MARCH 2011 NEWSPAPER COLUMN

BUCKET LIST TRAVEL TALES
ADVENTURE #1


Most of us have a “bucket list”, or a ‘to do’ list for our lives, with all the travel adventures we plan to have some day. But let’s be honest with each other, have you made much progress checking off the items on your list? If you haven’t checked off many, or even started on any, this column will help by showing you that even the wild items on your list can be done now in a reasonable amount of time and, more importantly for a lot of us, for a reasonable amount of money. You can start on your list, and Bucket List Travel can help you with your journey. For the seasoned travelers out there, we’ll share our past adventures and hopefully give you a few new ideas to add to your bucket list.

This world is a vast and varied place and we want to share some of the interesting sights, sounds, festivals and fun that we have experienced in our travels throughout the years. We hope you will enjoy reading this column in the months to come, and just maybe interest and motivate you to start asking the questions that will start your own adventure.

In this month’s column, we’ll be checking the Inti Raymi Festival off of our Bucket List. I have been lucky enough to experience the sights and sounds of this highly colourful festival several times and it never disappoints. Inti Raymi festivities culminate on June 24 to celebrate the winter solstice. It was a religious festival of the Incan empire to honour the god Inti, one of the most popular gods in all of the Incan religion. The festival was halted in 1572 after the Spanish conquest when the Catholic Church prohibited it. The first re-enactment was held in 1944 and today it is the second largest festival behind Carnival in Rio de Janeiro.

Having been in Cuzco for a few days and noticing the population swelling we are eager to join in the festivities. Our journey begins after breakfast and a hot cup of coca tea. As a group, we head to the Quorikancha temple to stake out our spot in the large crowds forming on the main street. Aly our guide rents several benches for the group to stand on, to get a better view of the procession as it moves out of the temple and into the grounds below. Once the Sapa Inca receives greetings from the sun the procession slowly moves through the parting crowds up Avenida Del Sol towards the main square.

Hundreds of volunteer actors are chosen throughout the upcoming year to represent the four sectors of the Tahuantinsuyu or Incan empire. The most sought after roles being that of Sapa Inca and his wife Mama Ocala. All of the actors wear colourful, detailed costumes and re-enact dances and activities that are indigenous to their area. One group of women sweep the street to clear it of evil spirits in front of The Sapa Inca and Mama Ocala who are carried in large replica thrones of gold and silver on the shoulders of their loyal male subjects.

After stopping around the main plaza, the procession continues past the crowds and our front row street corner view that provides us with some great photo opportunities. They continue the 2 km uphill route to the Incan fortress and ruins of Sacsayhuaman. Arriving at Sacsayhuaman with the thousands of other tourist and locals, we are quickly ushered off the bus, handed our boxed lunches and shown into the fortress to find our bleacher seats for the ceremonies.

Settled into our seats, we eagerly tuck into our neatly packed lunches of quinoa crusted chicken, quinoa salad, passion fruit tarts, and much more than we can ever finish in one sitting. By this time, the hillsides around the site are filling with locals anxious to catch a glimpse of the ceremonies. Most can’t afford the ticket cost or are generally just not allowed to purchase the tickets, Why is this?? Interestingly, one year the police even went as far as to rope of access to the hillside, and were met by a surprised and indignant crowd who simply removed the ropes and proceeded to settle on the hillside. When we ask our local friends about this, they nonchalantly reply, “that’s just the way it is here.”

As we all await the procession to stream into the grounds and start the proceedings, some of us are a little uneasy with our centre stage view. We have never been given a clear answer as to how “real “the re-enactment of the sacrificial white llama is. As gasps and squeals are heard from the stage, as well as from the audience, many eyes shift away. The High Priest proudly displays the llama’s heart in honour of Pachamama or Mother Earth. He closely examines the blood and health of the heart to predict the future for the Inca and their crops during the upcoming year. After lifting the large golden ceremonial cheecha vessels to the gods, Sapa Inca and the four leaders of the Suyu’s loud toasts ring out across the field and the ceremony is concluded.

At the conclusion of the ceremony, we head across the field, walking past hundreds of local families, roasting cui (guineas pigs) and passing around the local corn beer cheecha. The towns people offer to sell us many exotic treats and souvenirs. And we can’t help wondering what would be best to eat as it all looks so good. I’ll let you in on a secret, the popcorn and large chunks of coconut in a brown sugar fudge type patty are awesome must haves for me. Navigating the boisterous crowds back to the bus and people filled parking lot is an adventure on its own. Later that evening, we meet with Aly to dine at one of my favourite restaurants located on the main square, The Inca Grill. Once there, our group enjoys Peru’s national drink, the Pisco Sour, and eats local delicacies such as vermicelli soup, roasted cui, aji de gallina, chicharrones and of course coca crème brulee for dessert. As a fitting way to end our long and exciting day, and enormous dinner, we’re then treated to some traditional music and dancing; feel free to join in!

Adios from the Cuzco. The adventure continues next month on Safari in Africa to cross the next item off of our Bucket List.

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