Friday, June 12, 2009

guest blogger Mel

sunburn and children and a whole lotta bull!

there is soooooo much to say, I hope I can do it all in the short time I have allowed myself!first of all, I feel much better. I am eating lots of soup and drinking plenty of water and feeling almost entirely like myself again. I seem to have some lingering hints of la turista, but I started taking the proper meds to clear that up and I expect I will be 100% again within a day or two. Thanks for all your concern!

more importantly, I´m having fun. Saturday we explored some ruins that are under reconstruction (the bath of the virgin, they call it) and walked through the older part of town (where the Incan foundations are still visibile as part of many buildings--the stone work is amazing!) Then we stumbled into a procession of dancers escorting the valley´s holy cross back and forth between the two churches in town... while they went to mass we grabbed dinner. Afterward we managed to meet right back up with them on the return trip... after depositing the cross safely back in the church they commenced their formal dances... they wore masks and long dresses or coats, and they kept hitting each other with whips--awesome. after a while I felt very tired, so MJ and her Peruvian boyfriend Andres escorted me home before going out for beer. I slept like a rock.

Next morning MJ and I got up early to catch buses to the HUGE market in Pisac. the trip took about 1.5 hours each way, but we bought tamales from a street vender for breakfast. The market wasn´t quite set up yet when we arrived, so we wandered around and made some purchases (it´s good luck to be the first sale of the day!) without being hassled too much by hawkers. We saw children in full Andean dress trotting through the market with baby animals, asking to have their pictures taken (for a price) and about the time the people started yelling at us to buy stuff we were ready to leave. I had the fantastic adventure of paying 50 centiamos to use the bathroom ($.15ish) and we bought papa rellenos on the way home.

That afternoon there was bull fighting in the field below MJ´s part of Ollantaytambo, by which I mean bulls fighting each other. There was also a funny riding contest in which a piece of corn is pulled up and down on a string (like a pinata) and people ride horses underneath trying to grab the corn. (If you get the corn, you win a small live chicken! How awesome and strange is that!?!? Although I guess you must then bring 7 such chickens to next year´s festival :/) The bull fights were less interesting and gory than you might think--mostly they sniffed at each other, butted heads a few times, and wandered apart. The most interesting part was that they weren´t corralled in any way--people simply stood in a circle around them (we wisely stayed on the street overlooking this action.) More than once the bulls broke straight for people instead of each other, and one even came all the way up the ramp to where we were! That was pretty exciting. I saw some dumb tourist try to take a picture when the bull was heading their way... yikes.

Then yesterday MJ, Andres, and I went to see the deep terraced garden of Moray and the salt mines of Salineras. We caught two buses to the town of Maras, then got a taxi to take us to the garden and wait for us. Exploring the site took about an hour... lots of climbing of ancient stairs and oohing and ahhing over the engineering and view. Then the cab driver took us to the other side of town and dropped us on a hiking trail... we walked downhill for about an hour to reach the salt mines. There is a salty spring which flows out of the ground... they simply dig pits, fill them with the water, and let it evaporate. the crystal growths and organic nature of the whole thing was truly spectacular! we then crossed the river and waited for a cab, when Andres remembered there was more bullfighting in a tiny town nearby... I got to see a group of drunk Peruvians work on breaking a horse, then watched an argentenian matador fight a few bulls... I´d never seen anything like that before, and all I can say is the matador had the air of an againg rock star--complete with the huge ego and a potbelly in shiny pants. The fighting was pretty cool, though. I cheered for the bull. For dinner that night we went to a place that has a monkey living in its rafters.

This morning MJ and I rode further up the valley to a small school where MJ teaches english once a week... the kids were affectionate and hilarious and sooooo amazing to meet... Truly, I will never forget this. Hope you are all well!

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