Processions, fireworks and Pisac market

Typical decorated sign over a shop in San Blas
Typical decorated sign over a shop in San Blas

The last few days have been somewhat aimless. It has seemed a bit of an anti climax after the exertions of the trek and the visit to Machu Picchu. Also, as has happened before when I have been in a group for a few days, it has taken some adjusting to being on my own again. I stayed in a hostel for a couple of nights and then moved to a shared house, which turned out to be very disappointing, unfortunately. I was hoping to meet other people but it seem they stay shut in their rooms and are all young men anyway – not quite what I had in mind!

Cusco streets are very narrow (and not all one way!). Inca stones are on the bottom half of the houses.
Cusco streets are very narrow (and not all one way!). Inca stones are on the bottom half of the houses.

On Thursday, some of the trekking group met for a final lunch in a cafe, which was nice. Of those that came, most seemed a little reluctant to leave the group and we sat on the Cathedral steps for a while, chatting, after lunch. For some reason, I had been feeling the effects of the altitude again so, afterwards, I just returned to the hostel and did very little.

Friday saw me moving accommodation and little was achieved as the room was, literally, being put together for me. JJ, a very tall ex Londoner of Nigerian extraction, built a desk whilst I waited and generally got the room ready. It meant I ended up waiting for nearly four hours as opposed to the one he had originally indicated. By the time he had finished, most of the day had gone and I was starving, so I went in search of food and then had a short wander in town.

The healthy living procession - each letter represents one point of what is needed for healthy living
The healthy living procession – each letter represents one point of what is needed for healthy living
Father and son in the Plaza de Armas
Father and son in the Plaza de Armas

I don’t think there has been a day that has gone past when I haven’t come across a procession. At the moment, they are all for Qoyllur Rit’i, the religious festival up on Ausangate but on Saturday, there was a huge one promoting healthy living. This passed all the way up Avenida de Sol, the main commercial street, holding up all the traffic in the process, and into Plaza de Armas, where a stage had been erected on the Cathedral steps. The campaign was being promoted by the Peruvian Government and a church, supported by ex pat Americans, apparently.

I watched in the Plaza for some time but, when I started getting cold, adjourned to a cafe overlooking the activities and ate coffee and lemon meringue pie, which seemed very decadent and reasonable! As well as the processions, there are fire crackers and fireworks constantly being set off. I am not sure if this is normal or just for the festivities but there seem to be a great deal of them!

The Healthy Living promotion in the Plaza de Armas
The Healthy Living promotion in the Plaza de Armas

On Sunday, at JJ’s suggestion, I took a collectivo to Pisac, a small town about an hour’s drive away, and visited the market. This was quite entertaining as there was a good mix of local and tourist goods on offer. I had just sat down to have a typical lunch at one of the stalls when the heavens opened and I was thankful to be under a tarpaulin. Some of the stallholders had quite a task keeping the rain off their goods. The lunch was large and tasty and I tried not to think where the hands had been that picked up the chicken and plonked it on the plate. No health and food safety standards here!

A delectable market lunch!
A delectable market lunch!
Winding wool whilst waiting for customers
Winding wool whilst waiting for customers

Afterwards, I went for a coffee and indulged in an exceptionally large piece of carrot cake as well, which I tried hard to finish. (There seems to be a little bit of a theme coming through here!) Pisac itself appears to be quite a hippy town with dreadlocks in abundance and lots of notices for yoga, meditation and alternative remedies, including, of course, ayahuasca, which is very popular here. There are also a lot of crystals for sale. Needless to say, I came away with another rock to add to my collection (and then I wonder why my backpack is so heavy!) but how could I not buy some Machu Picchu serpentine?

Roulette like gambling game
Roulette like gambling game

On my return to Cusco, I took to the streets again, and this time discovered that Sunday afternoons appear to be for gambling. Various tables were set up in the plaza in front of the church (obviously not illegal or sacrilegious) and people were betting on a game like roulette, as well as one in which they tried to throw coins onto a number without hitting the sides of the square. The whole place was thronging with gamblers, entertainers (although the crowds were so big I couldn’t see what they were doing) and, of course, food stalls, many of them selling the beef hearts on skewers with a potato stuck on the end, as well as the ubiquitous popcorn.

I rounded the day off with a pot of ginger, lime and honey tea at the popular Jack’s Cafe and then came back to discover that the new charger for my ipad/phone had also blown. I rather think there may be some dodgy electrics here as this is the second one in as many days. Given the state of the house, I would not be suprised, but it is extremely inconvenient.