Thursday, July 16, 2009

Day 8 - History at its Finest

I ate breakfast on a combi (crowded minibus) as it swerved on cliffhanger roads until it stopped at Wari, the site of a museum containing Inca ruins. The museum was outdoors and spread over multiple kilometers. Prickly pear cacti lined the dirty path we followed to each ruin. From simple walls to homes to ceremonial grounds, the stone structures stood in silence, occasionally broken by the buss of a grasshopper or a snorkling pig.

One of the ruins was underground. We climbed into a stone cave two feet wide and five feet tall. Dark, long, and a claustrophic´s nightmare, the cave was everything I feared...after a minute or two, my courage prevailed. Ok, so it wasn´t that bad. Once we climbed out, I walked some more and found a circular ceremonial wall. As I sat on the wall, I thought about the civilization that had thrived here at one time. Centuries later, it has become a museum, a historical artifact, a bygone. On the flipside, I am grateful I got to see the ruins at all. It exposed me to a history I had never quite understood. We walked to the edge of a stretch of land, overlooking dome-shaped mountains and a forest of green cacti. If there ever would be an end of the world, this is what I imagined it would look like.

At the Wari ruins, we ran into Francisco, a fellow traveler we had met at Casa de la Abuela. Fran showed us some rocks he had picked up on his excursion around the area. Some were peices of ancient claypots, while others might have passed for primitive weapons. Our eyes went from up ahead to down below as we started looking for "ruin treasures" of our own. I found a few colorful pieces of old Incan pottery (allegedly) and was ready to move on. The boys, however, were smitten and refused to budge, much to my frustration. My threat to go off on my own didn´t deter them from their mission either.

After meeting up with Fran at the entrance of the museum, we took another combi to Quinua, a nearby village. We had almost reached the town when the minibus suddenly stopped. The vehicle had run out of petrol. The drive said help would arrive in two minutes. Yeah right, I thought. Sure enough, another combi pullled up two minutes later. Yet another reason to be impressed by small town Peru.

Quinua is famous for the small clay churches that adorn the roofs of the houses there. Walking into a dark, damp room, I saw an elderly man creating a multi-storied church out of brown clay and water. Wetting his fingers from a murkly container, he shaped and smoothed, pressed and squeezed the clay with his nimble fingers. A finished product lay nearby, standing two feet tall, colored and baked. His current piece would take him a week to finish.

A tall white tower in the distance caught our attention, and we headed toward it. Nearly an hour and many stairs later, we reached La Nacion A Los Vencedores de Ayacucho. The elongated white marble pyramid was forty-four meters tall, representing the forty-four years that Peruvians had been fighting for independence from the Spanish. This memorial was dedicated to the individuals that had fought for freedom so its citizens could live with their heads held high. There were many local tourists around the monument as well, picnicking and playing balli n the grassy expanse of a field behind the memorial.

The day ended with karaoke at a locak pizza place. Sucharit sang two Beatles´ hits. After many Spanish song by the people at the karaoke bar, his version of the English tunes brought about appreciative applause. Tomorrow morning, we head to a nearby village at 5 am. I suppose that requires me to stop writing now.

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