Saturday, 4 April 2009

Sold out?

I´ve seen two very different sides of Peru today. This morning, I got up before 5 to visit the ruins behind Pisac at sunrise. It was an hour´s steep trek in the half-light, done with very regular breaks - I haven´t fully adjusted to the altitude yet. The route went past waterfalls, Inca crop-growing terraces, and modern Quechua huts before arriving at the Intihuatana - the hitching post of the sun. It´s a stone citadel perched on a ridge between valleys. Nothing compared to Machu Picchu in size, but still breathtaking. The Inca stonework, as it is everywhere, is basically perfect. The way the stones slot together with no mortar is hugely impressive.

What made it particularly special was that there was no one else there. There was a silence that is very difficult to find in the UK: the only noises were birds and the waterfall. The same was true of the stars last night...there are few places back home were you can see so many - though of course here they´re all different.

This afternoon I´ve been in Cusco. It is a city with an extraordinary past, where Spanish colonial buildings are literally built on Inca foundations. It is beautiful, too, but so touristy it severely tries my patience. After you´ve said `No, gracias´for the thirtieth time to a street vendor or shoe shiner or Quechua woman with baby llama, it gets a bit tiresome. It makes me sad to see the traditional culture reduced to this, though I suppose since tourism is the main source of income here there´s no avoiding it.

In fact, I saw something this morning at the ruins that makes me more optmistic. As the sun rose over a ridge on the horizon, three or four Quechua women appeared on the summit above the citadel. They raised their arms, and though I was about 200 metres away I could make out the soft sound of a pipe. They were welcoming the sun god, `Inti´, in a way that probably hasn´t changed in centuries. And they can hardly have been doing it for tourists - I was the only other person there. I felt very lucky to have seen it, and happy that Andean culture is escaping total globalisation for the moment.

What else to report? The ex-president Alberto Fujimori has been on trial for the last 15 months, and is going to be sentenced next week. He is charged with organising two massacres and various other human rights abuses in the 1990s. It´s an interesting case, as although he probably did overstep the mark, he managed to restore the economy and defeat the Shining Path terrorists - both catastrophes he inherited from his predecessor, Alan García. That would be the Alan García who´s President now...

So Fujimori is a very divisive figure. The Peruvians have a wonderful habit of writing slogans in enormous letters on mountainsides, and I´ve see both for and against him so far.

That´s all for now folks... Ciao.

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