Cusco Way of Life
Cusco Travel Blog› entry 2 of 3 › view all entries
My second day began with yet another frigid, frigid shower. I have yet to figure out the trick to hot water and can't handle more than a few splashes under that water! Holy gods, it makes your bones ache it is so cold.
I went down to make breakfast, to be greeted by the brother of the owner, Julio. He is very shy and sweet, but intimidated by me since I tower over the poor man. However, he does show me he just returned from the market with fresh eggs and bread. A little kiss on the cheek and he's making my coffee...what a sweet-heart. I took the coffee to the yard to sit at the stone table and look out over a city that was already awake. I could already hear the flutes and drums floating up from the city center.
Today I have decided to head to the big church and cathedral in the Plaza de Armas. It was so huge, I knew there would be plenty of beauty to see. Wow, was that an understatement. Since I do not go to church, I never know what to expect, but this was beyond anything in my wildest dreams. It is basically two churches joined by a huge cathedral, with artifacts that are centuries old. I was blinded by the gold and silver everywhere.
The first thing I noticed is the figures in the church compared to those in Bolivia. In Bolivia everything had a dark, sad, hopeless feel that actually induced a type of fear when you saw them. In my mind, that means fear was the way to converting. However, though very sad, the figures in the church here, they were brighter and gave a feeling of hope instead of dread. There were many depictions of the Inca King before the fall of the empire and some of him being run through by the conquistadors. It was beautiful. It took me several hours to walk through and see everything. I think I will be returning.
There is so much more to Cusco than the festival. So many tourists were just hanging at the Plaza to see dancers, but if you walked toward the train depot, there is a huge market where the locals shop and eat and play.
It is a bit intimidating, but there is a lot to see in the market and even more to taste! Though I was brave in my quest for tasting Cusco food, I never could bring myself to eat chicken. The markets had plenty, however, the raw chicken was set out all day gathering flies and I thought I might be pushing my luck on that one. However, I found a great assortment of cooked foods in the market, but the hard part was choosing the person to buy from.
I wandered and finally had an old, old woman sitting at a stall that pulled me over and was telling me how delicious the food was. So, who was I to argue? She seemed to be enjoying her lunch. I had fried fish of some sort and potatoes and a stew along with an Inka Cola. It was fantastic! I also had a very flambouyant man come up wearing roller skates, makeup and balloons for buns and boobs, trying to sell me candy. I did get a picture and off he went around the market! He was pretty humerous!
The market was stuffed with people, things to buy and people to watch! I spent hours wandering around and taking in the sites.
After all of this....it was only the first half of my day...
To describe the sights, sounds and smells is so difficult. One leads to yet another.
In the Plaza de Armas in Cusco the Inti Raymi festival centered for 5 days. From June 20 through June 24 the streets are alive with music and dancing. Every age group was there, from the baby slug over mama's back, to some of the oldest people I have ever seen. Yet even the oldest were swaying and humming to the music, enjoying ice cream if they could afford it and constantly munching on tangerines.
Though it was a tourist time of year, I still felt like I was special. I felt like the entire festival was for the indiginous people and me...just us. Though I saw many travelers, mostely European, it was quick and on I would go. The locals still looked at me timidly, as in Peru, I was still amazingly tall for a woman. Also, I didn't see women alone while in Peru. They always traveled with others, so I was a real anomoly.
The first day was so overwhelming I kept stopping in local shops (versus the streets of la Paz, where there were no shops) and taking a breath. I was always greeted warmly by the shop owner, some realizing I just needed a moment to regroup. They always were able to determine I was American before I even attempted to speak, but were always happy to chat when I made the effort to speak in their own language.
So on June 20th, the dancers and musicians were junior high to high school age. Their dances were all flirtatious, though keeping very traditional. The colors seemed to explode from every corner of the plaza, and while writing this, the sound of the flutes and drums come back so vivid that I can imagine them in front of me. Lots of parents rushing to the street when they would have a quick slow in the parade/dancing to hand any child in view a bottle of water. At first, I thought it was just protective parents following every step the child made, then I realized it was just people who knew what altitude, sunshine and exercise will do to children when they dance for hours on end.
I noticed a lot of giggling from the dancers throughout the day, and as with kids all over the world, the flirtation. The dances were not just staged to be flirtatious, but the kids obviously were crushing! How fun! I guess no matter where you wander and what culture you are in...flirting and crushes are just part of being a teenager. :)
I took the venture down "gringo alley" for some dinner and decided to do it...Cuy. Deep fried guinnea pig. Now, most Americans that I spoke with when I returned home, turned green at the thought of eating a pet. But like I told them, there was nothing fluffy or cute about a deep fried guinnea pig. Not a lot of meat on it, but the meat was juicy, though a bit tough. However, they bring it out with great pomp, laying it in front of me like I'm royalty. There was a table with 4 younger people from Europe who sat in amazement while they put the dish in front of me. They asked how it was, but couldn't bring themselves to try it. It was very good, but overpriced for so little food. However, I did bring the foot home with me, just to show I did it. :D
Peruvian beer was also served and I really liked it. The only negative, throughout the trip, Bolivia included, was the altitude causes so much carbination in the drinks it is almost impossible to imbibe on a beer or soda. I would get a tiny sip of beer in my mouth, only to have it fizz to the point it almost ran out my nose!!!! However, that did not stop me...I LOVE BEER!
After dinner I returned to the Plaza and yet they were still dancing and partying! How fun! I treated myself to an ice cream while sitting near the water fountain in the plaza. It was delicious, as everything so far has been, and very relaxing. The only negative point is all of the people who come by trying to sell things. They are extremely persistent and at times you have to get downright pissy with the little boys to get them to go away. Luckily, I had "the look" which most mothers develop when raising their children. Just one "look" and they would turn away and leave me alone...at least for a few minutes.
After the long bus ride from Puno last night and the excitement of the city I decided to call it a day. However, I had a long walk uphill to the hostal. I found that when it isn't the middle of the night, carrying luggage and exhausted, it really wasn't that bad. The morning before when I had arrived I could have sworn I was climbing Mt. Everest. However, tonight with a belly full of cuy, beer and ice cream, it was so easy! Still a very long walk up hill, but not too bad. Places to sit on the way up. Side streets to check out (lots of clubs in that area) and social activity to watch. Had I been younger, I would have been at the clubs having fun. But, I headed onward to my hostal, a comfy bed and freezing cold room instead.
This day was wonderful and so much more than I ever could have imagined it to be.
I wish there were a way to say thank you to everyone in Cusco that was so helpful and nice to me.