Sunday, July 5, 2009

Day Fifteen - June 24th, 2009 - Cusco

Today in Cusco it's the day of the only festival that we actually knew would be happening and planned on attending - the Inti Raymi Festival. Inti Raymi was an ancient Inca celebration in honor of the Sun God, Inti.  It was suppressed and eventually prohibited outright by the Spaniards, who called it a pagan ceremony, opposed to the Catholic faith.  Since 1944, a theatrical representation of the ceremony has been taking place at Sacsayhuamàn, a large and beautiful Incan ruin just outside of Cusco. 

Of course we weren't supposed to be arriving in Cusco until later today, just catching the end of the ceremony.  As it is, we get to see the open.  We sleep late, breakfast, then wander down to the Plaza.  These days the ceremony starts in the Plaza de Armas, then marches the 2 kilometers uphill to Sacsayhuamàn, where it continues.  The Plaza is starting to fill up with spectators, and we plant ourselves in a 2nd floor cafe overlooking the scene.  Hundreds of actors and dancers take part in the very detailed and choreographed ceremony.  A "king" is carried in by his underlings.  There are armies of costumed people in formation filling the square.  The king steps onto a platform in the middle of the square and delivers a speech in Quechua.  A woman near us in the cafe is translating to Spanish for her friends.  

The presentation proceeds out of the square towards Sacsayhuamàn.  Mom heads back to the hotel for some rest.  The rest of us head toward Sacsayhuamàn, but we stop at the nearest restaurant we can find, "Restaurante Turistico Sajama".  Lots of restaurants have the word "turistico" in the name, which means "we have food that gringos may enjoy".  Despite the name, the place is kinda tucked away, and by the looks of it, and the waiter/owner's enthusiasm, we doubt that many turistas come here.  It is good, and we pay 19 Soles for all 3 lunches, with bottled water (about 2 bucks a person, definitely NOT turista prices).

Side note:  We are all very tired after yesterday's epic hikes followed by last night's emergency travel session, and Mom and I are not feeling great, plus we've already been in Cusco for a few days before now (been here, done this).  All of this conspires to make us sort of "ready to be home".  In light of this, I made a list of the things that I was sick of at this particular moment:

Exhaust fumes, especially diesel

Dust and dirt

The smell of urine (Human, Dog, Alpaca)  People pee everywhere here, as there are no public restrooms, and many alleys and sidewalks reek of it.

No heat

Waiting (for ANYTHING)

Advertised items not being available

Bad tasting beer (whatever the cause)

Wooden flutes and pan pipes, or for that matter, Andean music in general


Earplugs (which I've worn to go to sleep most nights)

Tingling hands and feet (another wonderful side effect of Diamox)

and last (but not least), Potatoes (they're everywhere, at every meal)  I suspect that there is a positive correlation between the number of days spent in Peru and the number of potatoes left on a gringo's plate in a restaurant (unless the gringo is Irish, of course)

That said, we are leaving tomorrow for the Amazon rain forest, and we realize that we will probably be re-invigorated for the trip.

Myself, Terry, and Allison slowly make our way up the road to Sacsayhuamàn, walking with throngs of people, almost entirely locals.  Bleachers are set up around the main stage, and it's 80 bucks American to get in, but crowds of people are gathered on the hillsides surrounding the event, watching for free.  We wander about for awhile, as much to see Sacsayhuamàn as to see the festival.  Finding a vantage point to see the festival proves difficult indeed, and would've only been possible if we'd staked out a spot a couple of hours ago.  Still it was cool to be a part of the whole thing, especially given the locals to turistas ratio.

We head back and check on Mom at the hotel.  She's not feeling well, and requests chicken soup.  Allison goes out to fetch it, and I nap.  Later myself, Allison, and Terry head to dinner at the restaurant where Allison got the soup.  We are all excited by the extensive Mexican Food section of the menu.  Despite what you might think, Peruvian cuisine is as different from Mexican as Mexican is from Italian.  We like Peruvian, but are ready for something else.  We ALL order Mexican.  The waiter disappears for a few minutes, then returns to inform us that they have everything on the menu except Mexican food.  Wow.  We are getting used to restaurants not having something that we want, but this is the first time our ENTIRE order has been nixed.  We reorder.  It is good.  We head back and check on Mom, who says she's feeling better.  We crash.

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