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.

Earthship and Sound and Light Festival

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.

The garden of Viva Peru cafe
The garden of Viva Peru cafe

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.

Walking between Huaran and Arin
Walking between Huaran and Arin

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….!

Wall of the Earthship showing the construction using old tyres
Wall of the Earthship showing the construction using old tyres

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.)

A wall constructed from old bottles in the Earthship
A wall constructed from old bottles in the Earthship

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!

Food stalls
Food stalls
Bobbie admiring the dessert table!
Bobbie admiring the dessert table!

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.)