What do I have in common with the soon-to-be ex-Pope? Not much, generally speaking, but we both wear shoes made in Peru!
I recently heard from an anonymous but reliable source, that the (ex) Pope used to have his shoes made specially for him here in Peru, in Trujillo! I wonder if he ever had similar experiences than I had last year with my drunk made boots? Probably not -I could imagine that if you were honoured to make pontificial footwear, you would make sure to make an extra effort to stay sober until the job is done! There's only one Pope, after all. Whereas for the rest of us, the average consumers...Quod licet Iovi, non licet bovi.
Anyways. This year I had better luck with my almost made on measure summer shoes. I went to a shop called El Closet de mi Hermana in Miraflores, and was checking out sandals. When I found a nice model from a Peruvian brand called Warmi, they told me I could customize the colour and even the material -it coud be leahter or suede. They showed me sample pieces of many colours to choose from and to combine as I wish.
I chose mint colour in leather, and I was told within 10 days I could get my shoes. That was not very convenient, as I was about to leave on holidays soon...But no problem, they kindly arranged that I could get them in a week. And after all, they were ready even earlier, and the colour was just perfect!
And for sure they are at least as comfortable as the Pope's episcopal sandals...
So the jungle...Wow, where to start?
Chronologically, from the arrival?
Ok, so we arrived in Tarapoto with Star Peru on Christmas day. First time flying with this company, and as far as this flight was concerned, the service was ok and we arrived on time.
Already upon the arrival I was impressed by the nature: hardly ever I start taking photos immediately while off the plane, but this time I did.
Christmas light refugee arriving in Tarapoto
I thought in the jungle I would find a peaceful refuge from all the Christmas craziness of Lima, namely our neighbours' insane multicolour light installations, playing all day all night a cacophony of monotonous melodies ranging from 'Jingle Bells' to 'Happy Birthday to You'.
Therefore, dear reader, you can only imagine my astonishment, when on my first night in Tarapoto discovered a surreal Christmas wonderland mounted on the central plaza of the city.
There were lights, there was a platfrom with statues of Mary, Joseph and the Baby Jesus, there were llamas dressed in coloruful Christmas clothes (I first thought they were fake too), there was an electric train with colourful light and music riding the people around the plaza, there was candycotton salesman and whatnot!
But at the end, everybody can celebrate as they wish and who am I to judge?
In fact, people seemed to be having amazing time: families were together, children were excited and salesmen were making good sales.
We withdrawn quietly from the spectacle and went looking for some dinner.
Peru is a multicultural society. The population is such a mix of ethnicities, nationalities and cultural influences that one could actually best describe it with the term super-diversity - in other words, a post-multicultural society. In case of Peru, the continuous migration flows keep on enriching the already ethnically, linguistically and socially diverse population. All of this is reflected into traditions, of course, which are adapting to the foreign influences making it their own.
This year I sent some Christmas cards (only half of them arrived to their destination...the rest is a mystery), and they kind of reflect this spirit of multiculturalism, or Andean synchretism, if you wish.
Or what do you think? Baby Jesus greeted by model looking Andean shephards and llamas...I love these post cards!
Another Christmas tradition I like is eating Panetón, which is nothing else than a Peruvian version of Italian Christmas pastry, Panettone. A legacy of numerous Peruvians of Italian ancestry.
This mini Paneton was a Christmas present from a Middle Eastern restaurant called Tierra Santa.
Perfect with some Oriental tea from Mariage Frères (which I can't find here, so had to bring it from France...). Delicious...but I admit that my favorite is Chocoton: like Paneton, but instead of raisins and dry fruits you have chocolates chips inside. Easier to eat, as for traditional Paneton I need to hand pick all the raisins out, which makes eating a complicated and slow process...
For now, I am going to start preparations for my own Christmas celebrations, and wish to all my readers very Merry Christmas!!!!
From Cusco we continued our way towards the Sacred Valley of the Incas, Valley of Urubamba.
It was Easter Week, known in Peru and other Catholic countries as Semana Santa, the Holy Week.
The time in the Christian mythology when good beats the evil, light gains over darkness and all kind of miracles and mystic experiences may happen.
From Cusco we took a combi bus down to the Valley, which was about one hours drive. It was already dark when we arrived in Urubamba, but we managed to find a taxi to take us to the final destination.
Soon we saw that something is happening on the road and car had to stop.
It was an Easter parade, and the road was crowded with people carrying Christ statue, candles and singing psalms. Someone was burning incense.
We left the car and walked towards the crowd. It was impressive: the whole village was out on the street and the rest of the Valley was all quiet.
After what felt like a small eternity we were able to get back to the car and continue.
The moon was almost full and surrounded by a strange halo effect. What had so far been a road became now a narrow and very bumpy path.
Finally, we arrived in our final destination: Yoga Mandala retreat center where I was about to start a four days ashtanga yoga retreat.
It was late and you could see hardly anything in the dark. From somewhere close you could hear the sounds of a waterfall. A bit further, some people were sitting by a campfire.
Suddenly, a man dressed in a shaman outfit appeared from the darkness. He was wearing an impressive feather headwear and spoke with a strong Brazilian accent: "Hello friends, did you come hear for the Ayahuasca ceremony?". Eh...no, I came here for yoga!
Turns out he is waiting for another group of people. We moved on to get our room, to have a look around (as much it was possible in the dark), and then we sat by the campfire. Oops: a mistake! Our energies were not meant to cross with the energies of the sacred medicine plant. We moved further to a table outside and decide to eat a picnic dinner there, with some whiskey to warm up as the night has got chilly.
The (almost) full moon surrounded with a halo effect and a candle as our only light, and the rhytmic sound of shaman drumming and chanting as a background music, that was probably the most mystic dining experience I ever had in my life.
Later on in my warm bed, I smoothly fell a sleep, escorted to the dream world by shamanic chanting.
The nun and the store in the picture are not related to the story
Esthetic surgery attracts many medical tourists to Peru and Lima is blooming with beauty clinics.
In our neighbourhood there are also many. I pass by one clinic almost everyday and I have noticed that I never see any clients coming out or going in.
Until last Friday...when I saw two nuns sneaking in!
This raised many questions in my curious head and my imagination was running wild. Are there beauty contests in the monasteries too? Do you need to be beautiful to be an "alpha-nun"? And of course the sad idea that somebody was about to leave this world after a failed liposuction also crossed my mind...