Sillustani, Immaculate Conception, saying goodbye!?
On December 8th, the day after Mall, Claire, and I got back from Lake Titicaca, we had arranged a tour to go see an ancient cemetery, which is about 30 kilometers from Puno.
We were picked up in a 15 passenger van.. just for the 3 of us, and went off to find out who our guide was. We ended up having the same guide as we had for the tour on Lake Titicaca, so we were pretty excited about that.
After winding around dreadfully awful roads for about and hour we arrived at a farm. We had chosen to do a horseback tour because it took you “off the beaten track” according to the tour agency, and it would give us a better opportunity to see scenery that you couldn’t see from the road.
Like I said yesterday I think, they rainy season is just starting in Puno, which means that everything is dead and dry still. The horses were SO skinny. After being convinced by the man that we weren’t going to squish them if we mounted them, we were off.
They gave me the “mommy” horse, which Mallory and Claire thought was fitting..ha ha. It had a gringo baby, completely white with blue eyes, that the owner said looked just like me- how thoughtful.
The path was really pretty, and we went around a lake most of the time. After about an hour of walking, my horse decided that she didn’t want to go any farther. I guess she was tired. It took the owner getting on her and riding her around for a minute for her to move again. With the altitude I must say that I wouldn’t have wanted to have someone on my back either.
We arrived at Sillustani after just over two hours on horseback. I was worried that we weren’t going to beat the storms in, but thankfully we did! My knee reminded me quite sharply that holding my foot in a stirrup for over two hours is not a good idea, but it was definitely worth it.
We headed up to Sillustani, as the thunderclouds started to roll in. Sillulstani is an ancient cemetery of Incan and pre-Incan tombs. The higher up on the hill the tomb is the higher the person was in society. Each tomb was created for an entire family, not just one person, and was constructed of solid rock.
The guide told us that the nicest tombs would take up to 15 years to build. They used water to cut through the massive stones. They would place water where they wanted to cut the stone, and then when the water would freeze it would expand and cut the stone. It seems pretty awesome to me, and I do want to try that sometime.
Each tomb had two layers, an inner layer, and then a more decorative outer layer. Some of the Incan tombs hadn’t ever been finished, so we could see the constructing in process. Some of the tombs are over 12 meters in height. (I promise that I am not european, but I only learn these facts in the metric system!)
As we were on top a hail and sleet storm came through. We took refuge behind a tomb, and ten minutes later the storm had passed. The weather in Puno is that unpredictable, it changes about every ten minutes. Since we could see the next storm coming in, we finished seeing the last of the tombs and headed back to the van just in time for the next storm to come through.
On the way back to Puno, the driver asked us if we wanted to stop in Paucarcolla, which is about halfway between Puno and Sillustani to see the festival that was going on. The 8th was the feast of the Immaculate Conception, and Paucarcolla throws an amazing festival. Literally the town tripled in size that day.
Everyone from the country came in to celebrate. They had a procession of the Virgin, and there was a parade of bands and dancers. The clothing was something that they prepare all year just for this day. They were in the brightest colors, with tons of detail and decoration. They only wear the clothes once, and then they change for the next year.
We stayed for a while, seeing the parade, being offered millions of different types of food, it was a lot of fun. There was one man dressed up in a mask and full costume, and he had a black crow on his shoulder. He came up to me and put the crow up towards my head, where it proceeded to peck at my head and eat part of my hair! It really hurt! I still have no idea why he did that, but Mallory and Claire definitely got a kick out of it.
After about thirty minutes we headed back to Puno, where we went shopping for Christmas presents, looked for tamales (they are really good!), and just enjoyed the sunshine.
The next morning, the 9th, we had to get ready to head back to Arequipa. We walked out of our hotel to go to a museum and could see that there was a massive commotion in the plaza. It was a celebration of the Battle of Ayacucho, a massive victory for Peru. The navy, army, and coast guard were all there, and there was a huge military parade.
After a few hours we headed back to the plaza and there was another massive group of people. This time however, we could see that it definitely was not the military. The police had set up blockades around the plaza, which obviously made us nervous. One of the public universities had gone on strike. I guess one of the directors is corrupt and has stolen a ton of money from the students, which is what they were protesting. They all had signs and banners, and there was a cardboard coffin that they had created, and set it on fire.
Needless to say, we stayed out of that area as much as possible. After Claire and Mallory finishing all of their Christmas shopping, we found food for the bus ride back to Arequipa, and headed back.
In Arequipa, on the 10th, we just had enough time to see the party for Mario Vargas Llosa, who is the first Peruvian to win the Nobel Peace Prize (Literature). He is from Arequipa, and was awarded the prize on the 10th. There was a dance tribute to him in their plaza de armas and the news stations were all there. They even set up a massive television so the people could see Vargas Llosa receive the award.
After walking around a bit, visiting a museum, and eating lunch, we headed back to the airport and caught our plane to Lima. I can’t believe that tonight I will be leaving Lima and heading home. It is just incredible to me that over four and a half months have past. From what I have been told it is absolutely freezing in Minnesota right now. I think I might go into shock, as it has been in the upper 70’s here, and in Arequipa it was in the 80’s.
Our program director for IFSA-Butler is taking us out to breakfast this morning, and then I think I am going to spend the rest of the day with my family. I am going to miss them so much! I really think that my family is what made my experience here so great. Other students haven’t enjoyed their families as much, and also haven’t had the greatest experiences here in Perú. It has really made me think about wanting to host students in the future. I think it would be a good opportunity to help out other students, and give them a great study abroad experience as well. In my opinion, staying with a family is one of the best parts of my IFSA-Butler study abroad program. I don’t know what I would do without all the help from my family, and also it is an amazing way to learn more of the language.