Saturday 15 August 2015

Mummies and antibiotics

Every day on this Chimu Adventures tour there are choices to make, so of course that means FOMO too. Today it was a full-day hike over a pass with spectacular scenery, a lake, alpacas and, it turned out, chinchillas; or a festival and a museum. I went for the cultural option and was glad I did (especially when I saw the tired faces of the others at the end of the day), even though it felt the wussy option.

Winding our way back up to Lares Pass delivered plenty of scenery in bright sunshine, the XXL landscape always with a human touch: ancient furrows in improbable places, adobe houses looking like stables, sheep and alpacas, and everywhere people, the women bright spots of neon pink and blue, all of them trotting along quickly.

For colour, though, there was no beating the festival of the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary at Calca. The square was heaving with people in modern and traditional dress, and many dancers in costume, all gold thread and sequins, tassels and bobbles. They were all masked, despite the hot day, and all thoroughly enjoying themselves - and none of it was for tourists.

There was music, food (roast guinea pigs with peppers in their mouths, a whole butterflied pig being grilled), and a funfair, but the focus was on the church where the towering icon was carried out by two dozen chanting men dressed as slaves. It was a sight to see - and to photograph. Even the priest couldn't resist.

Next we went to a garden restaurant where hummingbirds flitted around the flowers as we ate gourmet potatoes and grilled chicken with the best quinoa salad so far.

Then came a museum of Peruvian civilisation, millennia of it up to the Inca era. Dense stuff, very well presented but it would take half a day's concentration to grasp it all - we only had an hour. Mummies, human sacrifice, skull deformation, gold, pottery, weaving...

The day ended at a pretty hotel in Ollantaytambo, colonial-style casitas in a flower garden with South America's oldest continuously inhabited settlement right outside.

So it was a shame that that was when the tummy bug struck. Sigh.

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