Angela's Andean Adventures.
Peru and Bolivia 2001 - Part 13.
The Takillakta Band.
The Takillakta Band
I had a small salad with Papa Huancaina for a starter while he had his soup and also ordered an interesting looking platter of Lechon al horno, Rocoto Relleno, Tamales, salad and roasted camote. This arrived just as Alfredo was leaving (as a bus stopped outside at that moment and he ran to catch it). I said I would be back at the house between 5 and 7. While we were enjoying our starters I could hear Andean music from the indoor restaurant and was enjoying it and a couple of songs I recognised from a CD I had at home and was doing a mental inventory trying to work out who it was.
About fifteen minutes after Alfredos departure, the door opened and out trooped an Andean band who positioned themselves right by my table and I was enchanted at such a brilliant surprise. And so entranced with the music I actually lost my appetite and ended up leaving half the dinner, preferring to concentrate on the brilliant music instead. Apart from me at my table in the sun, there was a party of French tourists at another table, who didn't even look up when the band appeared, took no notice whatsoever, and didn't even clap at the end of each song. I could hardly believe such ignorance and hoped my enthusiastic clapping made up for it! Well it did, because when they introduced themselves as Takillakta, I exclaimed that I had two of their CDs in England and requested a song from one of them! At this point one of them asked my name and his name was almost the same - Angel - and he did a song called Rosa Blanca and dedicated it to me! I stayed listening and enjoying their whole performance and afterwards some of them came over to chat. I couldn't buy their CD, as it was one I already had -Atahualpa Sipan - so put 10 soles in the kitty instead. It turned out that was all they got that day as no one on the French table contributed at all. After being so beautifully entertained I found this quite unbelievable. They looked really good as well - six of them dressed in beautiful crimson shirts laced at the front and black trousers and with their long black hair and lovely smiles and their beautiful music were delightful.
After a break of about 20 minutes during which time they stayed chatting, they did another set for about 20 minutes and then invited me to join them for a drink in the indoor restaurant whilst they had the soup provided by the restaurant. I was happy to join them, as I wanted to find out where they would be playing next! After their soup they were returning to Plaza des Armas so I went with them - eight of us altogether as the girlfriend of one of them was also there, a really cute and shy Peruvian girl named Leonarda. We piled into two taxis, which descended by a route previously unknown to me, a narrow road down the hillside to the city below - really pretty. At the Plaza des Armas we all sat on the steps by the cathedral for a while, a couple of them idly playing their instruments, and I really enjoyed their company, most of them having a great sense of humour. Only one could speak any English but I was holding my own brilliantly in Spanish. I could understand most conversation by then even though speaking it was a little more difficult. By this time I had ascertained they would be playing at two restaurants in the Plaza des Armas that evening, at Patitis from 7 to 8 pm and Tomines from 8 to 9.30 pm. I said I would come back and dine at one of them and they said Tomines would be best as Patitis was very expensive. By the time they all went their separate ways until the evening I was left with one companion - Angel - and he said we could go walking and take some nice photos and I agreed as it was such a glorious day, the sky so blue it didnt look real, and we went to some lovely places some of which I had not seen previously, and when we came to a beautiful square near San Blas museum which used to be a convent, we stayed here a while sitting in the sunshine and chatting generally about music, and then I spotted what looked like a bar with tables outside and offered to buy him a beer but when we went there was no one around to serve us so Angel suggested another nice place which had a garden as well.
We walked along a very pretty narrow street (one I could not have travelled alone) and came to Quinta Zarate which proved to be a restaurant and bar with a huge garden and patio area, and we sat in the garden in the sunshine and it was so peaceful, with bees buzzing in the flower beds, an incredible view across Cusco, Andean music playing in the background and so many beautiful flowers, an incredibly beautiful setting, and we took a few photos there as well. We stayed there until about 5.30 when I said I had better be getting back if I was to come back again in the evening and Angel walked me back to San Blas and put me in a taxi.
During our conversations I had told him I had bought a charango and he told me to bring it in the evening and he would play it for me! Back home I had time to relax for a bit before getting ready and told Alfredo I wouldn't be back late. Whilst getting ready, I noticed I was quite badly sunburned (having left all my sun lotions in Ilo) and knew I would have to cover up the following day if I wasnt to suffer. Alfredo walked me to the main road (Avenue del Cultura) and put me into a taxi, telling the driver to take me right to Tomines restaurant, and I got there just before 8 pm.
Once inside I told the waiters I was a friend of the band and wanted to sit as close as possible to where they would perform. I wasnt even the tiniest bit hungry so asked if I could just have a beer instead and luckily that was okay. I said I would probably be back the following night as well and would eat something then. When the band arrived they all looked really pleased that I had kept my promise about coming back and one by one all of them came over and greeted me with an embrace. In no time at all they were playing and I was enjoying the performance immensely. I wanted to take a series of photos of them but unfortunately my camera chose that moment to play up - the battery indicator kept flashing which meant it had run out. Although disappointed I knew by this time I would definitely be coming back the following evening and resolved to replace the battery and take a load then.
Takillakta Wander Through the Restaurant
Halfway through their performance they took a 20 minute break and some of them joined me at my table to chat and others took a break outside. They said they were going for a drink somewhere else afterwards and that I could join them if I wished and I said yes I would like that. It was probably about 9.45 by the time they finished so I said I could only stay another hour and we walked across to Plaza des Armas first as they had to divide the money from the CDs sold that evening and needed to change a few 50 sole notes in the shops there. Whilst this was going on, two young girls came over selling sweets and next minute I was in my bare feet as they each removed one of my gold high-heeled sandals, exclaiming how beautiful they were, it was really funny. Once the money had been divided we walked about five minutes to a bar called Fernando's and shared a couple of large beers between all of us. By this time we had already arranged I would join them again the following day and arranged to meet in Plaza des Armas in front of the cathedral at 12.30. Angel put me into a taxi and I was home by just after 11 pm, having thoroughly enjoyed the evening in such fun company.
The next day I woke up to another day of brilliant sunshine. Before going out I decided to make the Papa Relleno that I had promised Alfredo and got busy after breakfast preparing it - making it for the first time since watching Elva put it all together a few days previously. We had nothing to mash the potatoes with after they were cooked and Alfredo was using his juicer, which was quite a lengthy procedure, and when I came to put it all together I wasnt getting on too well, the potato being too dry to hold together very well. They didnt look too bad though and we started frying a few of them lightly in oil for that days lunch but they kept falling apart in the pan, Alfredo trying to turn them over and cussing when they fell apart, it was so funny. Even funnier when we dished them up and both of us couldnt eat for laughing they looked such a mess on the plate. (I realised that next time it would be best to add a little milk to the mashed potatoes and Alfredo said next time I wanted to make Relleno could I make Rocoto Relleno
After this was done and my washing on the line, I just had time for half an hour in the local Internet cafe before getting my taxi into town for the 12.30 meeting. At the centre I bought a new battery and two more films for my camera and then treated myself to an ice-cream to pass the time and was sitting on the seat in front of the cathedral about 15 minutes early when Leonarda arrived and said they had gone on ahead to Casuron de los Incas restaurant having been called to come there earlier and for us to get a taxi to join them there.
This we did and we arrived a few moments before they started playing. Leonarda and I sat in the sunshine and enjoyed a litre of coca cola between us while they played and it was excellent. I took a few more photos of them as well, and the restaurant didn't mind me not eating there, just having a drink instead. Even though I had only had one papa relleno I didn't feel hungry enough then to eat anything. During their break I took more photos of the group and some were taken of me with various musicians, then they played again and towards the end of this performance whilst five carried on playing Angel got me on my feet and we danced one song. This was great and Angel said I caught on to the style really well. A few minutes later we were on our way and Angel bought
ice-creams for me, Leonarda, her boyfriend and himself and we ate them whilst walking down the hill and then flagged a couple of taxis to take us back down to Cusco and all of us went to Quinta Zarate and enjoyed Caldo de Cordero (a lovely lamb and vegetable soup with yucca and two other types of potato) with crusty bread rolls and all had a bottle of Cusqueña each. I left them about 4 pm saying I would definitely be there at Tomines again that night, and spent the next hour exploring a whole load of gift shops not far from San Blas that I had not seen before.
Meeting those excellent new friends was fantastic and I was looking forward to going to Tomines restaurant again that night. This time I got there about an hour before them and enjoyed aji de gallina, which is a chicken breast strips in a spicy cream sauce. Then when the band arrived and started playing I took another series of photos of them in this different setting. That night and the night after I went with them to two brilliant Cusco night clubs.
The first one was Kami Kase nightclub - the band there were absolutely fantastic. Nightclubs in Cusco were similar to back home, the luckier first arrivals getting tables and others sitting round the room or standing, with a dance floor etc, with brilliant rock music on arrival, many of my favourite rock bands, the decor matching the music. The big exception being that later in the evening, around 10 or 10.30 a fantastic Andean band arrived on stage and gave an electrifying performance. I was absolutely spellbound at the fantastic two hour performance by Apu Marku, an Andean-rock fusion band at Kami Kasi. There was no way I could have enjoyed this without my Peruvian escort, because even though I was with Angel, other guys were trying to attract my attention, and I certainly did not welcome undue attention, especially at night. With Angel I was perfectly safe and up until then had behaved himself, accepting that I was not interested in anything beyond mere friendship. Because he seemed to really genuinely like me as a friend he accepted that, saying he would never do anything to make me think badly of him. We shared the costs of drinks making it an mutually enjoyable friendship.
When my day was ruined the day before upon arrival at San Pedro station only to find that I couldn't afford the train fares of both me and Danielo to get to Machu Picchu, plus the cost of getting into Machu Picchu sanctuary itself, the bus fares up and down the mountain to get to the sanctuary etc, later in the day I phoned Angel (as luckily I had the cellular phone numbers and email addresses of two members of the band) and when I ascertained they were playing again at Tomines restaurant that night I said I would be there.
For the third night running I had an enjoyable few hours in Tomines restaurant, another excellent meal and the management must have been pleased to see me again because this time I was given a free pisco sour cocktail just after arrival. When the band arrived, Angel had brought a tiny dictating machine and cassette with him and showed me how to hit the record button when the band started playing. Although when we played it back later it wasnt very good and we thought we would try again another evening with new batteries. I asked Angel if there was any chance to going to Kami Kase again afterwards and he said of course. However, he said Apu Marku only play there one night a week so we put it off to the following week instead. There are different bands on in all the clubs according to which night of the week it was and he said we could go to one of the other clubs.
Alfredo had recommended Okukes and when I suggested having a look there he said okay. We took a taxi from the restaurant because my high-heeled sandals were no good on the slippery paving stones in the streets there - it was like being on a skating rink at times - and Id already given Angel a few scares by skidding along! Whenever we came to any steps for instance, he carefully guided me down them, worried to death I might fall! We had decided to go for a drink at Fernando's bar first as it was still a bit early for Okukes. This was the second time we had been to Fernando's which is run by a delightful family - the husband and wife running the bar and the welcome they give you is unbelievable and this time their son was there as well, who could speak English, and said how much they loved to welcome foreign people like me to their bar, and that I only had to ask and they would do all they could to ensure I really enjoyed myself there. And that was easy because they didn't mind playing music on request and we asked if they would play a few tracks from the Takillakta CD (copies of which Angel had with him in a small bag) and we both enjoyed listening.
When we got to Okukes, we found we had to pay to get in because a very famous band were playing that night - Manuelo Prado y al proyecto Kavilando (by whom I have one cassette at home). However the entrance fee wasn't too bad and included a free drink, and I really wanted to see that band so I paid our entrance fees to get in. Angel said it would only be worth going in if we could be guaranteed a table and one of the doormen went off upstairs to see if there were any left, came back and said that if we didn't mind sharing with another couple we could sit right at the front by the stage. I was delighted as we were so close to the stage my knees were actually touching the stage when we sat down.
For around an hour and a half we enjoyed the excellent rock music, which seemed the most popular thing there whenever it wasnt Andean music playing. The band were pretty late starting, I think it was around 11.30 before they even started their performance, although I wasn't taking too much notice of the time then (and was horrified later after their performance when I looked at my watch and saw how late it was, knowing that Alfredo was waiting up to let me back in). If I enjoyed Apu Marku on friday night, Manuelo Prados band were even better and gave an incredible performance. I was especially impressed with the flute player - kenista - whose playing was incredible. There were seven in the band, a girl on keyboards, Manuelo on acoustic guitar and singing, plus another guitarist, violinist, a chap on drums, and another who played charango, bombo drums, or panpipes etc.
About half way through their show I couldnt wait any longer for the loo and we left our things actually on the stage for safety while Angel escorted me out through the club and down the stairs and waited for me. Back upstairs again as we were about to enter the club area, we saw Manuelo outside having a break even while the rest of the band were playing. He had his wife with him and Angel started chatting to him and introduced me to him as well, and I was in turn introduced to his wife. That was an unexpected bonus and I regretted beyond belief that I didn't have my camera with me. It was such a risky business carrying it at night. His wife was in charge of CD sales and when I asked how much they were I was amazed when Manuelo said 10 soles each. I couldn't help exclaiming at how incredibly low priced they were. I think this band were concerned with making access to their music affordable for the Peruvians themselves, as evidenced by both the low cost of the CD and the low entrance fee to get in. They could have charged four times as much for both and people like me would have paid it. I was prepared to pay 50 soles for that CD and as it was so cheap I bought two, one for Angel as well, because he had been so obviously enjoying the performance, really animated, clapping hands, singing along etc.
The band finished just as we got another beer in so we stayed on a while, the club full of people enjoying themselves dancing, even dancing between the tables when the dance floor was full up. It was a great atmosphere. It was gone 2 am before we finished the beer and left, with me heading for the nearest telephone, as I wanted to be sure Alfredo was still awake before attempting that taxi journey alone. Being stuck outside alone at night at Marca Valle would have been a lot more scary than the security of being in Angels company in the centre of Cusco that late at night. Fortunately for me Alfredo was still up, didn't mind my lateness, and I said I was getting straight into a taxi and would be home in ten minutes. The taxi took Angel home first and then me, with me arranging to be at Tomines again the following night.
Back home, Alfredo was all smiles when he opened the door, and brushed off all my apologies at my lateness saying that to see me so happy having enjoyed myself so much pleased him greatly. I think my downhearted disappointment that morning when I arrived back from San Pedro station at 6 am had quite upset him, as he knew how badly I had been looking forward to Machu Picchu. He was even happier when first I told him I had followed his advice, gone to Okukes and what a brilliant band was on there, and secondly that I had gone to a few agencies that day and was going to Machu Picchu after all.
During the day I had visited a few agencies to see what they had to offer - I chose Andean Life because a) it is actually run by a collective of Peruvian tour guides for themselves and b) they have an excellent reputation for looking after the Inca Trail (according to my guidebook - some of the lower priced companies have no concern for the environment, some of them not safeguarding against some of their clients actually polluting the water sources). Although I would be going on my own, I would not actually be alone. I would be with a group of around 20 people, all accompanied by a professional English speaking tour guide at all times. The 94 dollar fee included the train fare there and back which took about 3 hours and 20 minutes each way. Before that someone would come to the house to collect me at 6.40 am the next morning and escort me to the group (I just had to pay the taxi each way on top for this but it was a small price to pay to be escorted from home to the group).
I loved going into Cusco centre every day and didnt mind going alone as it was really easy taking a taxi each way. Taxis were so abundant there wherever one went and one could be hailed down instantly wherever you were in Cusco. I found an excellent couple of icecream shops offering all different flavours and having safely sampled a couple of times with no repercussions, it was obviously a safe brand. Sitting in the paved areas with seating in the centre of Plaza des Armas in the sunshine was really relaxing. What with all the artesanial shops, the abundance of Internet cafes, many restaurants offering an incredible bargain lunch at touristic menu prices, it was easy to spend a very pleasurable day there every day.
In a different series of artesanial shops I came across I bought a lovely amethyst and silver ring which although expensive at 40 dollars was still worth it at that price, much cheaper than it would have cost at home. However, I was really lucky because the shop owner was really taken with the ring watch I was wearing, exclaiming over its beauty (as indeed lots and lots of other Peruvians did, including Alfredo and Angel) so when I suggested to the shop owner that he sell me the ring for 20 dollars and I would give him the ring he accepted with
alacrity! As this ring only cost me around 3 dollars at the duty free town of Tacna, I had secured an incredible bargain. It made me wish I had bought more of those ring watches - when I told Angel the story that evening he was really impressed with my bargaining powers - Alfredo as well when I told him later.
One morning I left the house an hour or so after Danielo and Alfredo's early departure for the school events. Having heard a ferocious dog bark at them when they left I decided to leave armed with a bread roll just in case and thank goodness I did because Fido, a neighbours dog well known for biting people on the ankle that he doesn't know was lying in the sunshine just a few feet from our gate. I had to secure the padlock on the gate and was a bit worried thinking that if Fido approached I could not get back in again. As I approached him I threw him the bread roll and he enthusiastically tucked in and I passed him without incident. This was advice given by Alfredo when I told him about all the dogs in La Paz. He said most of those dogs would ignore you if you ignored them, but in the event of problems if you offered them food you would be okay - or in the worst instances to bend down, pick up a stone ready to throw it which was what the Peruvians did, and just the act of bending down to pick one up was enough to avert disaster. That day with the bread roll certainly proved to have been good advice.