Angela's Andean Adventures.
Peru and Bolivia 2001 - Part 4.
Earthquake and Inti Raymi.
I put the above in as a subhead as that was the day I spent one and a half hours writing the longest email yet, missing fiesta in the process only to lose the lot - the reason being a big earthquake that lasted nearly two minutes. All the lights and computers went off in the basement Internet cafe and everyone was so scared - literally frozen with fright as even though the lights came back on, no one thought to race for the stairs and escape outside
definitely one of the scariest moments in my life.
Alfredo came in just as I got to the compose stage of a second attempt at an email and he was really terrified too - he said outside people were running everywhere. He went back outside to look for Danielo and asked me to wait for him there - which was no problem as I was so behind in replying to emails waiting there indefinitely would not have been be a problem! Later I got Danielo's impressions and he said he was in the Plaza at the time and actually saw the buildings moving and was very afraid. Amazingly, although there was a few minutes panic, with people running everywhere, the procession of the fiesta - Cusco's special fiesta day of the year - carried on. And I must admit that I was amazed I could still hear the marching bands once I had recovered from the shock of the quake itself.
That morning we had to come in by bus, because the traffic being so congested in the centre none of the taxis wanted to go that way. The bus service in Peru is brilliant with one coming along every few seconds, but they are not like the buses back home - they are a series of Toyota vans and when packed get about 20 or more people in - I felt like a giant in there, the Peruvian people being so small! We got off before reaching the centre as I wanted to buy a poncho - that day being an enormous procession later in the day when every one in Cusco would don their poncho and join the procession. At the market Alfredo took off my watch and put it in his inside pocket and told me to go with care, as such markets are very dangerous. My camera was tucked down inside my clothing and he walked behind me to be sure I was okay. I tried on various ponchos but not liking any of them enough to pay the price asked until we came to a stall where I found one I loved even though it was not a long one nor had a llama design. It was a superb quality one and very expensive at 200 soles but I bargained and Alfredo bargained and we got it down to 140 soles with me offering only
110! After I walked to see what was on the next stall, the seller immediately dropped the price to 120 soles and I accepted with alacrity. Alfredo told me afterwards we had got a real bargain as it was of the very best quality. I put it on and proudly wore it thereafter.
We then came to a street, which was lined with various acts getting ready for the days procession. We stopped beside one band - about 20 panpipe players and 5 drummers from Puno and Alfredo took a picture of me amongst them and I bought one of their cassettes whilst with them. This band was beautifully dressed - later on in the procession I managed to capture a picture of most of them as they went by. Alfredo then saw a load of teachers who were going to be in the procession as well and asked if he could borrow my poncho and join in and we agreed that I would await him in the Internet cafe near where we were standing. He stayed with me for an hour though watching the various dancers and musicians go by before going off to join the other teachers. When they came by about half an hour later Alfredo was helping to carry the big banner and I managed to get a couple of pictures of him. I then went into the nearby Internet cafe which is where I was when the earthquake occurred - certainly one experience I had not been anticipating in
Once Alfredo and Danielo joined us we went to Super Pollo again - and from there spent a very pleasant evening in the centre of Cusco. Cusco's special fiesta day would continue until the early hours of the morning - too late for us to join in the procession - and we watched parts of it at times but kept moving as I wanted to look in more shops. In one shop I bought a lovely jacket as a present for Colin, and while we were making that purchase we heard the first news of the earthquake and that was when we learned that Arequipa and Moquegua were far worse affected than us in Cusco and I was really worried for the safety of my friends. We went next to a telephone shop but learned there that all the lines were down so I could not phone. I was really worried about them.
A bit later in another shop I fell in love with a baby Alpaca wall hanging and with all the bargaining in the world I could not get the price down much and in the end accepted the price (100 dollars) and paid for it by Visa (this translating into 340 soles) and even though the lines were down, after a multitude of attempts the seller finally got a reply and code for the Visa slip). I had also bought another knitted hat, a beautiful scarf with llama design and a textile rucksack (which proved very useful next day). We then walked to the next square where another fiesta and stage was in progress. On the stage a band were getting their equipment ready to play and we bought two large Cusqueña beers to drink and a Pepsi for Danielo and waited a while, but that first band were not playing Andean music so after finishing our beers we wandered off again. We eventually found a bus to get home in and I got off 3 blocks before home (having arranged for Danielo to come back and accompany me home) as I needed an hour an half in the local internet cafe to get in touch with various people, especially Hugo, Elva and Hugito. I was there until the cafe closed and Danielo was there before I had finished to accompany me home. A foreigner is safe there if accompanied by a Peruvian, even a young child.
Next day, Sunday, we were up early for the most important day in the Peruvian calender - Inti Raymi. Danielo went off even before we did as he was going there with a load of his friends, and after breakfast we set off ourselves and walked to the main road nearby to get a bus but I asked Alfredo how much it would cost in a taxi to get to Sacsayhuaman and he said he would find out and we flagged one down. Once Alfredo had bargained the price down from 20 to 10 soles we got in and I really enjoyed the ride up to Sacsayhuaman. The steep road winding up towards it was unpaved and such a poor surface that I would never risk any car of mine on it. As we climbed higher an incredible view of Cusco was laid out below us to our left and I would have loved to have stopped and take photos but reserved that pleasure for another occasion.
As we approached the fortress, there was a roadblock and every vehicle, even taxis and buses had to pay 5 soles to get past. Whether the policeman standing by was a real one or not I didn't know, but I felt sorry for the taxi driver having to pay 5 out of the 10 soles he was getting from us and would have liked to pay it but Alfredo said no. From this point on there were hundreds of people walking, pushing barrows etc with their wares, a lot being people who refused to pay the 5
soles! We got out of the taxi at the entrance to the fortress and from there until the fortress itself, were lines of people cooking on roadside stoves as far as the eye could see, really delicious looking things available and although we had just had breakfast we tucked into a plate of Bolivian roast pork with onions, chillis and sauce which was really delicious.
After that we walked as far as the point where we had to start climbing and just before we got there I saw a portable loo and decided to go in there as we had a four hour wait ahead of us before the ceremony would even begin! For some reason I was not allowed to go in so Alfredo pointed to a nearby gully - and we both fell about laughing at the mere thought. Luckily there was another one before we started climbing. And what a climb! One side of the fortress area is free for all the public to enjoy this ritual ceremony, and people had obviously been arriving for hours as it was not easy to find a place. Finally we found a rock and sat precariously on it, high on the hillside, with an excellent view. It was really difficult for us both to perch in such an uncomfortable spot, although the warm clothes I had brought for later helped cushion the hard cold surface and there were ledges to put our feet so that we wouldn't fall off. After about an hour Alfredo climbed a bit lower to a grassy area and lay down and went to sleep. The ledge was then a much more comfortable place to be and I made myself quite comfortable in the end.
Countless Peruvian and Bolivian families surrounded us and every one was in a happy mood and looking forward to the ceremony. I felt really good being in such a sacred place, had a real wonderful sense of well being there, being surrounded by the Peruvians and Bolivians that I love so much, it was great. Although in the end we had not taken any food with us (apart from a litre of beer and a big bottle of coke) we certainly did not go hungry, as there were sellers with all kinds of things going by all day. I had a superb view and was therefore really dismayed when at the last moment a tour guide arrived with a party of Germans who took up the spaces that had been reserved by some Peruvian children. They really took over, standing up and blocking everyone's view with their camcorders and people were muttering with annoyance. When I heard the tour guide speak to a couple of people in English, I said that everyone else present had been waiting for hours in order to have a good view and that it was not fair for them to come at the last minute and spoil it for everyone
else! After that they were more reasonable and only popped up here and there to take their photos, which nobody minded. I managed to get a nice series of photos of the first part of the ceremony and was glad later that I did, and it was really wonderful - the accompanying music, the solemn speaking in the ancient Incan language, the costumes, the soldiers on the hillside, arrival of the Inca king etc was really wonderful to see.
Then another party came along and stood up and blocked the view of hundreds if not thousands of people by standing up and obscuring the central part where the main ceremony was taking place. Despite all the pleading by the nearby Peruvians who were very polite and did not lose their tempers, all these people did was look around in disdain and carry on standing. It was unbelievable that people could be so insensitive! People were eventually pelting them with orange peel and other small missiles, still to no avail.
Such an event could have ruined the whole thing, but although I could not see anything thereafter apart from what was going on around the edges, I concentrated on the music and the atmosphere of the ceremony itself and still enjoyed it immensely. It started at 2 pm and went on until 4.30 pm, when everyone descended to the arena area itself. There I bought a video off one seller thinking it was of the Inti Raymi ceremony but later discovered it was one showing Cusco and surrounding areas, including Sacsayhuaman itself, so I was still pleased with it, and would look for a another of Inti Raymi ceremony. I wantedd that for the music alone and would even get the CD as well. I also had my photo taken with some llamas and with another Sicuri group from Puno called the Aymaras. I loved those bands
dozens of people playing zamponas of different sizes along with several others on bombo drums. It was really atmospheric!
Music at Sacsayhuaman
At 5 pm there was a series of dances on the actual place of the Inca throne and these were brilliant - we managed to stand almost in the front and have a good view. The sun was going down by this time and I had to wait for it to disappear behind the hillside before I could take any photos and they still came out too dark! After seeing about four of the dance displays we went back to where the sicuri bands were - three different ones, mostly from Puno - and people were following the Aymaras so we joined the throng, and from there we all went down the hillside and what a long time that took - the terrain was quite treacherous with big steps or downward gullies really steep where you had to concentrate with all your might to be sure not to lose your footing. This got worse as it got darker and you could not see the steps or pitfalls and at one point I had to move in front of Alfredo because some one could not keep his hands to himself behind me - eventually I realised who the culprit was as he did it again and I caught him in the act this time and flipped him on the ear and told him
off! He looked quite alarmed! At least he left me alone after that.
Me with a Llama
It took about 25 minutes to get all the way down the hillside to the road and I was mightily relieved to make it without stumbling as if one person had stumbled and careened into the ones in front it could have caused a catastrophe - there being quite steep drops on the left hand side in places. When we hit the road progress was slow as there was traffic, which could not move because of the dense throng of people making their way back down to Cusco. Eventually we reached a point where we could leave the road and descend a cobbled street with paved pavement and on the way down I realised after a while that someone behind me was trying to get the zip undone in the side pocket on the left thigh of my trousers and yelled out to Alfredo who was in front and said loudly in Spanish that there was a robber behind me - which luckily scared off whoever it was - and I had no idea whether my money was still there or not and had to wait until we got down to Cusco centre itself to find out. Luckily the robber had only got the zip half open and my money was still there when I looked later on. Arriving back in Cusco centre we spent a very pleasant evening. We looked in a few more shops and then found a bar in a side street and decided to go in for a drink and sat at a table with a litre bottle of cusqueña to share and we spent a very pleasant hour or two in there. We had bought newspapers on arrival in Cusco centre and both were avidly reading them to get news of events in Arequipa - it was only then that I realised the earthquake had reached 7.9 on the Richter scale and that the duration was 1 minute and 15 seconds.
After that we chatted - my Spanish improved even more whilst with Alfredo as unless I got the pronunciation exactly right he did not understand what I said! We had a good laugh though, especially when our bottle was empty and Alfredo suggested I get the one he had been carrying around all day out of the bag and swop it for the empty one!!! Luckily I had bought a brass bottle opener in the shape of a tumi a couple of days previously from one of the street sellers. By the time we had finished both bottles we were feeling quite merry and very hungry so decided to go and find a nice place to eat. Whilst in that sidestreet cafe I had felt slightly uneasy though as there were about 6 men drinking at another table and when Alfredo went off to the loo they kept trying to talk to me but I kept my eyes averted in the opposite direction and ignored them. I was afraid that when we left they might follow but luckily they did not. I was glad to get back to a more central spot though. I voiced my misgivings to Alfredo and he said it would be very dangerous for me to be in a place like that alone, but with him I was perfectly safe. I really was lucky that Aquiles Dad was such a great host and tour guide - many of the things I had seen and done there I could not have done without him.