A Night of Wine and Witches

Hello Karikuy followers! My name is Ania and this is my very first post for the Karikuy blog. Last week, just after we arrived in Lima, Julio took us on a trip to Ica along with his friends Sal and Jill. Ica is about five hours by bus south along the coast from Lima, and it is next to the beautiful oasis of Huacachina where we went sandboarding on the huge desert dunes (see Stu’s blog post for more on that). It is also a grape-growing region with many bodegas that produce sweet wines and the famous Peruvian pisco. We visited two of these: ‘El Catador’ and ‘Bodega Lazo’. At ‘El Catador’ we were giving a tour of the winery, where they still have a centuries-old grape press and original clay pots for the fermentation and aging of the wines. We learned about the process of making pisco, and were then given a tasting session! Many types of grapes were used to produce pisco, leading to a wide variation in the flavor, aroma, viscosity and appearance of the drink – and we got to try several of these varieties, along with some locally-made fruit jams. Yum!

Pisco pots

Then it was on to ‘Bodega Lazo’, for more pisco tasting. ‘Bodega Lazo’ was an especially characterful bodega, full of historic collectors’ items displayed by the owner. While sipping shots of pisco you can gaze at the amazing array of things hanging from the walls and ceiling: from stuffed animals to paintings, pre-Columbian artifacts and Peruvian textiles. The owner poured out the wines and pisco using a hollow bamboo stick which he dipped into the ceramic pots to scoop out the drink:

Here I am trying to sound like I know what I’m talking about:

httpv://youtu.be/hpq434a4faE

Now, I should mention that pisco is about 40% alcohol, so after two tasting sessions we were all feeling merry. It seemed like the natural thing to do to buy some more pisco and have a few rounds in the bodega. The pisco is sold in large 2-litre plastic bottles; we never stood a chance. Even between four of us, we barely made a dent in it:

Drinks at the bodega

By this point the sun had set, and we set off on a spooky night-time visit to the nearby village of Cachiche, which is famous for its history of witchcraft. Doña Julia, Cachiche’s first witch, was known to practice “good magic,” curing and helping villagers with her spells. Near the entrance to the town, a carving from a single huarango tree depicts this first “bruja de Cachiche” (witch of Cachiche):

The first 'bruja de Cachiche', with an owl and a skull at her feet.

A nine-year old boy called Diego then materialised out of the darkness to give us an excellent tour of the sights and an account of the legends behind them. The tale that stuck with me the most is that of the seven-headed palm tree. The story goes that, a long time ago, a group of witches chose one among them to be sacrificed in a ritual ceremony. But the chosen witch did not want to be sacrificed, so she ran away towards a nearby palm tree. The other witches chased her and the palm tree was split into seven parts. The witch leaped from branch to branch, evading her captors, and during the chase one of the seven limbs broke away. The witch made a curse, declaring that if the seventh limb ever grew back, Ica would be destroyed. To this day, the inhabitants of Ica make sure to cut back the seventh limb of the tree (although in 1998 the seventh head started to grow again, and there was flooding in the area). We went to see the tree, which is really an incredible sight, with the many twisting limbs growing out of a single point in the centre at impossible angles:

Just one of the arms of this many-limbed palm tree.

We also paid a visit to a nearby museum/bar where you can get your fortune told by tarot or by palm reading. I had my palm read, and left feeling assured that I would be around for a good long time yet – phew! The owner also mixed us up his signature blue cocktail, called ‘Witch’s Orgasm’. Here it is below, along with one of the black cats they had:

Disclaimer: no animals got drunk during the making of this blog.


Ania is a blogger and researcher for the Karikuy volunteer program. Visit www.karikuy.org/volunteer for more information.

Ania

I live in Brighton in the UK, and at the time of writing, I have been merrily backpacking around the world for eight months, and have stopped in Lima to volunteer for the Karikuy Project. This is the most ambitious backpacking trip I have ever embarked on; before winding up here, I spent time in India, Australia, New Zealand, Chile, Argentina, Uruguay and Bolivia. (You can follow my personal travel blog at http://aniaandstu.blogspot.com.) Before embarking on this adventure, I worked in book publishing and did improv comedy in my spare time. I have relished the opportunity to travel in such varied and interesting parts of the world, and hope that this is just the beginning...

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