Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Bricher@s, Adventures, and Soup

{{Princesas que buscan tipos que colecionar}}

That quote pretty much sums up the idea of "bricher@s": Peruvians, either guys or girls (hence the @) that go after foreign men and women to have relationships with them simply for their money. I haven't had any encounters with those yet, but the other night as we were walking home with my friend and his host siblings, a group of bricheras started talking loudly about how he'd be a "good catch". Oh goodness!

Fortunately, since bricher@s really aren't common in Urubamba (you'd have to watch out for them more in Lima or Cusco), I've been able to enjoy quite a few adventures to the surrounding area during my first two weeks here. Our first weekend the entire group--Leah, Agnes, David, Brian, Tugce, Michaela, Maddie, Liz, and I--went to the Ollantaytambo ruins, Pisac ruins, and the Pisac market. This Sunday we all went to the Pisac ruins, the Pisac market, and the Ollantaytambo ruins, which were all amazing!! I'm so impressed by what the Incas were able to accomplish with limited technology and a simple drive to make the best for their gods. The religious sites were always high up on the mountaintops because the Incas wanted their temples to be closer to the realms of the gods. That is also where they put their tombs (which we saw at the Pisac ruins) because they believed that if they did so, the condor, the symbol of the gods' life, would then swoop down and carry them to heaven. They have 3 main lives they think of: the gods' (condor), the now life (puma), and the afterlife (snake). I bought a cool ring in the Pisac market with all three of those in silver with a few stones from the area.

The Pisac market was really fun but also quite overwhelming...I'm definitely going to go back there more towards the end of my stay when I have the definite idea of exactly what I want because there is just so much everywhere! And all the stall owners trying to get you to buy their products and if you even make a move towards something of theirs, or even gesture towards it with an eyebrow, they rush to assure you that it's pure alpaca or hand made or the finest quality silver. I didn't really get a lot of photos there because there were a lot of people wandering around asking you to take photos of them for money and I didn't want them to all swoop down upon me.

I think I preferred Ollantaytambo because it was more impressive, grander where Pisac was more spread out. Ollantaytambo was an unfinished temple when the Spaniards came and then the Incans abandoned it and the Spaniards used some of the stones to buid their own churches. Pisac was already a working temple when the Spaniards came; they then took a lot of the stones to use for churches. I now can't wait to see Machu Picchu, since the Spaniards never got to that temple and never managed to destroy it!!

This past weekend Liz, Michaela, Maddie, and I had a ProPeru trip to Cusco where we had a guided tour of the Saqsayhuman, Q'enqo, Pukapukara, and Tamboachay ruins around the city. We had tours with ProPeru these first two weekends because the tourist boletos only are good for 10 days. I, personally, had more fun on that tour of the ruins than I had the weekend before because our guide didn't run us from one section of the ruins to the next, but instead stopped and explained different meanings and symbolism. It didn't seem to be her goal to move us from one ruin to the next at lightning speed, but instead let us enjoy them. Saqsayhuman gave us an amazing view of all of Cusco sprawled below; it was used for religious festivals over which presided the Inca (who was actually the king) and his wife. Q'enqo was a special religious site that united the three elements of condor, puma, and snake in one place with underground caves, high rocks, and an open, circular plaza. Pukapukara was where people coming through the area would give tribute of crops to the Inca and his wife; these were planted throughout various areas in the Sacred Valley. Tambomachay consisted of beautiful ritual baths of the Incas that used spring water to purify and cleanse mind, body, and spirit.

Of course, we couldn't be in Cusco without wandering around the town a little bit. We spent the night before in a hostel in Plaza San Blas, just up the road from Plaza de Armas, and spent those two days gorging ourselves on "American-style" food (no more soup for lunch! No more chicken and rice!). Our bodies, however, were not supremely pleased by that sudden change...all three of us did not feel entirely 100% after Friday dinner and retired after looking around Plaza de Armas a little bit. Saturday we had lots of time to explore the city before we were taken back to Urubamba, so we wandered through a book market where I found beautiful editions of books by one of my favorite authors, Mario Vargas Llosa, got ice cream on La Avenida del Sol, and people-watched from a cafe balcony above the Plaza.

Sunday we had our last big outing with our boletos: the four of us hiked 13 km from the highway bus stop to the Inca test gardens of Moray. I thought we weren't going to make it at one point about half-way through when it started pouring rain as we climbed steep, hilly road after steep, hilly road. One taxi driver stopped and told us that we really should take a taxi up because it was far and hilly, but Maddie told him we were "mujeres fuertes" (strong women) and he backed away quickly. Moray was stunning; I could not believe that the Incas had known that they could create different climates to test different crops. The scale was phenomenal and we even got to take our tired little legs all the way to the bottom to be completely surrounded by circular terrace after circular terrace spiraling up, up, up.

That's the low-down on my non-stove adventures for now. I'm off to enjoy lunch with my family...first course, of course, being soup, followed by some insane amount of rice, potatoes, and meat. No meal is complete without at least three different types of starch!!

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