By Paula Davies
Location: Cuzco, Peru, South America
After stepping off the plane in Cuzco my chest tightened and I was grateful for my luggage being collected for me. I reached the hotel, which was approximately a ten minute walk from the town square, and welcomed a cup of coca tea (I really liked this tea!). A girl I was sharing a room with happened to speak fluent Spanish and she decided to venture into the square the day before the Inti Ryami festivalto watch the dancers. I agreed to meet up with her later. However, I was grateful to sneak back up to my room after breakfast and sleep for a few hours more. I hadn’t been feeling too well, and had suffered a little altitude sickness.
After enough time feeling sorry for myself and realising that my dying swan act wasn’t working with anyone, I decided that my best tactic was ‘when in Rome…’, so off I headed for the town square. Immediately my spirits were lifted and I must have looked such an idiot, grinning at the amazing sights. Groups of dancers made their way around the square. Everyone took part and the costumes were really something else. men, women and children vied for attention.
This is where the fun really started! I watched in utter amazement at the array of groups twisting, turning, singing and making their own music throughout the centre of Cuzco. I noticed my friend sitting on the balcony of one of the little cafes overlooking the square and thought about joining her, but realized that I had the best view. I was in the thick of it.
The groups of dancers had now made their way into a smaller square, a bit off the beaten track. Absolutely fantastic! Not a Westerner in sight, save me. I soon spotted a little truck selling bottles of Heineken beer for a few pence and discovered that I’d paid a few quid for mine. Well, what do you expect! I sat minding my own business on the steps watching the dancers recover then regain a second wind as they began the dancing round this new little square all over again. It felt like it was all just for me and i was enjoying every second of it.
As I sipped my beer, a group of three students from the local college made their acquaintance along with a bottle of the local brew Chi Cha. They chatted with me in broken English and offered me their ‘poison’. I obliged and offered them mine….which they finished with gusto. They continued to pass the bottle of chi cha round until I felt that i could take no more, unless they wanted to peel me off the floor and haul me back to my hotel, so I made my excuses and left them to finish it.
In fact I began to wish I’d stayed, or at least guzzled more for as I watched the dancers across the square, I felt an arm guide me to the middle of the road….right in the centre of the dancers. Oh my God! So I skipped and jumped and pretended I was a professional Peruvian dancer, but the fairy elephant display was a dead giveaway. But it was to get worse; not only was I not feeling well and under the influence of alcohol but I was dancing amid professionals and being photographed! No doubt so they could all have a good laugh when they got home. But, what the heck, there’s not many that can say they took part in the Inti Ryami dance routines and drank Chi Cha.
Text © Paula Davis, all rights reserved.