Day 5 — Chinchero (Part 2)

Tuesday — April 7

After our time at Awana Wasi, we took a meandering walk through Chinchero, munching on choclo con queso (corn with cheese) as we went. (Choclo is a kind of corn with really big kernels; you eat it by prying the kernels off the cob with your fingers. Add a slice of Andean cheese, and you have a tasty snack.) We explored the narrow, stepped streets; stopped to take photographs of whatever caught our eye; chatted with some of the locals; made the acquaintance of Iliana and Lucy, two charming young girls.

Chinchero villagescape.

I imagine the narrow channel running down the center of the steps comes in handy during the wet season.

Eventually, we walked through an arched gateway and arrived at the main plaza and the handcrafts market. Although Tuesday is one of the regular market days, it was not very crowded — a definite plus in my opinion. The market is set up in the spacious plaza in front of the church, with plenty of space for the vendor displays and lots of room for visitors to wander around. Again, a plus as far as I’m concerned. The whole market experience was very relaxed. The vendors did not try to attract our attention by hawking their goods, letting us come to them at our own pace instead. Mui had a great time bargaining, and at the end of our visit, we walked away with a couple of alpaca knits that will be nice reminders of our time at Chinchero.

Mui puts his barganining skills to work.

Alpaca purchases from the Chinchero market.

Our most remarkable memory of the Chinchero market, however, has got to be one of the vendors we met. He waved me over while I was waiting for Mui and Vidal to join me, presented his hand in greeting, and introduced himself as Jesús. Dressed in traditional costume, a genuine smile on his sun-bronzed face, he was quite the character. He asked me where I was visiting from and we chatted about this and that for a while. As I took my leave, he said, “Tell your friends that Jesús is waiting for them in Perú.” As I said, quite the character.

Jesús, a genuinely nice man, is one of the vendors at the Chinchero market.

Later, while I was photographing the market scene, Mui and Vidal met Jesús as well. He gave them a concert, playing the various instruments from his display. The three of them were obviously having a good time as there was a lot of laughter and bantering when I joined them. I regret not having bought something from this friendly man, but he didn’t have anything that was of interest to us. (Mui did give Jesús some soles for the privilege of taping the music performance.) If you visit the Chinchero market, look up Jesús. You won’t regret making his acquaintance.

Our next stop was the church, which sits on a wide, elevated terrace that is fronted by an impressive Inca wall. There is some conjecture — partly because of the construction quality and the trapezoidal niches — that the retaining wall formed the base of an Inca palace, maybe the one that historians attribute to Inca Tupac Yupanqui (Topa Inca). The church is very simple, and I have to say, quite neglected, although recent restoration work has brought some of the murals, back to life. Nonetheless, I found this 17th century colonial church to be quite charming — what can I say, I prefer simple over elaborate baroque. Inside, the walls, ceilings, and beams were decorated with flowers and religious paintings. I was especially taken with one of the murals on the outside wall that depicts how the organ was transported to the church. As with other churches, no photography was allowed inside; alas, no postcards were available either.

The church complex is on an elevated terrace; the entrance is just beyond the triple arches.

The mural tells the story of how the organ was transported to the church.

After the church, we wandered around the adjacent Inca ruins that may or may not have been the royal estate of Topa Inca. We sat on an altar-like rock to enjoy the scenery and catch our breath — have to take it easy at this altitude. We’d noticed the range of snow-capped mountains in the distance while we were exploring Chinchero’s streets, but seeing them across the wide-open expanse at the ruins added to their majesty.

Inca ruins attributed to being part of Topa Inca’s royal estate.

The landscape is breathtaking.

Portrait of a traveler in thought.
(photo by Vidal)

Our fondest memory of our time at the ruins includes two girls from Chinchero. We initially met Iliana in town, posing for pictures with her doll. Later, we ran into her again; this time with her friend Lucy. They kindly posed for me in front of a house with a blue door. When we saw them playing amongst the ruins, they smiled and waved at us. From their furtive glances, it was apparent that they were curious about Mui’s video camera, but they were too shy to approach. We asked Vidal to distract them and Mui taped them while they were playing. After a few minutes, we waved the girls over and Mui showed them the video clip. The expression on their faces was priceless — I think we made friends for life.

The girls see themselves on video — priceless.

The girls accompanied us back into town, chatting with Vidal in Quechua all the while. When we arrived at the vehicle, he opened his ever-present bag of gifts and gave each girl a notebook and some pencils. He had something extra for Iliana — a pair of new shoes. I felt bad that Lucy didn’t get a pair of shoes as well, but there was only one pair and the shoe size determined the recipient. Next time it will hopefully be Lucy that gets the "special gift."

After trying on the shoes, Iliana removed them, saying she would go home and wash her feet before putting them on again.

With hugs and smiles we took our leave from Chinchero.

Next Up: Day 5 — Lunch with a View

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