We took a a scenic train from Machu Picchu back to Ollantaytambo before boarding a bus and heading back to Cusco. When we returned to Cusco, festivities were in full swing. It was the Corpus Christi festival and there were parades, live marching bands, dancing in the street and effigies of saints were carried around the Plaza de Armas. Street sellers popped up selling Cuy (guinea pig) and beer.
Our guide Edith had invited all eighteen of us to her mothers house to experience a traditional Quechua ceremony and to taste guinea pig. Must have been a little bit of a shock for the lady! So we headed to the local market to bring her gifts of bread, fruits and wine (avoiding the cows eyes, whole animal carcasses, frogs blood and aphrodisiac potions)! So off we headed on the public bus to the outskirts of the city. Edith’s mother greeted us all and was clearly overwhelmed, shedding a tear as she welcomed us all into her house. She provided us with an absolute feast for lunch and the pride of joy was the guinea pig centre piece for us to try. After displaying the guinea pig in The usual way, she then took it back to the kitchen to tear it into pieces for us. Taste wise it is similar to the brown meat of chicken but extremely greasy…not something I will jump at eating again!
After we had finished lunch, the Shaman arrived to perform a “Mother Earth ceremony”. From what I understood of the proceedings, (it was said in Quechua), this involved us all sitting in a circle whilst the shaman blessed us all. He handed around a cloth filled with coca leaves and we all had to pick three perfect leaves, hold them in a fan shape, kiss them and hold them up to the sky whilst making a wish. We then offered these to Pachamama (Mother Earth) and placed them back on a cloth the Shaman had prepared. Next, he put offerings on the cloth; sweets, glitter, flowers, grains and pulses. The Shaman performed further blessings on this package. We the all took it in turns to pour a little sweet wine in the floor as an offering to Pachamama, before drinking some and passing it around the circle. The package was then buried and burnt. The ritual was complete and the Shaman had blessed us all with good health and safety for the rest of our journeys…unfortunately for me this good health lasted a mere 24 hours…
Our next stop was the second biggest town in Peru – Arequipa. Surrounded by three huge volcanos, the city has a pretty amazing backdrop and the centre of town is a UNESCO world heritage site having beautiful old buildings constructed out of a white stone. After having a walking tour of the city by Edith, we had some well needed brunch after the night bus before heading to the park for some R&R and an epic ball game with an apple (seemingly balls are hard to buy in Arequipa). We then spent the afternoon in a happy hour bar, enjoying the sun and the cheap pisco sours and mojitos before dinner.
Unfortunately that night and the whole of the next day I was violently ill and unable to join the rest of the group on their trip to Colca Canyon, instead having to rest in bed. See pictures of what I missed out on….
My stomach bug actually ended up being a blessing in disguise, as whilst I was ill so was our fellow traveller Belle. After 24 hours in bed I was feeling better and able to visit the Museo Santuarios Andenos . Here, I visited Juanita, the fairly creepy Inca Ice girl whose body was found on one of the mountains in Peru extremely well preserved after having been frozen. After my morning outing I returned to hear that Belle was not doing well and that she was going to call the doctor…one home visit later and the doctor had diagnosed appendicitis. That evening we were taken to the hospital for a second opinion and tests and twelve hours later and a tired me and groggy Belle later, her appendix had been removed! The following morning we were reunited with the rest of the group to retell their stories of Colca Canyon, but unfortunately Belle had to remain in Arequipa for her recovery….