Paucartambo (Festival Virgen Del Carmen), Nasca, Pulcallpa, Iquitos
01.08.2007 -17 °C
Okay so last time I updated you about our whereabouts etc. was after the riots and strikes. We had returned to Cusco to see a few debris on the road but the centre basically untouched. The evidence showed that most things had happened away from the tourist areas.
As we had been delayed we tried to figure out what we should do, should we rush to the next place? No, we hung around for a few days to go to a religious festival in Paucartambo, now before you start groaning, I should explain a bit. The celebration is for the ´Virgen del Carmen´, who is of mixed blood, i.e. she is a mixture of the traditional religions of the local people and the catholic religion, which had been forced upon them by the Spanish invasions. The festival is celebrated by colourful processions and dancing.
The dances all hold meanings and the participants were masks, and brightly coloured ornate clothes. Its an amazing sight, and on a side note these guys know how to party, there was loads of dancing and drinking going on. We had arranged to spend one night at the festival, go to see the sun rise at tres cruces, then back to the festival before heading back to Cusco. On the trip we met up with Emma, a girl who had been living in the States for a few years but had just returned home to Malahide, small world, huh. She was really excited as she had been looking forward to the festival for a while, it coincided with her birthday. Our tour group was small and when we got to the town we discovered that there weren´t many tour groups at all, mostly just locals, yippee...
The first evening we watched the dancing and costumes in awe, and then with screams and astonished giggles we ran to the side streets or crouched against the sides of buildings as some of the entertainers picked up some of the fireworks and ran through the crowds, they were crazy. It was scary and amazing to see at the same time. No one knew what to do. The fireworks were a great success albeit a bit strange. There was one part that included people jumping over fire, girls being grabbed from the sides to dance through the streets by the dancers and loads of beer and spirits.
After the excitement and fun we had to go back to the bus at midnight to start the journey to tres cruces. Here we were to see a beautiful sunrise that is supposed to contain mirages etc.... but it was an overcast day with clouds, so though it was nice, freezing ourselves for a few hours on the side of a cliff for an average sunrise was disappointing, especially when we had all wanted to stay and party.
We headed back to town, cold but all wide-awake, which considering no one had had any sleep was surprising. The morning and afternoon was followed with more dancing and partying, an open air mass and the religious procession. It really was a great party.
Feeling like we’d been in Cusco for long enough we tried to get to Arequipa, after a few changes to the buses etc because of a few lingering strikes we got there on a cool evening. The main square in Arequipa was really nice but here there was a lot of hassle from agency touts and restaurants. While in town we visited a few museums, one that contained the body of Juanita, an Inca mummy. This was really interesting and our guide was very friendly and full of information. She was student in the college and her teacher was one of the people who found the original body. We also visited the convent of Santa Catalina; it was like a city within a city. The city is nice and we spent a few days at museums, historical sites etc, while waiting for a clothes to dry. Ahh the simple things in life are great - clean clothes!! From here we decided to go to a small town called Chivay, which is at the start of the Colca Canyon, it’s a nice town with a great setting. Loads of walks and relaxation at hot springs put us in the mood to see more. So we set off into the canyon to see Condors, and terraces from Inca times that were still in use today.
After a few days we headed back to Arequipa for the night to catch a connecting bus to Nazca...this was one of the main things that I had been waiting to see. The town was nothing special but the lines were fantastic. We had a clear perfect view with not a cloud in the sky. We were lucky, we heard people a few days before couldn’t go up in the planes because of the weather. The lines were so clear. I had expected to be disappointed as I had built it up in my mind but I wasn’t. Yippee!!!
After Nazca we headed to Lima, We had heard so many stories about the place we thought that we would hate the town but nope, it was a city like any other, loads to see though. As we had a flight to catch we only had a few days. We went to a ceramics museum which was really interesting, they also had an erotic section which was very clinical, various sex acts were on the sides of jugs etc but far from being a form of soft porn they all seemed to have lessons, with attached babies or people with stds, very strange!! Some of the pieces were really old and very graphic. We had also heard about many people being robbed in the city but we saw nothing like that at all. We’ve just been very lucky!!
Pulcallpa was our next stop. It’s a small town with a big personality. Nearly all the traffic is mototaxies, (the front is a motorbike but instead of a back wheel you have a bench with two seats and two wheels, its like a child’s three wheel bike with an engine and space for two additional people). They were a great way to get around. It was so warm that sometimes it was the only way to get a cool breeze. The town had a certain charm but also a strange sight. Flying over the town and perched on the sides of buildings were loads of black vultures. It was very weird. One day we took a wrong turn and ended up in the slum area, the vultures were in force and the smell of death was over powering. From here we had decided to take a cargo boat to Iquitos up the Amazon. We went to the docks to book a cabin, as we wanted somewhere to store our bags etc without having to worry about them. We were shown a boat that was leaving the next day - the Camilla. The cabins were like saunas, no air to breathe but we were told that was the only boat leaving the next day and during the day we could put up hammocks outside to keep cool. So without paying we booked the cabin and were told to put a lock on the door. That evening after further thought we decided to go to another port to check out other options. We were shown a larger very new boat that was also supposed to be leaving the next day. This boat was a millions times better then the last with a large cabin, attached bathroom and a fan in the room!!! So we decided to book Henry 7 and set up our hammocks. The boat though didn’t leave on time and we stayed on board in the port for two days. Ah well it was free accommodation while we waited. On a side note we saw the other boat leave the day it was supposed to. The boat journey took four days but it was a lot of fun. We met some really nice people, there was a couple from Utrecht, Jessica and Geert, a crazy guy from Belgium, Ronald, a group of guys from Lima who smoked weed all day, an English and Danish couple, Mike and Inga, an Argentinean guy following che`s route, Nicholas, a Columbian and Canadian couple, Alessandro and Stephanie and loads of children who wanted to listen to everyone’s ipods or look at their cameras. The mix of people on board was really nice and though we tried to practice our few Spanish phrases it was mostly dictionary time (much to the amusement of the younger children). The ship was only supposed to hold about 300 people but there was much much more on board, I was really glad we had a cabin!! The hammocks were great to relax in but not for sleeping. They were all squashed together and hung anywhere and everywhere possible. To get from one end of the ship to the other you nearly had to crawl but I still wouldn’t have changed any of it. There were loads of funny incidents, there was a young boy who was my shadow for the journey, he even made me a bookmark to remember him by, but he was very clingy and was obsessed with Madonna’s song like a virgin. After hearing it a million times I could have screamed. Or there was the young guy who did a heavy metal air guitar solo to abbas mamma mia.... to see the funny side, you really would have had to have been there.
When we got to Iquitos we were all tired but it was also nice to be on land and choose our own food etc.... We expected to be blown away by the town but to be honest I didn’t see the appeal. I think our timing was wrong. The security guard at the Columbian embassy kept telling us to come back later, the taxi drivers were annoying, we couldn’t find a book exchange, the owner of the Texan grill fired one of his staff while screaming at her in the middle of the restaurant for a simple mistake, we bumped into the captain of the Camilla boat who gave out to us for not taking his boat, and when we went to the market it was closing up and people, dogs and vultures were rummaging through the rubbish for scraps to eat. Not great first impressions of the town. The next day went better, we booked a fast boat to get to Leticia for the following day (9 hours instead of two days), I managed to change one of my books with an English man who owned a tourist agency, the Columbian embassy gave us loads of information and photocopied a circular that I could show immigration if they gave me any hassle on entering the country. All in all it felt like a good day. We also had a mini reunion at dinnertime to say bye to everyone off the boat. Loads of fun and we even thought maybe we should have stayed longer. They all seemed to really like the town but I was impatient to get to Columbia.
Now we’re in Leticia and though it’s a little more expensive then we expected, I love it here. The vibe on the street is more positive and every building has music spewing out.