Today’s tours – all of which I’ve signed up for – attempt to share with us an authentic (less “touristy”) Peruvian experience.
The morning starts (after a quick breakfast) with a healing ceremony. A Peruvian healer in traditional dress joins us. He speaks the native language, while our tour guide explains the what and why to us. (I am reminded a bit of the idea of bringing first fruits). The culture here is a mix of Catholic faith, introducesd in colonial times, and the Incan polytheistic faith. But we will learn more about both later.
First, we have a tour of the local marketplace – not the plazas of kiosks for tourists, but where the locals buy their fruits, vegetables, meats and medicines. Our guide walks us through, letting us try select items and chatting with the various vendors.
From there, he takes us to the local cemetery, on the way talking about various traditions and festivals (including All Saints Day) that are celebrated. At the cemetery he hires a couple of local boys to assist us in cleaning and decorating a grave (a Friar). We visit the church nearby, discretely joining Mass for part of the service.
Then we have a local cooking demonstration and lunch (while a parade goes by), before heading back to the hotel to collect others for the afternoon tour.
In the afternoon, we visit the central plaza of historic Cusco, essentially encircled by cathedrals and basilicas (the largest and oldest built by the Dominicans, others by the other orders that came over the years), each one built over the footprint of the Incan temples that stood when the conquistadors arrived. The same would have happened to Machu Picchu if they’d known it was there.
We visit the basilica, large and ornate, built to Spanish standards but using local artisans – elements of their influence (or protest) in artistic decisions – Jesus before Pilate surrounded by “Roman” guards in clearly conquistador dress; a last supper where Judas has the face of Ferdinand Pizarro and a cuye, rather than a lamb, is served.
After the churches, we walk through the town, our guide pointing out differences between Spanish and Incan architecture, side by side. Then we visit the temple of the sun, a restored Incan site and museum.
That evening, two groups of us join a local family to share a meal in their home. They prepare common dishes; we help serve, handing out plates or clearing — as guests rather than patrons. It’s a lovely if unusual meal, and we make ourselves eat, appreciatively, even what isn’t most pleasing to our palate.
Even the cuye, which is, in my opinion, simply horrid. Fortunately it’s a delicacy so we only got a small piece to try to begin with.