Archive for March, 2012
The second annual Qosqo Mijuy (Cusco Eats) Food Fair & Competition is right around the corner, coming on April 5th and 6th! The fair was inaugurated last year with the hopes of conserving the local tradition of preparing 12 dishes for Holy Week, and was a rousing success with more than 10,000 people stopping by to sample the food. Renowned national chefs will be taking part, coming from Puno, Tacna, Arequipa, Lima, and Ica, as well as international chefs from Columbia, Mexico, and Bolivia. Dishes will focus on fish, sea food, and regional ingredients.
The event takes place in the Jardín de la Cerveza (Beer Garden), which is located on Avenida de la Cultura, just 5 minutes from Cusco’s Main Square, the Plaza de Armas. This is your chance to sample traditional regional dishes as well as dishes from Novo Andina, or New Andean Fusion, cuisine. Visitors can enjoy dishes such as fried trout with soltero, spicy fish escabeche, corn soup, corn soup, yuyo soup, stews of Andean lupin, trout cakes, clam soup, and candies made from loquat, fig, peach, and melon, and empanadas.
The fair will be divided into two sections, aside from the food stands there will also be a travelling market selling products such as trout, scad, anchovy, as well as products from the small subsistence farms which decorate the surrounding countryside, the Sacred Valley, of Cusco. Products are sold in the market, known as “Leading the Change”, at specially lowered prices as a special service, as in years prior to the event prices for important products would hike during Holy Week, scandalizing locals.
We’re keeping an eye out for Magdalena Zambrano, who won for best dessert in Peru’s largest food fair and competition, Mistura. She’ll be presenting traditional picarones along with mashua picarones and mango. But we’ll be bringing healthy appetites and hope to sample a range of dishes. Any of you planning on stopping by as well, remember to go early early early…because crowds begin arriving quickly and lines can get long.
As you know, Pirwa Hostels has FOUR locations in Cusco, and we’d like to get a group going! If you’re interested in stopping by, why not stop by reception and ask them when and where they’d like to pool people together for a little fieldtrip.
A Peculiar Breed: The World’s Smoothest Ride
The Peruvian Stepping horse developed in the northern regions of Peru through 400 year process of isolation and selective breeding using Spanish and Berber breeds of horses which were originally introduced during the period of the Spanish Conquest and the beginning of the colonial period. It is instantly recognizable by its peculiar and elegant gait a side-stepping method consisting of a series of synchronized movements of the front and hind legs in a parallel. Where other horses trot when moving at medium-speed, the compact and muscular Peruvian Paso horse employs this 4-beat lateral step, known as the paso llano.
This unique movement makes riding these horses a comfortable experience of smooth horizontal swaying, rather than both vertical and horizontal as in the case of other horses. The unique rhythm of the walk allows the Peruvian Paso Horse to be used as well in dance shows and competitions, where the man is on horseback and the woman on foot, and they dance the traditional dance of the Peruvian coast, the graceful Marinera.
The first Peruvian Stepping Horse Contest was held in June of 1929 in the Amancaes Pampa, with the first annual National Contest being held in April of 1945. The annual National Show in Lima is a major event in Peruvian cultural life, and is in reality, a weeklong festival. Beginning on Monday, horses and riders compete in different categories during the day and parties celebrating the music and cuisine of the Peruvian coast are thrown in the evenings. During Sunday’s closing ceremony, you can sample the different dishes of Peru in a food fair while watching the prize ceremony in which the best Peruvian stepping horses in the country demonstrate their abilities and the parade in which the horses and chalanes file to the marinera rhythm of coastal Peru. There’s also be Creole music and folkloric dances. The highlight is the IV National Marinera on Horse and Foot Contest, where the men dance on horseback and the women on foot.
When: This year, the LXVII National Peruvian Stepping Horse Contest kicks off on Monday, April 15th and culminates the following Sunday. Entrance is free for all days except for Sunday’s closing ceremony on April 22nd.
Where: The event takes place at the Mamacona stables near the pre-Inca ruins of Pachacámac. It’s located 19 miles south of Lima.
How: There are ranches which offer a visit to their facilities and lesson on the history of the horses, their characteristics, and training information along with visits to watch the National Contest, with a dinner or lunch included. If you’re staying in Miraflores you can get picked up, with daily departures at around 10:00am and also 3:00pm. If you’re interested in the arranging of a package, you can always stop by Pirwa Travel Service, which has information counters in both of our Miraflores hostels: Pirwa Prada Backpackers and Pirwa Inclan B&B.
When it comes to a comfortable and affordable place a stay during your travels in Lima, you can find budget-friendly private rooms or shared dormitory accomodations in both of our Pirwa locations, always with cheery colors, a warm atmosphere, comfy beds, and hot water. Not to mention that communal spaces from bars to rooftop patios give you plenty of space to get to know other travelers from around the world. Pirwa Hostels has it’s own travel agency which serves our clients, Pirwa Travel Service, which can assist you with guided excursions and packages as well as separate trip elements such as transport and entrances. And since we have hostel locations in Lima, Cusco, Puno, Arequipa, Nazca, and Machu Picchu in Peru and La Paz in Bolivia, and serve our clients with unforgettable tours and treks throughout both these countries, it’s easy to get your whole itinerary taken care of in one place.
Holy Week is fast approaching! During this time, Cusco is a very popular destination for domestic and international travelers, as the erstwhile Imperial City of the Incas celebrates the event in its own Andean-Catholic style, notably with feasting, folkloric music and dance, processions of the Black Christ.
Left to Right: Palm Sunday Dance Troupe, Crowd Watching the Dancers
The syncretism of pre-Columbian Andean beliefs and Catholicism makes Cusco’s Holy Week unlike any other you’ll see. The day starts with mass in Cusco’s ornate Basilica Cathedral. In the Plaza de Armas of Cusco, the city’s main square, religious reenactments are followed by folkloric dances whilst vendors circle with their wares which promise good fortune.
Sample guinea pig and other dishes at the Festival de Sabor Andino (Festival of Andean Flavor) in the main square of the district of San Jeronimo, including Holy Week’s most traditional eats: roast suckling pig with Peruvian potatoes, tamales, and large rounds of ch’uta bread.
Holy Monday: Cusco’s Lord of Tremors
Monday of each Holy Week, the Lord of Tremors is taken out from the Cathedral of Cusco in procession with musicians and devotees, while the faithful strew purple ñucchu petals, which in ancient times were used as an offering to Inca gods but now are said to symbolize the blood of Christ.
Originally christened as Lord of Good Death upon its arrival to Cusco, it was long forgotten in an altar in the Chapel interior, darkening over time by the resinous nature of its construction materials, and the smoke of candles and incense. On Palm Sunday, 1650 an earthquake of devastating magnitude ravaged the city, tumbling temples, convents, and estates. The initial quake, believed for a long time afterwards to have been the world’s most severe on record, was followed by an unceasing stream of aftershocks over the following days. As buildings damaged in the initial quake crumbled during the aftershocks, the faithful carried out processions seeking forgiveness, carrying different virgins and saints, with women covering their faces covered in ash as a form of punishment against their own vanity and the men dragging heavy chains which wrapped about their necks as they bargained for salvation, but the aftershocks continued.
It was not until the Christ was taken out in procession and placed in the Plaza de Armas to be adored that the aftershocks ceased, giving birth to the cult of the Lord of Tremors, also often referred to as the Black Christ, who became the city’s patron saint.
In Cusco the processions continue to this day each Holy Monday. Some of the faithful believes that the color of their indigenous Christ darkens as he realizes miracles, and that the weight of the litter which the most devoted bear is the weight of the sins one carries, and that his face will express the nature of the coming year. 60 thousand devotees gather to receive his blessings.
Left to Right: Easter Spread in Pirwa Colonial, Dining Together in Pirwa Colonial
On Good Friday, the Hampirantikuy Market springs up to sell medicinal plants and plants for good fortune or of religious significance and devotees walk the Stations of the Cross from Plaza San Francisco to the Lord’s Cross in Sacsayhuaman Archeological Complex, the Inca fortress of the giant stones overlooking Cusco. Unlike other places, Cusco does not celebrate this day with fasting, but with feasting. The tradition is to prepare 12 dishes.
Holy Week in Cusco fills up FAST, but Pirwa Hostels has four different locations in Cusco, so we’ve still got availability!
For an unbeatable view of the dancing and processions, try the Pirwa Posada del Corregidor! The in-house restaurant, Plus Café, has balconies overlooking the Plaza de Armas of Cusco, which is a great way to see the happenings without jostling for a spot at street level. (The photo at right was actually taken during the Inti Raymi Festival, but it’s a good representation of the way the plaza fills up during festivals, and the view from the Plus Café balcony.) Pirwa Suecia B&B, located a half block from the Plaza de Armas, is good spot if you wish to be close to the action.
If you’re looking for shared dormitories and fun common areas that include a bar and lounge with billiards, darts, ping-pong and more, then try Pirwa Colonial Backpackers. Pirwa San Blas Familiar would be a great choice as well, as it’s located in the bohemian neighborhood of San Blas 4 blocks up from the Plaza de Armas. Besides its picturesque nature, this area also boasts a concentration of artists’ galleries and studios, which during Holy Week will go into overdrive displaying unique and colorful wares during art fairs.
For Catholics, the feast day of St Patrick on March 17th celebrates the arrival of Christianity in Ireland. In countries around the globe the day has become synonymous with Irish national pride. Even though this isn’t a holiday which is celebrated very widely in Peru, Pirwa has always sought to be a gathering place for travelers from all over the world, and we’d never miss a reason to throw a party!
Celebrants often wear shamrocks or the color green, as the color became associated with St Patrick’s Day because St Patrick used the three-leaved shamrock to explain the trinity.
Parades are common in many countries, and the lifting of Lenten restrictions on eating and drinking alcohol means that revelers often feast and drink a good amount of Irish beer (dyed green if you want to go there!) or whiskey.
Plans at Pirwa Hostels are well-underway for our annual St. Patrick’s Day party at Pirwa Colonial Backpackers on the 17th. There’ll be irish specials throughout the week, and those of you who are Irish can sidle up to the bar for a welcome drink on the house.
Pirwa Colonial Backpackers is located in Plaza San Francisco, only two blocks from the Plaza de Armas of Cusco, the city’s main square, and you can expect things to be starting around 9:00pm.
We hope that all our backpacking friends, Irish and otherwise, join us for our St Patrick’s Day celebrations this year!
The town known officially as Machu Picchu Pueblo and colloquially as Aguas Calientes sprung up as a base for visitors to Machu Picchu Archeological Complex. It’s a vibrant and bustling one-street town set in an overwhelmingly beautiful natural environment. Due to its desirable location near the ruins but very small size, the question is often asked: After Machu Picchu, what am I supposed to do in Aguas Calientes?
Well, if you have extra time before or after your visit to the ruins of Machu Picchu, there are several things you can do in order to take advantage of that. After all, this is part of the protected area known as Machu Picchu Sanctuary, whose high-altitude rainforest boasts hundreds of exotic bird, butterfly, and orchid species.
Here are our suggestions:
You’ll find the small, often-overlooked, but excellent Manuel Chávez Ballón Site Museum at the base of the footpath that to leads to Machu Picchu, about a 25 minute walk from Aguas Calientes. If you have time, it’s a recommendable stop in order to learn about the construction and purpose of Machu Picchu as well the history of the area’s archaeological excations and what they found. You’ll be able to examine maps and video presentations as well as some artifacts (just the ones which remained after Hiram Bingham took the bulk to Yale University), so this is a great way to gain some context for what you’ll be seeing at the ruins. The museum also boasts its own Botanical Garden, a great stop for Machu Picchu Historical Sanctuary protects not just the Inca ruins, but also a high Andean rainforest whose plantlife includes more than 90 classes and 200 species of orchids as well as native trees such as the pisonay, aliso, puya, and q’eofia trees.
The protected area known as Machu Picchu Historical Sanctuary also boasts more than a hundred distinct butterflies. At the Butterfly House, just a 15 minute walk along the footpath from town that leads to Machu Picchu, you can examine some of these striking species up close during a 15 to 20 minute guided visit that costs S/.10.00 (soles). Currently the tour is only available in Spanish.
A longer, 2 hour, walk along the same path will take you to privately-owned Mandor Gardens & Waterfalls where for a fee of S/.10.00 (soles) you can explore its rainforest paths, in search of rare orchids and exotic birds. There’s also a small waterfall and a few small ruins but the paths do not lead to the ruins. If you’re not up for the walk, you might be able to catch a cab to Mandor. Or, along the same path but much closer, near the Ruinas Bridge, you can visit the Ecological Center and explore their own rainforest paths.
One popular spot, and the reason why the town became known as Aguas Calientes, is the hotsprings. Especially for tired trekkers who have been walking for days to arrive at the town, these sulfurous thermal baths are a soothing stop just 15 minutes from town. The pools vary between approx. 38 and 46 degrees Celsius. You should remember that swimsuits, sandals, and towels are mandatory, but if you forgot yours there are items available for rent.
If your guide book suggests climbing Putucusi (Happy Mountain) for a view of Machu Picchu, we’re sorry but this is no longer possible. A recent and difficult rainy season washed the ladders away and damaged part of the trail.
Pirwa Hostels has two locations in Aguas Calientes, Pirwa Machu Picchu Backpacker and Pirwa Machu Picchu B&B. We’re close to the train station, which is why we like to send someone from the hostel to come help guests with their bags and to the hostel. No matter which locale you choose, you’ll have access to comfy beds and 24 hour hot water, as well as internet and wifi and a locale to store your luggage should you need a place to leave things while exploring the ruins of Machu Picchu or the town of Aguas Calientes. The continental breakfast is not only included, but it can be served in the early hours for those of you looking to get a head start on your Machu Picchu adventure. We hope that you’ll stop by during your trip to Machu Picchu!