We are joined by a local guide, Angela (pronounced Ang hella) who speaks excellent English and tells us that she comes from Cusco, the old capital of the Inca Empire. Our van retraces our route back through the hideous city of Julinca. There’s traffic and major roadworks. Everywhere I look, building is in progress or abandoned, but rarely completed. A huge concrete works dominates and dozens of Petrol Stations are being built side by side along the road. There is a lot of drugs money in this city and money laundering is rife. All kinds of industry flourish; motor bikes (not common in Peru) are maufactured here and everyone has one – they use less petrol. Every sort of fake you can think of is also made here, rivalling China giving Julinca the name of ‘Chinese City’. I notice the many blue and curved windows in new buildings. Apparently this is a fashion and I know that curved window panes are very expensive. Even though the houses are not finished, the windows display wealth.
Eventually we reach the Altiplano again on the road to Cusco. Back in the other direction this road leads to land-locked Bolivia. Along the roads here and elsewhere, the images associated with various politicians can be see painted on walls and buildings. As four percent of the people are illiterate in the countryside, the candidates chose a symbol so they can be identified. One candidate has a football with the word ‘Gool’ in the centre. Someone has a tree (possibly Green), another has a sandal and there is a pencil, perhaps signifying a clean slate. It is mandatory to vote and you will be fined if you don’t. You also don’t have to pay the fine, but in future, if you want something official, like a mortgage, it comes up on the system and you have to pay.
Lampa is one of those sleepy hollows that appears unremarkable. We are here to see the Town Hall/Library and Art Gallery. Lampa is the home of the Peruvian expressionist, Victor Humareda Gallegos.
There is one of his paintings here, not his best, and several other works of art. Their pride and joy, however is an exact copy of La Pieta in St Peters in Rome. When the original in Rome was badly damaged by vandalism, the Vatican visited to see how the statue could be retored. The Pope also came to look and they even tried to persuade the town to give them thiscopy. The Town held out and here it remains. Lampa was once one of the richest towns in Peru, a centre of gold and silver mining, now all ceased.
We cross to the Cathedral to look at the catacombs. There is a wedding in full swing, so we feel quite awkward squeezing past to look at a chapel where we can see a display of skulls and bones. I don’t go down to the catacombs – Rome and Lima have convinced me that once you have seen underground tunnels, bones and skulls, there is not much more to be experienced.
Getting out of the church is also interesting as, although the wedding is over, there are professional photographers and video-makers snapping and shooting away. No expense is spared on Peruvian weddings. I must take years to save for. It is also worth noting that in spite of Catholic rules, couples here follow the ancient tradition of living together before marriage, to see if it works out. There are other concessions the church had to make to keep their congregations. We get outside in time to watch the (Mature) happy couple emerge to clouds of confetti purchased from the women outside the church. A band strikes up and the bride and groom (with small child) processed round the town square. The remaining women, sweep up the confetti and bag it up ready to sell for the next wedding.
We travel on to have lunch at the highest functioning dairy farm in the world. They survived the warlords of recent times by sleeping with their guns under their pillows. We have potato soup followed by meat pie – a sort of warm meat loaf with more potatoes then fruit to finish off. Everywhere we have the ubiquitous and delicious Chica Morada, made from the red corn and pineapple juice. Outside in the ‘home paddock’ are a couple of Vicuna, the smallest of the Peruvian Camelids. They are skittish and not easily domesticated compared with the Alpaca and Llama (pronounced Yarma) .
Tonight, we are hosted by local families – a homestay. Our van stops on the side of the road with piles of pink mud banks and no sign of a village. Suddenly local women in traditional dress appear. One of their boys has a wheelbarrow to carry our heavy suitcases up pathways to the homes. Delores seems to be in charge, calling neighbours on her mobile phone. None of them speak any English and we make do with gestures and maybe the odd word of Spanish. Almost half of the group disappear up and alley way, while we find ourselves on the main road, but through some gates to Delorus’ compound. The rooms are basic – just a bed and chair. The toilet is across the compound and the shower further around a corner. Both work, and Delores shows me a light switch outside my room, which illuminates the yard.
We all gather at one of the homestays to look at pottery being made – the process of getting the clay and turning it into soft pliable material. A very ancient man turns out a perfectly formed bowl. Next, we are introduced to a spiritual ritual with Coca leaves speaking to Pacha Mama the Earth Godless and the sky god. The Kiwis in the group want to respond in a traditional way and Ingo lead us in a Karakia and explains that in the tradition of the first people of Aotearoa we would all sing a Waiata or song. Angela translates and we see their recognition and pleasure of our acknowledgement. We sing the standard waiata ‘Aroaha’ about peace and love. I can just remember both the words and tune.
Suddenly, a fire is lit and our poncho-clad bodies and hat-covered heads are warmed. We return to our homestays for dinner then to bed. Most of us report being very warm under Alpaca and Llama wool blankets. Because of the altitude I’m drinking more water than usual with the result that I make numerous trips across the compound throughout the night.