John and I headed to Ayacucho this past weekend. I was told this is considered a handicraft city (I’m all about the handicrafts!); well known for it’s ceramics, embroidery and especially for its retablos. (These are little boxes which depict either religious, historic or everyday life). The city is also well known for its 33 churches (1 for each year of Jesus life) and at Semana Santa (Easter Holy Week) the city is especially well known for its religious ceremonies (code for it’s a mad house!) Ayacucho was part of the trade route; Lima to Rio (via Ayacucho, Cusco, Puno, La Paz, Rio), so lots of history in the area and the last tidbit; the Shining Path was located in this area. Interesting area for us both!
retablo at the airport
news stands are retablos and us in a small retablo frame!
An easy flight; (side note – short runway plopped right on top of the flattest part of the mesa that could be found; when we left we had inches to spare to leave the runway to get into the air). Taxi into the city, our driver told us he would be happy to drive us to the Wari dig and Quinua area on Saturday, perfect – and it’s a chance to practice our Spanish (both listening and speaking!) We wonder around the Plaza de Armas on Friday and catch a little parade (I love a parade!) Not sure what the parade was all about, but it was small kids holding onto lighted objects (stars, I thought I saw a Nemo), the parade goes a few times around the plaza, music and then head off into another direction. It’s sunny and warm, able to eat dinner outside overlooking the Plaza, couldn’t have asked for a better start to our little holiday.
Saturday we’re up early, again breakfast outside on the balcony (can life get any better?) Another spin around the Plaza (I’m hot to find a Museum of Handicrafts which we see on the map is near by. Twice around the plaza and we see no signs of it at all, to my huge disappointment.) But another parade; this time it looks like more a sporting event/team competition. Lots of schools, mascots, noise makers, drums. You know, general chaos. Again around the Plaza and off to??? While waiting for our driver, I check out the quinoa ice-cream. It’s a “thing” in Ayacucho. The local ladies set up shop on the weekends along one side of the plaza; creamy, sweet, cold. Very delicious!
Quinoa ice-cream and the makers
First stop is the Wari archeological dig. S/3 entrance fee ($2.00 for us total) and directed to the museum on site. I love these small, slightly quirky museums! The museum is all in Spanish (this is when I’m slightly bummed we didn’t take a tour to the site so understand a bit more of what we’re looking at). But that being said, both of our Spanish has improved that we can read more than 50% of the descriptions and understand the displays. The Wari people were before the Incas, also covered a large territory (like the Inca), huge culture of influence on weaving and ceramics, and elaborate burial rituals; 500 AD till about 1100 AD when the next civilization comes (Chankas) and then it’s the Incas (1350 AD). After our tour of the museum we wonder around the archeological ruins; saw a huge slab stone used for sacrifices (I wasn’t sure if it was for humans or animals – but wasn’t sure I really wanted to know!). We came upon a big area, slightly underground divided up into little rooms, plus what looks like a small cave a bit higher up – maybe group housing? Come to find out it’s a burial, the people are buried in fetal positions with all of their worldly possessions (which because of the very dry area has preserved many textiles/ceramics/basketry). Very interesting.
from the museum at the Wari dig
from the dig; the stone slab sacrifice table, one of the digs being worked on, the burial site, and view of the Wari dig
We head onto Quinua to Pampa de Quinua; there’s a big monument here in the middle of a large empty field (the monument is where the Battle of Ayacucho took place against Spain in 1824, which won Peru’s independence, evidently a very bloody encounter – Ayacucho means “bloody corner” in Quechan.) Huge wide open spaces (pampa does mean after all huge, wide open spaces!), a little stand of restaurants (didn’t try – next time!) and a stand of artists. Very local – essentially I think we might be the only tourists there (though many locals around). As we’re walking over to the monument a group of 3 young men come running up to us and proceed to interview us for a little survey. Come to find out they are looking into “glamping” for this area (even said the word glamping – it’s a real thing!) Tents, organic meals, some adventure hiking/horse riding/waterfalls/transportation, all for $70 a night. I hope it works out for them. The monument is lovely, for a mere S/2 (less than a $1) we’re able to enter the monument and tour the bottom for a little bit of history (the monument has been made 3 times), plus we could climb up and get a great view. Well worth every bit of S/2! Next stop Plaza de Armes in Quinua; known for the their ceramics. The plaza is small, not very touristy. But we’re able to wander around and buy a few ceramics. I see on the top of a quite a few roofs, what looks like to be a little church out of ceramics. I understand that the church on top of your roof means the house is occupied, no church the house is abandoned.
the monument area of Quinua
the Plaza da Armas of Quinua – note the little church on top of the roof
Back to the town of Ayacucho. We wonder around a bit more – find a handicraft area (yea!) in which I was able to part with a bit of money and then a walk back to the Plaza with yet another parade (folkloric this time – all in traditional costume).
Sunday we wake up to another sunny day (I could get use to these sunny days) and yet one more parade. This time slightly more military in feel, though many schools marched; school of doctors, school of ecology, engineers, though there was also what looked like a kindergarten marching, what looked like troops of girl guides (though I know that’s not the right word), plus many Quechua (local indigenous population) ladies and gentleman. All carrying signs (though not up high, but rather more flat – good thing I was seeing the parade from up above, but still couldn’t puzzle out what the banners were saying or more importantly the why!
The only slight hiccup in our get away; LATAM decided not to fly us home that afternoon. We never did understand the reason why – the plane did come out, but maybe too windy (which I could understand – not much leeway on the runway!) One more night in the city and out the next day (early afternoon).
a few of the many churches in Ayacucho
and a few details of the city, the vulture on the bull was a big deal. Not sure what the significance was!
A very fun weekend away. No big plans for this weekend. Friends coming in next weekend (yea!)