Sun. 11/2/14  El Dia de Los Muertos (the Day of the Dead)

Unfortunately, I woke up this morning to Loretta still feeling very ill and throwing up.  She still apparently has that dreadful high altitude headache, but was also sick to her stomach.  Not sure if that is the altitude or all of the fried stuff that Pilar called our dinner last night.  That was the first time that my whole dinner was fried.  My tummy was not thrilled this morning either.

Today was my quick day-trip tour of the Sacred Valley.  What fun!  It was an all day thing, beginning at the MN office at 7:15, when I was scheduled to be picked up by a tour bus.  Funny thing about these tour busses… Again.  As this one once again made the rounds just like yesterday’s bus, to pick up additional folks.  A bigger circle, and to different locations, and the truly funny thing is that at almost all the stops the same young woman (with the super fancy painted fingernails) was there with a different set of tourists.  She must’ve really run to get from The Avenida to Quoricancha, and then to the Plaza, and then we took her to another spot, where she was dropped off and we picked up a few more of her “clients?”.  And then how she got to the last stop is completely unknown to me, as it was right on the north edge of town at a series of Hostels and Hospedajes, and she was there again, right on the street, waiting with another couple of people when we got there.  Amazing!  So we finally left the greater Cusco are at about 10 after 8:00.  I guess that’s how it’s done here:  just keep adding tourists to the list as you find them, and radio the bus to go pick them up.
We started off at a large marketplace that really wasn’t open yet this morning when we got there, but the market at Pisac was definitely open and going full blast when we got there.  With its absolute sensory overloading brilliantly colored bolsas, chompas, and bufandas, as well as all of the jewelry, paintings, wood crafts, and ceramics, the sights, sounds, and smells were somewhat overwhelming and disorienting underneath all of the white plastic umbrellas and tarps.  It was pretty crazy after we had our lesson in “Alpaca adult wool, Baby Alpaca, and Maybe Alpaca” pun definitely intended by all Peruvians.  It was interesting to learn that most of the items that are sold as Alpaca in the tiendas in Cusco and the other little towns, really truly have very little Alpaca at all (maybe 10%), and that Baby Alpaca is the softest and heaviest weave and most desireable in knits.  But is also the most expensive.  I got a goro, a small knit cap.
We went to an Alpaca farm or Zoo of sorts, where we learned the difference between the actual animals:  the two different kinds of adult Alpaca (long and short hair), and Llama, and one other that has even finer wool.  Apparently within the hour before we got there, a little black baby llama was born, and I got to see it make its first three tries at standing, then we had to get back on the bus and go.
In Pisac, we also were educated regarding silver and the fine jewelry-making process, and they had lots of pretty things at the first little “authentic” silver smith shop in their mercado.  They don’t want their tourists to go away uneducated, that is for sure!  And that way they kindof have a captive audience in their store once they have provided the education, a bit like the silk carpet making industry in Turkey.
The Pisac Ruins were neat, but Ollantaytambo was the highlight of my day.  I would’ve liked to have stayed longer, and explored more.  The town looked pretty charming, and there was another free trail zigzagging up the side of the mountain opposite the popular ruins, to the colcas, or store houses.  But after our wonderful buffet lunch, we needed to get on the road pretty quickly to make it back to Cusco in time, especially because we had so many places to go for the lunches and for leaving a few people at their hotels in the Sacred Valley area.  Our buffet lunch had such a terrific variety of vegetables, lots of different vegetables (more than I’ve seen in one place since being here), and roasted corn kernels, potatoes, bread, and fruit.  There was a bunch of meat and a pasta bar of sorts too, so I had plenty of shredded Parmesan cheese on top of all of my food.
It was raining guinea pigs and llamas, as they say here in Peru, while we were making the 2 hour drive back to Cusco, but it had only just begun sprinkling here in the city when I was dropped off in little Kuyupata Plaza.  So I pretty much scrambled up the hill to San Blas and got home before it really started to come down.  Then it only rained for a few minutes so far tonight.
I returned home to find Loretta saying that she feels a bit better, but still in bed, and a new volunteer is here from Minnesota, and she went right to bed and snores like a trumpet.  Goodness, I don’t know how she can sleep with all of the ruckus!  Good thing I have earplugs, And maybe my iPod.  I am not even sleepy yet tonight, although I really should be since I was up between 2 and 4 this morning with Loretta being so terribly ill.
I just realized that I did not reference El Dia de Los Muertos at all after my title.  Today was the day that Peru, and I think almost all other Latin American countries, celebrated their deceased friends and relatives.  There were tons of people in the cemeteries of the small towns that we went to, and the celebration also caused somewhat of a rush-hour last night on the outskirts of Cusco, when everyone who had walked long ways to get to their respective cemeteries or family homes, needed to thumb a ride home in the rain.  There were so many people on the streets trying to hitch a ride on our tour bus, And way more cars on the road than on the usual Sunday evening, per our tour guide, Eloi.  Driver was Jimmi.  they both did a great job for us, and for the economy of the small towns we visited by taking us to certain tiendas where we were given a “discount”. :-)
   

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