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Published: August 22nd 2011
Minus 15 sleeping bags worked a treat and we slept well, waking before dawn to see if we could see any of the meteorites, It was bloody freezing and the tent was covered in ice, JD stayed out for a while looking at the sky whilst I scampered back to my downy sleeping bag like a scalded cat and had another hours kip.
Dawn emerged from behind the mountains throwing orange hues in streaks across the valley as the sun peaked through the saddles of the surrounding slopes.
Hot noodles were in order, forgoing coffee as water was running short (I had looked for water purification tabs everywhere the day before we left to no avail) It wouldn’t have mattered we had yet to find any water that would be in any way drinkable.
With water in short supply (We started with 5 litres and I had drank 2 litres before leaving the house) we knew it was probably wise to head towards the village we had seen the previous day. The sun was already warm and it was barely 7am. We wandered down to the little lake where we saw some Andean geese and peahens then started towards the village.
Following the ridge of the slopes ahead we started to descend using goat trails, we headed towards the river, by the time we got there it was noon and we were tired sore and thirsty, We found the river wild and gushing and with packs with no ropes totally impassable. Fortunately as we wandered up and down hoping for a way across we met a cattle farmer who directed us back up the hill to the nearest path to the village. Gratefully we hauled tired limbs through the brush until we indeed hit a fairly wide obviously well used trail.
This is when we started to meet people, Farmers herding mules and cattle, A couple making adobe bricks for their new house. Shy children peered at us as the more confident asked for sweets. We had yet to reach the town and I was already savoring the taste of water and Gatorade.
A shop! Oh lordy ye ha, We gulped like we had been in the desert for days. Refreshed we walked on as more and more adobe shacks appeared, women washing clothes in the river, children chasing dogs and chickens.
Above us a man trashed the hinds of 2
sturdy horses through a pasture of cut barley, kicking up their heals turning the sheaf’s, while behind him a women turned more with a pitch folk. The wind carried his whistles and hrrummpths as he bolstered the horses to keep moving around and around their fierce hooves turning the yellow grain continuously as the sun glared above us drying the stems as they turned.
More and more people came into view, more houses and more domestic animals. Everyone was Quechua, there were no Latinos here.This village was 100% indigenous, We had arrived in Macashca.
In the distance we could hear a brass band, now this is not an unusual sound as Peruvians love a good old brass band and you see and hear them regularly, so we thought nothing of it.
Stopping at the first place that we thought might be able to feed us. An old man with a pronounced limp invited us in and said lunch was ready and indeed it was, within a minute we had steaming bowls of carrot and barley soup in front of us and ice cold bottles of Christal beer. Next came boiled potatoes and chargrilled cuy (I will fill you in on
the cuy later) We ate like warriors and drank like pissheads as other curious people came in to eat, there was only one choice, soup and cuy. They watched us with amusement in this ramshackle barn come meeting room, there was only one table and we had it, everyone else sat on benches which skirted the outside of the room. I asked for a bathroom as I hadn’t washed my hands for a few days, a young boy emerged with a plastic beaker full of water and escorted me outside to wash my filthy paws.
We paid up and meandered happily into town, At this stage we could feel excitement in the air, We knew there was a football match going on as we had seen a couple of lads in full kit but it was more than that, a party atmosphere was emerging. Once again we had found ourselves in the middle of a village party, this time the main village party of the year.
Now if you would be inclined to do so, looking back on previous blogs you will notice that this happens us every time we go to a new village or we go hiking………..every time.
Is it us, or do we just have a good sense of where the party is at.
Nearing the main plaza we met a family who stopped us, 2 gorgeous little girls asked if we could take their picture and we were happy to oblige as Mum and Dad looked on.
Inviting us to join them for the fiesta we stopped at the husbands mother and fathers house. Granpa was a gentle spoken man with a relaxed demeanor while Gran was a stern matriarch in wide indigenous skirts and a tall noble hat perched jauntily on her head. It was dinner time and we were quests, So half an hour after we had had lunch plates of steaming spuds, lemon and onion salad, home made bread and the best cuy I have ever tasted were placed in front of us. We ate……..How could we not?
The kitchen was a windowless adobe room. In one corner adobe bricks where fashioned into a homemade BBQ with no chimney, the smoke merely crawled across the ceiling and out the door. The opposite corner was a preparation area; every utensil was metal, many hanging from the roof. There was no running water or electric.
As we sat and ate, cuys scampered around our feet. They are basically large guinea pigs and are the main source of protein here in the upper Andes. Mamma cuy was caged while babies of various sizes and from various groups (yes I looked that up and that is the collective term for guinea pigs) hid under the table.
Outside was a large well kept yard leading to a wonderful herb garden with all sorts of aromatic herbs and flowers, then came the pig pens and behind that the latrine. A 1 foot squared hole into the ground, surrounded by a burlap sack barrier to hide your modesty.
Don Jesus and Dona Lucilla (Grandparents) demanded we go into town and have a great night and the door to the front of the house would be open for our return. We would stay with then. It seemed we had no choice.
By this stage other grandchildren cousins, aunts uncles etc. had showed up and it was time to party, Carmenita the little girls mother and myself walked the couple of kms up the hill out of town to get the kids warm clothes as dusk was winning over daylight, I had
bonded with these two lovely children and they played and teased me relentlessly, asking numerous questions and wanting to show me everything about their village. Gracie is 5 and little sis Nicole is 3.
After regrouping with the extended family we wandered again out of the village to a nearby house similar to the one we had just left, In an outhouse nearby a group of women stirred pots the size of a child’s paddling pool and 5 times the depth full of more potatoes, goat stew and suckling pigs roasted on spits nearby. Carmenita told me 250 people would be fed throughout the night as another brass band played under the stars. Apparently every year a family from the town hosts this party in their homes and feeds the whole village. I couldn’t eat any more so all our families leftovers where put in plastic buckets for breakfast in the morning. We caught shy glances, long stares, as well as curious questions, We were the only gringos in town……..What a treat for us.
A curious thing was happening. As there were no toilets to relieve one’s self you had to hike up a field a bit and squat, each
time I did this Carmenita would show up beside me. I realized she was looking out for me, though I doubt anything sinister would happen in this little town, I just got used to her following me. She appointed herself my guardian angel.
With bulging tummies we headed back into town where numerous brass and percussion bands were battling it out for the fiesta finale, they were really good, playing tradition Peruvian music to Latino rock. Beers were purchased as we watched men making huge firework towers in the plaza. Then came the obligatory dancing in the street. The indigenous dance in this part of the world is like a 2 step shuffle with lots of twirling. This showed off the women’s beautiful handmade multicolored skirts, in a rainbow of hues, each skirt is embroidered with beautiful designs and adornments. Their hats are regal, mostly white with a wide brim and a tall crown, pleated ribbon is sewn to the side of the hats this indicates that that lady is married, the design and colour as well as flamboyancy is to their own choosing.
The fireworks were set alight to roars of approval as bits of them; still flaming flew
into the crowd. , No-one seemed to mind.
We were walked back rather tipsy to Granpas place where Carmenita made us up a bed, 11 (I counted) sheepskins with our sleeping bags on top, oh so cosy we slept like logs.
I woke up the next morning with that hangover thirst. It must have been Carmenita who had filled my water bottle with fresh water and left it by me, What a lady!
We wandered into the yard to shouts for breakfast, once again lead to the dark kitchen we were served chunks of pork and fried spuds and cups of cedron tea and of course more of that lovely homemade bread.
For Gran it was like an assembly line as numerous sons, daughters, grandkids and neighbours were fed. I got up to wash the dishes in a bucket of water but the look from Dona Lucilla soon made me realize this was her kitchen, I sat back down.
We played for a while with the kids, the doves, white rabbits, 2 puppies, Sassy the cat and her 5 kittens. The cuys stayed in the kitchen perhaps out of habit or maybe they just knew their fate.
Carmenita and her
husband Valoiz with the kids and ourselves went up to their house. It was bath day. A basin of cold water was produced as the kids stripped off and mum washed them then washed their glorious black shiny locks. Meanwhile the boys had moved a little further way to have their baths. I was offered soap, shampoo and a basin of water. Discreetly I too had my bath and washed my hair. It was freezing but I felt so much better after.
Returning to the village stragglers roamed the streets worse for wear some asleep were they had fell. The bands played on drunk and happy.
As lunch approached we spotted a lady with a large cooked pig on a cart, ordering up meals for everyone we sat on the grass and had a last supper, of course a beer had to be opened to celebrate new gringo friends, I managed a reluctant sip, Retrieving our bags we took a last family photo, hugged and promised return visits then caught a small van back to town.
This is what I love about the Andean people, although their lot in the world is meager their hearts are huge, they shared their
tales, their food and their home with complete strangers, they expected nothing in return but we will see about that.
For sure the best weekend I have had in a long time.
Just an afternote, I use sunblock liberally but, Don’t forget the back of the ears and your lips. I am looking like a swarm of bees have stung my lips, stooooopid edjit!
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