Even the most meticulously planned trips often meet with hiccups, especially when traveling in more remote areas. Thus, as probability would imply, it was perhaps inevitable that someone would fall ill. To give that student a chance to recover, therefore, she and one chaperone remained behind in Urubamba for an extra day. As the only guests of the hotel that day, they were the sole responsibility of the extremely solicitous staff: each encounter included an inquiry into the student’s health. A lazy day of reading and walking the hotel gardens was punctuated with meals personally prepared by the hotel staff.
The rest of the group, however, had a much more active day. First, they took the bus to the potato farming village of Paru Paru. Greeted with drums and flowers by the incredibly welcoming farmers, the group was given a two-hour lecture and demonstration on potato cultivation, all in Quechua and ably translated by Victoria.
After a brief time shopping in the local market, filled with hyperlocal productions, the group hiked even higher up the hillside to see the potato greenhouses. Here, they sampled many of the types grown in the ancestral homeland of the potato. To even further experience the local culture, the group was now dressed in native clothing. A much higher trek brought them to an Andean priestess, who welcomed them. Later in the afternoon, the priestess performed a rite of thanksgiving, involving coca leaves, miscellaneous offerings to the mountains (including everything from candy to potatoes), and a guinea pig fetus. All were wrapped in a package and then burned in a fire. While the group had to walk away from the fire without looking back, the priestess continued chanting for many minutes. Turning around would taint the offering. After changing out of their local garb, the students retreated to cabins in the village for a cold night’s sleep.
That’s not all, though! Special guest blogger Reilly would like to add the following sonnet about her Andean experience:
Half an hour we walked the height of the hill.
At the top is where we gathered round stone.
The Andean Priestess knelt in the still
Of the mountains where the wind does not moan.
Three times, she poured the wine back to the earth.
We greeted the sacred mountains with awe.
To the flick of wine, we named our hills of dearth.
Stone Mountain, Pace Mountain, in spirit law.
Like the Priestess, we spilt the wine when done.
Then we chose three coca leaves from a cloth.
We told the leaves our woes, they did not shun.
She blessed the leaves and put them back in swath.
She said lighting struck her twice, then she read.
I could not help but believe her instead.
PS: Mr Player ain’t got nothin’ on me!