Thursday, July 16, 2009

Day 7 - Ayacucho, My Kind of City

Precursor for the day: I can not upload pictures in the fifteen minutes of Internet time I somehow squeeze into the day´s activities. Having said that, I leave my words for you to decipher through what I am sure is a vivid imagination.

Speaking of which, your imagination might haver predicted a few events through yesterday´s "to be continued" entry. At 5 am, we started seeing a few more cars and people on the streets. The boys wanted to see if a nearby hotel would let us in. I was certain the place would be closed. Fortunately, I was wrong.

La Colmena was not quite as charming as the other places I have stayed at. Nevertheless, there were three beds and we were sleep-deprived. I closed my eyes and sank into my sleeping bag. Five hours later, the day began. The shower had hot water - it was such a luxury that I didn´t mind the scalding heat or the aftermath of peely dry skin.

Ayacucho is a mix of European small-town crossed with emerging metropolis. Cobblestone roads in narrow alleys pave the way for Maruti Suzukis and autorickshaws. At the laundromat, we met an American who suggested a vegetarian restaurant, tucked away in one of downtown´s many alleys. The brunch was delicious, though not quite meeting my standards from my first Peruvian meal at Villa Natura. Salud y Vida had its fair share of veggie variety.

Even though it was a Monday, people were everywhere. The elderly women were selling plump mandarins, the color of a rich sunset. Little girls were getting their shoes shined while other children laughed and tugged each other on their way back from school. Two boys were stumbling along with a large rectangular carton covering their heads and torsos. Their stubby legs wobbled forward as they bumped into Nikhil and then staggered back. Even more peculiar were the "uniforms" the older girls were wearing. These college going women strutted along the road in a figure fitting blue dress, slitted and no longer than inches above the knee. In their pantyhose and heels, I would have mistaken it as clothing for a party, had I not seen the same outfit numerous times. Nikhil and Sucharit didn´t complain- I don´t blame them.

The weather was pleasantly cool. A slight drizze tickled my neck as we strolled down the roads of Ayacucho. Many of the streets were named after dates. For example, St 9 de Deciembre and St 28 de Julio represented significant landmarks in Ayacucho´s history. Churches of all shapes and sizes lined the sidewalks. There were cathedral type iglesias, and then there were the less visible buildings like the 16th century church dedicated to San Cristobal. Gray bricks topped with a cross, it´s beauty lay in its simplicity.

The drizzle had its rewards. As we walked toward a park, we saw a rainbow amongst the golden clouds. The park was a mix of the old and the new. Children played volleyball while shawl-covered women gossipped. A pair of grannies were knitting and two feet away, a young couple was smooching like no one else existed. Neither pair seemed to mind.

Ayacucho is supposed to be the calm before the storm called Cuzco, since tourists make up the majority of the city known for Machu Pichu. Ayacucho consisted largely of locals and that is what made it so genuine. To celebrate the end of my first week in Peru, I call for a toast: Here is to calm, to exploring Inca ruins and remote villages, and to a place where people won´t try to please you because you´re foreign. *clink*

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