This was an adventure. I made some friends watching the World Cup games, and was invited to go to watch some traditional Peruvian dancing with Miguel and his family. This wound up being quite an adventure.
We took a bus from Cusco and traveled about an hour to a small village. We attended a church service, had a bite to eat at my Miguel’s mom’s house, and went out to watch dozens of dance groups perform in the plaza. None of my pictures turned out well, but the costumes were beautiful and the people were so spirited.
Around midnight we all piled into a mini-van and headed deeper into the Andes. After of 3 hours of bumps and Peruvian music that I never really acquired a taste for, we crawled out of the van, stiff and sleepy. From there we started a 3 hour hike up a mountain in the freezing cold. Dirt bikes were continuously whizzing past, carrying the less hardy up the the pinnacle, choking us with dust. What was my reward for this grueling trek? A cloudless sky, zero light pollution, and the most spectacular meteor showers I have ever seen. It was glorious.
At sunrise, we reached the Sanctuary. As my friends explained it to me, there is a painting of Christ on the stone side of the mountain. No one knows the origin and it is considered a miracle. A church has been built onto the side of the mountain, and the painting is visible through the glass behind the altar. Pilgrims light candles and line up to go behind the altar where they can kneel and say a prayer.
People camp out for a couple of days. All during the day people kept coming and coming; hundreds of dancers and pilgrims from the area. This was not a tourist festival. As far as I could tell, I was the only person there who wasn’t Andean. Unfortunately, Miguel and I had to return to Cusco that day. After visiting the church, we hiked up to one of the 3 glaciers. I slowed everybody down, but they were patient.
The glaciers are receding. Miguel told me that when he used to come up all of the mountains were always covered with snow. There is still slow, but mostly there are bare, brown peaks. When we reached the glacier, we played around on the frozen pond for a bit. Then we heard the ice crack and cleared off.
The trip back down the mountain was lovely. I got to see all the scenery I missed on the way up, and it was interesting to see all the travelers still heading up for the festivities. Some people were carrying large crosses or making the trip barefooted.
Quolloriti was one of the best parts of my Peruvian adventure. I was so grateful to be able to experience this beautiful tradition.