Children were always at play in the plazas with their parents nearby exchanging pleasantries, enjoying themselves on a beautiful sunny day. Mothers with their cool hats carried their babies with a shawl on their backs so they could use their hands for other tasks like carrying the groceries, or sweeping their shop floors and entranceways.

A mother and her child wrapped in a shawl behind her

The locals going about their work and daily lives always seemed to be in a good mood taking out the trash or refilling their wares, maybe exchanging gossip or news; security guards always gathered in groups to share a good laugh. Teenagers drank Inca Cola, a bright yellow local soda that was notorious amongst foreigners of being way too sweet, and I whole heartedly agree. After some coaxing, I tried it once and only politely finished my bottle.

Children dancing in traditional dress

In the span of a week and a half, minus the 5 days I spent hiking towards and exploring Machu Picchu, we had witnessed already 2 fiestas – or what the locals (and other former colonies of Spain like my own country) call a festival, party or any sort of celebration!

Balloons for a fiesta

The clothes and decors were colorful and the streets were filled with music. Stalls were put up with all kinds of food like: Choclo con Queso, which translates to Corn on the Cob with Cheese;

Anticucho – skewered meat served with potato and green chilli sauce

Anticucho, which is any kind of meat, grilled on a stick and served with potato and green chili sauce; and Tamales, which are boiled and mashed corn kernels served sweet (sometimes with raisins) or savory (with a bit of chicken or pork and olives) and wrapped in its own husk. And the list goes on.

Peruvian Corn – at least, one of the varieties they have.

Unlike any other corn I’ve tasted thus far, Peruvian corn isn’t sweet and the kernels are huge in comparison with what I’m used to. They use corn in many different ways here: they dry toast the kernels to add crunch to a dish and steep corn in cold or hot liquid to make Chicha Morada, among other things. Chicha can be spiced, alcoholic or nonalcoholic, and they use different kinds of corn for different purposes. Chicha Morada is made from purple corn which gives the refreshing drink a dark purple, almost black-ish color.

Cuy – Roasted Guinea Pig

In a fiesta, I got to try cuy, which is the vernacular for guinea pig – a local delicacy, roasted or grilled whole: feet, head, ears, teeth and all. I had to try one. We roast pigs whole in a similar fashion where I’m from (The Philippines) so I wasn’t squeamish at all. Sadly, the food stall I randomly picked served me old chewy and tough cuy. It was somewhat late in the evening and in hindsight, I should have tried it earlier in the day when the food might have been more fresh. It tasted slightly like tough old chicken or duck from the fridge. I would have enjoyed it more, surely, had I ordered it in a fancy restaurant. But alas, my travel budget didn’t include dining in fancy restaurants. I usually ate in the local eateries where the locals eat, and I have never seen cuy served there.

Sugar cane juice!

Continue reading in part 3 of the series.

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