Wari, Pampa de Ayacucho and Quinua


September 30, 2012 by jiejie768

On Saturday, Ryan and I had the opportunity to leave Ayacucho for the first time and see a bit of the campo (countryside).

A little background: We are currently staying in a room on the 3rd floor of Alejandro and Hilda’s house. GeGe’s apartment and some of the classrooms are on the 2nd floor and the rest of the school is housed on the 1st floor and in the yard. Alejandro works for a tour company called TravelBus. It arrived in Ayacucho fairly recently and he drives a gigantic, very noticeable yellow bus all around town. It is easy to spot the Plaza Mayor when you are gazing down from the Mirador de Acuchimay; just look for the bright yellow bus. Alejandro had asked us several times if we would be interested in taking a tour with him, but we hadn’t been able to fit it in yet. Finally we had a completely free (and healthy) Saturday to take him up on his offer. Gracias Alejandro!

Alejandro’s big yellow bus, parked at Wari

Due to water shortages currently being experienced in Ayacucho, we woke up EARLY to take advantage of the water window (4am to 9am or so), so that we would have water when we got home in the afternoon. Ryan lamented the fact that there is no Starbucks in Ayacucho and thus no way for him to combat the less-than-wakefulness he was experiencing (though I’m sure Inca Cola has plenty of caffeine and there’s always coca tea).

Alejandro told us we didn’t need to arrive until 9am, even though the bus ticket says the bus leaves at 8:30. According to him, it’s to make sure the Peruvian tourists arrive “on time”.

Ryan, on time but sans (sin) sunscreen, bugspray, a jacket, and probably other things we didn’t know we might need. That’s the cathedral in the background, across the square.

We boarded the bus and immediately regretted the fact that we hadn’t remembered sunscreen in our sleepy state. We jetted down to the farmacia on the corner but they wanted 62 soles for a tube of prescription sunblock (saw it for 12 in another store today), so we decided to risk it and try to bum some off of the other passengers if necessary. As it turns out, it wasn’t. Ayacucho tends to be very sunny until the late afternoon, but you can almost always see the “weather” coming in from a distance. We headed right into that weather.

We drove for about an hour to the Wari Archaelogical site — pre-Inca ruins about 24 km from Ayacucho. Once you leave the city, it is quite remote, and we only passed through a couple towns on the way. There was a lot of farming going on; mostly celery and cabbage from what the guide said.

One of the valleys below Ayacucho. Much greener than in the city!

The guide told us a story about how these rock formations formed. They are called “Torres de Bruja” (witch towers) and supposedly witches used them to store their heads?

This very large statue of Christ sits above one of the towns close to Wari.

Wari was really interesting. A lot of our students are studying the pre-Inca cultures in school, so we often see mentions of it when we help with homework, but neither of us knew anything about it or them.

According to our guide, sites like the one we visited weren’t “discovered” like places such as Machu Picchu. Apparently, the conquistadors kept detailed records of settlements they came across so that they could return later and look for “treasure.” Despite this, there is still a lot to be excavated. A group of archeologists from la Universidad San Cristobal de Huamanga (the university in Ayacucho) were working while we were there.

As our guide said, this is not a pre-Inca billiards table, but rather was used for human sacrifices, and sometimes filled with water to read the stars in the reflection.

Ryan and I in front of the foundations of a circular building. This area was reserved for priests and statesmen. The 18 notches in the building were used to store mummies. The number 18 came up a lot. I asked the guide about it and he said it represented the 18 major Wari cities.

We had heard about scorpions in Ayacucho but hadn’t seen one yet. The guide assured us they were not “poisonous” and actually had medicinal properties. However, it would still hurt like a b**** and swell immensely if they stung you. No thanks.

The Wari really liked to store mummies in things. This was a grave site for an important government official. He was buried with children, virgins, other unlucky people and llamas. This underground structure went four stories down.

From Wari, we headed to the Pampa de Ayacucho, roughly another 10 km away. The Pampa is famous for playing host to the last battle for independence fought by the South American troops in the war with Spain. The South Americans were victorious, and the peace accord was signed in the nearby town of Quinua, where we visited next. Up on the Pampa, we encountered that aforementioned weather. It hadn’t begun to rain (yet) but the wind kicked up and It. Was. Cold. The Pampa, at 3,400 meters above sea level, is not a place where I would want to fight a battle (one imagines it wasn’t the Spaniards favorite spot either, hence the South American victory). I was surprised that it seemed to be where people in Quinua congregate on the weekends (the equivalent of our street in Carmen Alto, I guess). There were lots of families just hanging out and a large group playing soccer.

The monument at Pampa de Ayacucho commemorating the victory over the Spanish in the war for Independence.

We didn’t stay at Pampa de Ayacucho long because of the cold and instead headed back into Quinua to visit some of the artisan workshops there. Ayacucho is famous for its weavings, but Quinua is known for it’s ceramic works. We visited a few places and purchased a small piece that we now have to try NOT to break during the next 11 months.

Carvings of musicians in Quinua.

I believe that eventually fireworks will be attached to this cow. While no one said this, I have seen similar structures in Ayacucho.

Outside one of the ceramics workshops in Quinua. A little gastronomy lesson: Quinua is where the “South American Wonder Grain” quinoa comes from. A little Quechua lesson: Rumi means “stone” and wasi means “house”, so the name of this workshop was Stone House. And that’s all the Quechua I really know so far. My thesis is going really well…

So, there you have it. We left Ayacucho and lived to tell about it. That might not seem like much of a feat, but you should see the driving here. Kudos to Alejandro for piloting that enormous yellow bus all over the state. I couldn’t do it.


5 thoughts on “Wari, Pampa de Ayacucho and Quinua

  1. Lolo Anderson says:

    Nice pictures!

  2. […] Alejandro has been bringing the bus home once a week or so to wash it, because we generally have water up here in the mornings and there has been no water at all at the airport, where they would normally store it (wouldn’t want to see the state of those bathrooms…) […]

  3. […] is a name you see a lot around Ayacucho. When we went to the Pampa de Ayacucho a few weeks ago we finally learned […]

  4. […] branch of the Johnstons. It was amazing to learn the history of the area, from the Limas, to the Wari, to the Incas, to a plantation that covered most of Miraflores up until about a hundred years ago. […]

  5. […] all started when I got a call at 9 a.m. Thursday morning. It was GeGe, calling on behalf of Alejandro and Travelbus to ask if I could interpret that day. In half an hour. Ryan and I were actually supposed to meet […]

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