Urubamba – Pisac – Huaro
After a rest day in Urubamba and a quick visit to more impressive Inca ruins at Ollantayambo, we got back on the road heading up the Sacred Valley to Pisac. If you’re ever in need of a road-side snack, a small town near Urubamba offers an abundance of roast skewered guineapigs (a Peruvian delicacy). Fortunately, or unfortunately, we’d had a hearty breakfast so pedalled on by to the tune of a few cheery ‘holas’ from the street hawkers.
We reached Pisac just in time to visit the famous local Sunday market where people come from all over to sell a plethora of locally grown produce. Did you know, there are about 5,000 types of potato worldwide, of which 3,000 are found in the Andes alone? Having said that, Sara-Ann was very excited about the avocados, a general theme of the trip so far;). The market also presented a great opportunity to check out the sombreros and put Leo’s cultural insights into practice.
The Festival of Senor de Qoylluritii, Huaro
The following day we enjoyed more great weather as we cycled to a small unassuming (or so we thought) pueblo called Huaro. Little did we know, we’d hit on a major fiesta. Joining a small procession led us to the main Plaza de Armas and a throng people, accompanied by a cocophony of local bands competing to out-do each other from opposite ends of the square.
In our best Spanglish we asked what this was all for…. The festival is an ancient annual event to celebrate the appearance of Jesus Christ in a rock (at least so we think – dear readers, please comment with any corrections!).
To celebrate this event the men get together in local groups to perform for the crowd. This isn’t just any fiesta. First they dance (bit like a barn dance), then they form pairs, then each pair takes in turns to start whipping each other. Starting with alternate whips on the backs of the legs, they then gradually let rip and go all out for blood (which apparently represents Christ’s blood flowing in the river), until another member of the group stops them. The pair then hug and the next pair begins. Each troupe also dresses up – some with dried gourds on their backs, others with dead llamas… Even the little kids seem to give the whipping a good go.
We asked if it hurt, and were gleefully told it did. I’d presume that participating in this custom is an honour…though we’re still attempting to get our heads round it having heard the cracks of the whips as they snaked round calf muscles. I’m trying to imagine the British equivalent (the local Lions or Rotary club perhaps…you know who you are;) doing this. Now there’s a thought!
The men warm up
And take it in turns to whip one another
Even the kids have a go
Accompanied by their own flute bands decked out in colourful fabrics
Each troupe has their own costume – in this case involving a stuffed llama
Parties on every street with welcoming invitations to join the fiesta