Chapter 26::Table of Contents::Chapter 28

Chapter 27
To Oruro
Carnival

WED FEB 21.

Awoke early to a good breakfast of tea, toast, dulce, and cold cuts. We stuffed ourselves and I even took a photo of the scene.

After breakfast I started packing our stuff up to go to Oruro. N had to go downtown to get a couple books from Jenny. I finished packing my pack and laid down ’til lunch at noon. N hadn’t returned, but just as soup was being served he arrived. We ate and then went upstairs to finish packing.

N told me what had taken so long, thru J he’d managed to score a little. He stashed it away for future reference, finished packing up his stuff, and down we went to put our packs on top of the Toro’s VW. Tio and Jr (Sergeio?) took us to the bus station, we said good by, loaded our packs into the baggage room, and got on the bus. The ride to Oruro was uneventful. I slept most of the way.

We pulled into town about 5:30. N tried to call his cousin (?) but she wasn’t home, just the little kids. They expected mom back soon. So we stood around outside the bus station, drawing looks from all the Indians walking by. One fellow sat down right next to N’s pack, looking at the side pocket. Then he moved over to sit next to mine. We kept a close watch on him to insure he didn’t try to steal anything. He didn’t. We moved inside a building in which there was a public phone. N tried again at 6 but still nobody home. Again at 6:30 and Bingo, “come on over”, she said.

So we jumped in a taxi and began the ride to their house. Along the way the taxi picked up another passenger who had missed his bus to LaPaz. “Catch that bus” he said and off we raced. Well, not exactly raced, the cab was an old ’57 Chev. or something, missing all forms of shock absorbers, with a bad clutch and a motor that could make it go no faster than about 35. We caught up to, but could not pass the bus. The taxi driver followed it for blocks, honking & waiving. Finally the bus had to stop for a light and the fellow jumped out and got aboard. Only then were we driven back to the Dr’s. No extra charge.

Once there we were met by Ruth, Maria’s younger sister. She’s a teacher of Gnostic Philosophy. Her friend was here, along with Maria’s 3 kids, all boys, aged 5 - 9. We had tea, then Ruth’s friend had to go, so we accompanied her out to the street.. She met her folks on the street, jumped into their VW van, and drove off. R, N & I continued walking until we reached the Gnostic Center. We entered, met some of the folks, and talked about various places to go in the area - to see the sights outside of town.

On the black board at the Center were daily Gnostic exercises: Concentration, Ego Death, Astral Projection, Meditation, Transmutation, etc. Heavy stuff. Ruth had taken N on an Astral Voyage last time he was here. She’s of the opinion that pornographic thoughts, drug use, etc. are all a waste of energy. So much for her. Soon Ruth’s friend showed up with her folks and little brother. They invited us to accompany them for a drive around the town.

We piled into their VW van and drove around for a while. We came upon a practice session for the dancers. They were dancing in the street (sans costumes) to the music. We stood and watched until the practice session broke up. Then we were driven back to the house. Mom had come home by then. She & N talked family for a while. We went upstairs and watched another practice session on T.V. [1]

When T.V. went off the air (9:45) we went downstairs to eat dinner, a big slab of corn cake made from choclo and cheese. Good but too much to finish. After dinner we came back upstairs to go to sleep. Just then Dad showed up so we stood around talking with him for a while. We moved a bed out of one room into the next, thus all 3 kids were in one room, & N & I got mattresses on the floor in the other.

Conversations finally over for the day, we rolled out our bags, settled the meal (it’s been a long time) and retired. I noticed that the sunburn on my shoulder had even raised blisters. The 1st time that’s happened. I watched my eyelids for a while and then went to sleep.

Thurs FEB 22,

Got up to another Indian served breakfast.

Afterwards we walked down to the plaza to get seats for the Parade. We went to one office where we were directed to another office where we were directed to another office where we found out the only tickets they had were at the big street where we saw the practice yesterday. Then we decided to try to get photographer’s permission. 1st to one office, then another, then a 3rd where the fellow put the forms in the typewriter and without asking to see anything types us out permission to stroll the streets at will, taking photos, for the cost of $7.50 each, as opposed to 5 for hard bench seats.

Elated, we walked over to the tourist office to see if we could get some info on surrounding towns and if there was a note from Leslie. We got little info and no note. So N left one for her. We walked back to the Ranch by way of a postcard shop, a papeleria to buy a pen, and a shoe repair shop to get N’s sandal fixed. Back home we waited around for a while and then lunch was served.

After lunch we came back upstairs and tried to fix Ruth’s guitar, which we did. That in tune, N began to play guitar, the little kids tried to play sampoña (pan pipes) and I tried to read. There’s no stopping N when he gets a hold of a guitar. He’ll play the “only 3 songs” he knows for hours... Finally he came into the room and we settled lunch. I read while he crashed out. Later Leslie called and invited us to meet her in the park at 6:30. I read ’til then and N snoozed.

At 6:30 we strolled over to the plaza, met Leslie, and walked over to a little coffee shop for tea and pastelles. We sat around there talking for a while, then L. said she had a surprise for us. So we walked back to her hotel, said hello to Amy, and then it began to snow. She also had some leaves for us which we’ll save for a later date.

I sat back and listened to N do all the talking for the next 2 hours. Worse than Ed & Dinger put together, he babbled on about this and that ’til my boredom could take it no longer. I suggested we’d better go back to the Ranch before they locked the gate. We said good by, made a date for tomorrow nite about 4, and strolled back.

Once there, we found just about everybody up. They’d saved some dinner for us (potato fritters?) so we ate a cold dinner about 11PM. Then Ruth opened a bottle of vino for some cooking experiment and gave us each a glass. Jr #2 was still awake, waiting for midnite - it’s his birthday on the 23 and he wanted to stay up late to see it in.

At midnite Dad broke out the Creme De Menthe and we toasted Jr,, sang happy birthday, and packed him off to bed. Then dad told us we may be able to go to the mine tomorrow to see the llama sacrifice before the Tio of the mine. At lunch he said they didn’t allow strangers to witness the event, but tonite he seemed to think there’d be no trouble. We finally retired and settled the Creme with the last of our stash. Laid there talking about the photographic aspects of the Parade and the Sacrifice.

FRI FEB 23,

Awoke to the sound of the little kids playing guitar, sampoña, and tag in the hallway.

Staggered down to breakfast to find N. playing some “Travolta” tune over and over again, section by section, trying to write down all the words. I ate a meager breakfast and came back upstairs to sleep. N. went out for a walk with Ruth and when they got back I woke up again. I suggested we take a walk to take pics. N started in playing the guitar so I wrote. He waited for me to finish writing & I waited for him to finish playing. By the time we were both finished it was time for lunch.

As it turns out, it wasn’t Jr #2’s birthday today, it was Dad’s (Ramiro). That’s the problem with not speaking the lingo, you get a little confused at times. At lunch we talked again about taking pics at the mine. R. said he’d check for sure and call back about 3. Dinner lasted ’til 2 so we waited around for his call. He called and said not only couldn’t we go to the mine, it’d be dangerous to do so. The miners get very upset if strangers show up. So scratch that Nat’l. Geo. cover story.

We decided to take a walk up to the top of the hill with Ruth. [2] From there we could see the whole town, access roads to the nearby mines, and the lake (Uru-Uru) in the distance. We took a couple shots and then it was time to go meet Leslie and Amy. We walked back down the hill, said good by to Ruth, and walked towards L & A’s. Along the way we ran into Amy, doing business with the bank and P.O. We walked on and met L at the Pension. We sat around talking and tooting ’til Amy got back. [3]

At about 6:30 we left to go back to Ramiro’s birthday party. He’d invited several of his doctor friends over for dinner & drinks. When we got to the house, preparations for the bash were just getting underway. N, Ruth & I were put on the sandwich detail. We made dozens of open faced sandwiches. Then we made (or filled) 40 crepes with milk/peaches mixture for desert. These preps completed, it was getting close to 10. We had wanted to meet L & A at the street dance at 9.

Dinner wasn’t going to be served ’til 11, so N, R & I left to see the street dance. At the dance we met L & A along with Pat & Denise, the 2 ladies from the Arequipa - Puno train. They were all in high spirits, with local boyfriends. We walked along watching the few dancers and listening to the band. We were a bit late. Around 11 we started back. Along the way we encountered some Indian ladies in the street selling whole roast lamb heads (wool and all) We decided this would be a perfect gift for Ramiro, so we bought one (with horns, please) and came back to the house.

The party was well underway. Most of the folks had already eaten, so we sat in the kitchen and ate a late dinner. When we finished eating, we presented R. with the “roast face”. He got a good chuckle out of it and said he’d heat it up and eat it later. Then we were served a drink of scotch from a 2 gal bottle and retired to the living room to watch all the doctors & wives dance. I felt very out of place with all the suit and tie docs and stayed in the shadows, watching and sipping. 2 drinks later, at about 1 AM, I was ready for sleep. N & Ruth stayed up to learn the Cueca.

Sat FEB 24,

Got up early and had a quick breakfast.

N went out and bought a bottle of Singani (Pisco) and some canned piña juice. He mixed up a batch of pisco & piña, put it in the canteen, and we were ready to go. Ruth was going to be sitting along Pagador (the main drag) and Maria Ojeña, Ramiro, and Jr #1-3 would be sitting in front of the Allianca Francese. N & I walked down to where the parade would start.

There were many folks standing about; parade participants in gaily colored costumes, vendors selling beer, sandwiches, etc., little kids with water balloons and industrial strength squirt guns (look like insecticide sprayers), onlookers, and photographers. We took many photos of the costumes; devil helmets , fantastically colored and sewn capes , the hoop skirts of the Morenada , beautiful girls in short skirts , cars decorated with family collections of gold and silver , and little kids with feathers as tall as they were sticking out from hats. Just before the parade got underway, we walked a little ways down the street to get a better angle and sunshine.

About 11 the parade began (10:30 en punto) N shot mostly with the telephoto and I alternated 1st using the normal, and then switching to the wide angle. It was difficult getting clear, in focus shots. Policemen, vendors, and strolling onlookers kept getting in the way. The dancers moved fast, or kept backs turned. But we managed to go thru much film. After about 2 hours of photoing the incredibly colored and costumed dancers , we had gone thru 6 or 7 rolls of film. This was all we’d brought along and the parade wasn’t even half finished. We decided we’d have to go back for more film.

We walked back along the route (no way to get off except for entrance or exit) and over to the house. Of course nobody was home and all the doors were locked. I remembered that our bedroom window was open. N climbed up a rickety old ladder he found outside and crawled in the window. Once inside he still couldn’t open the door as it was dead-bolt locked. So he handed more film out a downstairs window, went out the backdoor, pulled it shut with his SAK (no doorknob) and we walked back to the parade.

We strolled up the route, passed Jenny Y. from LaPaz, and came to where Ruth & friends were sitting. We knelt there for a while and probably took our best shots from that spot. The sun was shining brite and the dancers would dance right in front of us. In fact, while walking along the route, we had to watch out for swinging pom-poms, tambourines, and horns from the devil masks.

People would run out to the dancers and offer them drinks of juice, beer, etc. The big devil masks had holes for eyes and the straws from big juice jugs usually went thru eye holes, or up from underneath. Mouths were hard to hit. Little kids (and not so little kids) were busy throwing water balloons out windows to spectators below. One lady sitting with an umbrella to shade her from the sun was hit square on the umbrella with a water balloon. Double protection.

Then there were the dancing bears. They’d come along with cans of baby powder and dust people’s heads, squirt them with perfumed water, spray them with shaving cream, and pull them into the street to dance. N was dragged out by one of them and I got a shot of him dancing with a bear 3/4 his size.

We walked on up the route ’til we came to the Allianca Francese where Ramiro & Family were seated. Maria took us inside to her office (she teaches French there) for a quick lunch of chicken sandwiches and yoghurt. There were some Frogs watching the parade from the balcony window, one of them had an accordion and was playing along with the bands down below.

We went back into the street and a little farther on down the line ran into Uncle Julio and the boys from LaPaz. They wanted to go and see Jenny (they didn’t come together) and Ramiro, Ruth, etc. So N took them back to meet the other folks, while I walked on ahead to the Avenida Civica. There in the big square adorned with giant Diablada mask, the groups let it all hang out and did their thing. I sat there for a while in the wind, not taking many photos, then headed back to try and find N.

I walked all the way back to where Ruth & friends were sitting without seeing N. He’d been there, Ruth said, but had left. I sat with her ’til the end of the parade. At the very end, the last group was followed by what seemed like the entire spectating crowd. A human tide. We were swept up and along the parade route. We tried to cross the street, a monumental undertaking, and finally battled our way to the other side.

Ruth’s friends all wanted to go back to the market for something to drink, but I was exhausted and only wanted to go back to the house. My legs were stiff from crouching along the roadside taking photos. R. was kind enough to walk back with me and open the door. We sat in the kitchen drinking 7-UP. I got R. started talking about the Gnostics, of which she is a member and teacher. We talked about physical, mental, and sexual energy, dreams, hypnosis, astral travel, and tarot cards. I was just getting her around to doing a tarot reading for me when N and the rest showed up. By this time it was 7PM. [4]

We went downstairs for a bowl of soup. R. was to meet a friend of hers in the Plaza at 8:30 to see the torchlite dance at the Avenida C. We didn’t leave the house ’til 8:30, and when we got to the Plaza, Gabby was not there. So R. called her house, found out she wasn’t going to make it, and so the 3 of us (N, R & I) walked up to see the Diablada. They danced with flashlites and had the eyes of their masks lit from inside. There were spotlites shone on them from all around, so the effect was somewhat wasted. The dance went on and on, the music was monotonous, and I had everything I could do to keep my eyes open.

Finally, just before the end, I left “to beat the rush”. I walked back to the house by way of the little park down the block. The street was blocked off and black lites were strung up between the trees. Evidently there was to be a dancing exhibition but the dancers were nowhere in sight. I was too tired to wait around for them so I came back to the house. There I had a plate of rice, bid the family goodnight, and came upstairs. I took 2 screen hits and laid down. I could see the multi-colored dancers behind my eyelids, they were going thru their paces as I drifted off to sleep.

We wound up going thru about 11 or 12 rolls of film today.

The drinking is just beginning and will continue for the next 3 days.

N& R got back late after viewing the black lite dancers.

SUN FEB 25,

Got up late and stiff.

My sunburn has really started up peel. My forehead is 2 different colors and my shoulders are 3.

After breakfast N and the family went out to some bridge outside town to see lake Uru Uru. I stayed behind and wrote. They came back shortly saying that the road was blocked due to the parade, so they couldn’t get there. We had an early lunch and then went off with Ruth to view today’s installment of Carnival.

We sat in the seats R. had yesterday. It was another brite sunny day. Having taken so many photos yesterday, we decided not to take so many today. Took only one camera with about 1/2 roll of film. R’s 2 friends, Gabby and ? joined us. The parade started at our locale about 2. It was basically the same as yesterday with a few additions and subtractions. The groups from out of town had all gone home, so they weren’t here. There were a few local and markedly seedy groups that took their place. Indians (little kids) dressed in grass skirts and hats, folks made up like political leaders (Idi Amin in a Gorilla mask), and a motorcycle contingent (3 of whom collided).

The only other difference was that many of the dancers and musicians were “duro” (drunk) and had a hard time keeping in step or in tune. The dancing bears were out in force - one smeared N’s hair with toothpaste - as were the water-ballooners and squirt-gunners. We sat on the hard wood seats for 6 hours as group after group staggered by. By the end of the ordeal I was even more stiff and tired. The parade finally ended about dusk.

We all strolled off to the market for api and some sweet fritters of some kind. This little snack completed, we came back to the house for dinner. (We’ve been eating a solid 4 meals a day, heavy on the bread, please.) After dinner we retired, stiff and paraded-out.


[1] The little kids had dressed up in capes with scarves to twirl, pretending to be a Diablada. They danced around the floor to the music on the T. V.

[2] Ruth had said there were to be some parade costumes on display at a friend’s house, but just before we left, her friend also left so we couldn’t see them.

[3] We walked over to the café from yesterday to meet an Arg. woman. There we were joined by a British fellow, his friend, and a miner from Potosi who told us he’d give us a private tour of the mine.

[4] Jenny and her friends from LaPaz showed up for a few minutes, said hello, and then had to leave.

Chapter 26::Table of Contents::Chapter 28