Chapter 29::Table of Contents::Chapter 31

Chapter 30
Native Festival in Tarabuco

SUN MAR 11,

We both woke with a start to JE’s lent alarm clock at 6AM.

It was raining quite forcibly outside. We got clothes and camera gear together and went into the family dining room for breakfast. The hot water for coffee was in a thermos from last nite. I with my rain jacket and N with his poncho, we went out into the street and over to Gonzalo’s. Had to ring the bell a few times before he woke up and answered the door.

We sat inside the plush apartment (his parent’s) and waited for him to get dressed. 1st he didn’t want to go out into the rain, and after we convinced him that the sooner we left the better, rain or not, he wanted to stop somewhere and eat breakfast. “We can eat in Tarabuco” I told him, so out we went to find a bus. On the street as we were walking up to the bus stop, one came along, not full, with people shouting out the windows that it was going to Tarabuco. We got on and sat in the very back. Lots of leg room. The bus drove around town for a while trying to get more people. We even backed up one hill (a dead end with no turnaround at the top) to pick up a couple folks. Finally full we headed out to Tarb.

The road was one lane gravel. Along the way we saw many trucks loaded to overflowing with people in the back. There was a hole in the floor right behind the rear tire which allowed mud splashed up from the road into the bus and onto us. We wound up sitting under N’s poncho to protect ourselves but we still arrived with little mud splotches all over.

Along with us in the back seat was a fellow called “Gordo” by his friends. He was laughing and making jokes all along the way. We stopped in a small town and picked up a load of Indians. One fellow, after a slight debate about whether or not there was enough room in the back seat (there was), sat with us and was the butt of many of Gordo’s good natured jokes. He called him “José”, made fun of his inability to speak Spanish, and teased him about his clothes. The Indian bummed a cig. from another fellow and proceeded to blow smoke at Gordo. This slowed him down some as it seemed to make him sick. The rest of the Indians sat on the floor of the bus.

We proceeded in this fashion up to about 10k outside of town when the bus stopped. We got out to piss while the driver and helper tried to get it going again. The motor had frozen tight and would not move. So we started to walk. Gonzalo went back and paid the luckless driver a portion of the complete fare. About 50m down the road a truck came along. It was carrying concrete or something and wouldn’t stop to pick up the many now stranded bus passengers. Suddenly Gonzalo said “I know that guy” and began waving at the truck. It stopped and the 3 of us packed into the front. Gonzalo was acquainted with one of the drivers (although he didn’t even know his name) and they took us the rest of the way to Tarb.

Once in town G. wanted to eat. We walked toward a hotel he knew of. Along the way we stopped for some little shish-kabobs of potato & meat. Very good. Once in the hotel we ordered up coffee, bread & cheese. Breakfast thus completed we walked over to the tourist office to get info on the parade. We filled out some little forms designed to help the T.O. better help the tourist. My only suggestion was to eliminate the rain. It rained on and off for the whole day. We looked at some antique ponchos, mantas, bags, and hats but bought nothing.

We headed for the RR station where there was to be an Indian Mass at 9. We got there and saw several of the groups of dancers. Most were dressed with red ponchos and white calf length pants . Many of the women carried bundles or babies in other pieces of brightly colored cloth with many stripes and zig - zags. The ponchos were striped, with strips of red, purple blue and green. The men wore sandals with soles up to 4" thick. From the back of the sandals came spur - like pieces of metal, 4 or 6, held together by an axle, and all 3" or so in diameter . As the men danced these pieces of metal jangled together and sounded like tambourines. They wore helmet like hats: Front view [1] side [2] bordered with colored tassels and silver, the rest colored black.

We took some pics of the dancers and the musicians between rain drops. The musicians played big flutes . The music was monotonous, slow, and repetitive. The dancers went around in a circle one way, stopped, and then went around the other way. [3] Slow and plodding. While photoing the dancers, I noticed Leslie up on the hill. I walked up and said hello. She was surprised to see me. We walked back down to N and soon Amy showed up with another friend, Martha. We had a big reunion there.

L & A walked off to the plaza. N & G & I stayed at the train station to view the mass now just getting underway (11:AM). A priest came out and gave a little speech in Quechua. Then another priest came out to give another little talk . As soon as he began it started to really pour. The silent crowd now began to shuffle about, looking for pieces of plastic to get under . It was impossible to hear what the fellow had to say, even if we could have understood it. So we headed back toward the plaza ourselves. N & G stopped to have chorizos and then we went back to get some more shish - kabobs. N met up with Leslie and we went up to her hotel room and got some leaves from her.

Back in the plaza, G. wanted to take a picture of N & I with some Indians. There were 4 standing in front of a store. When N & I stood next to them and G pointed the camera, 2 of them took off. G. took the shot .

The parade was getting underway but the streets were so crowded with spectators that we couldn’t get to see anything. So we took a detour out to the end of the parade route. There we sat on a big dirt wall and began munching leaves in earnest. 1st you take out the little stem up the middle. The fresh ones tear lengthwise very easily. Then you start stuffing in the leaves. After you’ve got a good sized wad all juiced up in there, you take about 2 match - heads worth of yipta, a catalyst, wrap it in a leaf to keep from burning your tongue and gums (almost inevitable anyway) and toss that in with the rest. This releases vast amounts of juice with a taste not too unlike SP, but soon mouth & tongue are numb. Leaves are replaced as needed until the whole wad is chewed out. Then you spit it out and start again.

Most of the Indians were chewing, drinking the local fire water and, combined with the high altitude, the monotonous dancing, and the brightly colored garments, must have all combined to send most of them into a trance - like state. At the end of the route musicians, dancers, spectators, and photographers all gathered in a big open area, dominated at one end by a big totem, covered with bread, beer, grains, etc. to feed to the spirits of soldiers who died fighting the Spaniards back in 1816. The dancers & musicians did their thing, getting higher & drunker.

I jumped down off the wall & started taking pics. There were so many people all jammed together it was hard to get clear shots, plus the fact that the dancers never stopped moving made photos of them a matter of luck. Several of the Indians came up and put their hands over my lens just as I was about to take some pics. After I had taken one photo of a group of dancers , an Indian came up and grabbed my lens and wouldn’t let go. I hadn’t taken his photo and couldn’t figure out what he wanted. He was drunk. I wasn’t about to give him any money. Luckily G. was standing nearby and bailed me out with 2 cigs. It took both of us pulling on the camera and the guy’s hand to get him to let go. Not very friendly natives. I went over to another group and was more successful in my photo attempts.

The open area grew more and more crowded. I walked up to the end with the totem and was about to take a shot of a fellow playing one of the big flutes when I felt a clunk against the end of my lens. A fellow had stuck his flag pole end up to my lens. Luckily only the edge was hit. A miss by a RCH. I got the hint and decided to curtail further photographic efforts.

I went back up to the dirt wall and joined N, Leslie & Amy, G. had gone off to the rest. at the hotel to eat again. When he got back it had started to rain so he & I went back to the hotel. We walked around inside for a while and then I joined him and a friend along with 2 French girls for a beer. His friend & the frogs left and we sat there waiting for N.

Soon Andrew from N.J. came up and joined us. We talked for a little while and then N & L came in. N had found a bus leaving from up by the hospital and was off again with L to see if she and A wanted to go back to Sucre on that bus. G & I walked up to the bus and there were about 5 seats left. We booked our 2 and then N showed up alone. L & A weren’t going with us. N had had a talk with L about a little “amorous activity” but she wasn’t interested. His luck with women is no better than mine, but he keeps trying.

The bus going back to Sucre was a big one, we got the back seats again. N dozed most of the way. G and I talked about this & that and I dozed for a while, too. We got back to town about 6PM.

G. said he’d come by about 7 and take us to a sauna. We relaxed for that hour. The family here was going out to a movie. G came by in a taxi and off to the sauna we went. There we rented a locker, changed into our suits, and went into the sauna. There were two, a wet one & a dry one. We went into the wet one 1st and then the dry one. Then after we were good and sweaty we took a dip in the cold pool. Refreshing & cleansing. After a nice hot shower we changed back into our clothes and walked back to the house. It began to rain on our walk back and we arrived re-wetted.

When the folks came back we ate dinner. They have little silverware racks at each place setting shaped like [4] . We were tired, and the T.V. reception was poor, so we retired right after dinner. A long and interesting day. I wore my repaired boots for the 1st time today. They seem to work OK but I’ll need to take a long hike with about 35 lbs on my back to tell for sure.

Waiting for G. to pick us up at 7, I showed my zoom to JE and noticed that the MACRO ring was loose again. This happened once before in Colo. I had to fiddle with it for 20 min or so to get it to focus at infinity and not change focus when the zoom is zoomed. That lens doesn’t like bumpy bus rides.

Walking back from the sauna we complained to G about the lack of layable women in this town. He said that one of the voluptuous ladies at the sauna was a friend of his and liked to get it on. He said he’d try and arrange a rendezvous with her at some later date (Ho - Ho).


[3] The musicians stood in the middle.

Chapter 29::Table of Contents::Chapter 31