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Published: February 23rd 2009
Waterguns, water balloons, buckets and wash basins were in use in this massive drenching
Life is filled with irony, isn´t it? Yesterday I took the local bus to nearby Urubamba to find hair conditioner. The stores in Ollantaytamba are more like corner shops and none of the ones I visited had conditioner. On the walk to the bus stop I noticed gangs of children in large scale water fights. Hmmmm, must be what they do on a hot day in the weekend. School should begin for them soon, so maybe this is a last hurrah.
As soon as the mini-van filled with people we were on our way to Urubamba, which means "Flat land of Spiders". I noticed people closing the windows whenever the vehicle slowed down. Kids were lined up along the streets with water balloons to throw at anything that passed. The fellow beside me tried to explain why the kids were out of control but I couldn´t understand his Spanish or Quechin. We both shrugged at the crazy children and smiled.
When we arrived at Urubamba there was a festival across the street from the bus station. In the parking lot, there were many kids with squirt guns and buckets of water engaged in an even larger water fight. I
Plenty of Water
Every street has open drains with water to refill the buckets and waterguns.
noticed that the entrance to the festival grounds had a water hose dripping onto people passing by. What was going on?
Teenagers had cans of shaving cream to squirt at each other and random adults in the bus station. Tentatively I made my way to people who worked at the station to ask where were the stores. No one understood English but I guessed downtown was up the hill. Gangs of kids were all over the streets throwing water at each other. I managed to get to a drugstore but there was no hair conditioner. I asked what was going on with the water but the girl could not understand me.
I headed towards the main plaza feeling like a deer in hunting season. Why did I wear this bright yellow sweater, and why was I the only tourist on the streets? Would I be a target to this goodnatured water fight, or would the gringo be ignored? I was safe for a minute, walking in and out of shop to get out of the line of fire, and then I got a bucket of water thrown on my back. I turned around and with exaggerated body movements
This is the main plaza in Urubamba. There was an ostrich in the centre, I think you had to pay to pet it.
I indicated ¨What the Hell?!¨ Maybe I was intimidating just enough to stop any more water because I got to the market hall with no more chucked on me. I took a photo, bought some hair conditioner, and continued to the main plaza.
The town was rocking with water guns and shaving cream. I wasn´t sure how to react but I knew that I didn´t want a face full of soap, no mater what the occasion. And the water, supposedly harmless but it came from those open street drains. I had observed enough dogs and men peeing in street corners to know that the water must have a high urine content. Difficult to be amused and get into the spirit of things.
Was this some kind of festival to the water gods? And how the hell was I suppose to return to the bus station without being drenched? And what are the Spanish words for ´no water on my face please´? Only the old people were dry. Too many adults were running around with shaving cream in their hair and clothes. Why, oh why, did I decide to come into town on this crazy day?
The markets are more practical in this town. I didn´t see tourists crafts. Market stalls had food, pots or pans, and similar consumer goods
a street leading away from the plaza and towards the main highway that seemed to have few pedestrians. That was my exit. Before I got there, someone squirted shaving cream on the back of my hair (better than water ha ha). I turned around and sternly asked ¨por qui´which I hope means ´why?´ Again, I think it was the grumpy look on my face that prevented more friendly fire. Quickly I strolled down the ally. Some children passed me with water balloons offering água´. Sternly I responded ´NO´and they continued on their way. Maybe that was the trick, to decline the water ceremony?
I got to the main road and there were cars and trucks passing by with people launching water. This was not just kids on the street throwing water; no, gangs of teens in expensive 4by4 trucks were driving around ready to chuck water on pedestrians. There was an older fellow on the sidewalk in front of me, and I slowed down to keep close to him. Yup, he was my elder shield. A few water balloons hit the pavement around me, but for the rest of the walk I was unscathed.
The bus parkinglot continued
Snow capped mountains can been seen from certain parts of the town. This is near the bus station
to be chaos yet I managed to get into the bus for Ollantaytambo without any incident. From the windows I did spot a few tourists drenched to the bone. Did they come willingly to this water festival or were they caught off guard? They didn´t look too mad.
As soon as the bus was full we headed back. For the third time this week I was really, really glad to retun to Ollantaytambo. When we got to town, there was a traffic jam of vans and buses on the main street. We disembarked metres before the main plaza and I walked passed a large drugstore that had hair conditioner. Ironic, eh? I went home and showered out the soap in my hair.
Today I asked someone about the massive waterfights in the Sacred Valley; was it a folk festival? No. The carnival is on in Rio and this weekend the kids were joining in the fun.
Postscript: The final photo shows the cliff where I got nervous (blog from the past). Cool face on mountain side, though.
Final word, beside me at this Internet cafe a child is playing the Grand Theft Auto video game. He looks to be
The hills are red along the valley towards Urubamba
about eight. I wish nicer video games were spreading across the globe. Aaaah, well, at least he doesn´t have a water gun. *chuckling*
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