Archive for July, 2011
If you´re in Lima for Fiestas Patrias and wondering how you´re going to spend the 188th anniversary of the independence of Peru…just follow the music! Lima will be kicking off Fiestas Patrias this evening with serenades to Peru led by some of the country´s biggest musical acts…
The “Serenade to Peru” along the Parque de la Muralla riverwalk starts at 4pm and continues throughout the night, culminating in fireworks. Sing along with popular Peruvian musical acts Los Ardiles, Rosa Flor, Las Chicas del Sol, Las Muñequitas de Rally and Los Chopkjas. If you´re feeling shy, loosen up first with a couple of drinks at Pirwa bar, as pictured to the left.
Once you´ve worked up an appetite, head to the Magic Water Circuit at Reserve Park, where you´ll be able to sample tradition Peruvian dishes at their Peruvian Food Night celebration, also graced by well-known national performers including Grupo 5, Maricarmen Marín and Sandra Muente. It continues from 6pm until midnight, so you´ll have plenty of time to improve upon your cumbia skills (or at least hope that the inevitable fireworks show will distract others from your moves…).
If you want to be at the center of the action, you can´t go wrong with the Lima´s Main Square, the Plaza Mayor, where crowds gather without fail in front of the gate in front of Government Palace, so grab some drinks to toast with and sing along.
Last week the INC (Instituto Nacional de Cultura- Cusco) made some changes to the entry process at Machu Picchu Sanctuary that has had immediate effect for locals in Aguas Calientes/Machu Picchu Pueblo, travelers who were surprised by the changes mid-trip, and the many small travel agencies of Cusco. Firstly, daily visitors to Machu Picchu can no longer exceed 2,500. Secondly, you must make a reservation in advance in order to purchase your admission for Machu Picchu, the Inca Trail, and Huayna Picchu (which now has its own cost), and other archeological sites under INC jurisdiction. After making the reservation you have a certain number of hours in which to pay at the bank or online. Those who wish to climb Huayna Picchu must also reserve in advance, at the same time that the Machu Picchu ticket is reserved. 200 climbers will be permitted between 7-8am, and 200 more between 10-11am.
From now on travelers must reserve online before buying their tickets, either independently or through a travel agency. Inputting your personal information and selecting the site, entry route, etc, will generate the reservation code you´ll use to pay for the entry ticket, either in the Cusco municipal offices of the INC, DIRCETUR (Dirección Regional e Comercio Exterior y Turismo), or the Banco de la Nación del Perú. Online payments are also an option, but only using MULTIRED or VISA (by creating an online Verified by Visa account if you haven´t done so already.) If your payments are not made within the window allowed, the system annuls the reservation. For the Inca Trail, you have 2½ hours after making the reservation to complete your payment, for Machu Picchu, 6 hours, and for other archeological sites, 5 hours. You won´t receive a ticket upon payment, but will then be free to print out your ticket using your reservation code.
What does this mean…
…For Machu Picchu?
Above all, this is a positive change because Machu Picchu crowds will no longer reach unsustainable limits. Like the limits imposed on the Inca Trail, it´s meant to protect an irreplaceable world heritage site in danger of degrading due to tourist traffic. An extra charge for Huayna Picchu Peak is….frustrating; no doubt it’s the government´s attempt to recoup any losses they´ll suffer from selling less entry tickets.
For travelers already in Cusco and Aguas Calientes, the suddenness of these changes has caused complications. Other travelers should just be aware that if their travel dates are inflexible, they should make their Machu Picchu arrangements in advance. (Not the customary one or two days, but four or five days at the absolute minimum…or else be willing to accept an alternative entry date.) If you´re unwilling or unable to pay online with Visa, you´ll either need to sacrifice half a day of your vacation to make arrangements and wait in line, or go with a travel agency. On the upside, those wishing to climb Huayna Picchu will no longer need to wake up at ungodly hours to race other travelers to the trail before passes are all taken.
If you have any questions about the new regulations and ticket purchasing process, Pirwa Hostels Peru offers a travel service whose friendly staff is always ready to address travelers´ concerns or assist with transportation or tour arrangements. You can find our travel desks in Pirwa hostels and B&Bs in all major cities of Peru; we´re Cusco-based, making it easy for us to confirm reservations, complete payments, and ensure that you make it to Machu Picchu on the day of your choice. Visit the Pirwa Travel Service site here.
National Pisco Day
Because Peru needed an excuse to celebrate it twice, Pisco has two national holidays: Pisco Day on the 4th Sunday of July, and Pisco Sour Day on the 1st Saturday of February.
That means that Pisco Day falls on Sunday, July 24th this year, and Pirwa Hostels in Lima doesn´t need to be told twice! Drink will be flowing all over Lima, from half-priced drinks in bars and restaurants, to free drinks handed out by promoters in parks and plazas. The fountain in the Plaza Mayor will flow with Pisco instead of water on this day- last year, more than 2000Lt flowed through the fountain! Pisco is considered a part of the national heritage of Peru, so do your part and join Pirwa in a Lima Pub Crawl in celebration of Peruvian Pisco! (Yes, we have a bar inside the hostel, but this is an important day, just one bar won´t do…)
A Quick Pisco Primer
Pisco is a Peruvian grape brandy which originated along the Peruvian Coast. It´s one of Peru´s premier products and is only produced in Ica (in the Pisco Valley), Lima, Arequipa, Moquegua, and Tacna. Its distinguishing characteristic is that it´s the only brandy made from the pure juice of the grape as opposed to rehydrated, fermented, and distilled residual material (grape skins, pressings), giving it a more complex taste and aromatic structure.
The name comes from the Quechua term for the small seabirds along the Peruvian coast, from which the civilization of Pisco (more than 2000 years ago), town of Pisco, and port of Pisco ended up taking their names. The Pisco were known for their ceramics, and a vessel for storing drinks took its name from them, eventually becoming the name of the brandy stored in these vessels during the colonial period.
During the 16th and 17th centuries the Viceroyalty of Peru was South America´s main wine producer, with production centered in the Ica/Pisco Valley, but little by little grape brandy production also increased and was sold throughout Peru by the Jesuits. In 1580 a ransom was even paid to Sir Francis Drake of 300 grape brandy bottles in exchange for hostages taken from the Port of Pisco.
Pisco Cocktails- Get Mixing!
The most traditional cocktail and National Drink of Peru is Pisco Sour, a mix of Pisco, Lime Juice, Cane Syrup, Egg White, Ice, and Angostura Bitters (Aromatic Bitters). Other classic cocktails include:
Calentito: pisco with lemon and hot tea.
Canario: pisco with orange juice.
Capitán: aromatic pisco with vermouth.
Chilcano: aromatic pisco with ginger ale, angostura bitters (aromatic bitters), lime, and ice.
Melate: sweet wine and pisco.
Pisco Punch: pineapple, lime juice, sugar, acacia, distilled water.
Pucará´s Throat Slasher Ceremony
Despite the fascinating nature of the spectacle, it´s hard to find information online about Pucará´s Jatun Ñakaq Festival, otherwise known as the Throat-Slasher Festival or El Gran Degollador (The Great Decapitator). But if you´re in Puno between the 16th and 18th of June, maybe you´ll be lucky enough to witness it firsthand!
Much as the Inti Raymi festival is based around a theatrical ritual reenactment of ancient rites, locals in Pucará present an extraordinary scene as they reenact an ancient rite in a theatrical production involving hundreds of young actors directed by Ñaupa Riqchari (Let the Past Awake) Cultural Group. It takes place at the Kalasaya Ceremonial Center and Archeological Site in the Pucará District of Lampa Province in Puno.
You´ll notice that the pyramid site is decorated with carved stone trophy head borders- human sacrifices occurred in the ceremonial patio as offerings to the supreme god of the Pucará Civilization, the Decapitator. Long before the reign of the Inca, human sacrifices had a great value in society, although they were only resorted to in severe cases like drought. Today, locals congregate from Puno´s Quechua-speaking zone to enjoy the 4 hour theatrical show, which reaches its apex with a simulted human sacrifice.
Afterwards, all the blood cleaned up, there´ll be general partying and native dances will be on display. One of the most well-known is the beautiful Puli Puli, whose large smooth steps and leaps represent the stages of Quinua cultivation from sowing through flowering to harvest. Another typical dance is the Ayarachi (Soul Which Cries), a dance rising from the violent transitional period of the Spanish Conquest, when the Imperial City of Cusco tragically fell to Pizarro´s troops.
What To Bring Home
You´ll see them on rooftops all over the Andean High Plateau: the Pucará Bulls described by Puno writer Enrique Cuentas Ormachea as “an expression of baroque art and, at the same time, a manifestation of the magical religious spirit of the Qolla peasant.” An estimated 80% of locals are potters in addition to subsistence farmers, and the bulls are the most prized ceramics from Puno.
I couldn´t pick just one….and so we end with a herd of bulls….
Originally a ritual flask filled with chicha and cattle blood and drunk by the head priest during the cattle-branding ceremony, you´ll find guardian bulls adorning rooftops and providing luck for their residents.
After Pucará: Exploring the Rest of Puno
The Plan: Walk along the Ecotouristic Inca Seafront Bay (Malecón Ecoturístico Bahía de los Incas), a pedestrian path showcasing views of Lake Titicaca and pre-Inca solar clocks, or hitching posts of the sun known as sukankas or intihuatanas. Once at the harbor, stop into the Yaraví Ship Naval Museum, located inside the oldest single-propeller iron ship in the world, built in Britain, crossed the Andes in pieces on mule-back and then reassembled again in the Lake. When you´re ready to hit the waters of the lake itself, board a motorboat and stop by the traditional Quechua-speaking Islands of Amantani and Taquile, whose colorful weavings are considered the best in Peru and were proclaimed by UNESCO as “Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity” and the Floating Islands of Uros, whose Aymara-speaking Uros tribe (known as kot-suña, people of the lake) depend on the lake´s tortora reeds for housing, sustenance, and transport in addition to using them to build and maintain the islands themselves.
Just a 15 minute walk away from Lake Titicaca Harbor you´ll find Pirwa Hostel in Puno, managed by husband and wife team Jenny and Carlos. It´s also located only a couple blocks from the city center. For the same low prices available at Pirwa Hostels and B&Bs throughout Peru, you´ll have access to comfortable beds in cheery rooms, 24hr hot water, wifi throughout, reference maps and information as well as an in-house travel desk where you can get detailed answers to your questions and arrange tours or transport. While you´re out exploring Puno you can be sure that your possessions are secure and that someone from reception will be waiting for you- no matter the hour.
Today the celebrations for Machu Picchu´s Centennial have begun- Happy 100 years MaPi! National Geographic´s Mark Adams published an excellent article entitled “Top 10 Machu Picchu Secrets” for the magazine, whose involvement with early expeditions and excavations at the site are legendary. The list is summarized below, although you´ll need to check the National Geographic site if you would like to read the original text.
- It’s not really the Lost City of the Incas. When Hiram Bingham first arrived in Machu Picchu in 1911, he was searching for the Lost City of Vilcabamba, a hidden capital where the Inca took refuge during the Spanish Conquest. Machu Picchu became known as “The Lost City” because of Bingham´s erroneous belief that it was Vilcabamba- but, as it was inhabited when Bingham arrived, many contend that Machu Picchu was never forgotten.
- It´s buildings have survived being built atop 2 fault lines. While cities like Lima and Cusco have been leveled by earthquakes, Machu Picchu, straddling two fault lines, has survived seismic movements due to the precise polygonalstonework of its walls, whose stones shift during quakes and then fall back into place without the benefit of mortar.
- Most of the site´s construction work is underground. Much of the work for constructing Machu Picchu involvedleveling ground between two mountain peaks, which involved the movement of stone and earth and means that 60% of the site´s construction is underground, setting the foundation and providing drainage with crushed rocks.
- You can avoid train and entry costs by walking. You can avoid expensive train tickets and the bus and entry fees by walking along HiramBingham´s 1911 route overlooking Machu Picchu. This somewhat arduous trip back in time will take about 90minutes.
- There’s an ignored but excellent museum. About a ½ hour walkfrom Machu Picchu Pueblo/Aguas Calientes you´ll find the small butoutstanding Museo de Sitio Manuel Chávez Ballón (the Manuel Chávez Ballón Site Museum). For $8 you can tour exhibits explaining the reasons for and method of construction of Machu Picchu.
- There’s an alternative to Huayna Picchu Peak. Visitors frequently overnight in Machu Picchu Pueblo/Aguas Calientes in order to rise before the sun and be among those receiving limited entry to the trail climbing Huayna Picchu and win (after the fog clears) an overhead view of the site. However, on the opposite side of the
Sanctuary of Machu Picchu is another, almost always overlooked peak known as Machu Picchu Mountain. Its twice as tall (1640ft) but will earn you stunning views overlooking the Urubamba River looping around Machu Picchu.
- There’s an overlooked temple. Once you´ve reached the peak of Huayna Picchu, you can take the longer route for your descent, crossing the far side of the mountain where you´ll find an Incan ceremonial shrine known as the Temple of the Moon.
- There´s still much to discover. Machu Picchu´s surrounding cloud forests obscure side paths within the foliage, wherethere may be unknown trails and ruins- several recently fixed-up terraces are only just now being made available to the public.
- Its orientation was divinely inspired. Many visitors have understood the importance of the site´s orientation, which allows the intihuatana, or sun stone, to align with an arrow stone on Huana Picchu´s Peak to the north and with Salcantay´s Peak in the south as well as with solar movements- no small coincidence considering that the sun and mountains were important deities to the Incas.
- It might be a pilgrimage site. Italian archeoastronomer Giulio Magli has introduced a new theory hypothesizing that Machu Picchu was pilgrimage site, the end of a long journey beginning at the Island of the Sun in Lake Titicaca, echoing the journey of the mythical founder of the Inca Empire, Manco Capác, took.