I passed one night in the sparsely populated high country on a soggy bed in a municipal building; five or six workers stringing streetlights in the village slept on mattresses in another room. Another night in another municipal building in another village. Finally, another night at the home of the local Baptist pastor, very antiCatholic at first, but he warmed up after a long and gentle conversation. Though a potable water delivery system is being installed, there are only external faucets of cold water, and I was offered no water to wash for the three nights spent above. Personal hygiene seems low on the priority list. There are no fireplaces or heaters in the little houses, to endure the cold nights, more heavy alpaca-wool blankets are piled on. Alpaca meat was in the soup, no surprise in the alpaca-based society, but what is a surprise is that they don't eat much bread. Potatos and thick boiled corn kernels make up the starch. Root vegetables round out the soup.
Very interesting cultural experiences through very pretty countryside of high-altitude alpaca ranchers. Some of the girls and women wear the traditional colorful puffy dresses to the knees and wrap themselves in brightly colored blankets, topped off with formal tall felt hats, two long braids coming down their backs terminating in complex knots of colorful wool tassels. Others were more modern clothes, even in the same families, by personal choice. The houses are generally all timeless and ever-renewed adobe with either grass roofs or corrogated metal. Walls of abandoned houses stand melting back into the ground. Stone walls mark grazing areas for the alpacas, and at slightly lower altitudes llamas and sheep. Terraces requiring an incredible effort to build extend high up the steep slopes to extend the grazing areas.
There are few Catholics in the area and no awareness at all of pilgrims or pilgrimages. To all, I'm just a tourist, though tourists are pretty rare in this part of Peru. Cusco is the touristic center. Unlike the influences of European immigration in Argentina and Chile, here, I stand out even more noticably as a gringa and get the mild harrasment of frequent invasive photo-taking and horn-beeping, both of which I find irkingly unnecessary, all the moreso as I descend into the more populated areas. I'm wanting to say to these morons pointing their fingers and gawking at me, 'didn't your mother teach you it's impolite to stare?', there's the mother staring right along with them. On the flipside, there's tons of history all around, interesting architecture, lots of folklore, and some polite and helpful people.