Marcahuasi Part II: Hiking, Football, Dead Rat Hats and Fiesta

Previously at Marcahuasi…(recap)

• “Our path to Chosica (the connecting point to SPDC) was blocked by a 10 ton truck that somehow veered straight into a bridge, spilling coffee (of all things!) over both lanes of the highway.”

• “With the amount of booze increasing and the immaturity levels decreasing at that point it’s probably best to leave some of the stories to one side : general yank and Brit bashing etc :P. None the less we made it some of the way home before I bumped into Alberto again. He asked me where Lucho went and I pointed to the hilltop with a grinning limeñen on top of it, my wine bottle in his hand, whaling into the night. There I said, with a cocked smile.”

An orientation picture map to San Pedro de Casta.

Part 2: Hiking, football, Dead Rat hats and the fiesta

Day 2 was broken into with a bang, and in actual fact with quite a lot of bangs in the form of fireworks. These were set off early in the morning to utter in the festivities for the coming days ahead.

The room in the morning – freezing at night, cooking in the morning.
In the morning we would get up and go to the usual haunt for the ubiquitous egg, bun and coca tea combo. In all honesty I’ll just be glad when I get back home for a bowl of Porridge or Cereal (as British as that is). Mmmmmm porridge.

Heading to the lagoon

After the normal egg in a bun breakfast, Lucho would offer to guide us to the lagoon located around the mountainside. It would be our first taste of high altitude hiking through the precarious paths laid out on the mountainsides. These amazing feats of engineering were sometimes only a meter or so wide, with either a solid rock face on one side or a shear drop down hundreds of meters on the other.

This time I decided to pack ultra light with no backpack and just some water. Something that I wish I followed through with on day 3. I also didn’t pack any sunscreen ‘ something that would very soon become a rather big mistake.

The view from the ruins

The background of the sierra

The whole walk took about 45 minutes and went at a rather leisurely pace.

The background of the sierra

We ended up reached the lagoon around mid afternoon without too much effort and luckily at this point I wasn’t feeling too much the effect of altitude sickness.

From the vantage point we had a full 360 view, clear of cloud. The pristine view allowed us to see the valley

The girls chillin

leading up to SPDC (and beyond) in its pristine entirety. The mountains in the scene were dotted with terraced farms, cocoa plants and ant like workers of the sierra village in the distance.

The amazing feat of engineering with the same paths that took us to the lagoon appeared to splinter and zig zag their way for miles and miles on either side of the valley.

A lizzard I snapped on the site - Any Idea what type ?
After an hour or two of sunbathing (and a few photo opportunities – top right)

and chilling out in the area (and meeting up with some of the locals) we decided to head back in order to soak up more of SPDC.


On the way back I was actually reminded me of something I really hate about walking in groups, and maybe someone out there will agree with me on a simple fact. The simple fact, which I’m speaking about being that you either end up being the arsehole at the back (pissing off everyone who’s faster than you in the group) or the arsehole in front (pissing off everyone because your pushing everyone too hard). The only other alternative to these two possibilities is huddling together in the middle for trivial conversation and the frustration of the person inches in front of you shuffling along. At this point you’re probably realizing that I’m definitely a solo trekker – much, much better!That’s why on the way back I tended to march ahead, whistling that timeless ‘I don’t know what I’ve been told’ March song used by the marines and whoever else you can care to think of.After lazing around in SPDC for a little while, at this point the repetitive do something-do nothing nature of SPDC was getting to me a bit. Agro’d with that fact, I made the suggestion to go ahead and play a game of football at the pitch I spotted lower down in SPDC. A brilliant idea if I may say so since it’s really a better alternative to sitting around and twiddling our thumbs!

The only obvious problem at that point was that we didn’t have a ball, but on our way to the game we managed to negotiate with two lads sitting down to borrow their ball.

No problem!

The football match

The football match that ensued probably couldn’t have been called premier league by any measure, but it was a lot of fun. We formed up into two teams: Me, Alberto and Marren vs Chani, Lucho and Julio.

The first game didn’t go so well in all honesty, I misjudged the slight factor of altitude and after running around like a headless chicken on speed I was soon puffed out entirely. My team also only managed to score 2 goals to 4 before play was interrupted by a one two pass from me, to Alberto which was ‘saved’ by lucho in goal or rather punted right out of the court.

Thanks to the thinness of the air the ball gladly bounced down the hill (maybe bouncing 10 ft into the air, each time) and off the precipice below.

(At that point Lucho would suddenly disappear to find the ball and return three hours later (after much searching by Alberto and me), and 20 soles lighter after having to pay for a new ball. Still, rather him than me! tbh.)

After taking a short break, we reformed for another game and included two other kids (who graciously lent their ball for another game – risky indeed!). This time we fared much better for some reason, with essentially the same teams plus a kid on each team. Regardless it tipped the balance and we went ahead to win 6 goals to 3. Huzzah!

The fiesta and that rata hata.

Slightly later on in the night we finally met up with Lucho and found out where he ended up I.e. on the other side of the cliff ball-less. I’d also meet up with some other acquaintances of Luchos there and share in the old past time of chewing coca leaf. In this example we did something slightly different from the normal chewing lime and cocoa leaf, i.e. we accelerated the process by dipping a stick into lime powder (or at least that’s what I think it was) into a vessel, before prodding it into the bundle of coca leafs in our mouths. Not exactly hygienic, but it wasn’t long either before my whole face went numb – It was really crazily strong stuff!

At this point I’d also meet rata, definitely one of the strangest guys I’ve ever met in my travels through South America so far. He earned the knick name because of his sixth finger (tip) which poked out from his right thumb making him look kind of ´rattish´. The one bonus of this was the oddity that he could smoke a cigarette in between these ‘thumbs’ without having to use his index finger – Pretty cool and could go down with the ladies at a party somewhere! Right!?

Anyway it wasn’t long before we got talking and somehow he made me into a fellow rata, before disappearing for several minutes. Appearing several minutes later with a skinned rat on his head he would then pronounce me a fellow rata and crown me with the dead item. The general drunkenness meant at this point I didn’t really care and gladly accepted the token (which was VERY, VERY smelly as it turned out – yuck!) onto my head. Lol, crazy times! Luckily I got away with giving it back fairly sharpish!

Although the fiesta was planned for eight o’ clock the factor of Peruvian time (N. The delaying of events, happenings due to laid back Peruvian attitude) it wasn’t until twelve o’ clock when the procession of chiipiis (guys dressed head to toe in red, with whips to symbolize the ancient marcausi civilization. They also take the piss out of the Spanish by talking in an ultra high voice) and March bands start to appear. When they started we’d end up getting way too close to the chiipiis as they whipped the ground around us, causing a few cries and expletives, which are better not mentioned here ;).

We would then march with the procession from the new plaza de armas (built by the Spanish in a stamp of culture) to the old plaza de armas from pre Hispanic times. In the pre Hispanic square it ended up being a truly magical combination of booze, Inca dance (left foot, left foot, right foot, right foot. It’s good to try and remember that!) and free hot food served inside a large hall with a kitchen resembling a medieval banquet.

We’d only get back to the hotel around 3am, much the worse for the hike to marcausi at 8 on the same day.

What a mistake that would turn out to be!

Stay tuned..

Another update will be coming up on marcausi day 3 – the hike to marcausi. Oh also, yes I know I said “tomorrow” for the part 2, but oh well :P. Apologies anyway.

peter gent

I used to work in the games industry. Now studying for entry into politics and Spanish at portsmouth university. 2009 Karikuy Volunteer.

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