to stay and one where I have had to learn to ‘go with the flow’ as things just seemed to happen. I would have liked to have stayed longer but had already booked some accommodation in Cusco.
First, though, I had to say goodbye to Mabel and David, who were going to Cusco, and then I had a yoga class to go to. Like the last one, it was very relaxed and enjoyable. Whilst there, I arranged with Laura to meet up with her and Valentino tomorrow to go and see the Earthship. Afterwards, although I had had breakfast before the class, I decided I needed another one, so walked back via the bakery.
Having packed my bag, I left it in the room, whilst I visited the Inkariy Museum, which is a little way out of town (in the middle of nowhere, in fact) and had been recommended to me by several people. It was an excellent museum, with information about each of the pre-Colombian cultures in various parts of the country, most of which I had visited, with a tableau of each one at the end. It was time and money well spent.
Inca tableau in the Inkariy Museum
Part of a tableau in the Inkariy Museum
The Paracas culture buried their dead as cocooned mummies
I had a bit of difficulty getting a collectivo to stop to take me back to town, so walked along the road a little way until I came to a bus stop. A couple of other people were waiting too and, after, I had put my hand out a couple of times to flag down a van without success, the man told me which one to flag. I have no idea why one would stop and not another except that maybe they were full (although this does not usually prevent them from stopping!) The Peruvian transport system still remains a mystery.
Once I had collected my bag, I walked back to the collectivo station and found a very comfortable van, which then took about an hour to reach Cusco. Once there, I got a taxi, which was supposed to take me to the hostel but ended up dropping me at the Plaza de Armas, as this was closed to traffic for yet another festival and it was too hard to navigate round the streets given the volume of traffic. This meant I had a much longer walk than I would have liked with my too heavy pack but I didn’t have a great deal of choice.
I wondered what I had booked when I arrived at the address, which was down an alleyway and looked decidedly dubious. However, (and I should know this by now) outside appearances are deceptive and the hostel is very clean and welcoming. The people running it couldn’t be more helpful, I have my own bathroom (bliss!), with hot water, I was brought a cup of coca tea straight away and a flask of hot water for tea later on. What more could I want?
Once I had settled in, I went to look at what was happening in town. In one of the streets, there were a large number of floats being prepared ready for a procession tomorrow. I found out later that they were created by Fine Arts students and they all had a political theme, although I have no idea what they all represented. I didn’t walk around for long, though, as I was feeling quite tired, so retired to my room after buying the essentials for the evening (bread, cheese, wine and water!!).