Tag Archives: festival

Cusco

Cusco (also spelt Cuzco and Qosqo) is essentially base camp for anyone looking to explore the heart of the Inca empire. A picturesque World Heritage Site, it hosts both impressive inca ruins and cobbled colonial suburbs. It is rich in history and one could spend a comfortable week exploring the town and it's immediate surroundings.

The Cathedral, Plaza de Armas.

The city centres around Plaza de Armas, an impressive square flanked by old colonial shop fronts and two impressive churches, the Cathedral and the Jesuit's Church. The former is a must visit. The Cathedral features a massive basilica with ornate wooden carvings, shrines and great stone pillars. The Cathedral hosts the remains of Gasilasco de la Vega, the Spanish chronicler of the Incas, and you will also see the famous Last Supper painting with a slight twist – roast guinea pig has been added to the table.

Top: The Cathedral at left and the Jesuit's Church on the right. Bottom: Shops overlooking Plaza de Armas.

Plaza de Armas at night.

The Jesuit's Church.

Plazoleta de San Blas.

Although the Spanish did their best to tear down most buildings of significance to the Incas, it is still possible to seethe remains of the Qorikancha, the Inca's principle Temple of the Sun. Garcilasco de la Vega reports that the Temple was an awesome site to behold, with the inner chambers lined wall to ceiling with plates of gold. Apparently each Inca emperor competed with his predecessor to make the Temple more impressive. At one point it featured a garden of silver and gold plant sculptures and hosted a wall size golden image of the sun.

Of course Pizarro and his thugs raided this with rabid glee, melting down the metals and using the gold to build their fortunes and that of the Spanish empire. To help further break the spirit of the Incas the Spanish built a church and convent on the site. Today only the foundations remain.

The site of the Qoricancha. There is a museum underneath the lawn in the foreground.

While we were there several parades popped up in Plaza de Armas. They wore elaborate costumes and played drums and wind instruments. We never fully understood why so many were staged or by whom, but they were fun to watch and proof of South America's love of festivals.

Of course any visit to Peru requires a tasting of guinea pig. This animal has been cherished as a food source since before the Conquistadores so Mark was keen to give it a go. Some friends of ours were also in town so we met up with them at a locally recommended restaurant.

Roast coy with stuffed pepper and spaghetti.

The meat was tasty, sort of a cross between mutton bird and lamb. Mark enjoyed it but of course Saskia abstained!

Cusco was good fun, the architecture is fantastic and there is a lot to see with many museums, restaurants and shops. This is a good place to buy alpaca textiles that would be considered fashionable back home, just be prepared to pay a higher price for it. There is also a lot of art for sale, we recommend stopping by at the Puna shop for music, graphic art and books (we bought several cds, including a fusion of electronica and cumbia by Dengue! Dengue! Dengue!).

 

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A Fiesta in the Amazon: San Ignacio de Moxos (Bullfighting)

Part of the festival celebrations involved bull taunting – a cross between a rodeo and a bull fight. We sat in a makeshift stadium (that looked like it would fall over in a strong gust of wind) and watched with a mix of awe and horror as the event unfolded. It was a total free for all on the field. Most of the guys were drunk, fighting each other to ride the bulls, only to fall off and get trampled. Several people were injured, some seriously. There was no security, no management or control. The treatment of the bull was completely cruel for the frightened animals. The only saving grace was that the bulls were not killed like they are in Spain, and at least some of the bulls evened the score.

As the afternoon progressed and the alcohol sank in, the bull fighting degenerated and more and more people started getting injured. There were so many people on the field that the bulls had no option but to plough into someone who was too drunk to get out of the way fast enough.

There was one old guy, affectionately known by us as Stumbles the Drunk, who could hardly stand and spent his time zigzagging across the arena, occasionally waving his shirt in the general direction of the bull. He didn't seem to know where he was and occasionally looked up at the crowd with confusion. We knew this wouldn't end well. Sure enough, a bull ran straight for him, he froze and they head butted each other. Poor old Stumbles ended up unconscious on the ground and was carried off by his arms and legs to a waiting ambulance.

Stumbles the Drunk, the people's champion.

The more drunk they got, the more the guys had to show off how macho they were. Shirts came off, insults were fired, people clawed at each other to get onto the bull first and pulled the slow ones off. Then they started actually throwing punches, which involved crowds of people joining in and quickly forgetting about the bull running loose behind them. All chaos broke loose when a second bull came free of its tether and ran into the crowd!

Macho men.

Fight!

Towards the end of the afternoon a bull ran at the fence line where men where clinging to the side hoping to avoid contact. Unfortunately, one guy was punctured in the stomach by the bull horns, thrown in the air and then fell to the ground. A crowd surrounded him and we couldn't see what was happening until they tried to carry him to the edge of the field. Only then did we see a pile of intestines lying on his bare abdomen. He was quickly put in an ambulance and taken to Trinidad (3 hours away). We asked around the next day to see what had come of him. One person said that they managed to put his intestines back inside him and sew him up, but another said that they thought he had died. We never found out for sure.

After this incident, people began to lose interest and the general drunken behaviour took over from the revelry of the earlier celebrations. The bullfighting was wrapped up, followed by more parties late into the night. Some people came off second best but to be honest, we didn't feel too sorry for them after the way they were tormenting the bulls. The safety standards are not what you expect elsewhere, but that's Bolivia in a nutshell!

Chaos on the field.

 


A Fiesta in the Amazon: San Ignacio de Moxos (Fireworks)

At night the party really kicked off. The plaza was packed and bands competed with each other across the streets.

The action was centred on the church, where Achus were running through the crowd with fireworks spinning on their hats. The sky was also being lit up by fireworks, which were paid for by two wealthy families that compete with each other every festival.

It was great fun being there. There were dangers though – people were throwing small fireworks into the crowd. This, along with the Achus, was causing chaos as people scattered in all directions. At one point a small firework barely missed a child in a tree but instead hit the father in the face. Amazingly he wasn't hurt and despite this experience he left his child sitting exposed in the tree!

We left around midnight but the fiesta kicked on to around 4:00 am. Some people were still drinking the next morning and others had passed out on the sidewalk. This was easy to ignore though and the bands kept a good vibe going the next day.

Here's a recording of two songs played by the guys in the photo below.

 


A Fiesta in the Amazon: San Ignacio de Moxos (Parade)

San Ignacio de Moxos is a small town between Rurrenabaque and Trinidad in Bolivia's Amazon Basin. We heard that it hosts one of the best festival's in the Amazon, so we flew to Trinidad (the road is terrible), and made our way to the small town to be there for the 324th fiesta. Started by jesuit missionaries, the UNESCO world heritage festival combines local indigenous traditions with Christian imagery. The celebrations last several days but the highlight of the festival is the colourful street parade that involves hundreds of people in traditional costumes following the procession that is headed by the statue of Saint Ignacio.

Saint Ignacio; a sun costume, particulalry important to indigenous cultures; pan pipes.

Despite stifling heat and humidity, the parade lasted several hours as people danced and sang their way around town. There were colourful dresses and hats, as well as the iconic feather headdresses, which were absolutely stunning. Community groups, school children, sport teams, old and young alike all participated wearing different costumes. The indigenous worship of the sun, moon and animals was strongly present in the costumes represented by horses, feathers of colourful parrots, jaguar skins, jabiru heads and paper maché figures of deer, goats, birds, fish and a giant anaconda. The whole town seemed to be out celebrating.

Mother's Club.

Animals were a common feature. Clockwise from the top left: cow, jaguar (real pelts were used), and a red deer.

The masked Achus are another icon of the festival. The hats they are wearing later held spinning fireworks.

The amazing feather headdresses were particularly spectacular and are most famously associated with the festival.

 


Lollapalooza: Review

It was a cracker of a day. Sunny, not too crowded at 60,000 and a fantastic location in the centre of Sao Paulo. In fact, we reckon it is the best city venue for a festival that we have experienced.

Highlights were a blistering blues set from Gary Clarke Jnr and a blast of soul from Alabama Shakes. Queens of the Stone Age rocked a huge crowd with heavy riffs and the Black Keys got us dancing to Gold on the Ceiling.

The Black Keys performing live at Lollapalooza Brasil, 30 March 2013 ((c) Lollapalooza 2013).

Funny story: we were grabbing a courtesy beer after a stint on the Heineken ferris wheel when the bartender asked if we were from Australia. We said yeah. Turns out these guys had been flown over from Amsterdam to serve Heineken and were desperate to speak english. Struck up a yarn and scored free beers because apparently “the only way to satisfy Australians is to give them beer.” Gold!

Main stage ((c) Lollapalooza 2013).


Lollapalooza Brazil

I need a saga. What's the saga? It's a song for the deaf.

Lollapalooza has kicked off in Sao Paulo with The Killers, Pearl Jam, The Black Keys and Queens of the Stone Age invading Brazil. We are going to the second day of the three day festival on 30 March. Pumped!

The posters for the festival are really cool so have placed our favourites below.

 

 


¡Viva el Papa!

The flag of the Vatican is flying high in Argentina this week, after the announcement that an Argentinian priest would become the new Pope, Francisco the 1st.

One person described the honour as being as exciting as if Argentina had won the soccer World Cup, and suddenly everyone in the country is a proud Catholic. Despite not being religious, it was quite special to be in Buenos Aires for something that is an historical moment for Argentinians.

A huge party was held on Plaza de Mayo, in front of Francisco's former Cathedral, where people sang, played music, and danced until 5am to watch his inauguration at the Vatican.

Thousands of people showed up in high spirits, and we were surprised how quickly the Pope's paraphernalia had been printed on posters, mugs, t-shirts and flags. The hawkers were out in full force, but there was a good vibe across the city, and it was nice to have been a part of it.

 


Lollapalooza

So this year the US music festival Lollapalloza is coming to South America for the first time. Saskia and I will be hitting the festival in Sao Paolo in March (thanks to Miranda for the tickets!). Although we are only going for one day, we will be catching The Black Keys, Queens of the Stone Age, Temper Trap and A Perfect Circle…bring it on!